Abraham, the great patriarch we met in Genesis 11, had many children. But the one through whom his legacy was passed down was named Isaac. The New Testament refers to him as the “child of promise” (Galatians 4:28). Isaac, in turn, had twin sons with his wife Rebekah, Jacob and Esau. In them, we see the great battle between living out our destiny for God or doing as we please.
Here is how the birth of the twins took place.
23 And the Lord said unto her,
Two nations are in thy womb,
And two manner of people shall be
separated from thy bowels;
and the one people shall be stronger
than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
24 And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 And the first came out red, all over like a hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. 26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore (sixty, JS) years old when she bare them. Genesis 25:23-26
The first son was named Esau. He was the “firstborn”; he would have a higher ranking in his family and society as a result. You can think of him as the preeminent son. His natural place in the order of his day was very high, and as he grew older, he expected to be treated accordingly.
The second son, Jacob, was not so fortunate, at least at his birth. He would always be in second place to his brother Esau. But, right from the beginning, he did not like this. He was grabbing his brother’s foot - his heel - in an effort to displace him. This describes the brothers’ relationship their entire lives.
More importantly, before they were born, this passage says the twins represent “two manner of people” being born. This means they are very different. Not only in how they were born, and who they were born as, but in how THEY DECIDED to live. There are many lessons for us in their lives and the decisions they made. These two manner of people, as the bible calls them, differed in that one group lived out their godly destiny while the other group left that path and went their own way. These are the choices we have. This is where, in the choice we have between God’s will and mine, we can meet our destiny. Or lose it.
27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. Genesis 25:27
In the very next verse of this passage, we see how this worked out for these two young men. Esau became the one who relied on his skill, doing things his own way without God’s (or anyone else’s) input. Jacob, the conniving, heal-grabbing usurper (his name means heal grabber), became the one who listened to God. This will become clearer as we continue in the story of these two men.
How does this affect us today? We fight the same war; we all have the same choice. Follow God or go our own way. We see this clearly in the gospels and the rest of the New Testament. For example, in Mark 1:4 and 14, we see both John the Baptist and Jesus issue the call to repent and follow God. This is the same choice Jacob and Esau had. We should listen!