Signposts: Daily Devotions

Tuesday, January 19

When the boys grew up, Esau was a skilled hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.
—Genesis 25:27-28

Years ago, I was in the retail book business, and my favorite part of the day was fitting the right book to the right customer. Some wanted historical biographies, some admitted they preferred romance novels, and others headed straight for the self-help section (and didn’t need my help).

My favorite books to sell were what we in the trade called "good reads." Fiction or non-fiction, some books just move swiftly, have fascinating characters, and are instructive without being pedantic.

Of all the 39 books of what Christians call the Old Testament, Genesis is, to me, the most compelling "read." (1 and 2 Samuel are close behind). It is full of multi-faceted characters and includes a family saga that competes with many current best-selling novels, if not soap operas. As a woman in our Bible study class said, “I don’t know why book clubs don’t study Genesis!”

I don’t either. Take the story of Jacob and his brother Esau which begins in Genesis 25. As the only children of Isaac and Rebekah, the twin boys are born in conflict (they wrestle in their mother’s womb) and though Esau emerges first, it is Jacob who becomes the star of the family—the achiever, and also the trickster. (More about Jacob in later meditations.)

This passage from Genesis 25 sets the stage for great conflict to follow, and it begins, as most personal dramas do, within a family—a family where the parents have blatant preferences for their children: the father for the masculine, aggressive older boy, Esau; the mother for the more sensitive younger son, Jacob.  

Everyone reading this is someone’s child; many may also be parents. Reading the Esau/Jacob story from either perspective, we are struck by the power of parental love, by the pull of parents toward particular children and especially by the emotional impact such family dynamics have. 

In this very human book, what is God’s role? You have to read Genesis for yourself to get the full impact, but as always, God is in the freedom each person has, for good and for ill.

For the author of Genesis, and for all writers who bring insight and understanding, we thank you, God. Amen.