By Tyson Thorne

May 8, 2019

JacobEsau01 Large

I've been traveling a lot for work lately, which explains why we missed a few posts a couple weeks ago. While on the trip I went for breakfast one morning at IHOP. When the host directed me to the my table I asked her, can I have a table that's not right next to the giant family? She was about to seat me behind a noisy group consisting of four adults, two toddlers, and two infants. As I sat at a table half way across the room I thought to myself, I don't really like kids.

Which isn't true. As a young adult I used to volunteer at my churches toddler care. I am a godfather, twice over. I think what I don't like is the noise that accompanies lots of kids that I'm not in control of. But it prompted me to read a sermon about Jesus' love for children to correct my perspective. The sermon focused on a passage where Jesus reprimands the disciples for not allowing the children to come and meet up with him (Matthew 19.13-15). In doing so I began to think of just how important children — especially having them — is to God.

One of the most meaningful stories about kids in the Bible is the story of Esau and Jacob. In Genesis 25 we find Rebecca, Isaac's wife, who had been barren for 20 years. In this chapter she is finally pregnant, and her joy is tempered by a problem. The Bible tells us, “the children struggled together within her…”. This translation is an understatement. According to Julia Blum from the Israel Institute for Biblical Studies, "The Hebrew word va’yitrotzetzu וַיִּתְרֹצְצו is translated as “struggled”, but the root of this word in Hebrew really expresses “breaking”, “crushing” and “oppressing.”" This would be alarming to any mother-to-be, especially one who had trouble conceiving.

Rebecca likely feared a miscarriage. Today a woman would go in for an ultrasound, but this wasn't an option circa 1800 BC. She did what godly women of her day could do, she went to inquire of the Lord and received an answer: “Two nations are in your womb… And the older shall serve the younger” (Gen 25:23). The ruckus of the babies’ movements in Rebecca’s womb was not a sign of miscarriage, instead it was a foretelling of a future struggle between two nations. Every English translation renders the end of this verse the same, "the older will serve the younger." The translation notes in the NET Bible tell us,

By metonymy the two children in her womb are described as two nations of which the two children, Jacob and Esau, would become the fathers. The language suggests there would be a struggle between these nations, with one being stronger than the other. The oracle reveals that all of Jacob’s scheming was unnecessary in the final analysis. He would have become the dominant nation without using deception to steal his brother’s blessing.

While true, none of this can be derived from the text itself. We only know these things because we have their whole life story. In Hebrew, this passage has considerable ambiguity, v’rav ya’avod tzair (וְרַב יַעֲבֹד צָעִיר) does not make clear which word is the object and which is the subject. There is no way to determine who will serve whom. God did not reveal to Rebecca which son would serve the other. What this means is that Jacob and Rebecca's scheming wasn't their attempt to bring about God's prophecy, but to assure that her favorite son would be the head of the stronger nation. I've never been a parent, so I don't know how difficult it is to love all your children equally and to not play favorites, but clearly Rebecca's interference caused an unhealthy family dynamic.

Children are important to God, and godly parents are important to children. Being a mom or a dad carries with it an awesome responsibility. The noisy table I avoided at my breakfast was contrasted by a family seated a few tables away from me. The mom and dad had a teenager, a tween and an infant. Unlike the loud table, when the infant made a startled yell and laugh the mother quickly put a finger to the child's lips and hushed him. It was the only loud noise to come from their table. I'm not saying the other parents were bad, I don't know their situation, but I can say the single family had good parents. Though I have to say, it was the noisy table that drove me to seek God's perspective on kids, which means a non-biblical proverb a friend of mine quotes often is also true: "Everyone serves as an example, even if its a bad one."

Learn Biblical Hebrew Online


English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish



How to setup an RSS of Windows Reader Service