Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud. Genesis 27:38 (NIV)
My head is in the sink, her hands in my hair, water streaming the chemicals down the drain, as I overhear her explain the meaning of her name; ‘Morning dew on orchid petals’. She is finishing a conversation with the woman who just stood up from where I now sit.
“I was the youngest of three daughters and my father named all of us. He wanted to give me the most beautiful name of all because, he said, I was the most beautiful… his favorite. Her accent holds to her Korean origins.
I keep my eyes closed as she massages the shampoo into my hair. Their voices drift along without me. It is fascinating the little glimpses we see of each other’s lives.
There is a story God tells of siblings and favorites. Twin boys were born to Isaac and Rebekah. These boys struggled with each other before they made it out of the womb. Jacob wanted to be first, so he held tightly to the heel of Esau as they emerged. Later, Jacob would barter a bowl of soup for Esau’s right to be counted as first-born.
Being the first-born was no small thing in that world, in that time, in that culture. The first-born got the best blessing, the best inheritance, the best land. Oddly, I have watched that play out in my own world, in my own time. Favorite son. Favorite daughter.
The problem here with Esau and Jacob was more than who was the first-born. The problem was this: Isaac loved Esau. Rebekah loved Jacob. And the family dynamics hummed along to the tune of David Bowie’s ‘Putting out Fire with Gasoline.’
Here is an excerpt from my telling of the story (27:1-45) from my book Genesis: Small Stories of a Big God:
This family of Isaac and Rebekah makes us cringe a bit. “Really?” we want to ask God. “Couldn’t you have painted a more loving family dynamic here?” Nobody comes out of this story looking too good. Isaac had his favorite son, so he called his eldest Esau to receive his blessing and excluded his younger son Jacob. His instructions: “Go hunting for me, make my favorite dinner, and come to me so I may bless you” (Genesis 27:2-4, my paraphrase)
Rebekah listened in on this conversation not meant for her to hear, and so she called her favorite son Jacob in with a plan to lie and deceive her husband, the father of her twin sons. Oh, and they went to great lengths to deceive. Jacob killed two goats from the backyard pen; Rebekah got to cooking in the kitchen and added enough spice to make the goat meat taste like Isaac’s favorite wild game.
She pulled Esau’s extra clothing out of his closet, and the next thing you know, they had carefully cut the hairy skin of the goats Jacob slaughtered to lay over his arms and neck. How did they attach it so it didn’t fall off as Isaac caressed his son’s arms and laid his hands on his neck for the blessing? I don’t know, but they were up to no good, these two.
And they were racing to beat the clock before Esau returned. I imagine Esau’s bow had just found its mark. He knelt to place the still-warm carcass over his shoulders. Gathering his bow, he turned to head back home. At the same time, Jacob entered the tent of Isaac, tray in hand.
The conversation between Isaac and Jacob was riddled with mistrust (vv. 18-26, my paraphrase): “How did you return so soon? … You claim to be Esau but your voice gives it away that you are Jacob. … Are you really my son Esau?” Isaac asked point blank. “Come close so I can touch your skin. Come closer still and kiss me so I can smell your scent.”
We know those we love by such intimate details: the sound of their voice, the touch of their skin, the scent that is their own personal perfume. Isaac was old and his eyes failed him, but he knew without a doubt the touch and smell of his favorite son. It was time to place God’s blessing on the head of this son. Whoever it might have been.
Families. Favorites. Blessings. God does not shy away from the messy relationships that take place within our families. I find it reassuring that some of God’s greatest leaders struggled with damaged family relationships. God didn’t turn away from the struggle. Instead He would show up for a late-night chat and blessings of His own.
Your love can take broken things and make them beautiful…
"The Broken Beautiful" | Ellie Holcomb