God’s Favorite – Genesis 25
Time magazine recently ran a cover story with the evocative title “Why Mom Liked You Best.” In it Jeffrey Kluger makes the claim that all parents—even those who vehemently deny it—have a favorite child. Since Kulger’s Time article came out, scientists, psychologists, and parents have engaged in heated discussion about whether this is indeed the case for all parents. It may be difficult to prove his theory scientifically, but there is no denying that parental favoritism has been around since nearly the dawn of time.
In ancient Greece and Rome, parents who knew they couldn’t care for all their children would commit infanticide, killing their newborn daughters in favor of their sons.
Princess Amelia, the youngest of George III and Queen Charlotte’s fifteen children, was widely known to be her father’s favorite, and she was treated as such from her birth.
Author Charles Dickens felt the effects of not being the favored child. His family didn’t have enough money to send both him and his older sister to school, so they sent his sister to school while he slaved away in boot-blacking factory.
But perhaps one of the most well-known cases of parental favoritism dates back to the book of Genesis. Isaac and Rebekah had hoped and prayed and waited a long time for a child—twenty years after they were married, in fact. And then, to their surprise and delight, they discovered that they were having not one but two babies. Twins!
From the very beginning, Jacob and Esau were as different as they could be. Esau was hairy and liked to be outdoors, while Jacob was quiet and preferred to stay inside. We don’t know for sure why Rebekah set her preference on Jacob, but ever since the boys were young, Jacob was her clear favorite.
When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Genesis 25:27-28)
Maybe Jacob’s temperament was similar to his mother’s; maybe he helped out with the dishes and made his bed; maybe he reminded her of her brother or her father back home. Whatever the case, she wanted Jacob to have the larger share of the family blessing (see Genesis 27).
In the ancient Near East, tradition dictated that the bulk of the inheritance, in addition to the father’s blessing, would go to the older son. And since Esau was older, even if it was by a matter of mere minutes, the blessing and the inheritance rightfully belonged to him. Jacob knew what a rich reward it would be to have his brother’s birthright, and in today’s reading we see him seize it when his brother was focused on his quest for immediate satisfaction.
Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.”Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:31-34)
When it comes to our heavenly Father’s blessing, we often respond like Jacob and Esau. Like Jacob, we may use deceit and trickery to push others out of the way, striving to get God’s blessing. Or like Esau, we may fail to recognize the value of the blessing, tossing the gift aside in exchange for temporary pleasures.
But there is something wonderful and mind boggling about God’s parenting that sets us free from either extreme. The secret is this: you are his favorite. You don’t have to trick him into giving you his blessing; he wants to give it to you—indeed, he delights in giving it to you. You don’t have to shove anyone else aside to make sure there is love and blessing enough for you—he has chosen you specifically to shower his affection and gifts upon.
But there is a second part to this secret: while it’s true that you are God’s favorite, it’s also true that every son and daughter of his is his favorite. Unlike human beings, whose love for one child may be diminished by loving another son or daughter more, God has room in his heart for multiple favorites.
Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure. (Deuteronomy 7:6, NLT)
God has chosen you to receive his fatherly blessing, his birthright, his uncontainable love.
Today, as you reflect on the story of Jacob and Esau, may you delight in the knowledge that you are God’s favorite. And as you interact with the people around you, may you be reminded that they, too, are his favorites.
photo used by permission – kellicampbell
Stephanie Rische is a senior editor of nonfiction books at Tyndale House Publishers, as well as a freelance writer for publications such as Her.meneutics, Today’s Christian Woman, Christian Marriage Today, and Significant Living magazine. She and her husband, Daniel, live in the Chicago area, where they enjoy riding their bikes, making homemade ice cream, and swapping bad puns. You can follow Stephanie’s blog, “Stubbing My Toe on Grace,” at StephanieRische.com.