Ellen G. White Writings

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Beginning of the End, Page 80

Jacob and Esau

This chapter is based on Genesis 25:19-34; 27.

Jacob and Esau, the twin sons of Isaac, present a sharp contrast in character and in life. Before their birth, the angel of God foretold how different from each other they would be. In answer to Rebekah’s troubled prayer, he declared that two sons would be given her. He opened to her their future history, that each would become the head of a mighty nation but that one would be greater than the other, and the younger would have prominence.

Esau grew up loving to please himself, centering all his interest in living for today. Unhappy with restraint, he delighted in the chase and the life of a hunter, yet he was his father’s favorite. This elder son fearlessly ranged over mountain and desert, returning home with game and exciting accounts of his adventurous life.

Jacob, who was thoughtful, diligent, and always thinking more of the future than the present, was content to live at home, occupied in caring for the flocks and working the soil. His mother valued his patient perseverance, thrift, and foresight. His gentle attentions added more to her happiness than the boisterous, occasional kindnesses of Esau. To Rebekah, Jacob was the dearer son.

Esau and Jacob were taught to regard the birthright as a matter of great importance, for it included not only an inheritance of worldly wealth, but spiritual pre-eminence. The one who received it was to be the priest of his family, and in the line of his descendants the Redeemer of the world would come.

On the other hand, certain obligations rested on the possessor of the birthright. The one who inherited its blessings must devote his life to the service of God. In marriage, in his family relations, in public life, he must consult the will of God.

Isaac made known to his sons these privileges and conditions and plainly stated that Esau as the eldest was the one entitled to the birthright. But Esau had no love for devotion, no inclination to a religious life. The requirements that accompanied the spiritual birthright were an unwelcome and even hateful restraint to him. Esau regarded the law of God, the condition of God’s covenant with Abraham, as a yoke of bondage.

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