The Childhood of Jacob and Esau

Nov 8, 2015

וְאֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת יִצְחָק בֶּן־אַבְרָהָם אַבְרָהָם הוֹלִיד אֶת־יִצְחָק׃

This is the story of Yitzchak, son of Avraham. Avraham begot Yitzchak.

Genesis 25:19

וְיַעֲקֹב נָתַן לְעֵשָׂו לֶחֶם וּנְזִיד עֲדָשִׁים וַיֹּאכַל וַיֵּשְׁתְּ וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלַךְ וַיִּבֶז עֵשָׂו אֶת־הַבְּכֹרָה׃

Yaakov then gave Esau bread and lentil stew; he ate and drank, and he rose and went away. Thus did Esau spurn the birthright.

Genesis 25:34

After many years of childless marriage, Isaac and Rebecca pray for offspring, and are blessed with a long-awaited pregnancy. The pregnancy is a difficult one, however, and Rebecca seeks the wisdom of God to understand her travails. She is told that two nations strive for power in her belly, and one day the younger one will prevail.


When the twins are born, the older child is red and hairy, and the younger emerges grasping his brother’s ankle. They are therefore named Esau (from the Hebrew word for fully-formed) and Jacob (from the Hebrew word for ankle).


The two boys grow, and develop disparate interests. While Esau hunts, Jacob remains a homebody. The Torah tells us Isaac loved Esau for the game in his mouth, but Rebecca loved Jacob.


One day, Esau returns from the field after a strenuous day of hunting, and demands from Jacob the red, red concoction he is preparing. Jacob agrees to share his lentil stew with his brother, on condition Esau swear over his birthright to his younger twin. Esau, believing he will die otherwise anyway, agrees. Jacob gives his brother the meal, and Esau eats, drinks, rises, and, the Torah remarks, spurns his birthright.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

The Torah tells us Isaac loved Esau for the game in his mouth, but no reason is given for Rebecca’s love of Jacob. What do you think this means? Do you think each parent loved the other child, as well?

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