The Childhood of Jacob and Esau

Genesis 25:19-34

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?

Comments ( 16 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • Rachel went to inquire of the Lord when the children were struggling together within her.
    And the Lord said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger."

    Esau grew and began providing meat to his father.
    Isaac loved Esau because of the game in his mouth.

    Jacob was a homebody.

    Perhaps while Esau was receiving praise from Isaac, Rachel loved Jacob because she remembered what the Lord told her about him.

    Did Isaac also love Jacob and did Rachel also love Esau?
    It doesn't say. But why wouldnt they love both of their children, even if they each favored one over the other?

  • Before the twin was born, the pain of Rivka was so bad that she asked HaShem. HaShem told her that 2 peoples were in her womb of which the older one will serve the younger one.(Ber.25:23)
    It seems that the younger one would prevail and would take the burden of history. That might be reason why she loved the younger one. We are told expressively that Jitschaq loved Esov. Jitschaq knew of course of this oracle. Moreover Esov was a wild one and hot tempered. Of course there must be a reason that Jitschaq showed so much his love for Esov., but it was maybe not only for his well-prepared game. Not the stomach decided his loving feelings. And that the more because the future of the convenant was at stake. Rasji: Esav „had knowledge of traps.”(jodea tsajied)”. Jitschaq loved him because his mouth was a snare.(“ki tsajied bafiew”) Esav, according to Rasji, had Jitschaq ensnared by his mouth. He knew how to mislead his father.The Maggid of Dubnow remarked: Rivka had grown up with the sly Laban. She immediately recognized the misleading behavior. Jitschaq grew with Abraham and Sarah. He only knew complete honesty and was easily mislead. There might be still another reason: Jitschaq loved Esov because he knew who and what he was.
    It is natural to love your son. But as the son takes the wrong track you have to love him more. Sometimes love can do what a scolding doesnot. Maybe Jitschaq is not blind for the flaws in the character of Esav Most of your attention will be asked (when you have a well behaving son and a not well behaving one) for the not so well behaving son. Most of your time you will give to the bad guy. Maybe love will change and bring the one on your tracks.

  • After reading all the comments i still see Jacob as the spiritual sensitive one and Easu the great outdoors type. Now a mother loves to have her son around I believe that Jacob was in a sense more like his mother and Easu like his father, in character. As mentioned in comments above this happens in all families, one more like the father and the other like the mother. Then there are siblings who are alike. Jacob and Easu were diffently not alike but loved by their parents in different ways.

  • Let me take a stab at the virtual classroom question. As human beings, we tend to like and/or congregate with people of like mind. Isaac's commonality with Esau may well have been a personal leaning toward the outdoors, or at least the benefits of the activity. This could be considered the manly approach to the relationship.
    Even though it's not mentioned, Rebekah mostly likely enjoyed Jacob's presence, maybe his ability and willingness to help out around the house, or care for family matters. Because it seems many women are more spiritual than men, she might have been enamored with the responsibility of his character. In any case, I think it's obvious both parents loved both of their children.
    In my personal case, I also have two sons. One son loves baseball and golf in a passive and hands-on manner. Of course, that fits well with me because I'm also very fond of both sports activities. My other son prefers outdoor activities–camping, hunting, fishing, etc,, which I try to enjoy with him. Does that mean I favor one son over the other? Absolutely not. I love both with an equal amount of love. However, I love them both in a different way.
    In this, I believe Isaac and Rebekah were parents much like any set of parents we know today–very human.

  • There is very little said about the life of Isaac. However, our introductory chapter may speak volumes about him. Verse 19 says, "these are the generations of Isaac". In this statement lies a blessed description of the life of any father. When a man marries, he no longer has a life of his own. His cares are to his wife. When they have children, neither have a life of their own. Their joint cares are to their children. Blessed is that man and woman who take part in lives of grand children, even to great grand children.

  • There is a curious and revealing point within this chapter. Verse 28 says, "Isaac loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob". Again, the English leaves a bit to be desired. The Hebrew actually shows two different tenses and says, "Isaac LOVED Esau, but Rebekah LOVES Jacob". This clearly shows a picture of family life in Isaac's home. Esau was rarely at home, being "on the hunt", while Jacob was almost always at home taking care of family and community matters.

    • Verse 27 says Esau was a hunter or cunning outdoors man, while Jacob was a quiet or peaceful man. The actual meaning of "quiet and peaceful man" describes Jacob as a man that took responsibility for the affairs of his family. It also describes a man that was active in his community, making things better for everyone. He might better be described as a shepherd. That's why Rebekah "loves" him. He was always present and available, while Esau was not.

  • I would suggest Isaac was not only blind physically, but spiritually as well. Isaac's connection with Esau was because of what went into his belly–food. On the other hand, Jacob was drawn to be around his mother, who represented things of Elohim. Such is the fabric of most families today. The man is supposed to be the spiritual leader of the home. Even so, it's usually the woman that picks up the slack in the man's weakness. Such is the case with Isaac & Rebekah.

    • I agree with the idea that Yitzak's "blindness" was a manifestation of his spiritual condition. In closing his eyes to the problems that were coming from his oldest son's ways, he seems to have lost "sight" of his responsibilities in passing on his spiritual heritage.
      I can't believe that Yitzak wasn't aware of the prophecies that his wife had received concerning the birth of their two sons, but he "conveniently" forgot them when he needed a "bribe" to get his favorite food. It's sad that Rebekah has to take matters into her own hands and use deception to carry out Elohim's plans and purposes in spite of her husband.
      Baruch Hashem.

      • Suejean Inever though of it that way. A spiritual blindness. Something to meditate on today.

    • I agree with you. Isaac's connection with Esau was of the flesh, he filled his belly with food. Jacob was close to his mother and a spiritual bond was developed. it was a different kind of love. We say we love apples but it is not the same as loving HaShem, our parents, our children. Isaac had a superficial love for his son, a pride that he was a hunter. Rebekah had a true love of her son who stayed near and learned.

    • I agree. Rebecca loved Jacob more because Jacob was interested in the Torah. I have heard from a Rabbi that when the Bible says "…while Jacob dwelt in tents…", it means he spent time learning the Torah. It appears Yitzchak was surely spiritually blind while Rebecca wasn't.

  • The answer to why Rivka loved Ya'acov is found in this verse:
    27 And the boys grew; and Esav was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Yaakov was a quiet man, dwelling in tents.
    כז וַיִּגְדְּלוּ הַנְּעָרִים וַיְהִי עֵשָׂו אִישׁ יֹדֵעַ צַיִד אִישׁ שָׂדֶה וְיַעֲקֹב אִישׁ תָּם יֹשֵׁב אֹהָלִים.
    We can see that Ya'akov has learned to cook which is probably a skill he learned from his mother and that he was a person that liked to stay at home. He probably spent a lot of time with his mother and developed a stronger bond with her through the things they shared.
    As a parent, I think we love all of our children, but there's a special bond to the child that we share more common interests with and RIvka probably wasn't into hunting and the other things that Esau enjoyed. This is just natural in a family.
    Baruch Hashem.

  • Isaac’s bad eyesight in his old age may be a hint of a blindness of what was taking place in his sons up to that point. Probably Isaac enjoyed the excitement of Esau’s hunting tales, but the going out to the field is like going out to the world. Jacob on the other hand stayed near the tents, studying the things of HaShem.

  • Herman

    ? I think this might mean that Jitschaq was more strict in his observations. “the older one smile emoticon first born) is the first born is destined for the Promise and he stayed that way. Whereas Rivka within her mother’s feelings and wisdom choose for the younger and weaker one. of course both parents loved the other child but they they didn’t escape to have preferences. Maybe this also meant that the two parents didn’t talk so much together and would come to a unity in their marriage.Otherwise they would have educated both boys in the same spirit….??? Jitschaq was an only child and often in the wilderness not used to discussions…….?

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