Bible Society of South Africa

First-born sons, barren wives and favouritism - 7 March 2024

By Imogen Campbell

Bible text(s)

23The LORD said to her,

“Two nations are within you;

You will give birth to two rival peoples.

One will be stronger than the other;

The older will serve the younger.”

Genesis 25:23GNBOpen in Bible reader

David Pawson’s “Unlocking the Bible” describes the peculiarity of the primogeniture we encounter early on in the Scriptures, “The first son would normally inherit the family wealth from the father, but in each generation God chooses not the eldest but the youngest son.”

Pawson notes, “God is showing that there are still two lines running through the human race in very stark contrast to each other. The stories invite us to line ourselves up with one side or the other.”

Evidently, God uses whom he chooses. Contrast the life of the young David to his overlooked eldest brother, Eliab, or consider Joseph, who was destined to rise to power in Egypt and save many lives.

Another pattern emerges – that of the barren mother. In those years, the inability of a woman to conceive was regarded as a disgrace. Yet, godly mothers, notably Hannah and Elizabeth, initially found themselves unable to conceive. Eventually, God blessed them with children set apart for his own purposes.

Rebekah, too, struggled to conceive and was then told that her youngest would end up ruling the roost. Seemingly, favouritism – another theme in the lives of the patriarchs – induced Isaac to disobey God and bless his favourite son instead of the one God had appointed.

Mommy’s boy, Jacob, was not quite the rugged man that Isaac preferred. And so the jostling that started in the womb became a full-blown family drama ending with one brother threatening to kill the other. Jacob had prevailed.

Never mind that there had been a promise and the small matter of lentil stew that meant the selling of the birthright. Esau proved to be a man of the flesh, while Jacob was a child of the promise. Formerly, I tended to overlook Isaac’s actions and excoriate Rebekah. Yet, Jacob was mature, capable of making his own decisions.

Through deceit, he got what was promised all along. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if they had just trusted God? Would God have allowed Esau to get that blessing without their intervention? Is it not just better simply to trust God?

Prayer: Father, help me to trust you even when it seems as though what you have promised will not come to pass. Help me to rely on your divine intervention instead of relying on my own efforts. Amen

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