Esau was so hungry he could hardly see straight when his younger twin, Jacob, bought his birthright for a bowl of chili. He was off hunting rabbits when Jacob conned their old father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing that should have been Esau's by right of primogeniture. Eventually it dawned on Esau what his brother was up to, and he went slogging after him with a blunt instrument; but the slowness of his wits was compensated for by the generosity of his disposition, and in time the two were reconciled.

Jacob stole Esau blind, in other words, got away with it, and went on to become the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. It was not all gravy, however. He knew famine and loss. He grieved for years over the supposed death of his favorite child. He was as hoodwinked by his own sons in this as both his father and Esau had been hoodwinked by him, and he died with the clamor of their squabbling shrill in his ears.

Esau, on the other hand, though he'd lost his shirt, settled down in the hill country, raised a large if comparatively undistinguished family, and died in peace. Thus it seems hard to know which of the two brothers came out ahead in the end.

It seems plain enough, however, that the reason God bypassed Esau and made Jacob heir to the great promise is that it is easier to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear than out of a dim bulb.


~originally published in Peculiar Treasures and later in Beyond Words



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