By Mike Baird
Faculty, College of Theology
When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. (Genesis 25:24-26)
The Jacob Journal is a reflection on the life and times of the biblical character of Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah.
Have you ever wished you could scrap everything and start over?
This happens especially when you get wise enough to look back and see where you went wrong. You and I both know that can’t happen in a pure and simple way. God sure does have a way of correcting former mistakes though. Herein are my thoughts about what went wrong.
For me, things started going wrong from the day of my birth. I don’t know exactly what my mother and father said to each other, but as I look back, I am convinced it went something like this:
“Rebekah, are you awake? You know, we have two healthy sons. Twins! The Lord has indeed blessed us.”
“Yes, Isaac. Somehow I knew God had given us two lives and not just one. Are they well?”
“Yes, they are so handsome. The first boy! He is so ruddy and healthy looking. That head of hair—jet black! He will be tall, dark, handsome, strong. My son. My firstborn son. I’ll bet he becomes a cunning, brave hunter and warrior. I used to dream of being a great soldier.”
“Isaac, what shall we name him? There must be a name that suits this child.”
“What about Esau? He will be a mover and a shaker, I just know it!” [Note: Esau means doer or mover]
“But nobody else in the family has that name.”
“I know, but that makes him unique! This boy is unique! He is going to be something special.”
“Isaac, what about the other child?”
“The other child? Oh, the other boy. You know, the funniest thing happened. When Esau was being born, the other one must have thought he was going to be left behind. He was holding tight to his brother’s heel. Isn’t that strange? I named the first one. Why don’t you name the second?”
“Let’s call him Ariel.” [Note: Ariel means lion of God, hero]
“No. How about Jacob? Ha!” [Note: Jacob means heel-grabber, a greedy selfish schemer]
So began the life and times of Esau, the favorite, and Jacob, the heel grabber.
I still remember the insult. Mother would call us in to dinner:
“Esau! Heel! It’s time to come inside.”
“What beautiful children! What are their names?”
“Why this is Esau. And this is. . . Heel.”
Then father would say, “Esau. That’s a name you can be proud of.”
“Is Heel a name you can be proud of, too, Daddy?”
“Well, I suppose.”
Throughout the years, at family reunions, some of the aunts and uncles would tell me that the name was a prophecy. “That’s exactly the way it turned out,” they would say.
I suppose encouragement like this was what made me try to blame it on God. Prophecies come from God after all. I must tell you that blaming God is not easy, but it is much easier than facing the truth that I discovered about my name, my life and my family.
Do you want to know why my brother became a skillful hunter? The record says, “Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau.”
Esau became a mover and shaker because he lived in the power of his father’s dreams. He received the life-giving force of a father’s love. The record goes on to say, “But Rebekah loved Jacob.” No reason given. Maybe because only a mother could love a kid named Heel.
But there was a message, a power, in the tone of voice, the way the name was pronounced, the smile that I now suspect was a sneer on my father’s face. It was only many years later that I came to understand that my family was crippled by favoritism. It was a painful discovery.
The problem was not in the name game our parents had played with us. In fact, I thought Jacob was a cool name when I was growing up as a child. I was proud of it.
The problem here didn’t begin with the name. It began with the name-givers. My parents had the power to bless and the power to curse. The blessing or curse was not in the name, Esau or Jacob. It was in the course that my home and family set for me. I don’t think they were thinking, “I’m going to bless him, I’m going to curse him.”
But that is what they did. They used their hopes, dreams, love and attention to shape little lives into the image of the names they had given to them. And I must confess, I believe I got the curse.
However, I have often protested to myself, “But you were a schemer, a deceiver.” As you know from the record, I set about to cheat just about anyone I could. I did indeed become a manipulator of men. So I am not claiming that what I became is entirely my parents’ fault. I have not been and still am not perfect.
As I look back, I realize that I made a vow when I was a child. I promised myself that I would someday receive my father’s blessing. I decided that I would not live with the curse hanging over my head. But, as you will see, I most often went about it the wrong way.
Questions for Thought:
- Have you received a name or label which challenges you? Is it positive or negative?
- Do you have vows from your childhood and upbringing that are driving your life now? Are they good or bad?
- Has a label hindered you in your spiritual growth?
“The Jacob Journal: Part 3” will be posted soon so be sure to check back for the next entry. Catch up on “The Jacob Journal: Part 1.”
About the Author
The 21st century author of this journal is Mike Baird, PhD, retired professor of Christian studies. The ideas and insights found here come from a life lived, not from a fantasy world. It is his prayer that you will see yourself mirrored in some of Jacob’s struggles and decisions, and that you will discover the timeless spiritual resources which Scripture and the Holy Spirit speaking through it have made available to us.
Dr. Baird originates from Glendale, AZ. He received his BA at Grand Canyon College (now GCU). His MDiv and PhD were completed at Southwestern Baptist Theology Seminary, Fort Worth, TX (Go Cowboys!). He and his wife have three children and five grandchildren.
He has enjoyed teaching college students for the last 35 years. He is a member of First Southern Baptist Church, where he teaches a Bible study class on Sunday mornings and sings in the choir.
What he has enjoyed greatly over the years is participating in the Ethington Theatre Series as a guest actor. He has been in 27 productions, his favorites being the Shakespeare productions.
He encourages students to use their time at GCU to clarify and sharpen their sense of calling. You are here to equip for the work of the Kingdom. Don’t squander the opportunity.