Genesis 25:29-34: “Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.” And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.”
The ‘parsha’ (‘Torah’ portion) this week is ‘Parsha Toldot’ (generations, offspring or descendants), found in Genesis 25:19 – 28:9. It is the sixth weekly ‘Torah’ portion in the annual Jewish cycle of ‘Torah’ reading, and the sixth in the book of Genesis. The corresponding ‘haftorah’ (reading of the prophets) is found in Malachi 1:1 – 2:7.
‘Parsha Toldot’ tells us that Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah. However, Rebekah was barren and Isaac pleaded with G-d on her behalf and G-d allowed Rebekah to conceive.
Rebekah had a tumultuous pregnancy, as twins struggled in her womb. When she inquired of G-d as to the meaning of this, He told her: “Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23).
When Rebekah gave birth, the first twin emerged red and hairy; so they named him Esau (hairy or readymade); his brother emerged holding Esau’s heel, so they named him Jacob (supplanter or he who grabs). Isaac was 60 years old when they were born.
Esau and Jacob, although twins, were totally different; Esau became a skillful hunter and was an outdoorsman, but Jacob was a mild man and preferred to dwell in the camp.
Isaac favoured Esau and Rebekah favoured Jacob.
One day, Jacob was cooking and Esau returned to the camp famished and demanded some of Jacob’s stew. Jacob demanded that Esau first sell him his birthright, and Esau did so with an oath. Genesis 25:34 tells us that “Esau despised his birthright.”
‘Parsha Toldot’ tells us that another famine struck the land, and Isaac went to the house of the Philistine King, Avimelech in Gerar.
In Genesis 26:2-4, we see G-d telling Isaac: “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed”.
Isaac obeyed G-d.
When the men of Gerar asked Isaac about his beautiful wife, he said that she was his sister out of fear that the men might kill him on account of her. But looking out of the window, Avimelech saw Isaac loving Rebekah, and Avimelech summoned Isaac to complain that Isaac had called her his sister.
Isaac explained that he had done so to save his life; Avimelech said that one of the people might have lain with her and Isaac would have brought guilt upon the Philistines. Avimelech then charged the people not to molest Isaac or Rebekah.
G-d blessed Isaac who grew very wealthy, to the envy of the Philistines. The Philistines then filled up all the wells that Abraham’s servants had dug and Avimelech sent Isaac away because his household had become too big.
Isaac left to settle in the wadi of Gerar where he dug the wells that Abraham’s servants had dug and called them by the same names that his father had. However, when Isaac's servants dug two new wells, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen and claimed them for their own; so Isaac named those wells ‘Esek’ (strife) and ‘Sitnah’ (animosity).
Isaac moved on and dug a third well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he named it ‘Rehovot’ (broad places).
Then Avimelech, his councilor and his general came to Isaac and told him that they recognized that G-d had been with Isaac and they sought a treaty that neither would harm the other. Isaac threw a feast for the Philistines, and the next morning, they exchanged oaths and the Philistines departed from him in peace. Later in the day, Isaac's servants told him that they had found water, and Isaac named the well ‘Shevah’, so that place became known as Be’ersheva (Well of seven or Well of an oath) to this day.
When Esau was 40 years old, he married two Hittite women, Judith and Basemath, causing bitterness for Isaac and Rebekah.
‘Parsha Toldot’ tells us that when Isaac was old and his sight had dimmed, he called Esau and asked him to hunt some game and prepare savoury food for him so that Isaac might bless him before he died. Rebekah had been listening and, when Esau departed, she instructed Jacob to fetch her two choice kids so that she might prepare a dish that Jacob could take to Isaac and receive his blessing.
Jacob told Rebekah that since Esau was hairy, Isaac might touch him, discover this dishonesty and curse him. However Rebekah insisted that Jacob do as she directed and Jacob got the kids.
Rebekah then prepared a dish, put Esau’s clothes on Jacob, and covered Jacob’s hands and neck with the kid’s skins.
When Jacob went in to Isaac, he asked which of his sons had entered; Jacob said that he was Esau and asked for Isaac’s blessing. Isaac asked Jacob to come closer that Isaac might feel him to determine whether he really was Esau. Isaac felt him and wondered that the voice was Jacob’s, but the hands were Esau’s. Isaac questioned if it was really Esau, and when Jacob reassured him, Isaac asked for the stew and Jacob served him.
Isaac then called Jacob closer and blessed him saying: ““Surely, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed. Therefore may God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you!”” (Genesis 27:27-29)
Esau entered his father's room just moments after Jacob's departure and the deception was discovered. Esau wept and asked Isaac to bless him as well; however Isaac answered that Jacob had taken Esau’s blessing “with cunning”.
Esau asked Isaac whether he had not reserved a blessing for Esau, but Isaac answered that he had made Jacob master over him (thus fulfilling Genesis 25:23: “and the older shall serve the younger”) and sustained him with grain and wine.
Esau wept and pressed Isaac to bless him; but all that Isaac could offer his distraught son was a blessing that ““Your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above. And you shall live by your sword, and you shall serve your brother, and it will be, when you grieve, that you will break his yoke off your neck.””
Esau was furious and plotted to kill Jacob upon Isaac’s death. When Rebekah heard this, she told Jacob to flee to her brother Laban in Haran and remain there until Esau’s fury subsided.
Rebekah told Isaac that the idea that Jacob might marry a Hittite woman distressed her; so Isaac sent for Jacob and instructed him not to take a Canaanite wife, but to go to Padam Aram to the house of Bethuel to take a wife from among Laban’s daughters.
Isaac then blessed Jacob with the following blessing: ““May God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may be an assembly of peoples; and give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and your descendants with you, that you may inherit the land in which you are a stranger, which God gave to Abraham.”” (Genesis 28:3-4)
‘Parsha Toldot’ concludes by relating how Esau, seeing that his father preferred that his children marry within the family rather than with the local population, took an additional wife, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham's son, to be his wife.
’Haftorah Toldot’, found in Malachi 1:1 – 2:7, opens with the mention of the tremendous love G-d harbours for the children of Jacob and the retribution He will visit upon the children of Esau who persecuted their cousins. This follows the theme of this week's ‘Torah’ reading, whose two protagonists are Jacob and Esau.
The prophet Malachi rebuked the ‘kohanim’ (priests) who offered blemished and emaciated animals on G-d’s altar, and the haftorah ends with a strong plea to the ‘kohanim’ to return to the original covenant that G-d had made with their ancestor, Aaron the High Priest, telling them that the law of truth was in his mouth and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with G-d in peace and equity and turned many away from iniquity.
What is the lesson learnt from ‘Parsha Toldot’?
Don’t despise your birthright!
In Jewish culture, the birthright or inheritance goes to the firstborn son. Esau, in an act of foolishness, gave up his birthright in an oath to Jacob: Genesis 25:33: “Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.”
What is your birthright or inheritance?
Having a personal, intimate relationship with Almighty G-d and living a life of peace, security and happiness – even when life throws you a curved ball and things look bleak.
Another mark of your birthright is knowing that your sins are forgiven you and that your eternal future – eternal life in Heaven – is secure.
However this kind of peace, security and happiness that comes through intimacy with G-d, only comes about through the victory attained by Yeshua on the Cross when he allowed Himself to be crucified, thus guaranteeing those who accept Him as ‘Mashiach’, the forgiveness of sin and eternal life in heaven.
Part of your birthright is boldly being able to enter into the Holy of Holies. This came about when Yeshua gave up His life on the cross: John 19:30: “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”
Mark 15:37-38 declares: “And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
The tearing of the temple veil showed that restriction to the Holy of Holies had been done away with and that all people – not just the ‘kohanin’ – can, through Yeshua, enter into the Holy of Holies…into the very presence of the Father, the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Many people do not live in victory. Instead, they live in defeat, not possessing their birthright.
How do you know if you are possessing your birthright?
Are you worried about your future? Do you live in fear? Are you worried or anxious? Are you unhappy, sad or depressed? Do you feel insecure?
If your answer to just one these questions is “yes”, you are not possessing your birthright.
Possessing your birthright comes when you hand your problems, your past, your future and your life to the L-rd.
Then receive your birthright from Him – a glorious, victorious life of joy, security, peace and the privilege of entering into the Holy of Holies – into the very presence of Almighty G-d.
However, as I said earlier in this article, this can only come through Yeshua – and this is for both Jews and Gentiles. Possess your birthright by accepting Yeshua as your L-rd and Saviour.
All you need do is confess your sins, repent of them, receive G-d’s forgiveness and invite Yeshua into your life by praying the ‘Prayer of Salvation’ found at the end of this article.
G-d is offering you your birthright - security; peace; joy; victory, the forgiveness of sin and eternal life in Heaven. G-d is also offering you entry into the Holy of Holies, the very presence of Almighty G-d.
Will you possess your birthright or, like Esau, will you despise your birthright. The choice is yours.
Don’t despise your birthright by selfishly focussing on your own life and on your own problems. Rather hold fast to your birthright by seeking the Kingdom of G-d and His righteousness and give your life over to G-d by focussing on His will for you in this life, thus also securing your birthright for the life to come.
We love you.
Scripture of the week: Hebrews 12: 14-17: “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.”
Thank you Yeshua for Your love for me.
Thank you for giving up Your life on the cross for me and for taking my sins upon Yourself.
I confess that I have sinned.
I repent of my sins and I turn from everything I know to be wrong.
I invite You to come into my life as my Messiah, my Saviour.
By Your grace I will serve You all the remaining years of my life.