It’s important to start from the beginning with Jacob’s father, Isaac, and his mother, Rebekah.
So Rebekah was barren, an interesting theme which comes up often in the Old Testament. Personally, I see it as a symbol for wanting something so badly your heart breaks for it. But then she gets pregnant, and receives this highly disturbing message from God:
“Two nations are in your womb,
And two peoples born of you shall be divided
The one shall be stronger than the other,
The elder shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23)And so here we begin with God telling of the conflict which shall arise in their household: sibling rivalry.
Jacob shall rule over Esau. This goes against traditional inheritance, with the oldest child getting more than the younger and running the estate.
The twins were quite different. Jacob was “a quiet man, living in tents”. Esau was “fond of game (and his father favored him); but Rebekah loved Jacob” (Genesis 25:27).
So do we see the problem? This might be the first parenting lesson in the Bible: don’t play favorites.
There isn’t a list of “he said/ she said” grievances in this story. But the statement about preferences tells me stuff happened, more than just Esau trading his birthright for a bowl of stew to his brother, and then later a whole drama where Jacob pretends to be his brother while serving his father, which, by the way, was good ole Mom’s idea.
So after the whole “let-me-get-some-animal-skins-and-pretend-to-be-hairy-to-impress-Dad-with-my-stew-I-didn’t-make-but-mom-did” event, Esau gets pretty peeved. As in homicidal mad because he loses out on a blessing intended for him, but was given to his brother. So Mom intervenes and tells Jacob to go visit relatives.
There’s more to this part of the story. It paints Esau as not so bright in allowing his rights as the oldest son to be sold for food and it foreshadows some events later in regards to “Israel’s domination of Edom during the time of David and Solomon” (Constable 46). I’ve read commentary stating that Esau really didn’t want his birthright anyway for a variety of reasons as well.But for now that doesn’t matter: Jacob took advantage of his brother, perhaps out of a need to be loved and favored by his father, which is tragic.
So anyway, Jacob gets out of dodge and goes to visit Laban, his uncle. And because Mom blamed Jacob’s sister-in-law for this mess, Jacob is commanded by his father not to marry a woman from Canaan. Consequently, Esau finds out, and because he discovered “the Canaanite women did not please his father” (Genesis 28:7), he took another wife from Nebaioth.
What we will do to win a parent’s approval.
So now we have a son running for his life because his mother desperately wanted him to receive a blessing which wasn’t rightfully his to receive and a man taking a second wife because he thought the first one didn’t please his father.