“Best of Friends since Birth.” That was one of the headline news in The Toronto Star of 13 May 2014. The news first came from Akron General Medical Centre, Ohio. (All my FHCG Ohioans, please note!) They called it “the Mother’s Day gift”. The photograph showed Jillian and Jenna Thistlewaite grasping each other’s hands when the doctors lifted the twins for their proud parents to see. The identical twins, born in Akron, Friday, 9 May 2014, shared the same amniotic sac and placenta during pregnancy. (To read the full article, click here).
Readers would have immediately thought of another set of famous twins and their birth details recorded in Genesis 25:24-26. Allow me to refresh your memory. “And when the time came to give birth, Rebekah discovered that she did indeed have twins! The first one was very red at birth and covered with thick hair like a fur coat. So they named him Esau. The other twin was born with his hand grasping Esau’s heel. So they named him Jacob” (NLT). The criteria for naming babies were different, then. Sadly, the relationship of these Genesis boys was far from friendly.
As a youngster, I felt that God was slightly unreasonable in this instance. I am sure I am not alone. How could God bless Jacob, a liar? His name means a “grasper”, “clutcher”, or a “snatcher” of heel in overtaking his brother. He took advantage of his brother’s hunger and later lied to his old and blind father Isaac. Just a fancy thought – had Isaac suspected foul play by team Jacob and Rebekah, what palatable option was left for him?
As to birthright, it is not just the blessings only, there’s much more. It is the responsibility of the person given the birthright to look after the parents till their death and burial. It is also their duty to make sure their sisters are given in marriage with adequate dowry. In an ideal case, this person will sacrifice his own family’s comfort for the sake of his/her younger brothers or sisters. It reminds me of the legend of Jewish humour, later quoted by Joan Rivers and others: “Next time, dear God, please choose someone else”. Jacob usurped Esau’s irrevocable blessing in a despicable manner. Did Jacob, I wonder, remember this, prior to his death, when he blessed Joseph’s sons, with his right hand on the younger one?
The question still remains. How can a born cheater become a patriarch? Why is a quarter of the entire book of Genesis all about Jacob? How can God allow a supplanter to be blessed, not only with lands and herds, but also to grant him the honour to be the fore-father of king David and – generations later – the Saviour of the world, whom the Psalmist called his Lord?
Deceit and lying, for that matter any sin, has consequences, a basic Karma principle of sowing and reaping. Jacob got the birthright alright, but paid for it dearly with the same measure! Besides, Jacob bore untold sorrow within his own family. At one time he cried out and said “All things are against me” (Genesis 42:36). David was no different. His life was not the same following his affair with Bathsheba, with miseries right in his own household. Yet both – and this is very important – the liar and the murderer had one thing in common. They both penitently and persistently sought after God. Jacob said “I will not let you go without it”. David sang again and again “God is my refuge”. This is the hallmark of our faith!
Are we different, perhaps in degrees? There is a dark side in all of us to snatch and to lie – a bent in our nature. While typing this post, I was humming to myself the great hymn “Come thou fount of every blessing” by Robert Robinson (1735-1790). One stanza goes like this: “Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart O take and seal it, Seal it for thy courts above”.
The challenge is not so much to seek birthright for comfort and fame, but rather seek the God of all comforts and refuge. God still transforms deceiving and wile persons into patriarchs and “men after God’s own heart”, and sinners to saints. This is amazing grace.
God bless, Danny Paul