Biblical Story Of Joseph And Esau
BIBLE TEXT: GENESIS 25:25-34, 27:1-46, GENESIS 30:24-25, 37:2-36, 39:1-50:26
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In this series, we will be looking at the story of two important characters as carefully and inspirationally narrated in the Bible. These two characters are none other than Joseph and Esau.
These two characters are descendants of Abraham, the Father of faith. While Esau is the grandson of Abraham, Joseph is the great grandson. His father was Jacob, the twin brother of Esau. Relatively, Esau is Joseph’s uncle.
We will study the story of these two Bible characters both individually and then examine their similarities and peculiarities.
Esau was the twin brother of Jacob; both of them were born to Isaac and Rebecca. The Bible tells us that they struggled together in Rebecca’s womb, and when she enquired from God, was told that each of the boys would be a progenitor of a nation. God also told her that the older of the boys would serve the younger. Esau was born first and thereby became legal heir to the family birthright which included, among other things, being heir to the Abrahamic covenant of God with Abraham, the father of many nations.
Esau was his father’s favourite. He was red and hairy. He grew up to become a skilled hunter, a simple person, impatient, an outdoor man and easily manipulated by his deceitful brother, Jacob.
One fateful day, Esau returned from the field very hungry and famished. He met his brother cooking porridge, and he said to him, “I am so starving! Please give me some of the red porridge.” Jacob told him to give him his birthright in exchange for the plate of red porridge. In those days, the birthright is certain blessings and privileges which are passed down from the father to the oldest son. Therefore, by virtue of being the oldest son, Esau was entitled to the birthright. Esau replied, “Behold, I am so hungry that I am almost dying. What good would this birthright do to me if I were dead?” So he agreed to trade his birthright for a plate of porridge. Jacob then gave him the porridge. He ate his fill and went away. He never knew he would still seek for the birthright with tears later!
Years went by, and Isaac grew old and about to die. He decided to bless his oldest son, but he would first eat from his venison. He called Esau and instructed him to go to the fields, hunt and prepare venison for him, so that he might eat and bless him. Meanwhile, Rebecca overheard the instruction and went ahead to tell Jacob, her favourite son. With her help, she prepared a goat and used the skin to cover Jacob in order to deceive Isaac into thinking he was Esau.
The plan was successfully executed and Jacob stole Esau’s blessings. When Esau came back from hunting, and prepared the venison for his father, Isaac was terrified. His worst nightmare had played out right in front of him! The younger had taken the blessing meant for the older. This made Esau very bitter towards his brother, and he sought to slay him. In fear, Rebecca sent Jacob to stay with her brother Laban in Haran.
Years rolled by, and Esau became a very great man with lots of possessions and four hundred bodyguards. He forgave his brother Jacob and reconciled with him.
Joseph was the first born of Jacob and his beloved wife Rachel. He was born when Rachel had almost lost all hope of having a child. She was prophetically named Joseph, which means, “The Lord shall add to me another son.” Later on, his mother gave birth to another son whom they named Benjamin. His half brothers were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, and Zebulun. His half sister was Dinah.
Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons. When the boy became seventeen years old, he made him a coat of many colours. This made his other brothers very jealous of him. He also had the habit of going to his father with the stories of his brothers’ misbehaving, this further increased their resentment and hatred for Joseph.
One day, Joseph dreamt that the sun, the moon and the twelve stars bowed to him. He told his father this dream, and also narrated it to his brothers. They hated him even more! He further dreamt about their sheaves bowing down for his own sheaves. This increased their resentment towards him. Therefore, they sought to kill him.
One day, his father sent him to his brothers. As soon as they sighted him from afar, they said one to another, “Here comes the dreamer! Let us kill him and throw his body into a pit. Then we will tell everybody, including their father, that a wild animal killed him. Then let us see what becomes of his dreams.”
On a second thought, they unanimously agreed to sell him to Ishmaelite traders, who were on their way to Egypt. At Egypt, he was sold to Potiphar, a highly respected Egyptian personnel. God was with Joseph throughout his stay in Potiphar’s house, and he became the head of all the servants there. But that was the will and purpose of God for him.
Along the line, Potiphar’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph, and continually asked her to sleep with her. However, the fear of God in the heart of Joseph did not allow him to succumb. On a fateful day, he had to leave his garment in the woman’s hand and ran for his life. This incident made Potiphar’s wife lie against him and charged him with an assault case.
This landed him in prison. However, the Lord was with him even in the prison, that he was made the head of all the other inmates. His gift of interpreting dreams came to play in the prison. He interpreted the dreams of the Chief Baker and the Chief Butler.
At the appointed time, Joseph was remembered by the butler after two years. When Pharaoh had a fearful dream and none in his kingdom could interpret it, Joseph was brought forth at the recommendation of the Butler. He interpreted the dream and offered a solution to the impending problem. He acknowledged God as the One who gave the interpretation of the dream to him.
Consequent upon the advice given by Joseph, Pharaoh made him the Prime Minister to oversee the implementation of the solution given.
After a while, there was famine in Egypt and the nations around it. Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy grain, and he made himself known to them after a series of testing them. He forgave them and asked them to bring their entire families to Egypt. Jacob became happy again. Jacob and his household came over to Egypt, and Joseph made them stay in Goshen, a very fertile land in Egypt.
Before Jacob his father died, he decided to bless his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim. He placed his right hand on Ephraim the youngest, instead of Manasseh, and vice versa. Joseph objected to this and corrected his father, but he said he did it intentionally. He said the youngest shall be more powerful and prosperous than the oldest. (This is a recurrence of what transpired between Esau and Jacob). Joseph lived for one hundred and ten years, before he died.
SIMILARITIES AND PECULIARITIES BETWEEN ESAU AND JOSEPH
These two biblical characters are similar in some aspects, yet peculiar in their different ways. Some of their similarities are:
- Both Esau and Joseph were born to their parents in their old age.
- Both Esau and Joseph happened to be favorite sons to their respective fathers.
- Both Esau and Joseph were greatly wronged and mistreated by their own close family (their brothers).
- They both went through difficult times.
- They both became great afterwards.
- Both Esau and Joseph had forgiving spirits towards their brothers who greatly offended them.
The peculiarities of these two characters are:
- Esau was born twins with his brother Jacob, while Joseph was born a single child.
- While Esau sold his birthright for a plate of porridge, Joseph maintained his birthright by not succumbing to Potiphar’s wife’s offer of sin.
- Joseph became a ruler and a great man in a foreign land, while Esau became great but never ruled.
- Esau ended up a polygamist, but Joseph had only one wife.