Manly or Godly?

This is a cartoon depiction of Jacob and Esau at a pivotal moment in their lives. Which one of these is a real man? The truth is, both of them appear to have the XY chromosome, so they are both men. Which is the more manly man? Some people determine manliness by levels of aggression, athleticism, or rugged individualism. Or even by the size of the pickup truck or the biceps. Esau was a skillful hunter and a man of the fields. He may have been a lot bigger or stronger than his little brother, but the truth is, Jacob will turn out to be the most manly. Even the way Genesis 25 describes Jacob here is telling. He is a “quiet man, dwelling in tents.” The Sumerians of that day spoke highly of tent dwellers, saying they were settled and civilized. But what about “quiet man?” Some people read “mama’s boy,” or “sissy,” but the word in Hebrew for quiet means “complete, upright, one of stable disposition.” He was much more in control of himself and his emotions than his older brother, which brings Proverbs 16:32 to mind: “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Manliness has much more to do with self-control than with brute strength. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek,” and we know that meekness is not weakness, but it is strength under control. With that understanding, then, Jesus was the manliest man who ever lived.

What is most important in this story is that Esau lost his birthright to Jacob, but he lost it because he did not consider it important. It is a great story of how expedience can overcome wisdom and make us the poorer. It is a story of how flesh will win over spirit if we do not say no to the flesh. It is a story of wanting something of little value instead of that which has greater and lasting value.

Jim Eliott said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” That statement would take on ‘forever meaning’ for Jim when he was speared to death by the Auca Indians in 1956, the same ones he was witnessing to. He gave up his comfort and even his life which he could not keep anyway to gain eternity and to help that tribe do the same.

Esau came in from the fields, tired and exhausted, and Jacob was cooking some red stew. Esau smelled the stew and he saw the stew, and he wanted the stew, wanted it right now. He didn’t care what it took and what he had to give up to get the stew. This past week, an airborne deer going north to south met my Honda Accord traveling west to east. It’s rutting season when bucks are thinking about only one thing. He was chasing a doe and could not have cared less what was in his way. Even the windshield of a pastor’s car as he is just trying to make it across town.

Esau didn’t care about anything at that moment but food. See food. Eat food. Red stew? Good. Give me some. Birthright? What good is a birthright if I’m about to die. Drama much, Esau? But he was thinking with his gut. Derek Kidner said, “he was a prey to his craving.” At this moment, he was not the mighty hunter but the weak prey. You may say that Jacob wasn’t much better. And on one level, you’re exactly right. He was the usurper, right? The heel-grabber, the one who trips up to take advantage, and he was doing just that with his brother. The difference is that what Jacob desired more than anything was worth desiring. That made Jacob the more godly man. He gave his brother what he craved and Esau walked away, thinking nothing of the consequences to his soul. The text is stark: “…He ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.”

It was a warning to Israel and to all who simply live to satisfy the desires of their flesh. Man and woman without Christ simply eat and drink and die and go their way. And in the process, they despise their birthright, the blessing that is freely given to all who come to Christ by faith and through grace.

One thought on “Manly or Godly?

Comments are closed.