Genesis 25:19-34 tells us Rebekah was expecting twins! And God told her that the older son would serve the younger son. This was very unusual for that day. The older son almost always received the double portion of the father’s inheritance and would be the patriarchal head of the family upon the death of his father. But God was doing something unusual which for some reason didn’t sit well with Isaac. You remember the story. Look with me at Genesis 27.
The strong independent spirit which served Rebekah so well in chapter 24 created tension in their marriage in chapter 27. Strife began before the birth of the boys (the boys jostled within her Genesis 25:22). Even at birth, Jacob (which means “he grasps” or “he deceives”) was grasping the heel of his brother, Esau (meaning “red” or “hairy”), as if he was trying to be delivered first!
And strife between the brothers resulted in division between Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac favored Esau, perhaps because Isaac was a relatively quiet man, he admired the aggressiveness of his rugged outdoorsman son who loved to hunt. And how Isaac loved the “tasty food” that Esau would bring home from the hunt for the family! The words “tasty food” are mentioned six times in chapter 27 indicating how much Isaac loved the food (Is it possible Isaac loved tasty food too much? Do we do the same?) Rebekah favored Jacob who chose to stay at home, perhaps helping his mother and learning to cook (we know he learned how to make good lentil stew! Genesis 25:29-34) Eventually it seems, Isaac and Rebekah shared their hearts less and less: they didn’t seem to share their sons!
Favoring one child over the other is never a good thing. It can have life-long lasting consequences. It did so here. Having children should have strengthened their marriage: instead, the arrival of their boys and favoritism shown them seemed to draw them apart.
More marriages than this one, then and now, have started to crumble with the arrival of children. Why? “When a woman of Rebekah’s unusually strong character becomes a mother, she can become a stranger to her husband. In many ways, gentle Isaac had been her ‘child,’ and now that her only apparent inadequacy was gone forever and she had children of her own, her only apparent inadequacy was gone. Isaac still needed her in the same old ways, but she felt complete and at once the narrative mentions Isaac’s advancing age” (v. 26 says Isaac was 60 when the twins were born.) Perhaps the change in Rebekah aged him.”
The one place where Rebekah had been weak vanished, she was no longer barren. The intelligent, independent strong woman took the reins of her life and her family’s lives in her own hands and never dropped them again (as far as we know.) Where before she had likely discussed problems with Isaac, she now began to give orders. Where she had been tender and charming, she grew sharp and cunning. Perhaps she was not even aware of this, but even her attitude toward God seemed to change. Rebekah had been devout, but no one who reveres the Lord God should take the reins of her life and the lives of her family into their own hands. (These quotes were taken from a book called, God Speaks to Women Today, by Eugena Price.)
And it appears Isaac let it be so. Since he was a peace-loving man like his father, it’s likely he let her have her way.
This scenario happens in marriages today. For months or years husbands operate under the biblical direction they are to be loving, gentle leaders in their homes. Eventually, however, they often discover no one is following. Their leadership becomes a delusion. They may get criticized or even laughed at. They let the leadership fall on their wives. Wives enjoy their new role as leaders in their home for weeks, months or even years until a crisis arises they can’t handle. They look to their husband for help, for his strength and leadership. Where is he? He’s sitting on the couch reading the paper or watching a favorite TV program, happy to let his wife handle the crisis, hoping she will learn that she should have appreciated his previous attempts at leadership!
Possibly this happens so gradually that neither partner is aware of it. Neither repents (he for yielding leadership or she for demanding it). Instead, she loses respect for him. He loses respect for her. The children follow their lead and soon lose respect for both. The intimacy between the parents is gone and the family grows slowly apart. They may continue to live in the same home, but each partner and child does what they want. They often don’t even eat together.