2004 header issue 20


Esau and Jacob :

Different peas in the pod

(Genesis 25, 27 & 28)

Esau and Jacob were twins.  We tend to think more favourably of Jacob, who was renamed Israel by God. But, honestly, what do we feel when we think of Esau?  Negative feelings?  Pity, because he was twice deceived by Jacob?  Contempt that he could be so easily deceived by Jacob?  Revulsion that a man not living in poverty could sell his birthright, for a bowl of bean stew?  What kind of man would do that?  What do we really know about Esau?

Let’s start at his birth.  Esau was born red in colour; Jacob was presumably the normal colour of a baby of that place.  And from birth, Esau’s “whole body was like a hairy garment” [Genesis 25:25].  Jacob, on the other hand, had smooth skin [Gen 27:11].  Say, they were not identical twins, were they?

Were they identical in their nature?  Esau was a lover of the great outdoors.  Isn’t that what “a man of the open country” [Gen 25:27] means?  Was his twin the same?  Well, the same verse tells us, “Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents”.  So Jacob was a lover of the great indoors?  And if the Bible mentions that Jacob was a quiet man, doesn’t that imply that Esau wasn’t?

What about their skills?  Any similarities there?  “Esau became a skillful hunter”, Gen 25:27 tells us.  His father, Isaac, revealed what his weapons were, when he said “Now then, get your weapons - your quiver and bow – and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me” [Gen 27:3].  Isn’t it difficult to get near to wild animals in open country?  Does that mean that Esau must have been a good archer able to kill an animal from afar?

How about Jacob?  Did he have such skills?  He was no hunter, unlike Esau.  But looking at how he got Esau to sell him his birthright, could we say that he had entrepreneurial skills?  Wasn’t Jacob quick to see in a situation an opportunity that he could turn to his financial advantage, and swiftly act on it?  Yes, Jacob “sold” the famished Esau a bowl of lentil stew that he was cooking, and charged him a very high price: Esau’s inheritance birthright. 

Hey, so Jacob had some cooking skills?  But should we ask what the man was doing, cooking when there were women around to do this normally feminine chore?  Not really, for Esau was apparently also a good cook, of wild game.  After all, he could turn it into “tasty food” that Isaac liked [Gen 27:4]. 

Esau was in fact Isaac’s pet, while Jacob was his mummy’s pet.  And whereas Esau got married twice at or before the age of 40, Jacob was still single at 40.  My, my, Esau and Jacob could hardly have been more different could they?  Despite being twins.  God makes every person unique, different from every other person that has ever lived or will ever live.  Aren’t we all wonderfully made?  And isn’t our Maker absolutely wonderful to be able to do all this through amazing micro-codes called DNA?

Two twin brothers.  God loved one but not the other.  He said in Malachi 1:3, “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated”.  This is puzzling.  Why did God hate Esau?  What had Esau done?  The apostle Paul must have pondered this same question.  He gives us an answer in Hebrews 12:16, where he wrote: “See that no one is ….godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the eldest son”.  But what was wrong with that?

Could it be that because it was God who determined which twin would be the eldest son who gets the inheritance birthright, when Esau sold away his birthright in such a casual manner, Esau did not give a thought for God and his plans?  In the case of Jacob, however, God was often on his mind, even when he was lying!  When Isaac, mistaking Jacob for Esau, asked him how he had found game so quickly, Jacob answered: “The Lord your God gave me success”.  And immediately after Jacob had a dream at Bethel , he mentioned God [including as Lord and El] at least seven times.  How many times, as recorded in the Bible, did Esau ever mention God?  Twice?  Once?  Never?

How often is God on your mind and on your lips?


Chapel on 19th May 2004  

Lai Pak Wah (DipCS) who will shortly be leaving for Vancouver with his wife Rina and their daughter Fide in order to pursue Masters-level studies, based his message on Paul’s letter to the Galatians. After setting out the background of Galatians, and giving a sketch of the false teaching that Paul was trying to counter, Pak Wah focused on 1:11–16, in which Paul begins to defend the divine origin of his apostleship and his teaching.  

In vv. 11–12 Paul asserts that the origin of his teaching lay in a revelation of Jesus Christ. By upbringing he was a zealous Jew, and he had displayed that zeal by taking a lead in the persecution of the early Christian believers, whose teaching he saw as pernicious folly (for how could the Messiah of Israel have died on a cross?). He was not obvious convert material. But an encounter with the risen Christ turned his life around (vv. 13–14, described in more detail in Acts 9, 22 and 26). He now saw Christ as the one who has ‘redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us’ (Gal 3.13; cf. 4:4–5), and the teaching of a crucified and resurrected Messiah became the centre of his theology.

From Paul’s account of how he became the ‘Apostle to the Gentiles’ we learn three things.

  1. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is and must always be the cornerstone of our faith and beliefs. It must be the basis on which we work out our theology in every aspect of life. Theological discussion and arguing about abstract concepts is fine, but in the end we must always point others (and ourselves) to the reality of what God accomplished in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

  2. Paul’s understanding of his ministry was that God had called him to preach the message of the ‘Son of God’. Underlying this term ‘Son of God’ is an understanding of God as above all a relational God. This fact has significant implications for Christian living and preaching. The call to conversion is a call to share fellowship in the love of the Triune God, and the truth of the gospel must be not only declared but demonstrated in Christian communities which credibly model God’s love.

  3. Paul saw that God had revealed his Son to him in order that Paul might proclaim him among the Gentiles (1:15–16). The gospel is more that a topic to be studied: it is a calling that is meant to transform our lives, and a message to be communicated to others. Let us make sure that we do not reduce the gospel to a set of interesting ideas.

Please pray for Pak Wah, Rina and Fide as they set out for Vancouver. Pak Wah, whose first training was in the sciences, is exploring the possibility of a teaching vocation in theology, focusing on theology and the sciences. Pray that God will guide Pak Wah and Rina as they decide what is the next step after studies at Regent.

Chapel will take a recess next Wednesday as it is a public holiday. On 9 June, Dr Quek Swee Hwa will be leading the Chapel.


  1. Study Skills Orientation, 2004. Skim-Reading and Speed-Reading, will be conducted by Dr Quek Swee Hwa on 4 June. It is offered free to all BGST students. If you would like to attend, kindly contact the Admin Office at 63538071.

  2. Counselling Skills: Dealing with Stress and Fatique (CO232) by Mr Song Cheng Hock, will be commencing on 9 June. Call the Admin Office if you are keen to join this class.

  3. Please pray for a speedy recovery for Dr Aquila Lee who has been hospitalised since 29 May. He is being treated for gallstones and may require surgery pending stabilisation of his liver condition. As this is considered a pre-existing condition, he is not able to claim the hospital charges from the insurance. We appreciate your prayer for the Lord’s provision to cover the medical costs.

  4. Away from office. Our library staff, Daisy Sim, will be on leave from 31 May to 4 June.

A Blessed Birthday to ...

Mr Justin Lee  24/5

Mrs Tan-Chua Chiew Peng  24/5

Mr James Goon  26/5

Mr Peter Lim Hong Sing 26/5

Dr Lawrence Chan  28/5

Mr Yoong Yuen Soo  29/5

Mr Kan Siew Ning  29/5

Mr Richard Chia  31/5

Ms Judy Ong  2/6

Ms Rachel Goh  2/6

Mr Leo Mun Wai  2/6

Mr Joshua Maruta  3/6

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This page is updated on 29 May 2004. 
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