Whatever his reasons were, Isaac raised his two sons differently. Scripture tells us that Esau, the first-born of the twin sons, was a man whose proclivities led him to love the outdoors. He was a hunter and a man of the “fields.” This made him temperamentally like his father, and Isaac seems to have loved that about him. The other twin, Jacob, was apparently not of similar kind. Scripture cryptically describes him as a man who hung around among the tents. It is likely this information was given to enable us to view the contrast between the two of them.
Now it turns out that Rebekah had been instructed by the Lord concerning the twins. It was not a vague prophecy at all. Without doubt, Jacob was to be ascendant over his older brother. Rebekah apparently took the word of the Lord seriously. It is not reasonable that she would have hidden such important matters from her husband Isaac. There can be but very little doubt that from before the twins were born, Isaac was fully aware of the prophesied distinction between his two sons. He would have known from before they were born that the second son would be ascendant over the first and that the first-born son would be secondary to his brother in the eyes of the Lord. There can be no doubt that Isaac knew that he and his sons were in the line of those keeping the promise of the kingdom that God had given to his father Abraham. He had, himself, lived in the presence of that reality all his life.
Yet, here he was with the certain knowledge of the “holy nation,” his place in it, and the prophetic dispositions of his sons; and he was raising Esau with favored status. Clearly, Isaac was setting things up among the people for Esau to rule and for Jacob to have a subordinate status. In favoring Esau, he was setting up Jacob to accept just such a disposition toward the people. Obviously the people would have been aware of these things as well. So far as the camp was concerned, things would move along until the death of Isaac and then Esau would be the chief. After that life would go on.
Jacob, by dint of his personality and habits, fit the mold being developed by Isaac perfectly. He was simply present in the life of the camp. He had no particular role even though he was an important person. His life was as he made it within the context of his disposition. It appears we are safe assuming that was fine by Isaac and Esau as well. The guys were okay with the arrangements among them. It seems the camp was well adjusted to these realities as well. Perhaps, over time, the family even “forgot” the prophetic word of God to Rebekah when the boys were in the womb. Even the struggles between the two boys were probably not noticeable very often as all fell into the routines necessary to make camp life work. Jacob was just a “camp boy.” The role seems to have suited him.
There were two problems in this rosy situation. First, there was the prophetic word of God concerning the two sons. Second, there was the memory of Rebekah which she found to be more important than the arrangements in the camp.
We know that, in time, Esau granted his legacy to his brother Jacob for a bowl of soup. We also know that his father still preferred him after that, but in the end Jacob received the birthright, the full inheritance, the possession of the covenant and all else that was consistent with the prophecy of God. The “camp boy” rose to the top because God so intended.
In time, Jacob basically repeated the cycle. While he loved all his sons, including the firstborn Reuben, he formed a preference for the first son from the womb of Rachel. It is not clear when this strong preference was formed but we know that after the death of Rachel it was greatly intensified. In essence, Jacob, who had grown up as the “camp boy,” formed a “camp boy” in his son Joseph. After Joseph was taken from him, he repeated that in Benjamin. Jacob, the “camp boy,” was okay with raising sons in the same mold as he had been raised.
Of course, the Lord had taken Jacob out of the camp in proper time. The will of God would not be thwarted. Jacob was to carry the covenant and that was that. After the transfer of the birthright and the receipt of the patriarchal blessing, it was necessary that he now receive the training his father Isaac had not given him.
In due time, it was necessary to take the second “camp boy” away from Jacob so that he (Joseph) could fulfill the roles God had for him. Joseph was to be the shadow of a savior for the house of Jacob. While that had not been prophetically assigned to Joseph specifically, the sojourn and the exodus had been and God would not be thwarted. It was necessary these things be worked out in the descendants of “bloody father Abraham” and no others.
God permitted Jacob, and then Joseph, to be raised as “camp boys” because that is what their fathers preferred. And these fathers were carriers of the covenant! In each case, though, when the time had come, the “camp boy” was taken firmly from the camp of his shelter to the harsh reality of their status as leaders in supremely important covenantal matters.
We will look thoroughly at these matters in Volume 2 of Birth of The Holy Nation, to be released in 2015. Look for specific announcements in this blog stream as the spring passes.