Jacob the Supplanter
Sibling rivalry is often a fiercely heated struggle for supremacy.
Pamela Prindle Fierro, a prolific author of helpful parenting articles for “Very Well Family,” recounts her own experience raising competitive twin girls.
“Every breath they take is a competition for oxygen,” she writes. “Every uttered word is a target for controversy. They bicker about anything and everything. They’ve argued about which side of the minivan to enter, and who should shut the door after they exit.”
Fierro lists some strategies that she’s employed to tamp down the emotions. “We’ve tried to generate some harmony, using simple tactics to remind the girls about how special they are … and how lucky they are to have each other.” Fierro reads to both girls individually at bedtime and gives each private one-on-one time. They pray together and focus attention on their individual interests.
Finally, she encourages them to recognize the blessing of having a twin sibling. “Even Bill Gates can’t buy himself a twin,” she explains to them. “God has given you this incredible gift. He made you identical twins and gave you a special sister. So many people would give anything to have a twin, a special sister in their life. Ask your friends; see how many of them wish they could be a twin!”
Perhaps Isaac and Rachel should have employed some of Pamela’s tactics when raising Jacob and Esau. How would things have turned out if Isaac tried to understand and appreciate Jacob’s gentler nature? What if Rachel had encouraged Esau’s rugged outdoor interests? Could Jacob and Esau have learned to work together to grow God’s kingdom here on earth?
If the twins had a harmonious relationship, however, that would have muted one of the more colorful stories in Scripture. At birth, we see Jacob chasing Esau out of the womb, grabbing his heel as if to say, “Hey, get back in there—I’m first!” Jacob later took advantage of Esau’s hunger, tempting him with some delicious lentil stew to gain Esau’s birthright. Finally, Rachel pulled off one of the earliest examples of identity theft to trick Isaac into pronouncing Esau’s rightful blessing on Jacob. You can’t make this stuff up!
Their story is a powerful illustration of God’s grace and mercy. Even after all of his deceptions, Jacob received God’s blessing—not because he deserved it (he most certainly did not), but because God granted it freely. If God can forgive and bless Jacob, then there is hope for us as well.
Connecting: What is one piece of advice you’d give someone who is having challenges getting along with a sibling?
Sharing: Read Genesis 28:10-22. What is the purpose of the ladder in Jacob’s dream?
- God showed Jacob that he could still climb the ladder to get to heaven, even though he’d messed up his life
- The ladder represents the fact that there is a connection between heaven and earth—that God has not abandoned us
- The visual of the ladder itself is secondary in importance to the reality that angels regularly travel from heaven to the earth
- The old spiritual has it right when we sing that we are climbing Jacob’s ladder, growing daily in our walk with God
- The old spiritual is wrong. We don’t climb Jacob’s ladder; the ladder represents God’s active mercy in reaching out to save fallen humanity
Applying: How are your relationships with your own siblings? Is there any contention between you? What can you do to resolve your part in any conflict you have with them?