The problem of favouritism

The problem of favouritism

Learning from Isaac and Rebekah

The story of Isaac and Rebekah is a story of a marriage made in Heaven! Isaac and Rebekah were divinely appointed by God to be joined together in marriage, but just because they were brought together by God and appointed by God to be married doesn’t mean they didn’t have issues!

So what does matchmaking look like in the early years of human history? Well apparently your Father tells his number one employee to go and find his son a wife!

Abraham commits his servant's journey to God in prayer asking for Angelic intervention and his servant has a continual conversation with God to ensure he brings his master a successful outcome! He arrives in Nahor (the place of Abrahams forefathers) and sits down at a well. There he prays:

“Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today and show kindness to my master Abraham. See I am standing beside a spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to the young women “Please let down your jar that I may have a drink and she says ‘drink and I’ll water your camels too-let her be the one chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know you have shown kindness to my master.”

Before he finishes praying Rebekah walks up, offers him a drink and offers to water his camels too! God had initiated a divine appointment, God is the original matchmaker, amazing! Rebekah and Isaac get married and are happy but Rebekah is barren and childless.

Isaac prays for Rebekah, and God answers his prayer. Rebekah gets pregnant and gives birth to twin boys, Esau and Jacob. There is sibling rivalry even in Rebekah’s womb, and when the twins are born they fight to be the first one out! Esau wins the battle with Jacob grasping his heel on the way out. These boys were competitive from the beginning and this would continue through their childhood.

As usual, these boys were opposites which created tension.

  • Esau was like his Dad, a man of the land, a skilful hunter, a meat eater, a man’s man. Isaac was drawn to Esau’s manliness and preferred (favoured) him.
  • Jacob was a quiet, shy, reserved and contemplative boy who liked staying at home. He was more like Rebekah, and Rebekah preferred (favoured) him.Here we see the human tendency to play favourites according to personality traits. Isaac and Rebekah had natural inclinations to like one son over another, and it was problematic. Their inability to see the consequences of their favouritism (blind-spots) enabled serious sibling division that would later divide the two boys and ignite hatred between them.

As parents we may think that a little favouritism is harmless but later we will see from this story that when favouritism isn’t addressed the consequences can be devastating!

Two events happened between these twin boys that cascaded the offense between them. The first event could be titled:

The Great Vege-Stew Heist

The quiet homebody, Jacob, is cooking lentil stew, while his more macho brother Esau is working hard on the land. Esau returns home famished, sees Jacob cooking and commands Jacob to give him some food. Jacob (whose name means deceiver) see’s this an opportunity to steal his big brother’s birthright.

(In Jewish culture the firstborn son is entitled to become the new head of the family when his Father dies and to receive a double portion of his Fathers inheritance).

Jacob says to Esau I’ll give a bowl of vege-stew for your birthright, and in his hunger, without considering the consequences of his decision, Esau agrees. Esau sells his birthright for a single meal! A terrible decision with huge consequences. This event would have strained the boys’ relationship without a doubt

The Great Fathers Blessing Robbery

The twin boys Father Isaac, is lying on his bed nearing death and decides it his time to bless his firstborn son Esau with his blessing. The Fathers blessing was considered to be a prophetic blessing that carried the very authority of God. A Fathers blessing was a holy moment where the very words of the Father over a child’s life carried such authority that those very words were deemed to happen as if God had spoken them Himself. This was a serious and holy event.

Isaac calls his son Esau into his room and asks him to go and kill some goats and make a red stew for him because today was the day Esau would receive his Father’s blessing. Esau runs off excitedly to kill some goats and prepare the stew for his dad. At the same time Isaac’s wife Rebekah knows of Isaac’s plan and cunningly asks her favourite son Jacob, to dress up like Esau, and to bring a red stew she has prepared to Isaac, so that Jacob would receive his Father’s blessing by deception. Rebekah gives Jacob Esau’s clothes to wear, goatskins to put on his arms, and a bowl of goat stew that she prepared and sends him into his Father.

Isaac is unsure if it is Esau or Jacob talking to him, but smells his clothes and feels his arms. He is then convinced that this is Esau. Isaac proceeds to bless Jacob with the Fathers blessing and just as he finishes blessing Jacob, Esau walks in. Furious Esau asks for a blessing but Isaac declares that he can only give one. Esau has been deceived out of his blessing again!

Esau now wants to kill Jacob and Jacob flees to his Fathers homeland in search of a wife. Wow! What a story.

So what can we learn from this as modern day parents?

  • Favouritism is natural but not OK
  • Favouritism divides siblings, parents and families
  • Favouritism needs to be addressed through prayer
Favouritism is Natural

Both Isaac and Rebekah had a natural inclination to prefer one of their kids. Isaac was drawn to Esau and Rebekah to Jacob. Though this can be natural for parents, it needs to be addressed by a supernatural God. The bible clearly states God’s heart toward favouritism in the book of James chapter 2 verse 10. James says favouritism is a sin. So as parents if we identify favouritism in our hearts, we need to repent and ask for God’s grace to change our hearts. If we do this, we will avoid a lot of trouble

Favouritism Causes Division

Esau and Jacob clearly knew who their parents’ favourites were which caused an imbalance in family dynamics. We see that Isaac and Esau spend time together while Rebekah and Jacob spend time together. Isaacs decision making prefers Esau while Rebekah’s decision making prefers Jacob. It was a recipe for disaster! It went unaddressed and caused sibling and family division. There was some serious collateral damage to the point that Esau wants to kill Jacob.

Favouritism Needs to be Addressed

Unfortunately, Isaac and Rebekah didn’t recognise the toxic nature of favouritism and allowed its poison to destroy their family. They didn’t address their children’s flaws with discipline but empowered their flaws via their favouritism. The results were devastating.

Fortunately, we can learn from their mistakes and determine now as parents that we will allow God to change our hearts, to deliver us from favouritism and to give us wisdom to raise our kids with impartiality. If you want to address this serious issue with God now, please say this prayer with authenticity, agreeing with it in your heart.

Dear Father,
Thank you that your Word is clear on the devastating effects of favouritism in a family unit. Father if there is any favouritism in my heart please forgive me, cleanse me, change me by your grace and teach me to walk with wisdom and impartiality as a parent. Thank you for your grace and power, in Jesus name. Amen



Childrens' Pastor