Tag Archives: Esau

Family is Family

 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way;
Numbers 21:4 (NIV)

My maternal grandfather, Claude Hendrickson had a particularly difficult childhood. Grandpa Spec’s father committed suicide after learning he had tuberculosis. It was assumed that Perry Hendrickson wanted to spare his family the medical costs and difficulties associated with a long, terminal illness. My grandfather, the eldest of three siblings, was farmed out to his maternal grandparents to be raised. His mother retained custody of the younger siblings.

“Spec,” as he was known this whole life, experienced a strict upbringing with his grandparents. There was, however, discipline and faith. He managed well, got married, worked hard, and made a decent life for his family. Meanwhile, his siblings suffered their own difficulties as their mother, Olive Hendrickson, went through a string of failed marriages. Spec’s brother Ralph, an alcoholic, came looking for a job from his older brother. Spec agreed to hire his brother, but explained that he would fire him the first time he found his brother drinking on the job. When that eventually happened, Ralph was fired and promptly returned family in Illinois where he spread malicious lies about Spec among the family there. Spec felt ostracized by much of his family from that point on.

Spec and Ralph remained estranged, yet when Ralph died Spec drove to Illinois to pay his respects and to face a family who thought the worst of him because of Ralph’s malicious stories. Imagine my grandfather’s horror when the funeral director handed him the bill for his brother’s funeral. As “next of kin” the family expected him to pay the bill for his estranged brother who had caused him so much trouble. My grandfather paid the bill, returned home to Iowa, and let it go.

Family is family,” I can hear my grandfather say from his rocker, chewing on a cigar.

This story came to mind as I read today’s chapter. There is a subtle, recurring theme through the story of the wilderness wanderings of the Hebrews. It appears again today when the nomad nation takes a circuitous route to avoid the land of Edom. Skirting Edom to the east meant living in an extremely desolate area east of the Dead Sea.

Back in Deuteronomy God had told Moses to leave Edom alone because the land of Edom had been settled by Esau, the twin brother of Jacob (aka Israel). The story of the twins is back in Genesis 25. Esau had been Jacob’s older twin, but Jacob had deceived Esau into giving him his birthright. The result was “bad blood” between the brothers and their descendants.

It has been some 600 years since the days of Jacob and Esau, and now the nation of Israelites are living in a desolate desert wilderness clawing out their survival because God had ordered, through Moses, that they leave Esau’s land alone. The people weren’t happy.

“Family is family.” There has always been an unwritten human principle about being faithful to family, to provide for family, to be true to family. In my life journey I believe I’ve seen the power of this sentiment slowly fade in our culture as families spread out over larger and larger geographical areas. Yet, I’m not sure it will ever fade completely. There’s something that’s built in our DNA. It’s why millions of people are doing DNA tests and searching out their roots to understand who their family is and “where I come from.” There is a part of us and our life journey that we realize is only understood in the context of the family from which we spring.

This morning I’m thinking about our human family and the things that connect us. I continue to marvel that modern genetics has definitively shown that all of us descend from what scientists refer to as “Genetic Eve.” We are all part of the same human family. Like the Hebrews, over time we feel less and less connection. Despite the fact that God reminded the Hebrews that the Edomites were “family” they didn’t think of the Edomites in those terms. They saw their distant cousins as enemies who refused to allow them to pass through the land. The Edomites didn’t see the Hebrews as distant cousins but as a threat to their very existence. Along the way our self-centered fears and desires turns human family members into mortal enemies.

Then there are those like Grandpa Spec. Despite having every reason to save his money and walk away angry from his brother’s funeral, he simply paid the funeral bill and let it go.

Family is family.

Indeed.

“Every Family Has Bad Memories”

“Every Family Has Bad Memories”

Last Sunday I gave the message in the auditorium of Third Church. It was part of a series on “Heroes of the Faith” from Hebrews 11, and I was asked to unpack the story of Isaac and his twin sons, Esau and Jacob.

Because of copyright laws, the audio of two video clips were deleted from the recording:

Before the message began we watched a scene from The Godfather III in which Michael Corleone’s son tells him he is dropping out of law school to study music. His son tells him that he will never be part of his father’s business, stating “I have bed memories.” His father replies, “Every family has bad memories.”

At the end of the message we watched another clip in which a Catholic Cardinal presses Michael to make his confession. At first reluctant, Michael eventually confesses his sins including the ordering of the death of his own brother, Fredo.

We are Family

Chapter-a-Day Genesis 36

This is the account of the descendants of Esau (also known as Edom). Genesis 36:1 (NLT)

As I read today’s chapter I couldn’t keep my mind from wandering to “the rest of the story.” All of these descendants of Esau (also known as Edom) would become the Edomites who would live in constant conflict with the descendants of Israel. The prophet Obadiah’s message was against the Edomites. The conflict was between tribes who shared a common ancestor.

That is also true of the conflicts we read about on the internet and see on the television today. The nation of Israel trace their lineage back through Isaac to Abraham. The arab nations trace their lineage back through Ishmael to Abraham. They are all sons of Abraham.

We can cast the net even wider. DNA projects being carried on by National Geographic and other groups are tracing the common genetic strands of everyday people all over the world in order to learn more about how tribes and nations and peoples spread across the earth. What modern genetics has determined is [surprise!] we all, every person on this Earth can trace their genes back to the same woman.

I can also pull the net in close to find this theme played out around me each day. I live in a small Iowa town founded by a small handful of Dutch immigrant families. “Dutch Bingo” is what we call the game that locals play when they start conversationally tracing family trees in order to find a connection. If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard or witnessed casual friends or neighbors playing Dutch Bingo only to find that they are third or fourth cousins and never knew it, I could buy you a Starbucks Grande Latte in Oslo.

I don’t know what to make of it all. I scratch my head and mull it all over as I sip my morning coffee and watch the snow falling outside. The one thing that it does make me appreciate is that we are all connected. I can’t do much about world politics or global conflict, but I can choose each day how I treat my fellow human being family member. I can be a little more deferential to that jerk uptown who drives me nuts. I can choose to respond to a personal attack with grace. I can take that money I’d spend on your Oslo Grande Latte and feed a distant cousin on the other side of the world, help dig a well for a community of far off relatives who daily live without clean water, or help free someone with whom I’m genetically connected from human trafficking.

 

Peace and Family

The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau, as in Ge...
The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau, as in Genesis 33, oil on panel, at the National Galleries of Scotland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept. Genesis 33:4 (NLT)

Jacob had every reason to fear his brother Esau. Esau had been deceived by his younger brother and had stolen both his birthright and his father’s blessing. Furthermore, Esau was a man’s man and a man of the wild. Jacob stood little chance against his brother if it were to resort to combat. Yet there was an obvious desire to reconcile with his brother.

We sometimes forget in the midst of all the stories that Esau and Jacob were twins. Having grown up with twin brothers you realize that there is a connection between them that is at once natural and mysterious. They shared a womb, they shared all of the experiences of the formative years together. Despite the obvious differences between them it does not surprise me that both Jacob and Esau had an intimate desire to be at peace with one another.

Along the journey I’ve been blessed to live in peace with my family. Relationships ebb and flow as our respective journeys take us on divergent paths, every family goes through periods of tension or strife, yet I would drop everything in a moments notice if any of my family were in need and I trust the same to be true of them. I’ve also witnessed friends who don’t have that blessing of love and peace with their family. In every one of these cases, however, I’ve also observed a desire to be at peace with their distant family member(s) and a restlessness of spirit that occurs in those who have family relationships that are broken, distant or have never been reconciled.

Today, I’m offering thanks for my siblings and my family. It is a good thing to live in peace.

Tragic Stories Touch Secret Wounds

English: Isaac Feels Jacob as Rebekah Looks On...
English: Isaac Feels Jacob as Rebekah Looks On, watercolor by James Tissot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day Genesis 27

Isaac said to Esau, “I have made Jacob your master and have declared that all his brothers will be his servants. I have guaranteed him an abundance of grain and wine—what is left for me to give you, my son?” Genesis 27:37 (NLT)

As an actor, I find it interesting to read the theatrical lengths to which Rebekah and Jacob went to make Jacob convincingly play the part of Esau and deceive Isaac. As  I read today’s chapter, I also thought what a tragic story is revealed in these past few chapters.

  • How twin brothers could be so different
  • The conspiracy of (seemingly) heaven and earth to favor Jacob from birth
  • The parental favoritism that divides the parents and family
  • The deceptive stealing of birthright and blessing
  • The fulfillment of Jacob’s given name (which in Hebrew sounds like both “Heel” & “Deceiver”)

I couldn’t help, as I read, to think of other epic stories told on film such as Legends of the Fall and The Godfather which deal with similar themes of fathers and sons, of favoritism and blessing, and of tragedy and loss. I believe that there is something very compelling in these stories for us because they tap into very human realities from our very own family systems and experiences. These are things which families rarely speak about or even acknowledge, and  their suppression makes the truth and reality of them even more powerful when we read or see similar themes so artfully articulated in story. It’s like scratching at an old wound.

I walk away from some stories and chapters with more questions than answers. Today’s chapter is one of them. Why did God seem to honor the deception of Rebekah and Isaac? How could Isaac so passively allow these things to happen? How and why does God utilize human brokenness and sin to bring about His will?

It’s a good morning for a cup of coffee and a thoughtful conversation around such interesting questions.

When You Marry a Spouse You Marry a Family

2012 07 21 VH Reunion Group 1But Esau’s wives made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah. Genesis 26:35 (NLT)

Typically, when you marry, you are not just entering into relationship with a person but with an entire family. Your spouse or spouse-to-be is part of a family system with its own traditions, culture, ways and means of doing life. In my experience, people don’t talk much about family of origin when they get married. There might be the passing conversation or even a pre-marital counseling session dedicated to talking about our families, but the conversation is usually covered in the fairy-dust of two people desperately in love with one another and living in the delusion that nothing could possibly diminish the feelings of infatuation they are experiencing at the moment.

Just wait until the holidays.

The brief observation made at the very end of today’s chapter holds a huge lesson for all of us. When we enter into a marriage we enter into our spouse’s family system. Make no mistake: It’s a package deal. We can either be a blessing or a curse to that family. I can’t control whom my family members marry, nor can I control the way they behave or relate to my family. But, I can control how I behave and relate to every one, especially my wife’s family. By speaking and acting in loving kindness towards her family, I am not only honoring my wife but keeping myself from being a source of tension and conflict in her family system (I am blessed that Wendy’s family makes it easy ;-))

Today, I’m thinking about the role and responsibility of being an in-law. The truth of the matter is that part of loving my spouse well is loving spouse’s family well. If/when I dishonor or make life difficult for my spouse as it relates to her family, then I diminish my love for her. When a spouse dishonors your family, it can wound deeply, leave scars that never completely heal over, and continue to itch long after they are made.

 

Common Love & Unique Relationships

English: Esau Sells His Birthright for Pottage...
English: Esau Sells His Birthright for Pottage of Lentils; illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible; illustrated by Gerard Hoet (1648-1733) and others, and published by P. de Hondt in The Hague; image courtesy Bizzell Bible Collection, University of Oklahoma Libraries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day Genesis 25

Isaac loved Esau because he enjoyed eating the wild game Esau brought home, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Genesis 25:28 (NLT)

In the discussion of families and family systems, the subject of “favorites” comes up a lot. I have witnessed in many families that there is a clear ranking of favorites in the truest sense of the word – in which one child receives a greater amount of favor at the expense of the children. Sometimes, however, the way parents show favor can be incongruent. I know one family in which the rebellious child, with whom the parent struggled, was granted more favor at the expense of the other children because of the parent’s guilt with not getting along with him. It can get messy.

In my own experience as grandchild, child, sibling and parent, I’ve found that relationships between family members are really no different than relationships in your broader social circle. There are some family members with whom you relate easily. There’s a natural affinity, personalities and temperaments are similar, there are common interests and world-views, and etc. Notice that Isaac’s love of Esau hinged on a common love for wild game. In fact, I’ve come to realize that it’s wrong for me expect that a genetic or experiential family relationship would create some kind of emotionally unilateral relationship between all of the members. We are human after all.

My mother has often said that the love she had for each of her four children was equal, but her relationship with each child was as unique as the child him/herself. Well said, mom. I’ve come to accept that the relationship between family members can be very different while the love with which you share and act pours out and washes over each from a common inner reservoir. When it comes to children, it is my role as a father to love each of my children fully and to love each child well despite the diverse differences between them, their personalities, and the course that each relationship takes.