In the Biblical narrative, Esau evidently is the traditional ancestor of the Edomites, even as Jacob figures as the father of the twelve tribes. One of the aims of these narratives, it seems to many scholars, is to explain why the Israelites, the younger people, who settled latest in Palestine, ultimately possessed the land and conquered the Edomites.
The portraits of Esau and Jacob are remarkably true to the characteristics of these two rival nations. They are also faithful to human nature as we find it to-day. Of these two brothers which, on the whole, is the more attractive? Which resembles his father and which his mother? (Read the accounts of their lives, Gen. 24-27.) What noble virtues does Esau possess? What was his great fault? Reckless men or drifters with generous impulses but with no definite purpose, of whom gypsies and hoboes are extreme types, are found in every age and society. Why is it that men of the type of Esau so often in time become criminals?
THE MAN WITH A WRONG AMBITION.
The modern tendency to idealize the character of Jacob, simply because he was one of the famous patriarchs, is both unfortunate and misleading. Although he vividly typifies certain characteristics of his race, the Jacob of these early prophetic accounts is portrayed with absolute fidelity and realism. His faults are revealed even more clearly than his virtues. The dominant motive in his life is ambition, but it is a thoroughly selfish ambition. In the light of the stories, state in your own words what was the exact nature of Jacob’s ambition. How did it differ from that of Abraham? What methods did he use to achieve his ambition? Were these methods justifiable? What is your view of the statement, “The end justifies the means”? Try to define exactly the method of determining justifiable means. May Jacob’s action be excused because he was acting under the direction of his mother?
Does a man with a selfish ambition always injure others? Does he in the end injure himself most of all? How? Every type of selfishness is directly opposed to a man’s highest self-interest. Jesus continually had this large truth in mind when he declared, “He that findeth his life shall lose it, but he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Jesus himself illustrated this principle. Cite other illustrations from history. From your own observation or experience.
Was Jacob, even with his wrong ambition, a stronger and more promising character than his brother Esau? Why?