Sibling Rivalry

Sibling Rivalry

Scripture: Genesis 25:19-34 (NRSVue)

Our passage from Genesis looks at the third generation—Abraham and Sarah’s twin grandsons Esau and Jacob, who could have just as easily been named Yin and Yang. And let me tell you, this traditional nuclear family’s dysfunction rivaled and possibly surpassed Abraham’s: infertility challenges, sibling rivalry, inheritance infighting, favoritism, deception, rejection, triangulation, and family splits. Genesis is such a human book. We can relate with these characters. And the good news is that God’s grace is stronger than the glaring peccadillos of his people. God even uses our epic failures to accomplish his purposes. And if there’s hope for this rag tag bunch of Bible characters, we too have the hope of God’s faithfulness in the midst of our foibles, flaws, and failures.


July 16, 2023 — Worship Service Bulletin (click)

  • Sermon Art: “Jacob and Esau Sibling Rivalry” (artist unknown)
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Bible Study Questions for Genesis 25:19-34

  1. Notice all of the family dysfunction in this passage. Why are these characters so flawed and not sanitized for us? What can we learn from these very human Bible heroes? Is God giving his stamp of approval of bad behavior?
  2. Why do you think there are the challenges of infertility and sibling rivalry (i.e. who will be the chosen heir) in these stories about the formation of Israel?
  3. How are your siblings and/or children different from each other?
  4. Why do you think sibling rivalry is one of the themes of Genesis? (Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his brothers)
  5. Why do you think both Isaac and Rebekah played favorites with their children? How does this impact family life?
  6. Why do you think a major theme in the Bible is that the youngest is chosen over the older? (Abel over Cain, Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Joseph over his brothers, Moses over Aaron, David over his older brothers, and then Jesus who said the last will be first)
  7. The passage says that Esau despised his birthright and Jacob really wanted it, even if it meant being cunning and deceptive. Why do you think Esau put such a low value on his position? Why was it so important to Jacob?
  8. The twins have a falling out over Jacob’s deceptions and an eventual “sort of” reconciliation (Genesis 33). The two nations that came from them (Edom and Israel) had a similarly contentious relationship through the years, yet the Scriptures reminded Israel to treat Edom well because the two nations were still family (Do not abhor an Edomite, since he is your brother. Deut. 23:7) What can we learn from this in our families and relationships with other nations?





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