When we last met, we learned of Hairy the manly man and Grabby the not-so-manly man. Trouble was beginning to stir as we heard about these brothers, their parents, and this moment that changed their lives. As you may remember from last week, Hairy is a knowledgeable and skillful man’s man of the field, and Grabby is a simple, quiet, and complete man of the tent. Besides their names, the only other information we have is that “Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob” (Genesis 25.28).
Now, that reality may have caused tension in the tents, but it’s really an astute psychological observation from the Genesis text about a parent favoring one particular child; the observation will help us better understand the events to come in their lives, particularly the business with Jacob and his son, Joseph, in Genesis 37.1-4.
Hairy cares about his belly
So, Hairy comes in from chasing wild animals in the field, and he’s starving. Why can’t he cook something he’s killed? After all, he’s a knowledgeable and skillful hunter. Surely, he’s learned how to smoke and barbecue game by now.
“[Grabby] was cooking a stew” from the Barefoot Contessa’s latest recipe. It’s not so much what Jacob was cooking that’s important, though. Hairy “was famished” (Genesis 25.29).
When my children would tell me when they were young, “I’m starving.” And it doesn’t matter whether they ate five minutes or five hours ago, they’re starving. Of course, my stock answer is: “You don’t know what starving means. Neither do I. I’ve never been hungry in all my life, and neither have you. You want somebody who knows about being hungry? Call Papa Stone, I’m sure he can enlighten you. But, you are NOT starving.”
My children didn’t care about stories, they care about bellies, their bellies, their bellies. Hairy had the same problem. He didn’t care about stories, or in this case, his birthright; “he was famished.” So, he said to Grabby, “Give me some of that red stuff.” Of course, Grabby, true to his name, replied, “Fine. Sell me your birthright.”
Hairy, not caring about his birthright, cried, “I am about to starve to death — what use is a birthright to me?” And Grabby made Hairy swear his birthright to him for a bowl of red stuff.
can God use Hairy and Grabby?
How is God going to fulfill promises and prophecies with rascals like Hairy and Grabby? Hairy can’t quite seem to understand that some things are more important than his belly. Grabby understands those things, and though an ordinary, complete, and innocent person, he has little compunction about taking the birthright for a bowl of red stuff.
The birthright is big. It means the lion’s share of Isaac’s property when he dies. Hairy gets most all of Isaac’s land, slaves, property, and animals. Grabby, of course, gets to work for his older brother, just because he came out second in the great womb race. That’s just the physical stuff.
For the spiritual, it means that Hairy is the one to inherit God’s promises. It means that Hairy becomes the one through whom God will bless the nations — a promise God gave to his grandfather Abraham.
God’s middle name is surprise
Now, wait a minute. Didn’t God tell Rebekah something different? Hairy is not the one to inherit. Grabby is. But that’s the problem with God. God will do things the way he wants. Surprise.This is his story, after all, and Hairy and Grabby will have a hard time frustrating God’s fulfillment of his promises to Abraham.
You see, I think this story is like a parable. We’re supposed to be scratching our heads wondering what is happening. We’re supposed to have lots of questions. We’re supposed to see that Hairy is not as smart as he seems; we’re supposed to see that Grabby’s not so ordinary or so innocent. We’re supposed to have trouble with this story. We’re supposed to be asking ourselves, “What’s God doing here?”
For instance, might God know who’s the more trustworthy person with the birthright and the promises? Maybe Hairy was so smart he was stupid — he lacked that mother-wit. Grabby, on the other hand, overflowed with mother-wit.
Maybe, when Hairy demands some of that red stuff, he’s asking the question he needs to ask. Maybe when Grabby takes the birthright, he’s taking what he’s supposed to have anyway.
Any way we consider the story or the people, we return to God; we return to God’s promises, God’s ways; and strangely enough, it’s Hairy that leads us to that place of surprise and promise in Genesis 25. His demand turns the story: “Give me some of that red stuff.” And the rest, well, surprise, surprise, surprise — is promise.
A text for the table: Genesis 25.19-43.
Photo Credit: MyPantryShelf.com.