Biblical Fathers: Isaac

It's Father's Day on Sunday, and this week Bible Society is focusing on some biblical fathers. Some of them get it right, some don't – but they all tell us something about the challenges of fatherhood today.

1. Isaac

Isaac was the second of the great Hebrew patriarchs. His own father Abraham had been told by God to sacrifice him as a test of his faith, with Isaac rescued at the last minute by the provision of a ram. Isaac's own relationship with his children was complicated: his wife Rebecca gave birth to twins, Esau and Jacob, but it was not a happy family. The boys grew up to be very different; Esau was 'a skilled hunter, a man who loved the outdoor life, but Jacob was a quiet man who stayed at home' (Genesis 25.27). There was a life-long tension between them. Jacob took advantage of Esau's hunger to get him to sell his rights as the firstborn son to him (verses 29–34) and tricked Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau; Esau hated Jacob accordingly, and Jacob was forced to flee for his life. There's a moving story of reconciliation much later (Genesis 33) but there are many lost years in between.

We're given a clue to this conflict in chapter 25 verse 28 – and it doesn't reflect well on the boys' father. 'Isaac preferred Esau, because he enjoyed eating the animals Esau killed, but Rebecca preferred Jacob.'

So it looks as though, rather than value Jacob and work on his relationship with him, Isaac was drawn by his own character and desires to prefer Esau. There's something sad and painful about this. All of our children are a gift from God. Isaac doesn't seem to have appreciated this, and his failure sowed the seeds of conflict. Once again, the Bible speaks straight to our hearts today.

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