How he came upon the information we are not told, but of Esau we read that he saw that Isaac blessed Jacob and sent him away to get a wife from Rebekah’s family in Haran. It is quite plain from the silence that prevails upon the pages of Holy Writ that Rebekah did not reveal either to Isaac or to Esau her knowledge, that Esau intended to kill Jacob as soon as the days of mourning for Isaac’s death were past. And this is not right.
It was not right that Isaac and Rebekah did not tell Esau himself that Jacob was being sent to Rebekah’s brother’s house for a God-fearing wife. The lines of communication in the family had plainly broken down since Esau took to himself unbelieving wives out of the land in which they dwelt. Here too we simply read that these wives were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah. We read not one word of reproof or rebuke, or for that matter of any word that these parents spoke to their older son in connection with this deed. They showed it. Esau was aware of their displeasure, and this we will see in a moment. But no fatherly, motherly admonition was forthcoming. And when parents are silent they invite more evil in their children, as becomes plain in subsequent history.
Now there are times when father and mother must keep silent. When their children establish their own home, they must know when to speak and when to refrain from speaking. This whole mother-in-law problem, of which the world speaks so flippantly, and sometimes humorously, is a very real problem, and so often due to the fact that mother cannot keep silent in her son’s home, or in her daughter’s. Not that fathers are above this and create no tense situations, but the tendency on the part of the mother is usually greater to have something to say in her son’s or daughter’s home. Now there is also a time when mother and father should say something, and not fail to do so. Turn to Titus 2:3-5 and note, “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the Word of God be not blasphemed.” Paul gives the admonition because it is not always heeded.
And that Isaac and Rebekah should have spoken to their son after he married heathen wives cannot in this light be denied. The Word of God was blasphemed by Esau’s marriage. And not in bitterness, not in anger, not with an uncivil tongue, but in love and with the Word of God they should have approached him, and; if he needed it, because they had been silent about these things before he married these heathen wives, they should have pointed out to him the evil of his deed. They have only themselves now to blame for Esau’s subsequent deed of taking a daughter of Ishmael to try to get back into the good graces of his father and still obtain part of the birthright blessing.
The same is true about this intent to kill Jacob. Rebekah had a calling to speak to her son about this. Perhaps it would—and indeed it did—all blow over. His anger cooled off, and in time he, to all practical purposes, forgot Jacob’s deed, and was satisfied with his own large herd of cattle. The fact remains that Rebekah, the mother, allowed his sin to go unrebuked. He was not shown the evil of his rage and intent to kill. Isaac knew nothing about it and could not speak to his son, but Rebekah, the mother, knew and fails in her calling to teach her son to love his brother, and to walk in love before God.
And as pointed out, seeing that Jacob has been blessed—that is, the blessing is repeated upon him—and he is sent away for a God-fearing wife, Esau, after some thought upon the matter, goes out to take a daughter of Ishmael to wife to seek thereby to please his father. He will not follow Jacob; and with that anger in his heart he had better not do so. But his unbelieving heart and mind leads him to add to his sin, which had not been explained to him by his parents, by taking another unbelieving wife. This time she comes from Abraham’s fleshly seed, from Ishmael his firstborn, the son of Hagar.
Esau, the unbeliever, plainly does not understand that God’s covenant does not run in the flesh. He knows nothing of the truth that they are not all Israel that are of Israel, Romans 9:6, and that he is not a Jew that is one outwardly but inwardly, Romans 2:28, and that is not circumcision that is of the flesh but of the heart, Romans 2:29. Ishmael is of the flesh of Abraham, just as surely as his father Isaac is. They have different mothers, but Abraham is father of both of them. And, wrongly, Esau assumes that something good runs in the line of the flesh, so that in Ishmael’s daughter he can find that which Isaac and Rebekah would find acceptable, if not indeed delightful. We read that “When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padan-aram, to take to him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan . . . and Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father; Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which He had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.”
Now marrying one who is a fleshly descendant of a believer may satisfy a parent in the church, but the silence of Scripture on this point as far as Esau and Isaac are concerned may be construed as a testimony that Isaac did not approve of this any more than he did of marrying the Canaanitish women. But the holy God must be satisfied, not merely the believing parent. This Esau does not give one moment of consideration. It is his father whom he seeks to please, because he still wants and is seeking at least to get a piece of that birthright blessing.
May we so judge of Esau? May we call him an unbeliever and present his motive as evil? There are those who are going to object and criticize our evaluation of this deed of Esau. But the judgment is not ours. It is not an attempt to play God and delve into .what men like to call God’s “hidden will.” Scripture gives us this judgment. Scripture says, “Esau have I hated” in Romans 9:13. And that is the word of God Himself. And again in Hebrews 12:16 God says that he was a profane person. Hated of God and declared profane by God Esau cannot have been a born again child of God. And Jesus—let us beware lest we dare to call Him a liar—said that except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom. Much less then can he perform the works of that kingdom. One does not accidentally please God and do the things of His holy will. One may be accused of being proud when that one calls Esau profane and an unbeliever. But is it not plainly an act of pride to dare to disagree with what God wrote Himself? And let not be forgotten again that other Word of God in Hebrews 11:6 that without faith it is impossible to please God. Not being born again, not having faith, it is simply impossible that Esau in this deed of taking one of the fleshly seed of Abraham to wife can please God. It is doubtful that this pleased Isaac and Rebekah. They did not send Jacob to Ishmael for a wife but where they had reasons to believe that there were believing children of God.
And that parents in the church must do today. Today we cannot, as Abraham did, go and get a believing husband or wife for our children. Nor need we send them to far off lands as Isaac did. But we certainly ought not to take them away from the covenant sphere and for material gain or other fleshly reasons bring them where they can only find Canaanites for husbands or wives. The world makes much of compatibility. And indeed it is a beautiful word’ and an important one. But in the church it should be understood that spiritual compatibility comes first, and may not be a later consideration, if you can get it. One must get it or one must not marry! Paul tells the believing husbands and wives who before their conversion married unbelievers that they shall not leave these unbelieving mates but so live before them that there may be a witness to these unbelieving mates of what Christianity is all about. And God is pleased sometimes to use these chaste and godly walks to bring His elect to the faith. But that same Paul insists that one always marry in the Lord. He, in I Corinthians 7:39writes, “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” She is free to marry any believer. She may not marry an unbeliever. And that holds true just as well for those who have not married and are not widows or widowers. They shall marry in the Lord. One must find a husband or wife that is spiritually compatible, or not marry.
God made Eve to be an help meet for Adam. And the word meet means fit, suitable, compatible. Indeed, the Hebrew has but one word which means help. But can you imagine the Almighty and All-wise God, Who says of all His works that they are very good, making an help for Adam that was not fit, suitable, compatible? And can this mean anything less than spiritual compatibility? Would she be any help at all to Adam if spiritually there was not complete agreement of thought and desire? Should our young people settle for anything less? And what ought to give covenant, believing parents grief of mind more than to find their son or daughter married to one who is no help spiritually, one who strives with that son or daughter against the truth and righteousness, rather than to strive for these? What should give believing parents more grief than to see that the husband or wife of their daughter or son will not help to bring up the grandchildren in the fear of God’s name? Listen once to John when he writes in III John 4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” He says that of his spiritual children. But is that not also true then of our physical children?
And those churches today who have not the spiritual 20/20 vision of Isaac and Rebekah, who look the other way when their youth associate socially with the world, and do not warn their youth against mixed marriages and spiritual incompatibility had better take a long, hard look at this lesson which God preserved for us here on the pages of Holy Writ. Isaac and Rebekah sent Jacob away to a place where he could expect to find a believing wife. Esau’s compromise of seeking merely one who is related to believing Abraham by blood ties was not only folly. It was sin. The churches had better emulate Isaac and Rebekah and not Esau.
The churches had better impress strongly on the minds of their young men and women that this one quality of spiritual compatibility comes first, and that “Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.” Never mind temporal beauty of face. Never mind congenial natures and delightful company as far as fleshly standards are concerned. Never mind wealth and social standing. There is more at stake here than one’s flesh and its gratification. The glory of God, the defense of the truth, and the spiritual strength of the church must be of primary concern. Let our young people listen to Christ Himself when He tells them to seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness. Otherwise that child of God will add to himself grief of mind, and God’s glory will denied.