I. THE TWO KINGDOMS, that of material force and that of moral power, are thus represented in contrast and rivalry.
II. GOD'S WAYS AND MAN'S WAYS CONTRASTED. The partialities of the parents foster the special faults of the children. Esau is more the man of fleshly impulse because Isaac loved him for his venison. Jacob is more the crafty supplanter because Rebekah by her favoritism encouraged him to take advantage of his brother.
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF HOME LIFE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHARACTER. The sins of parents are generally in some form transmitted to children. Esau's new name was Edom, memento of his selfish succumbing to appetite. Jacob's new name was Israel, memento of the victory which by the grace of God he obtained. "Esau despised his birthright." It was the natural working of a sensual nature. We begin by yielding to the lower impulses without thinking how they bind their cords round us. At last we lose the power of distinguishing a mere passing evil from an overwhelming danger, and when we ought to fight, cry, I am at the point to die; then in wretched collapse all goes. What is this birthright, what profit?
1. The loss of the sense of responsibility.
2. The absorbing hunger after present gratification.
3. The blindness to all proportion in life.
4. The dullness and stupidity of the animalism which does not even care for the very birthright itself, though it is an earthly advantage.
These are the fearful payments which they have to render who, like Esau, give themselves up to a mere life of the flesh. - R.
Rebekah loved Jacob.1. While the account of Rebekah in Holy Scripture is so brief, that it would be difficult to draw many reflections from the study of her character, her position is suggestive, and her conduct by no means without important practical results. She first comes before our notice as the future wife of Isaac, and, in that capacity, at once attracts the interest of the student of the patriarchal age. She found Isaac walking, meditating at eventide, and he received her into his tent. Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife — the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian, of Padanaram, the sister of Laban the Syrian. Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and Isaac loved Esau because he did eat of his venison, but Rebekah loved Jacob. The next we hear of her was in Gerar, where her beauty attracting the notice of the inhabitants, Isaac called her his sister. Esau's marriage became a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah, for he married a Hittite. The next and hinging circumstance of Rebekah's life is the account of the deception passed upon his father by Jacob, at the suggestion of his mother.
2. The character which we have brought before us by the preceding acts is one, which to our eye, would wear the appearance of duplicity and self-seeking in a high degree; but placing aside for a moment the impression which is thus forced upon us, it will be well to study the many practical suggestions which are started by reading Rebekah's life. And first, this trait which I have just called duplicity, whatever if may be, belonged to the mother of Israel, and characterized each succeeding scion of her race. The Jew is essentially subtle. In whatever degree this may be traceable to Rebekah and her son, it nevertheless is very clear that a parent's fault is constantly transmitted to its child and onward to successive generations. More than this. If the parent yields to his natural disposition, he strengthens his own habit of evil and transmits to his descendants a nature more strongly inclined to the same evil; whereas if, on the other hand, he succeeds in checking his own disposition, the result becomes apparent in the healthier moral condition of his offspring. All this is very sad to contemplate, inasmuch as countless beings become responsible for the fault of one; but it is in accordance with the history of mankind, with the moral impressions of antiquity, and with distinct statements of Divine revelation. The sin of Adam has effected his remotest descendant; the oft told tales of the Atreidae and OEdipus remind us how strongly the heathen world was impressed with the belief that the sin of the parent predisposed the child for the committal of a similar fault, and became the cause of punishment to distant posterity; while the second commandment tells us in clear terms, that God visits the sins of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation. But it is not only to punishment, but the physical tendency to a definite form of immorality to which I specially refer. It has been observed, with regard to the population of our own country, that in districts where certain crimes are prevalent children are born with bodily constitutions and mental conformations, such as strongly to predispose the will to yield the same faults of which the parents are guilty; and so remarkably is this the case, that in some places the brevity of life and the rapid increase of the committal of crime are appalling; and though perhaps in a less degree, the indulged fault of a parent is often seen to be the habitual condition of the child. This being the case, what a motive it offers to parents to cheek their own evil tendencies and to lead a godly and upright life. Rebekah's fault was perpetuated to onward centuries; and the wilfulness of overweening affection — mingled with a disregard to truthfulness — has marked the descendant of Israel down to the day we live in. So pride, vanity, extravagance, uncharitableness of judgment or opinion, though but perhaps a slight intentional offence in father or mother, may receive severe penalties inflicted on the descendants of the third and fourth generation. How striking to see the pride of aristocracy, though perhaps resulting from some acts of which a man may be proud, inherited by a child who has nothing on which to plume himself, except the fact of being descended from a parent who earned for himself his position and his titles. Yet we are frequently called upon to see this condition of childhood, the result of the indulged temper and feeling of the parent.
3. But the character of Rebekah is suggestive in other ways; she indulged favouritism, and, like a mother, loved her youngest son the best. Partiality of this kind is either selfishness or worse. If it simply flows from an actual preference, it is selfish to yield to it; if, as it often does, it springs from noticing a reflection of self in the child of our partiality, it becomes idolatry, or the worshipping of self in another shape.
4. But there is another lesson which Rebekah teaches us, which we cannot pass by; the way in which intense and partial affection blinds the eye to pure morality. Rebekah's love for Jacob was so great that she betrayed her husband for the sake of securing the birthright for her younger son; and she infringed God's law by indulging in deceitfulness. The forms of morality and religion are in themselves clear, keen, and definite, even as the statue carved from the hardest marble; but between our eye and those forms it is easy enough to let mists arise so blinding and deceiving as wholly to change the appearance of the form which we are gazing at. This is especially the case with regard to the forms of truthfulness.
(E. Monro, M. A.)
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