Jacob, Esau and the Birthright

8_Jacob Esau BirthrightScripture Reference: Genesis 27:-28:5

Story Overview:  Isaac and Rebecca had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Esau should have inherited the responsibilities and blessings that come with being the oldest son but sold his birthright to his younger brother. Later, Rebekah helped her favourite son, Jacob, trick the elderly and blind Isaac into promising the rest of the birthright to Jacob instead of his firstborn and favourite son, Esau. Jacob ran from Esau and made his way to his mother’s people (in the city of Haran) to find a wife.

Suggested Emphasis or Theme: Deception is wrong and leads to hurt and anger.

Memory Verse: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body.” Ephesians 4:25

Background Study Way to Introduce the Story The Story
Review Questions Craft and Activity Ideas Other Online Resources

Background Study:


Way to Introduce the Story:

Let children take turns being blindfolded. In each round one blindfolded child should sit in a chair. The other children can take turns standing in front of the blindfolded person and holding out one hand. The blindfolded person has to guess which person it is by feeling their hand. You could change each round and have the blindfolded person guess identities by feeling an elbow, knee, foot, etc. “In today’s story, a blind man tried to recognize his son by feeling his hand.”

The Story:

Isaac and Rebekah were married for many years before they had children. They were very happy when they learned that they were having twins. They had twin boys. The first boy was red and very hairy when he was first-born and they named him Esau. The second boy was born right after the first one (in fact he was holding his brother’s heel when he was born!) and his parents named him Jacob.

As he grew Esau loved to be outside and was a very good hunter. His father, Isaac, loved to eat the tasty meat from the animals Esau caught. Esau was his father’s favourite son. Jacob was quieter, though, and enjoyed working around home. His mother, Rebekah, loved him best.

One day Jacob was home cooking some stew. Esau had been out hunting and when he returned, he was very hungry. “Jacob, give me some of that red stew,” begged Esau. “I’m starved!”

“Not unless you sell me your birthright,” said Jacob.

“If I die, my birthright won’t do me any good,” said Esau. “And I’m just about to die!”

So, after Esau promised to sell his birthright to Jacob, Jacob brought him bean stew, bread, and something to drink. Esau made a very bad trade. Because he was the oldest, he would have received special treatment when his father died. To have the birthright was a very special privilege and duty. His family would be depending on him to lead the family and teach them what was right. Esau did not take it seriously. He gave all of that away for some stew.

Years later when Isaac was very old, he called Esau, his oldest son, to him. It was the Jewish custom for the father to bless the oldest son. In doing this, he would give good wishes of wealth, power, and safety for his son’s future. Isaac told Esau to hunt for some wild game to cook some tasty food. When this was done, Isaac would bless him.

Rebekah heard Isaac tell Esau that he was going to get the blessing. She wanted her favourite son, Jacob, to get the blessing instead of Esau so she decided to trick (or deceive) her husband. She called Jacob to her so they could make a plan together. Jacob decided not to be honest. He decided to help his mother and deceive his father. Isaac was expecting Esau to bring him wild game that he had hunted. Rebekah told Jacob to go and kill two goats so that she could prepare them in a way that Isaac would be fooled into thinking that it was wild game that Esau brought him.

Isaac was blind so she thought Jacob could bring the food to him and make him think that he was Esau. Then Isaac would give Jacob the blessing. Jacob was worried that his blind father would feel his smooth arms and know that he was not Esau (because Esau had hairy arms). Rebekah put goatskins on Jacob’s arms and neck so that Isaac would feel them and think it was hairy Esau. She also put Esau’s clothes on Jacob.

Isaac was fooled! Rebekah and Jacob’s deception worked. He was blind so he could not see that it was Jacob. He asked to feel Jacob’s hands. When he felt the goatskin he thought it was Esau’s hairy hands. When he tasted the goat meat he thought it was wild game that Esau had hunted. When he smelled Esau’s clothes on Jacob he really thought it was his oldest son. Isaac gave the blessing to Jacob.

Isaac had just finished giving his blessing to Jacob when Esau came in from hunting. He also fixed some tasty food and took it to his father so that he could receive the blessing.

“Who are you?” asked his father. “Someone has already hunted an animal and brought it to me. I blessed him and the blessing cannot be changed.”

“Esau became very angry and begged his father to bless him too. “Jacob tricked me two times,” Esau cried. First he took my birthright and now he has taken my blessing.” Isaac was very sad and angry. His own son had deceived him. Esau was so angry that he decided to kill Jacob once his father died.

When Rebekah heard about Esau’s plans, she sent Jacob to stay with her brother Laban until Esau calmed down. She told Isaac that Jacob could find a wife there. Everyone in the family was hurt because Rebekah and Esau decided to lie and trick Isaac.

Ways to Tell the Story:

This story can be told using a variety of methods.  Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.


Review Questions:

  1. Who were Isaac and Rebekah’s sons? Esau and Jacob
  2. How were Esau and Jacob different? Esau was hairy and liked the outdoors (his father’s favourite). Jacob liked the indoors and was his mother’s favourite.
  3. What was the thing that Esau traded his birthright for? A bowl of stew.
  4. To which brother was the family blessing supposed to have gone? Esau
  5. How did Rebekah and Jacob trick Isaac into giving the blessing to Jacob? Cooked goat meat to taste like wild game, tied goatskin to Jacob’s arms and neck to feel like Esau’s hairy skin, and put Esau’s clothes on Jacob. Isaac was blind and he was fooled into giving Esau’s blessing to Jacob.
  6. What did Esau want to do to Jacob? He wanted to kill him.


Craft and Activity Ideas:

(How to choose the best learning activities for my teaching situation)

  • Talk about twins. Some sets of twins are identical which means they look exactly alike. Some sets of twins are fraternal which means they are simply siblings and may or may not look alike. Fraternal twins can even be two different sexes.
  • Write attributes (hairy, youngest, hunter, mother’s favourite, etc.) of each of the brothers on small pieces of paper. Hand these papers out to the children. Draw two figures on the chalk/white board. Write “Esau” above one and “Jacob” above the other. Ask children to take turns coming up and writing the attributes on the correct figure (or tacking them on the board with blue-tac or tape).
  • Use the learning activity Draw Out an Idea to talk about the characters in this story. (Example pictures below)
  • Look up “deceive” in a dictionary and a thesaurus.
  • Write the names of the main characters in today’s story on slips of paper (or show their pictures if the children are too young to read). Blindfold one child. Hold up the name of one of the characters so that the other children know which one it is. Let the children give hints to the blindfolded person so they can guess which character it is.
  • Make some stew in class then share.
  • Help the children learn today’s memory verse. Click here for ways to do this.
  • Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
  • Abraham Isaac Jacob Find other ideas on the Pinterest Board “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”
Draw a grid on paper and mark categories.  Fill each category with with thoughts and ideas you have learned in the Bible story.

Draw a grid on paper and mark categories. Fill each category with thoughts and ideas you have learned in the Bible story.

Fill the page with circles and then fill them in with thoughts and ideas you have learned in the Bible story.

Fill the page with circles and then fill them in with thoughts and ideas you have learned in the Bible story.








Other Online Resources:


6 Responses to Jacob, Esau and the Birthright

  1. Michelle says:

    We teach our first grade class about the selling of the birthright for red lentil stew. As a visual aid, we bring in lentils for them to see up close and touch and make up small snack size bags for them to be able to take home with them. We have also thought about having some lentil soup for them to try in class.

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