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What a soap opera Genesis 25-27 is: jealousy, manipulation, and deceit. A story of two brothers driven by desire. One is more concerned with his immediate hunger than with his heritage. The other is so consumed by desire he cons his brother into giving him his birthright and deceives his father into bestowing on him the blessing that was rightfully his brother’s. In this biblical drama, we see that dysfunctional families are nothing new. None of these people seem to have any redeeming values: Esau comes off as a total loser, Jacob as a manipulative jerk, Isaac as a doddering old fool (deceived by an animal skin?), and Rebekah as a conniving shrew who plays favorites among her own children.

What are we to learn from this sorry tale? Things seem to have changed little since biblical times. We see these people in varying forms around us every day. We may even be these people or have them as our own family members.

Our families traditionally have been our first line of defense against the world. The people with whom we have the closest relationships. The ones we know well enough to wound the most profoundly. The ones who know us equally well.

How we treat our family members mirrors our ability to be competent or miserable friends and colleagues. Let’s examine our lives and friendships in light of this story and work to be the best friend, neighbor, colleague, and family member we possibly can be.

—Carol Penn-Romine


  1. Do you recognize any of the people in this story in your family or in yourself?
  2. Has anyone even deceived you and hurt your feelings? How has that experience affected you?
  3. Have you ever made a bad choice that cost you something truly valuable? How has that experience affected your decision-making since then?


  1. Think of three members of your family who have done something of great benefit for you, and either in a letter or by phone or in person, thank them for their acts of kindness.
  2. Make a list of family members who have done bad or hurtful things to you. Silently forgive each one. If it seems appropriate and it will not open old wounds, try to forgive them either in a letter or by phone or in person.
  3. Pray to God to help you to be a better family member—wider, more patient and more loving. Name each of your family members in your prayer and lift them up to God for God’s blessing.

Photo by yang miao on Unsplash

Elinor Brown

Elinor Brown

Elinor Brown is the team leader for the Discipleship Ministry Team and an ordained minister with membership in West Tennessee Presbytery. She and husband, Mark, have a married daughter, son-in-law and a newborn grandchild named Evelyn. Elinor enjoys making things—from labyrinths to prayer shawls to clergy stoles and holding Evelyn.
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