Jacob and Esau were brothers, twin brothers at that, but they were as different as hot and cold. One area in which they were different was in their choice of marriage partners. Jacob married the daughters of his uncle, Leah and Rachel. Later, he was also given their servants, Bilhah and Zilpah, as partners. Genesis 26:34 tells us that Esau married Judith and Basemath. Judith was the daughter of Beeri the Hittite and Basemath was the daughter of Elon the Hittite.
Jacob’s wives were pleasing to his parents, Isaac and Rebekah. But Esau’s wives were not. Genesis 26:35 says that Judith and Basemath “were a source of grief” to them. Talk about a classic case of in-law discord. They were such a grief that in Genesis 27:46 Rebekah said, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women.” She was so disgusted with them that she didn’t want Jacob to follow his older brother, Esau, and marry one of them. Rebekah would not have considered her life worth living if both her sons married Hittite women. This is one reason why Isaac and Rebekah sent Jacob away to Laban. They didn’t only send him away to keep him safe from Esau’s wrath. They also sent him away to keep him from marrying a Hittite woman or any Canaanite woman for that matter. Before Jacob left home, Isaac explicitly told him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women. Arise, go to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father, and take as your wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.”
It should be noted that Esau later married another woman. When he saw that Judith and Basemath did not please his parents, he wed Mahalath. She was the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth. There’s no word on how she fared with Isaac and Rebekah. But back to the women at hand: What did Judith and Basemath do to cause such grief to their in-laws? We aren’t told. But we can learn from them to live in such a way that we are a joy, not a grief, to those around us.
1. Judith and Basemath were a source of grief to others. The Bible does not go into detail about the behavior of Esau’s wives, so we do not know what made them so despicable to Isaac and Rebekah. Of course, it may have been the fact that they were Hittites, but from Rebekah’s reaction, it seems that the reason for her disgust was from something other than a difference in ethnicity.
What we say and what we do should not be a source of grief or a burden to others. It should be a source of joy and a blessing. God created us to make positive differences in the world and in the lives of others. He called us to be like Him, and when He was here, He was always helping, healing, feeding, encouraging, and uplifting others. He was not a “source of grief,” but a source of gladness. People flocked to Him because He made them feel better. He improved their well-being. He let them know that they were loved by Him and by God. Can the same be said of Judith and Basemath? I doubt it. Can the same be said of us? I hope so.
Don’t doubt the difference you can make in the lives of others. Take your eyes off yourself, step out of your comfort zone, reach out to someone else, and find a way to lift them up. Acts 10:38 says that Jesus “went about doing good.” This is what He is remembered for. His earthly legacy was one of doing good works. Even today we know Him as a good God and we call Him a good, good Father. Our lives should also be defined by doing good. People shouldn’t remember us for causing havoc and being hateful. We are to imitate Jesus and go about doing good, “helping wherever He would” (Hess).