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. Continue reading