II. FROM ZARAH TO PHAREZ
In 38:27-30 we see the shifting of the birthright from Zarah to Pharez. This case illustrates the fact that the granting of the birthright does not depend on man’s doing. Zarah was trying to come out first. He "put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first" (v. 28). But human doing cannot manage, direct, or guide the birthright. Although the midwife never thought that Pharez would be born first, Pharez was actually born first (v. 29). When he came out, the midwife said in surprise, "How hast thou broken forth?" (v. 29). The Hebrew here is very difficult to translate. It may be rendered, "Wherefore hast thou made a breach for thyself?" or, "How hast thou made a breach! Breach be upon thee!" or, "What a breach you have made for yourself!" The midwife had to admit that Pharez had obtained the birthright. Hence, receiving the birthright does not depend on man’s maneuvering.
III. FROM REUBEN TO JOSEPH
The third case of the shifting of the birthright, the shifting from Reuben to Joseph (49:3-4; 1 Chron. 5:1), contains a strong warning. Reuben, the firstborn, lost the birthright because of his defilement. God had intended to give the birthright to Reuben, the firstborn, but Reuben lost it by indulging in defilement. The birthright was shifted from Reuben to Joseph, who fled from that kind of defilement (39:7-12). God is just. He took the birthright from the one who indulged in defilement and gave it to the one who fled from it. (Although the birthright was shifted from Reuben to Joseph, Joseph received only the double portion of the land. He did not receive the priesthood or the kingship. Rather, Levi received the priesthood and Judah, the kingship.)
Never think of fornication as something insignificant. God hates it. We live in an age of Sodom. The whole world today, including the United States and especially Sweden and France, is a Sodom. Many men and women live together without being married. Certainly this will bring in God’s judgment. In the Bible God exercised a special judgment over Sodom because the people there indulged in lust without any restriction. Nothing offends God more than this indulgence. Nevertheless, many young people today, even young women, have no sense of shame regarding this. Indulging in fornication will always cause you to suffer loss. There will be no need for God to judge you deliberately because a natural judgment will come upon you spontaneously. The case of Reuben reveals that, although you may be predestinated to have the birthright, you may lose it by indulging in fornication.
Every Christian who commits fornication will lose his birthright. This birthright includes the full enjoyment of Christ with the priesthood and the kingship. To have the birthright is to have the right and the position to enjoy Christ in full. It is also to have the right to be priests and kings. If we lose our birthright, we lose the enjoyment of Christ. Any Christian who commits fornication loses this enjoyment immediately. This sin will also keep any believer from being a priest and a king. Furthermore, no fornicator will enter into the millennial kingdom to have the fullest enjoyment of Christ and to be a priest of God and a king with Christ (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:5). Only the overcomers will share this enjoyment, be God’s priests, and be the co-kings of Christ. Take heed: defilement may cause you to lose your birthright.
(Life-Study of Genesis, Chapter 96, by Witness Lee)