How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalm 133:1, 3)

There is a blessing that is bestowed upon brotherly love. And, on the flip side, sobering consequences will follow a family feud.

Consider the events that followed Jacob’s sneaky stealing of the blessing of the firstborn from his brother, Esau, as their father Isaac lay on death’s bed. You know the story – first Jacob coerced Esau into giving up his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup (Genesis 25:31-34), then dressed up as Esau to deceive an old, blind Isaac into blessing him.

“Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing,” said Isaac (Genesis 27:35).

“He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing,” wailed Esau (Genesis 27:36).

The result: Enmity.

The brothers separated, Esau going to the land of Ishmael, swearing “I will kill my brother”, while Jacob scooted off to Paddan Aram, where he would meet his match in a man more scheming and deceitful than he was – Laban, the father of his future wife.

This is not a story about which brother between Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Hsien Yang is Jacob, and which brother is Esau. They weren’t triplets, so we don’t even have a Lee Wei Ling in the equation.

This isn’t about taking sides, or about reaching a conclusion on who is right or wrong (Proverbs 21:2). Who are we to judge? Who are we to guess what went on behind closed doors? Who are we to imagine we know what Lee Kuan Yew was thinking amid drafting his many wills?

“The first to plead his case seems just, until another comes and examines him,” it says in Proverbs 18:17. He said, but she said, then he said … Who knows the truth? Let the lawyers have their fun.

Nobody wins in a family feud. The churning of anger produces strife.

All we know is: Nobody wins in a family feud. “The churning of anger produces strife,” we are warned in Proverbs 30:33.

Consider the curse laid upon the brothers in Genesis 27:39-40 following their dispute. Esau will serve Jacob – but will eventually grow restless, and throw the yoke off his neck.

Jacob, cut adrift, wandered. To Beersheba, to Harran, to Bethel, to Paddan Aran, where he spent 14 years in the charge of cunning Laban. Finally he fled, across the Euphrates River, to Gilead, then to Mahanaim, and finally he approached Seir, the country of Edom – where Esau now stayed.

That night, at a fork in the river, Jacob wrestled with God.

“I will not let go unless you bless me,” said Jacob. Read this casually and you’ll think it’s a statement of faith – a lesson in how to approach God boldly. But read it in context and you’ll realise it was a confession of failure.

He thought he had all the blessing he needed from his father. He thought with the earthly birthright, he was set for life. But he was wrong. He’d failed. He had to live on the run. He couldn’t easily get the woman he loved. He fell out with his father-in-law.

He had failed, and now he was desperate for a blessing that truly mattered. And this was the blessing: That he saw God face to face, and yet his life was spared (Genesis 32:30). That was the day Jacob’s life finally turned itself around.

The next chapter, Genesis 33, was all about forgiveness and reconciliation. It started with Jacob coming forth to make amends with flocks and herds, only to have Esau try to refuse. “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.” (Genesis 33:9)

The brothers embraced, kissed, made amends. They walked and they talked. Jacob honoured his older brother, bowing before Esau and calling him “my lord”; Esau – who once swore he would spill Jacob’s blood – offered men to protect Jacob, “my brother”.

All this happened at a place called Sukkoth. Shelter.

The family home should be our place of shelter, refuge – our safe haven. Blood runs warm.

The lesson of Jacob is that no material blessing – no inheritance or legal battle bitterly won – could ever be better than the blessing that is promised when sibling honours sibling, brother loves brother.

After the reconciliation, Jacob went back to Bethel. His name was changed to Israel.

And there he got the real blessing: “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” (Genesis 35:11)

The blessing ran not merely within the family, but to the nation. A community of nations, even. Which seems a lot preferable to a nation watching in horror as the First Family conflict is played out in public.

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!