Genesis 25:19-34 Lesson 12a
Key Verse: 25:23
"The Lord said to her, 'Two nations are in your womb, and two
peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be
stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.'"
The first part of chapter 25 records the conclusion of Abraham's
life. After Sarah's death nothing of spiritual significance happened in
Abraham's personal life. Abraham missed his wife so much that he took
another wife. But he was careful to prevent the children of Keturah
from becoming a threat to Isaac. Of the children of this union, Midian
is worth noting, because he became the ancestor of the Midianites.
Abraham died at the age of 175. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried
him in the cave of Machpelah where Sarah was buried. The writer of
Genesis concludes the history of Ishmael with a short genealogy, "the
account of Abraham's son Ishmael ..." Then he turns to the account of
Abraham's son Isaac. This account begins with a narrative--not a
1. Isaac and Rebekah pray (19-23)
Isaac grew up knowing and trusting the Lord. He was fully aware of
what was happening when his father took him to Mount Moriah and offered
him to God. He had a quiet and gentle nature, and did not fight for his
own rights--he was a man of great patience, a man who waited on God.
God gave him Rebekah, who comforted him after the death of his mother.
She was an able and active woman who loved Isaac and cooked delicious
food for him (27:9). She was also a woman of faith. When she discerned
the will and direction of God, she could take decisive action. Her
decision to leave her family and go to an unknown country to marry a
man she had never seen was one such decision of faith.
Isaac's family had a problem similar to that of Abraham and Sarah.
Rebekah was barren. But Isaac did not even consider taking a concubine.
He simply prayed and waited on God. He had learned a great spiritual
lesson first hand: The Lord will Provide.
Abraham had waited only 10 years before taking Hagar and giving
birth to Ishmael. Isaac waited and prayed for his wife for 20 years.
How many families could be spared the tragedy of divorce or the sorrow
of becoming a battlefield of frustrated expectations if men could pray
for their wives instead of trying to use some human method to solve
their family problems. Isaac's patient faith was rewarded. Rebekah
conceived twin sons.
Rebekah did not know that she was carrying twins. Her twin boys were
so different in character that they fought and struggled in the womb
even before birth. Rebekah didn't know why she was having so much
trouble in her pregnancy. She couldn't go to a doctor or have an ultra
sound check-up--so she inquired of the Lord. She prayed. She could have
complained to Isaac and blamed him for her discomfort; she could have
become fearful and sought Isaac's sympathy. But she had personal faith
in God. She did not depend on weak Isaac for help or comfort--she went
to the Lord in prayer.
God blessed Rebekah's prayerful faith. He revealed to her his
special plan and purpose for her family. Especially, he revealed to her
that the younger twin would be the man whom God would bless and use.
"The Lord said to her, 'Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples
from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the
other, and the older will serve the younger.'" This prophecy concerned
not only the two boys in her womb; it also concerned God's future
history--his redemptive plan to bless the world through the descendants
of Abraham and Isaac. Rebekah remembered this promise of God.
2. Jacob and Esau (24-34)
The two sons of Isaac and Rebekah were as different as day and
night. First, they were different in appearance: Jacob was smooth and
Esau was red and hairy. Second, they were different in character: Esau
was a sportsman. He liked to hunt and fish and play around with women;
Jacob was a quiet man who liked to stay at home and hang around his
mother in the kitchen.
But Jacob was born with ambition. He entered the world grasping his
brother's heel, as if to pull him back and get there first. Jacob was a
man of struggle. His struggle began in the womb. He struggled with his
twin brother to come out first, and he lost. So he struggled for honor.
He wanted honor of being the firstborn. He didn't like being number 2.
Once, he was in the kitchen cooking red bean stew when Esau came in
from the open country, famished. Esau asked him for some stew. Jacob
agreed to give him some in exchange for his birthright as the eldest
son. Esau readily agreed--"you can't eat a birthright!" So Esau "swore
an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob." Then Jacob gave Esau
some stew. He ate and drank, then got up and left.
In this way, Jacob achieved the honor of having the birthright of
the firstborn. Later, he would struggle for love, then he would
struggle for wealth, and finally, he would struggle with God. He was
definitely not a dead fish, drifting downstream with the flow! He was
alive, and he was swimming against the current.
Isaac loved his manly, happy-go-lucky eldest son. He enjoyed the
wild game he brought home. But Rebekah loved Jacob, partly because he
stayed at home and helped around the house--but mostly because she
remembered God's revelation to her concerning these two sons. She knew
that the younger son was the son whom God wanted to bless and use as
the covenant son.
The event in verses 20-34 gives a clue as to why God chose Jacob and
did not choose Esau. The writer of Genesis comments, "So Esau despised
his birthright." Esau lived on a physical level; he could see no
practical value in his birthright. He was a pragmatist. Such a man does
not know what it means to be faithful. He lives by his feelings and
acts according to the demands and needs of the moment. He could not be
entrusted with the covenant, for God's covenant rests on God's
promises. God's covenant people must know that God is faithful and they
must be faithful. At this point, Jacob was not a spiritual man, either.
But Jacob had a sense of honor. He wanted to be first, not second. He
knew that the covenant blessing was important, even though he didn't
fully understand why. He was not a pragmatist. He knew his brother's
weakness and perhaps he took unfair advantage of him. But the writer of
Genesis puts the blame on Esau, who despised his birthright. Hebrews
(12:16) says that he was a godless and immoral man. God cannot bless
Jacob could have asked Esau for many other things in exchange for
the bowl of stew, but he asked for the thing that was most important
from God's point of view. The birthright carried with it the covenant
blessing and promises. The covenant bearer was the man who would stand
in God's redemptive history. Jacob became that man.
May God restore a sense of honor in the young men of our times, and
may he teach young people the value of spiritual things. So many people
are eager to get clothes and food and cars and stereos and houses. May
God raise up men and women who want God's blessing above all else.