Genesis 25 :1-34
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.'"
Genesis 25 is a turning point in God's history. Here we see that God is now focusing on Isaac and his family after he had focused on Abraham and his family from chapters 12-24. In this passage we see how God uses a family that prays. There is a saying that says, "A family that prays together stays together." That is, when there are problems in the family between husband and wife, there often times leads to fights and divorce. But if God is at the center and they pray together then God will keep them together. We will see this with Rebekah and Isaac. We will also see that through their prayers God gave them two very interesting children. What was God's plan for their children? Let's find out and also find out what kind of children they were.
May God help us to learn persistent prayer and may God help us to have the right value system through this passage.
Part 1. The Last Years of Abraham
Chapter 25 starts off with talking about the last years of Abraham's life. In his last years, he took another wife and had six children by her. So we see he kept rather busy in his last years. But according to verse 5, he left everything for Isaac. This verse still shows us that Isaac was the covenant son, the son of the promise. This act of leaving everything for Isaac shows Abraham's faith. Until his death, Abraham believed God's promise to him regarding Isaac. Genesis 21:12 says, "...because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." So Abraham protected Isaac and made sure that he knew he was the covenant son, even though he now his father Abraham had six more sons through Keturah.
Verses 7-11 show us about Abraham's death and where he was buried. He was buried in the same place where Sarah was. This also is a sign of his faith to believe that the land was the promised land even though he owned none of it, except a cave in a field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite. So we can see here that even though Abraham was very, very old, and even in death, he was still thinking by faith and acting in faith and even dying in faith. Abraham kept his faith until the end because he held onto the promises of God. He was looking forward to the city whose architect and builder is God. That is, he put his hope in the kingdom of God more and more as his last days approached. May God help us to live by faith and act in faith and hope in faith in God's kingdom to the end of our days like Abraham.
Part 2. Isaac and Rebekah's prayers
From verse 19 we find out about the account of Abraham's son Isaac. As we know from chapter 24, he married Rebekah. He married at the age of 40, which for us, is considered middle age, but based upon how long the people lived back then, would be considered about 21 or 22 years of age today. Isaac and Rebekah wanted to have a happy life together trusting in God. But they had one serious problem. Rebekah was barren (21). For Rebekah to be barren was no small thing, nor is it for any married woman. Her barren condition might have caused her to have feelings of inadequacy and failure. She was a woman of faith yet she could bear no children. How might she reacted to God and felt towards God? We do not see anything here about it right away. But we can imagine how she might have felt to see other young mother's with their children carrying them in their arms, holding them by their hands or walking them in their strollers. She was probably asked many times, "When will you have a child?" and "What are you and your husband waiting for?"
Verse 21 shows us what kind of a husband Isaac was and what kind of a man he was. He was a patient husband who didn't become angry at his wife for not bearing him a son. Nor did Isaac follow the footsteps of his father Abraham when Abraham grew impatient and had a son by his maidservant Hagar and bore Ishmael. Isaac probably heard many stories from his father about the outcome of that and what problems it bore when he did not patiently wait on God. Verse 21a reads, "Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren..." Isaac was a man of prayer. This means that he patiently waited on God. This means that he trusted in God and believed that God held all the answers. How long did Isaac pray on behalf of his wife? Verse 26 says that Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to the twin boys . So you do the math. It was for twenty years that Isaac prayed for his wife to have children. This prayer is like Zechariah's prayer mentioned in Luke chapter 1. He and his wife Elizabeth were old and barren. But Zechariah had kept the faith and prayed about this. Zechariah had secretly been praying for Elizabeth to have a son, even when she was too old to have a son. And God finally granted them to have a son. Isaac's prayer is truly a model prayer for us. It is a model prayer because of not how he prayed because we do not have record of exactly how he prayed, but in the manner of the longevity in which he prayed.
How could he pray for twenty years on this same prayer topic? How could he pray when day after day, month after month, and year after year there was no sign of Rebekah becoming pregnant? How could he keep on praying and not become discouraged? It was because he had the word of God's promise in his heart. His father Abraham had planted in him the promise of God that God would surely make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. From Genesis chapters 12, 13, 15, 17, 18, and 22, all of these are the promises of God. Isaac knew and believed that God would keep his word because God is a faithful God who does not lie or change his mind.
When we pray we also have the promises of God. There are many promises of God in the Bible that God gives us. The promise that we want to remember is that God hears our prayers. Then we can have faith to go to him. 1 John 5:14-15 says, "This is the confidence that we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us---whatever we ask ---we know that we have what we asked of him."
Now there is no record here of Rebekah praying about her barren condition. But I am sure both Isaac and Rebekah prayed together as a godly husband and wife do. I am sure that their prayer together brought them closer together in this difficult time. As they prayed they based their prayers on God's promises and grew stronger. As long as we hold onto the promises of God relating to prayer, then we can know that God hears them and answers them on his time and in his way for God answers prayers not to make us think he is some kind of a magician, but so that we may know who he is and come to trust in him. God also wants to glorify his name through our prayer. This is why our humble prayers to do the will of God actually please God. Jesus said in John 14:13-14, "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."
Now this incident here in chapter 25 shows us that we should keep on praying and not give up. Look at verse 21, "...The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant."
Now that Rebekah was pregnant, she began to experience feelings inside her stomach she never had before. Look at verse 22, "The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, 'Why is this happening to me?' So she went to inquire of the Lord.'"
This verse shows us that Rebekah was a woman of prayer. The words "inquire" show us that prayer is not just only asking God for something, but it is also questioning God as to why things are happening. We can ask God "Why?" or "What is the reason for this?" There is nothing wrong with that, it is not a sign of unbelief to ask God those things.
Now that Rebekah felt this way because of her pregnancy why felt she could only go to God in prayer about it. There were no sonograms or OB clinics. She could only ask others who had children is this a normal feeling? The words "jostled" here means to "shove or push in a rough way." Twins in the womb are much harder to bear than one baby. When Lynn was pregnant with our twin boys they also jostled in her stomach as they became more developed. You could actually feel their heads and in the last stages of her pregnancy one of their heads was pressing down her spine. It was difficult to carry them full term, but she did.
But getting back to Rebekah's prayer, we see here that she did not complain to Isaac and blame him for the trouble that was happening, but she took her problems in prayer to God. When she prayed to God, God gave her the answer. It is found in verse 23 of this passage and it is the key verse. Let us read verse 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.'" In these verses God shows Rebekah and Isaac what their children would be like.
This is God's revelation to them and it came about through earnest, humble and sincere prayer; utter dependence on God. Let*s look at what it says here in this revelation. It says that there will be two nations, and as we will see, Jacob and his descendants---the Israelites and Esau and his descendants---the Edomites. One of these people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger. God*s word to Rebekah were to help her know how to raise up her children. They were the most important words and they are the best words in this time of pregnancy pain that Rebekah was experiencing.
These words reveal that God has a purpose and a plan for everyone even while we are in our mother*s womb. God told the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." God*s word in our time of crisis or problem will come to us when we spend time praying to God. As we pray and read God*s word personally, God will give us his word to guide our life and lead us through the valleys of our spiritual life and through the mountains as well.
Rebekah did not realize how God would answer her prayer. But this answer would guide her in raising up her sons in God*s way. She would later direct her energies on helping Jacob, not Esau, though the first-born son is always held in higher regard. Here we see the importance of not giving up in difficult and confusing times in our life and really learning to trust in God whose ways are higher than our ways and whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Actually, it is in those times of confusion and difficulty that God puts in front of us so that we can learn to really pray and experience him and his way of working and his tender care and compassion. A good example is the Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul was suffering from what he called "a thorn in the flesh" perhaps some physical weakness and sickness or as he said it "a messenger of satan to torment him" (2 Cor.12:7-8), he took this problem to God in prayer. He asked the Lord to take it away. The Lord answered him in a way that he did not expect and said to him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
These words gave Paul strength to rely on the power of Christ who rose from the dead and gave him a new view of his hardships and difficulties. My daughter will be entering high school next year. She has expressed concern about her future saying that she does not know what kind of career she should chose. She has so many ideas but is not sure and keeps changing her mind. So I told her about God*s word in Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." This is the only word I can give her at this time, especially emphasizing "trust in the Lord and acknowledge the Lord..." And these are the words that I pray for her in this confusing time.
God*s word to Rebekah even before the twins were born reveal God*s sovereignty in election. This means that God has a clear purpose for their lives. For example, for Jacob, it was to pass on the blessing of Abraham. It was to make Jacob into a great nation and through his 12 sons whom would come 12 tribes of Israel, the promised Messiah would come. God is sovereign in his dealing with our life. His election and his choice is his grace, it is not by our works. But it is important that we believe that we are part of God*s sovereign plan and that he chose us. We should remember this with humility and thanksgiving because we have nothing to boast about before God. Now let us find out more about the boys that Rebekah bore.
Part 3. Jacob gets the birthright
Let*s read verses 24-26, "When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau*s heel. ; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them."
These boys were quite different even from birth! Esau came out with a red hair all over his body, like an Orangutan monkey. Jacob came out grasping his brother*s heel as if to say, "Hey, wait, I want to be first!" Jacob was a smooth skinned boy. As they grew up their personalities and their likes and dislikes were also much different. According to verse 27, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country. This means he became a macho man. He was a man of action and adventure and outdoor skills. He loved all sports and liked to show off his hunting skills and the many prized animals that he caught. Jacob, on the other hand, was quiet and stayed among the tents with his mother, learning how to cook and clean and also learning the many stories of faith about Abraham and Noah from his mother Rebekah..
It is interesting to note that the name Jacob figuratively means "he deceives." Also, as we can see here, that Esau appears to be the most attractive son of the two. But we see that God never chooses people because of their outward appearance or skill or talents. As we read more in Genesis we see that Jacob was really a thinker concocting different schemes to out do his brother. He does not appear to be one who has the right qualifications to be the heir. How did his parents view them? Look at verse 28, "Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob." It is clear from this verse, that Rebekah held to God*s promise for her children, but Isaac was more concerned about Esau. It might appear to be favoritism, but it was following God*s plan.
Let*s now look at the next incident in verses 29-34 so we may get a better idea of why Jacob was better suited to be the covenant son. Through this, let us find out what kind of value system we should have. Look at verses 29-30, "Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, *Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I*m famished! (That is why he was also called Edom.) Jacob was ready for Esau. He knew what to do to get what he wanted from him. Now Jacob could cook really well. He made the stew smell especially good and stirred it and let the aroma of the stew spread. Esau could not resist the smell of the stew. His hunger was so intense, but he really could have waited. It was because he had little self control.
It is said that a hungry man will do anything for food, to satisfy his hungry stomach. We can see that here. Jacob was an opportunist now. He became the hunter and his brother Esau, the hunted. Now Jacob was ready to shoot his arrow of deception into Esau*s heart. Let*s read verse 3, "Jacob replied, *First sell me your birthright." Jacob knew that it was the birthright of the firstborn that Esau had and that he earnestly wanted. What then is the birthright? It was the inheritance right of the oldest son. Here, it also meant the covenant promises. It was a very valuable thing to possess even though Esau could not claim it until Isaac had died.
At this time, the birthright was an intangible thing. It was something for the future. Esau could only think of the now and the moment. He could only think of his hungry stomach. So look at what he said in verse 32, "Look, I am about to die. What good is the birthright to me?" Of course he was not about to die. He was a strong man who could have gone a few days without food. But his inner person and spiritual desire was very weak. He was not a man of the spirit, but a man of the flesh. Look at what Jacob said in verse 33 and what happened, "Swear to me first. So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob."
Jacob shows why he is the one who would be more qualified to be the covenant son. It is not because he was a thinker, but because of his value system. He knew that in the long run, the birthright would be the most valuable possession. He knew that it was a treasure and an investment that would pay off great dividends later on. Esau on the other hand had no value system. Look at the comment the Bible says at the end of verse 34. Let*s read verse 34, "Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright."
It says that Esau despised his birthright. This means he didn*t care and value it. He thought a birthright can*t feed him now. Esau was not a spiritual man, but a godless man. Later in chapter 26 it mentions that he married two women who were Hittite*s. This means that they were ungodly. They were a source of grief to his father Isaac and his mother Rebekah. This comparison between Esau and Jacob is important to emphasize. In our society there are many people like Esau. They see no value in believing the Bible and having faith in Jesus. Their value system is based on the here and now. They seek instant physical gratification. Their hope is what they have and their desires blind them to see that they will have nothing after they die.
There is one man who loved antique cars and classic cars, which is nothing wrong. But his love for cars was his life and his motivation. He spent his money on fixing up these cars and selling them as well as keeping them and driving them. He had no hope, except in these classic and antique cars. As a result, he had no future heavenly treasure or eternal hope. His one desire after he died, was to be buried in his red cadillac el-dorado convertable. So that is what they did, burying him in a seated up position. Tell me, where is he going?
Then there are the disciples of Jesus throughout the ages. These are the people who have a value system for the world to come. They are the ones who store up treasures in heaven by giving their heart to the Lord. They have joy and peace because they have a hope that no one can take away. They have a great expectation for better things because their trust is in God and his promises. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20, "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."
Each of us has to do a heart check and see where our value system is. Is our
desire like Esau, for the here and now, for temporary pleasure, that is for
the things that perish, spoil and fade? Or do we have a value system like Jacob,
looking for something intangible, yet valuable for the future? In other words,
is our hope really in God and his eternal and everlasting kingdom? I pray that
you may have the value system that pleases God and that is eternal and everlasting.
May God help you to see your life in God*s history and help you to value what
God values, his riches and his glory to come.