Isaac’s sons: Jacob and Esau Genesis 25:19-34

The entire book of Genesis emphasizes the sovereignty of God and the wisdom of His “delays.” The struggles that Jacob and Esau face, as described in retrospect in Genesis, reveal God’s plan rising to the surface against the odds.” –Layman’s Bible Commentary

Victory is especially sweet when the odds are pitted against us. Isaac and Rebekah would attest to this.

Isaac—now approaching sixty—has inherited everything from his deceased father, Abraham, including God’s promise of making his descendants into a great nation. But twenty years have passed since Isaac and Rebekah married. Similar to his parents’ circumstance—despite God’s promise—Rebekah is unable to give her husband what this ancient culture deems significant: a baby.

You may read Genesis 25:19-34 here: Bible Gateway.

Answered Prayer

Isaac, who modeled a life of submitting to God’s will, prayed on behalf of his wife. The word used to depict Isaac’s prayer does not suggest a simple formality of prayer, but rather a fervent plea (25:21).

God answers his plea by enabling Rebekah to become pregnant.

Jacob and Esau

I’m guessing it wasn’t long before Rebekah surmised she was the carrier of twins. Her joy of becoming pregnant must have been challenged with pain and anxiety as her babies jostled inside her.

The words describing the struggle of the twins in Rebekah’s womb carry the idea that they smashed themselves inside her. In retrospect, this struggle of the children foreshadows the fact that these twins would father conflicting nations.” –Layman’s Bible Commentary

“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.” – God (vs. 23)

Jacob and Esau’s differences are obvious at birth. Esau—red and hairy—comes out first. His name reflects his appearance and means “hairy one.” Jacob comes next grasping Esau’s heel. The term “heel holder” is connected with a wrestling term, but also indicates a scoundrel. Unlike Esau’s name, Jacob’s name reflects his future character: “God will protect.”

As the boys grow older, Esau—Isaac’s favorite—becomes an avid outdoorsman. As a skilled hunter he loves roaming the countryside. While quiet Jacob—Rebekah’s favorite—prefers the more ordered life around the tents (vs. 27-28).

Esau Trades His Birthright

A birthright was traditionally given as an honor to the firstborn son. It not only included a double portion of the family inheritance, but also the privilege of being the future family leader. In this family’s case the birthright would also include a spiritual blessing, the promise God gave Abraham: the covenant of a land, a nation, and the Messiah.

(freebibleimages.org) "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done." -Hebrews 12:14-17

(freebibleimages.org)
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.” -Hebrews 12:14-17

After romping outdoors, Esau felt the cruel gnaw of hunger pains. From the waft of Jacob’s homemade stew Esau exclaimed: “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he is also called Edom, which means red –vs. 30.)

Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright” (vs. 31).

“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob (vs. 33).

By caving into the pressure of instant gratification, Esau threw away the spiritual blessings that would have been his. And “so Esau despised his birthright (vs 34).”

Unlike Esau’s compulsive act, Jacob’s response suggests premeditation. Jacob doesn’t hesitate to capitalize on his brother’s weakness as he secures Esau’s birthright for himself.

Reflect

The song “I Want It All” by Queen summarizes the mindset that comes way too easy for us: “I want it all! And I want it now!” But this trap of instant gratification often clouds our view of long-term consequences. The wrecking ball of caving to immediate pleasure surrounds us: broken relationships, marriages and families. The list could go on and on.

Jesus endured all kinds of temptations, but never gave way. He is more than able to help us in the face of temptation. We would do well to model Isaac’s fervent prayer life. For God alone has the power to enable the believer to push through any pressurized moment. And although sin results in pain, Christ also has the power to restore joy and wholeness to broken lives.

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Have a great week!

Abraham Dies, Genesis 25:1-18

Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.” –Genesis 25:7-8

These verses imply that Abraham experienced great satisfaction in his life. Before passing away, he leaves his legacy with his family.

God’s promises would not be forgotten.

You may read Genesis 25:1-18 here: Bible Gateway.

Abraham married Keturah after Sarah died. Several Far East tribes originated from their six sons. All of Abraham’s sons were blessed with many gifts. However, Isaac—his legal firstborn—received all that he owns: authority and property.

Verse 11 relays God’s blessing upon Isaac, who dwells in Beer-Lahai-Roi: “well of the living One who sees me.” This is where Isaac came to meditate while waiting for his bride Rebekah (24:62), and would later pray for his barren wife (25:21). Ironically, this is also the place where God delivered Hagar (16:14).

Herod’s stonework on Tombs of the Patriarchs (Seetheholyland.net) "In the Old Testament, those who have already died are regarded as still existing. The event of being “gathered to one’s people” is always distinguished from the act of burial, which is described separately (35:29; 49:29, 31, 33). In many cases, only one ancestor was in the tomb (1 Kings 11:43; 22:40), or there were none at all (Deuteronomy 31:16; 1 Kings 2:10; 16:28; 2 Kings 21:18), so the idea of being gathered to one’s people or joining one’s ancestors does not mean being laid in the family sepulcher." -Layman’s Bible Commentary

Herod’s stonework on Tombs of the Patriarchs (Seetheholyland.net)

Abraham is buried in the same field he bought from Ephron the Hittite for his wife Sarah. This once again affirms his belief that God would grant the land He promised his descendants.

Ishmael’s Descendants

Verses 12-18 sandwich Ishmael’s descendants between major references to Abraham (11:27-25:11), Jacob (25:19-35:29), and Joseph (37:2-50:20). God’s pronouncements concerning Ishmeal’s descendants are fulfilled here: twelve princes would be born of Ishmael; they will live in hostility toward their brothers (17:12; 16:12).

Reflect

We can learn a lot from Abraham’s life. (He is also mentioned in Exodus 2:24; Acts 7:2-8; Romans 4; Galatians 3; Hebrews 2, 6, 7, 11.) Abraham’s faith pleased God “and He [God] credited it to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). God also desires that we place our trust and dependence in Him, not faith in our efforts to please Him.

I wonder if Abraham realized the long-term magnitude of his decisions: whether he would cling to God’s promises or push them aside. His obedience of journeying to an unknown land—leaving behind security—affected the history of the world.

God’s promise of blessing the world through Abraham was fulfilled when Jesus Christ came to earth as Abraham’s descendant, through the nation Israel.

It’s easy to push through the day without thinking through the long-term results of our decisions. But our choices not only affect our future, but also the future of our children, churches, nation, and possibly people worldwide.

How often do we seek God’s guidance in prayer? He promises wisdom to those who don’t doubt (James 1:5-8).

Let’s make the most of our time here. Let’s seek God’s guidance and ask for the courage to act!

Have a wonderful week!

Isaac and Rebekah, Genesis 24

Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed him in every way. He said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, ‘Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.’” –Genesis 24:1-4

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This chapter makes a great Valentine’s story.

The main character in this story may surprise you.

He is mentioned seventeen times (even though He never speaks).

He is none other than the Lord Himself!

You may read Genesis 24 here: Bible Gateway.

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Why didn’t Abraham want Isaac to marry a Canaanite woman?

Marriage within the family is common and acceptable in this era. The family is also the key educational source (Deut. 6:6-7; Prov. 1:8). Abraham would not compromise intermarriage with a local pagan gal.

Why didn’t Abraham send Isaac back to his home land to find a wife?

Eliezer must have felt the brunt of the odds stacked against this request. Before he takes Abraham’s oath, he asks a valid question: “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land?” (vs. 5).

It certainly would have been easier for Abraham to send Isaac back to marry a relative. For blind faith would be required from any lady opting to leave her home to marry a stranger in a foreign land.

But according to Abraham, there would be no trial dates here.

For elderly Abraham—forged from fiery tests and experience—clings to God’s promise of abundant descendants and the land. Committed to obedience, he fully trusts God for the arrangement in this seemingly absurd mission.

The Journey

Eliezer’s trek would entail hundreds of miles—and several months—with his caravan of camels to Mesopotamia.

Eliezer’s Prayer

Upon arrival at a well where the townspeople begin drawing water, Eliezer prays: “. . . . May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac.”

His request pits more odds against him. Although it was customary for women to offer water to tired travelers, the animals were not their responsibility, especially 10 thirsty camels! In 10 minutes alone a camel can drink up to 25 gallons of water. This would have required many descents into the well while carrying a three-gallon water jar.

But Eliezer counted on God’s guidance for a woman with a servant’s heart.

The End

This story ends on a Cinderella note. Although Rebekah is whisked away on a camel caravan, she receives gold and silver jewelry, nice clothes, and a husband who loves her (vs. 67). Isaac, mourning his mother’s death, finds comfort in his new wife who is beautiful inside and out.

Reflect

Abraham’s determination for Isaac to settle in the promised land was another demonstration of his trust in God’s promise concerning the future. God sovereignly works through those who act on faith. Is God asking you to do something seemingly absurd and/or impossible?

Eliezer learned firsthand from Abraham: faith, God, and prayer. What do others glean from our lives?

Eliezer’s response to answered prayer was praise and thanksgiving. He also shared his story with Laban and exclaimed God’s goodness. How do we respond to answered prayer? Do we openly share with others what God is doing for us?

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God’s fingerprints of faithfulness and divine blessing bathe this chapter:

  • Although it was common practice for the parents to choose the son’s wife, Isaac’s wife would be chosen by none other than God Himself.
  • God not only directed Eliezer to the right place, but also brought Rebekah out of the well before Eliezer finished his prayer. She fit his request perfectly.
  • Rebekah not only showed initiative, but she was also beautiful (vs. 16).
  • After Eliezer relayed his mission and prayer to Rebekah and her family, Rebekah courageously leaves with him the next morning instead of waiting the requested 10 day period offered by her family (vs. 55-61).

Finally, a love deeper than Isaac and Rebekah’s calls out to everyone of us.

His love is unmistakable and unshakable. Your Creator longs to fellowship with you. Are you in a relationship with Him?

The Death of Sarah, Genesis 23

Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.” -Genesis 23:1-2

Review

Genesis 22 recorded Abraham’s crisis of faith as he successfully passed God’s test involving Isaac (Abraham Tested). The end of this chapter, along with chapter 23, ties up loose ends and transitions from Abraham to his son, Isaac. We’re given good news that Abraham’s brother Nahor has fathered twelve sons, who later become the ancestors of twelve Aramean tribes. Rebekah, the future bride of Isaac, is introduced here as the daughter of Bethuel.

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You may read Genesis 23 here: Bible Gateway.

The first two verses in chapter 23 record Sarah’s death in Hebron, the center of the promised land. Until this time, Abraham wandered through Canaan as a nomadic herdsman.

Tribute to Sarah

Sarah is honored by being the only woman in the Bible whose age is listed at death (127 yrs.), (although most women don’t want their age revealed!) Sarah is also the only woman whose name God changes. Although she struggled with her faith, she is the first woman listed in the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11). Sarah became the mother of the nation Israel and an ancestor of Jesus.

Abraham Mourns for Sarah

Layman’s Bible Commentary observes: “Abraham mourns and weeps, indicating that, in addition to crying, he goes through the traditional mourning customs of his day: tearing clothes, cutting his beard, spreading dust on his head, and fasting. This is all done in the presence of the dead body. The Israelites had a very elaborate and intense process that they went through when someone died. This is the first record of a man’s tears in the Bible.”

Abraham Purchases Burial Ground in Canaan

The next 18 verses focus on Abraham purchasing Sarah’s burial plot in a foreign land. Abraham’s determination to bury Sarah in Canaan show his faith for the future. Although Abraham has no roots in this area his reputation as a “mighty prince” has spread and the Hittites respect him.

All Abraham wants to purchase is the cave of Machpelah, but the owner, Ephron, aims for a profit and adds the field at an outrageous price. The custom was to ask double the fair market value, expecting the buyer to counteroffer half the asking price. But Abraham refrains from bargaining or demanding the land God promised. Instead, he pays the initial price.

The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: “The polite interchange between Abraham and Ephron was typical of bargaining at that time. Ephron graciously offered to give his land to Abraham at no charge; Abraham insisted on paying for it; Ephron politely mentioned the price but said, in effect, that it wasn’t important; Abraham paid the 400 shekels of silver. Both men knew what was going on as they went through the bargaining process. If Abraham would have accepted the land as a gift when it was offered, he would have insulted Ephron, who then would have rescinded his offer. Many Middle Eastern shopkeepers still follow this ritual with their customs.”

Sarah’s grave at the cave of Machpelah is not only well attested to archaeologically, but is also the first grave mentioned in Scripture. Later, Abraham is buried there (25:8-9) along with Isaac, Jacob, Rebekah, and Leah (49:30-33; 50:13).

Reflect  

One of my favorite verses!

One of my favorite verses!

Ancient Israelites placed great significance on location of burial sites in their homeland. At this point, Abraham doesn’t even own one acre of the promised land. Yet, he insists on burying Sarah in Canaan. Why? Abraham isn’t looking at his current situation—living in a tent—or backward to where he came from. Abraham is looking forward, standing on the promises God gave him.

God’s promises are sure. Which promises have helped you through difficult times? I’d love to hear from you!