Genesis 25 - Abraham’s Death; Jacob and Esau Born to Isaac
A. Abraham’s latter life and death.
1. (1-4) Abraham marries again and has many children by Keturah.
Abraham again took a wife, and her name was Keturah. And she bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. Jokshan begot Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. And the sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abidah, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.
2. (5-6) Abraham is careful to set Isaac apart as the child of promise.
And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. But Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines which Abraham had; and while he was still living he sent them eastward, away from Isaac his son, to the country of the east.
a. Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac: Abraham gave his wealth to Isaac and he gave the land God had promised to him to Isaac (he sent them eastward, away from Isaac his son).
This is the sum of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived: one hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, the field which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth. There Abraham was buried, and Sarah his wife. And it came to pass, after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac. And Isaac dwelt at Beer Lahai Roi.
a. Then Abraham breathed his last and died: Abraham passes from the scene, being one of the most important men of the Bible. He is mentioned 70 times in the New Testament alone. Only Moses is mentioned more times in the New Testament (80 times).
b. Died in a good old age, an old man and full of years: Clarke gives a good eulogy of Abraham: “above all as a man of God, he stands unrivaled; so that under the most exalted and perfect of all dispensations, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he is proposed and recommended as the model and pattern according to which the faith, obedience, and perseverance of the followers of the Messiah are to be formed. Reader, while you admire the man, do not forget the God that made him so great, so good, and so useful. Even Abraham had nothing but what he had received; from the free unmerited mercy of God proceeded all hisexcellences; but he was a worker together with God, and therefore did not receive the grace of God in vain. Go thou, believe, love, obey, and persevere in like manner.”
Now this is the genealogy of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maidservant, bore to Abraham. And these were the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: The firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; then Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadar, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These were the sons of Ishmael and these were their names, by their towns and their settlements, twelve princes according to their nations. These were the years of the life of Ishmael: one hundred and thirty-seven years; and he breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people. (They dwelt from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt as you go toward Assyria.) He died in the presence of all his brethren.
B. The children of Isaac: Jacob and Esau.
1. (19-26) The conception and birth of Jacob and Esau.
This is the genealogy of Isaac, Abraham’s son. Abraham begot Isaac. Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian. Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.” So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
a. Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: Even the son of promise does not come into the promise easily. It only comes through waiting and prayer. But the prayers of a husband for his wife have a special power.
i. Even so, it was some 20 years until they had children (Genesis 25:20; 25:26), and these were the only children born to Isaac and Rebekah.
ii. Jewish legends say Jacob and Esau tried to kill each other in the womb. Also, every time Rebekah went near an idol’s altar, Esau would get excited in the womb, and when she would go near a place where the Lord was worshipped, Jacob would get excited.
b. So she went to inquire of the Lord: As Rebekah sought God, the Lord spoke to her regarding the sons within her womb.
i. It is good to desire that the Lord would speak to us, but we must realize we do not hear perfectly from God. We can become far too confident in our ability to hear from the Lord, and forget that it is easy for us to stop listening when God wants to keep speaking. We may add to what the Lord is saying, or hear it clearly but misunderstand the timing or application of what the Lord says to us.
ii. In connection with God’s eternal word (as is the case with Rebekah here), God gives a unique gift to perfectly listen, a gift given only in connection with the revealing of His written, eternal word.
c. Two nations are in your womb: What God says is simple. She has twins within her. The twins will each father nations. One shall be greater than the other, and the younger will be greater than the older.
d. Indeed there were twins in her womb: The truth of the unseen promise is fulfilled by something that could be seen. God’s word was true. When the time came for them to be born, there were in fact twins in Rebekah’s womb.
e. And the first came out red: Circumstances surrounding the birth of each child were responsible for their names. Esau refers to the hairiness of the first-born child. Jacob refers to the way the second born was holding on to the heel of his brother.
i. Additionally, the idea of a “heel-catcher” meantsomething in that day. It had the idea of “trickster,” “con-man,” “scoundrel,” or “rascal.” It wasn’t a compliment.
f. And the older shall serve the younger: God chose to go against the normal way of the younger serving the older. InRomans 9:10-13, Paul uses this choice of Jacob over Esau before their birth as an illustration of God’s sovereign choice.
i. God’s choice of Isaac instead of Ishmael seems more “logical” to us. Yet His choice between Jacob and Esau, regarding which one would be the heir of God’s covenant of salvation, is just as valid, though it “seems” to make less sense.
ii. Paul points out God’s choice was not based on the performance of Jacob or Esau. The choice was made when they were not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil.
iii. God announced these intentions to Rebekah before the children were born (The older shall serve the younger), and repeated His verdict long after Jacob and Esau had both passed from the earth (Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated, Malachi 1:2-3).
iv. Is it fair for God to love one and hate another, and to choose one and not choose another, before they are even born? We should regard the love and the hate God speaks of here as having to do with His purpose in choosing one to become the heir of the covenant of Abraham. In that regard, God’s preference could rightly be regarded as a display oflove towards Jacob and hate towards Esau. The real thought here is much more like “accepted” and “rejected” more than it is like our understanding of the terms “loved” and “hated.”
v. “A woman once said to Mr. Spurgeon, ‘I cannot understand why God should say that He hated Esau.’ ‘That,’ Spurgeon replied, ‘is not my difficulty, madam. My trouble is to understand how God could love Jacob.’” (Newell inRomans, Verse by Verse)
vi. Our greatest error in considering the choices of God is to think God chooses for arbitrary reasons, as if He were sort of an “eeny-meeny-miny-moe” chooser. We may not be able to fathom God’s reasons for choosing, and they are reasons He alone knows and answers to, but God’s choices are not capricious.
2. (27-28) The different characters of Jacob and Esau.
So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
a. Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man: Like so many siblings in a family, Jacob and Esau were very different from each other in their personality and tastes. And as is sometimes the case, each parent had a “favorite” child.
b. Jacob was a mild man: The Hebrew word for mild has the idea of “wholeness” instead of someone who is weak or effeminate. The Hebrew word tam (mild) is used of Job inJob 1:8: Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, ablameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”
Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.” And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
a. Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field: Here, each son acts consistently with his own natural inclination. Esau hunts and Jacob cooks.
b. Sell me your birthright was of this day: Jacob knew that thebirthright was valuable and he wanted it. Passages likeDeuteronomy 21:17 and 1 Chronicles 5:1-2 tell us the birthrightinvolved both a material and a spiritual dynamic. The son of the birthright received a double portion of the inheritance, and he also became the head of the family and the spiritual leader upon the passing of the father. In the case of this family the birthright determined who would inherit the covenant God made with Abraham, the covenant of a land, a nation, and the Messiah.
c. I am about to die: Esau’s thought isn’t that he is so hungry that he will die without food. Instead, the idea is “I will die one day anyway, so what good is this birthright to me?”
d. Swear to me as of this day: Was this unfair of Jacob? Certainly, he is acting like a “heel-catcher.” He is being a trickster or a rascal in taking advantage of his brother.
i. Jacob was guilty of scheming in the flesh to gain something God said was already his. Yet we should remember the far greater blame is placed on Esau, whodespised his birthright.
ii. Luther draws attention to an important fact: this was not a valid transaction, because Jacob was buying what was already his, and Esau was selling something that didn’t belong to him. (Leupold)
e. And sold his birthright to Jacob: Why did Esau sell out? “History shows that men prefer illusions to realities, choose time rather than eternity, and the pleasures of sin for a season rather than the joys of God forever. Men will read trash rather than the Word of God, and adhere to a system of priorities that leaves God out of their lives. Multitudes of men spend more time shaving than on their souls; and multitudes of women give more minutes to their makeup than to the life of the eternal spirit. Men still sell their birthright for a mess of pottage.” (Barnhouse)
i. What birthright might we despise? Ephesians 1:3-14 shows us a treasury of riches ours by birthright in Jesus: every spiritual blessing, the blessing of being chosen in Jesus, adoption into God’s family, total acceptance by God in Jesus, redemption from our slavery to sin, true and total forgiveness, the riches of God’s grace, the revelation and knowledge of the mystery of God’s will, an eternal inheritance, the guarantee of the indwelling Holy Spirit right now. Will we sell out this birthright for a night of television?
f. Thus Esau despised his birthright: Esau’s character as afornicator and profane person (Hebrews 12:16) shows God was entirely correct in choosing Jacob over Esau to carry on the birthright, even though Jacob was younger. Though Esau’s character was not the basis for God’s choosing (He chose Jacob over Esau before they were born), Esau’s character showed the ultimate wisdom of God’s choice.
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