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The Families of Ishmael and Isaac
Summary: 25:12–18 the generations of Ishmael. With the death of Abraham and the focus shifting to Isaac, the record confirms God’s promise of 12 princes to Ishmael.
Genesis 25:19 This is the genealogy of Isaac, Abraham’s son. Abraham begot Isaac. :20 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.
Genesis 25:21 Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
Confronted by 20 years of his wife’s barrenness (vv. 19, 26), Isaac rose to the test and earnestly turned to God in prayer, obviously acknowledging thereby God’s involvement and timing in the seedpromise.
Genesis 25:22 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.
The very uncomfortable condition of her pregnancy (“why then am I this way?”) prompted Rebekah, undoubtedly following the example of her husband, to turn earnestly to God in prayer.
She learned directly from the Lord that the severe jostling in her womb prefigured the future antagonism between the two nations to arise from her twin sons (v. 23).
Genesis 25:23 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.”
This was contrary to the custom in patriarchal times when the elder son enjoyed the privileges of precedence in the household and at the father’s death received a double share of the inheritance and became the recognized head of the family. Grave offenses could annul such primogeniture rights or the birthright could be sacrificed or legally transferred to another in the family, as in this case (vv. 29– 34). In this case, God declared otherwise since His sovereign elective purposes did not necessarily have to follow custom.1
Genesis 25:24 So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb.
Esau and Jacob were born ca. 2005 b.c.
Genesis 25:25 And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau.
This would be the linguistic basis for calling Esau’s country “Edom” (cf. v. 30).
Genesis 25:26 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.
Genesis 25:27 So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. :28 And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
The difference between the two sons manifested itself in several areas: 1) as progenitors—Esau of Edom and Jacob of Israel; 2) in disposition—Esau a rugged, headstrong hunter preferring the outdoors and Jacob a plain, amiable man preferring the comforts of home; and 3) in parental favoritism—Esau by his father and Jacob by his mother. These were the ingredients for conflict and heartache!1
Esau Sells His Birthright
Genesis 25:29 Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary.
Genesis 25:30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom.
In a play upon words to forever recall that Esau was born red and hairy (v. 25) and had sold his birthright for red stew, he was also named Edom, i.e., “Red.”
Genesis 25:31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.”
A double portion of the inheritance (Dt 21:17) and the right to be family chief and priest (Ex 4:22).
Genesis 25:32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?”
Genesis 25:33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.
Esau foolishly agreed. “No food except the forbidden fruit was as dearly bought as this broth.” The prophecy of verse 23 is partially fulfilled in verses 29–34.
God does not condone Jacob’s wheeling and dealing, but one thing is apparent—Jacob valued the birthright and a place in the godly line, while Esau preferred the gratification of his physical appetite to spiritual blessings.
Genesis 25:34 And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
The final evaluation of the verbal tussle and bartering which took place between the twins, all of which was indicative of prior discussions or arguments sufficient for Jacob to conclude how little Esau valued it. He became, therefore, known as irreligious, i.e., “a godless person” (Heb 12:16).
Isaac and Abimelech
Genesis 26:1 There was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar.
Once again the land of promise forced the beneficiaries of the covenant to move so as to escape the effects of a famine. Abimelech. Most probably a Philistine dynastic title, with this being a different king from the one who had met Abraham (chap. 20).
Philistines. This tribe of people who originally sailed the Mediterranean Sea became fierce enemies of Israel when they settled along the SW coast of Palestine. Friendly to Isaac, they were forerunners of hostile descendant enemies.
Genesis 26:2 Then the Lord appeared to him and said: “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you.
Genesis 26:3 Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father.
Genesis 26:4 And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; :5 because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” :6 So Isaac dwelt in Gerar.
Genesis 26:7 And the men of the place asked about his wife. And he said, “She is my sister”; for he was afraid to say, “She is my wife,” because he thought, “lest the men of the place kill me for Rebekah, because she is beautiful to behold.”
Genesis 26:8 Now it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked through a window, and saw, and there was Isaac, showing endearment to Rebekah his wife.
Genesis 26:9 Then Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Quite obviously she is your wife; so how could you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I said, ‘Lest I die on account of her.’ ”
Macdonald, Farstad Grady Scott, Hindson, E. MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006).