It is in chapter 25 the story of Abraham comes to a conclusion and the story of Isaac begins.
Vs 11: Abraham had a good long life… 175 years. This means he had lived in the Promised Land for 100 years. When he died Isaac and Ishmael buried their father with Sarah. “God blessed Isaac”.
Vs 12 – 18: The family history of Ishmael. He lived to be 137 years old. He also becomes the patriarch of 12 tribes (sons) thus receiving the promise of God as well.
Vs 19 – 20: Our attention is now shifted to the life and blessing of Isaac.
Isaac and Rebekah married when he was forty years old. This means that it could have been three years from the time she left her home to the point of marriage.
Vs 21: Rebekah was unable to have children, thus we continue to see God uses mightily the barren for his glory. Isaac takes the initiative and persistently prays for her. As we will soon find out he prays for 20 years to have a child before the Lord grants his request.
Vs 22 – 23: God answers Isaac’s prayer (in his timing) and gives him more than he asks for. Rebekah has twins in her womb but it was a difficult pregnancy. The pregnancy is so difficult Rebekah wonders if she wants to go on living. We see even in the womb a sibling rivalry beginning (and this is merely the beginning). Gordon Wenham writes, “Their firs battlefield is their mother’s womb.”
She was concerned with this pregnancy so she inquires of the LORD (Probably goes to a prophet or prays). An answer is given to her in a prophecy… From the outside looking in it is nothing eye opening but what Rebekah hears is certainly a shock and probably a concern.
Two nations – two children (both will be the father of a nation… Jacob - Israel & Esau - Edom). Israel and Edom will not be friendly with each other, and also there will be conflict between the brothers and nations. The older shall serve the younger – Jacob will be the dominant brother even though Esau is technically the first born.
Vs 23 – 26: When the twins were born the conflict was still in full swing. Esau (which means red) was the first born, he was a hairy red baby… and clutching at his heal was his younger brother Jacob (takes by the heel or he cheats). Interestingly there was even in ancient times a prejudice against red haired people. Judas Iscariot is depicted as red head in medieval art.
Isaac is 60 years old. Twenty years Isaac prays for his wife and he ends up with sons who can’t stop fighting since being in the womb. Regardless Isaac and Rebekah must be ecstatic.
Vs 27: Fast forward a number of years (doesn’t tell us how many)… I wonder what their actual childhood was like. Esau becomes a skilled hunter and a man of the field. You can imagine him as a big hairy brute… a true man’s man. Jacob… well he was a quiet son… what on earth does this mean? Jacob liked to stay home; he was a momma’s boy. Ironically when the word quiet is used to describe a person it means “perfect” however we find Jacob is far from this. Isaac favored Esau because he loved that he brought home meat to eat. We see now that Isaac is a man of prayer who loves his food. We see that he could certainly be adding fuel to the rivalry fire between the brothers because he favors Esau over Jacob. However Rebekah favors Jacob. Why? Maybe because he was the quiet home body or maybe because she knew God was going to bless him. Either way we see some dysfunction going on here. Parental favoritism is a recipe for destruction and the cause of great conflict in the future.
Vs 29 – 34: This is an important account because it describes how the younger brother gains the right to the inheritance of the father. The way this opening verse is written there is a play on words. “Jacob was cooking stew” could also be translated “Jacob set up a trap by cooking.” It is here the hunter becomes the hunted. The tactics Jacob uses to trick his brother into giving up his birthright are deceptive and premeditated.
Esau comes in from the hunt and is famished. He asks his brother to feed him the red stew (probably a meat stew) that he is cooking. The only thing on Esau’s mind is food and he is literally willing to give anything for something to eat. His desire to eat was dictating his life. The text is intended to paint Esau in a negative light; he is supposed to be depicted as a ravenous animal whose only concern is eating. Jacob on the other hand is depicted as a calculated deceiver who intends on cashing in on his brothers weakness. He responds, “Sell me your birthright now.” He didn’t mince words here. In other words he says, “Before I give you anything to eat you must first give me your birthright.” Jacob has no intention of feeding or serving his brother until he agrees to sell his birthright and give Jacob what he wants.
What’s so important about a birthright? Glad you asked… The firstborn is always held in high esteem and with special regard. He was privileged, he was the recipient of the first fruits of the father and he was regarded as blessed by God. The firstborn would receive double the portion of any other brother in family. It was a special blessing. It was an extraordinary gift to be the first born. It was a special gift that only the eldest could acquire. So naturally Jacob would want this right. By all rights it belongs to Esau but his response is, “I’m about to die, of what use is the birthright to me?” Essentially he was saying, “I want to eat and I want to eat now. I don’t care about the birthright anyhow so give me something to eat.” When in reality all Esau had to do was get up and get the food for himself but because of his impatience and ill regard for the birthright he sells it to his brother for a bowl of soup. This only begins to pave the way for future loss of blessing for Esau.
In return Jacob gives him not the meaty stew Esau wanted but he gives him a dish of lentils and bread. Esau did not complain. He ate drank and went away. Esau despised the birthright means that he treated this extraordinary gift with disdain and impertinence.
The Call to Persistent in Prayer – Isaac prays for his wife for 20 yrs. That’s a long time. I am sure there are times when he felt his prayers were falling on deaf ears but he continued to persistently pray. Eventually God answers Isaac in the way he hopes. I do believe God desires we continually pray. We are told in I Thessalonians “Pray without ceasing…” I believe this means we are to be persistent in prayer. God does hear and He will answer according to His will.
The Dangers of Impatience – Thankfully Isaac doesn’t give up. Esau on the other hand does give up his birthright because he wants what he wants NOW! He gives up his precious birthright (something that will benefit him greatly in the future and is exclusively for him) for a meal right now (Think of Wimpy from Popeye). We live in a McWorld where we can have anything we want and we can have it now. Sometimes we compromise our values or we just cannot patiently wait. Sometimes we go through things in our life and we feel we cannot patiently endure but we are told in James 1:3 – 4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Patience builds your faith. Impatience causes us to make bad choices.
The Danger of Allowing the Extraordinary Become Ordinary – The Birthright was a blessing and Esau was willing to sell it for a bowl of soup. How often do we take for granted the wonderful blessings God has given us? How often will we exchange the blessings of God for a cheap thrill? This is one of the greatest deceptions of sin. Sin tells us what it has to offer will be far better that anything God can give you; because it is immediate and seemingly satisfying. This is why we so easily give in to temptation. Think of it this way. If Christians firmly believed that what God has to offer is far better than what the world has to offer then Christianity would look drastically different. I think of the gift of salvation, God has given to us his wonderful and perfect son as a sacrifice and atonement for the sins of humanity. He has provided us with his Spirit and the call to live holy lives. But we can so easily take it for granted. We justify our sin because we know God will forgive us. May God help us when we start allowing the extraordinary Gospel of Jesus Christ become ordinary and common truth in our lives?
  Wenham, G. J. (1998). Vol. 2: Genesis 16 - 50. Word Biblical Commentary (175). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
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I currently live in Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with 20 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful. I am currently serving at a church as an Associate Director of Discipleship.