October 28, 2014

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

PART III: HISTORY OF ISAAC AND JACOB. (Genesis 25:19-36:43)

Topic #A:ISAAC'S FAMILY AND SOME TROUBLES. (Genesis 25:19-26:35)                                                                                           

 

 


Lesson III.A.1: Births of Jacob and Esau. (Genesis 25:19-26)

 

Gen. 25:19-26 (KJV)

 

19 And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham begat Isaac:

20 And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian.

21 And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD.

23 And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.

24 And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.

25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.

26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.

 

 

Introduction

 

A new major section of Genesis begins here with the words, “these are the generations of Isaac (v.19);” Isaac is now the central character, and as the reader’s attention is focused on Him it soon becomes clear that exactly the same principles of divine overruling and choice are operational.

 

For almost twenty years after her marriage, Rebekah was barren. Then in answer to Isaac’s prayer, she conceived. The struggle of two sons within her puzzled her until she was told her two sons would become the heads of two rival nations (Israel and Edom). The first born twin was named Esau (hairy). The other was named Jacob (supplanter). Even at birth Jacob had to gain advantage over his brother by grabbing hold of Esau’s heel! Isaac was sixty when his twin boys were born.

 

 

Commentary

 

19 And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham begat Isaac:

 

Genesis is a record of ten successive “generations.” “Generations” come and go, but the Lord remains and never changes. “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations” (Psalm 90:1).We are going to follow the line of Abraham that goes through Isaac. “Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob” is the way the first chapter of Matthew begins. Each of these men had other sons, as we have seen. Abraham had quite a few sons, but the genealogy of those men is not followed. It is the genealogy of Isaac that is followed. You can forget Ishmael and Midian and Medan and all the rest. They will cross paths with the descendants of Isaac time and again, but we will not follow their lines.

 

 

20 And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian.

 

“Padanaram” refers to the “plain of Aram” in upper Mesopotamia near Haran to the north-northeast of Canaan, which is mentioned in Hosea 12:12—“Jacob fled to the country of Aram; Israel served to get a wife, and to pay for her he tended sheep.”

 

When Isaac was forty years old, God selected Rebekah to be his wife (chapter 24); and we have every reason to believe they were both devoted to the Lord and to each other. She was also his cousin, which tied him to Abraham’s native country and family, and to the Arameans in northwest Mesopotamia (Genesis 24:10), later known as Syria. The record indicates that Rebekah was the more aggressive of the two when it came to family matters, but perhaps that was just the kind of wife Isaac needed. Whatever mistakes Isaac had made as a father and husband, this much is true: As a young man, he willingly put himself on the alter to obey his father and to please the Lord (chapter 22; Romans 12:1, 2).

 

 

21 And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

 

Isaac and Rebekah waited twenty years for a family, but no children came. The entire Book of Genesis emphasizes the sovereignty of God and the wisdom of His delays. Abraham and Sarah had to wait twenty-five years for Isaac to be born; Jacob had to labor fourteen years to get his two wives; and Joseph had to wait over twenty years before he was reconciled to his brothers. Our times are in His hands (Psalm 31:15), and His timing is never wrong.

 

Like Abraham, Isaac was a man of prayer, so he interceded with the Lord for his barren wife. Isaac had every right to ask God for children because of the covenant promise the Lord had made to his mother and father, promises Isaac had heard repeated in the family circle and that he believed. If Rebekah had remained barren, how could Abraham’s seed multiply as the dust of the earth and the stars of the heavens? How could Abraham’s seed become a blessing to the whole world?—“The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:1-3)To the Hebrew sense of the preciousness of the family and especially to the faith that every family which stemmed from Abraham was part of the covenant of God, barrenness was the supreme calamity; and no act of God could be a more direct blessing than the reversal of a woman’s barrenness.

 

God supernaturally provided a son for Isaac. In contrast to Abraham, Isaac prayed and God responded. This proves that births were sometimes supernatural provisions.

 

It has well been said that the purpose of prayer is not to get our will done in heaven but to get God’s will done on earth. Even though every Jewish couple wanted children, Isaac wasn’t praying selfishly. He was concerned about God’s plan for fulfilling His covenant and blessing the whole world through the promised Messiah—“I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you” (Genesis 17:6). True prayer means being concerned about God’s will, not our own wants, and claiming God’s promises in the Word. The Lord answered Isaac’s prayer and enabled Rebekah to conceive. God’s answer to prayer in Rebekah’s case was only one instance of the recorded belief of Israel that He had intervened. It had been the same with Sarah (Genesis 15:2-6; 18:12-14); and it will be the same with Rachel (Genesis 29:31; 30:22, 23), with the mother of Samson (Judges 13:2-7), with Hannah (1 Samuel 1:2-20), and so will it be at the beginning of the New Testament with Elizabeth, from whom John the Baptist would be born (Luke 1:7-13).

 

 

22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD.

 

One problem soon led to another, because Rebekah’s pregnancy was a difficult one: The babies in her womb were struggling with each other. The Hebrew word means “to crush or oppose,” suggesting that the fetal movements were not normal. Since Rebekah wondered if the Lord was trying to say something to her, she went to inquire (by prayer); possibly following the example of her husband. Isaac was fortunate to have a wife who knew how to pray but also wanted to understand God’s will for herself and her children.

 

But it was not only in Rebekah’s fertility that the Old Testament emphasizes the belief in the special act of God. The children struggling together in the womb represents the rivalry between Israel and the desert Ishmaelites, a rivalry in which the descendants of Abraham should prevail.

 

In many of our conflicts and strugglings with sin and temptation, we may adopt Rebekah’s words, “If it be so, why am I thus?” If I am a child of God, why am I so carnal? If I am a child of God, why am I so burdened with sin?

 

These strugglings may be considered a symbol of the conflict between corrupt nature and grace in the believer’s experience, in which the younger acquires ascendency. Also, the conflict between the world and the true church of God—the seed of the serpent and the Seed of the woman, in which the church, which is like a younger brother, who after many struggles, will gain the final mastery. The struggle of these two boys, which began before their birth, also represents the struggle that still goes on in the world today. There is a struggle between light and darkness, between good and evil, between the Spirit and the flesh. Every child of God knows something about this struggle; I am struggling, and I’ll bet you are too. Paul wrote about it in the seventh chapter of Romans.

 

 

23 And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.

 

The Israelites (Jacob’s descendants) and the Edomites (Esau’s descendants) fought continuously, and the Edomites would indeed be subservient to Israel, a prophesy that first came true during David’s reign. Today their many descendants are passionately striving to gain the advantage over each other in the Middle East.

 

 

24 And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.

 

“And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled”—Esau and Jacob were born c. 2005 b.c.

 

 

25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.

 

Esau, when he was born, was rough and hairy, from which he got his name Esau. This was an indication of a strong constitution, and gave reason to expect that he would be a robust, active man. This would be the linguistic basis for calling Esau’s country “Edom”—He said to Jacob, "Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!" (That is why he was also called Edom.) (Genesis 25:30).The name Esau means “red” or “earth-colored.” Because he was born first, he is considered the elder. But “the elder shall serve the younger.”

 

 

26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.

 

Isaac and Rebekah had been married for about twenty years before the children were born. Jacob was unlike Esau, for he was as smooth and tender as most children. From the record of his birth we know Jacob “took hold of Esau’s heel”; so they called him Jacob, which means “supplanter” or “usurper,” because he was trying to become the elder or to take his place—but God had already promised that to him. There is also the opinion held by some Bible commentators that his name means “He (God) protects,” but the theme of deceiving is seen as implied in the name.

 

Here we begin to see the conviction which echoes so often in Genesis—that the people who looked to Jacob as their forefather were destined to greatness not through any coincidences of human history, but because of the sovereign purpose of God. Nothing that would happen to Jacob or through Jacob could be explained by conditional or superficial factors of time and place. What he was to be was predestined; and that predestination is seen as active even before he came out of the womb.

 

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