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We continue our study of the Promises of God moving beyond Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, to the son of Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob. From the call of Abraham, God meticulously and jealously guarded the line of descendants that would lead to the Nation of Israel and ultimately to King Jesus Christ.  Because God is true and faithful, all that He promises is certain to come to pass. And therefore, He works things out according to His will, in His perfect timing, and for His glory and man’s good.

Review — The Descendants of Abraham

Abraham’s first son was Ishmael, born of  Hagar (Gen 16,4, 11).  Though Ishmael was first, he was NOT the son of the promise.  In fact, Ishmael reflected Sarah and Abraham’s lack of faith in God and their not waiting on the LORD to give them the son He had promised.  In spite of their lack of faith, God was faithful and He fulfilled His promise that Abraham and Sarah would have a son.  Abraham’s second son, Isaac, born of Sarah, inherited the promises of God. (Gen 21:3ff).  And Isaac married Rebekah. (Gen 24:67). 

Genesis 25 records:

  • After the death of Sarah, Abraham took another wife, Keturah (Gen 25:10
  • The names of the children born to Abraham and Keturah (Gen 25:2-4)
  • Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac  and sent away the sons of the concubines (Gen 25:5-6)
  • Abraham’s died and was buried (Gen 25:7-8, Gen 25:9-10)
  • God blessed Isaac (Gen 25:11)
  • The generations of Ishmael (Gen 25:12-18)
  • The generations of Isaac  (Gen 25:19ff)
  • The births of Isaac and Rebekah’s twin sons, Esau and Jacob (Gen 25:20-26)

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.”

God was once again showing that He was sovereign.  All matters that related to His promises would be accomplished according to His will.  According to custom, the firstborn son was to be the favored son.  But of Isaac and Rebekah’s sons, God declared it would be the younger son, for He told Rebekah the older would serve the younger.   

Two Very Different Sons

When Rebekah became pregnant with twins, she felt them struggling against one another in the womb (Gen 25:22). And the Lord told her that two nations would be born of her.  He told that the struggle would continue, and “the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen 25:23).  

Genesis 25:24-26

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.

As the sons grew to maturity, Esau became a hunter and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.  And Isaac loved Esau and Rebekah loved Jacob.  

Genesis 25:27-28

27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.  28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.

It must be noted that Esau was the eldest son. In ancient times, family succession was through the firstborn son and was comprised of two things:

  1. The Birthright:  Leadership of the family, including responsibilities and authority, for leading the family to live in covenantal relationship with God. 
  2. The Inheritance: Possession of all worldly things, i.e. property and assets.

The Bible tells that Esau esteemed his birthright of little value (Gen 25:32), and so he sold it to Jacob for a bowl of stew (Gen 29-34). In doing so, the birthright passed from Esau, the firstborn son of Isaac and Rebekah, to Jacob, the second-born son.  

Genesis 27 tells of Isaac’s impending death and his blessing upon his sons.  Unknowingly, he blessed Jacob instead of Esau, thereby passing the inheritance of the firstborn (a double inheritance) to Jacob, his second-born.

The Second Born

A continuing biblical pattern is the secondborn being “of the spirit” and the firstborn being “of the flesh.” And of course, “those of the spirit” are those who receive the promises of God.

Rom 9:8  That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

  • Cain was cursed and sent away after killing Abel (Gen 4:11, 16) and Seth was given a preeminent place (Gen 4:25). 
  • Ishmael, born of the flesh, was cast out. Isaac was the son of the promise (Gal 4:22-23)
  • Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, fulfilling God’s prophecy “the elder shall serve the younger (Gen 25:23)
  • Reuben’s position and the rights of the firstborn were given to Joseph.  (1 Chr 5:1)
  • Secondborn Ephraim was blessed above firstborn Manasseh. (Gen 48:14) 
  • Secondborn Moses was chosen to lead the nation instead of firstborn Aaron. (Ex 3)
  • The first king, Saul, was replaced by the second king, David (Acts 13:21-22)
This pattern is fulfilled in Jesus:

1 Cor 15:45-47  And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.

Jacob Supplanted Esau

Jacob’s name means “supplanter” or “trickster” and we read that Jacob cooked a stew with the intention of using it to gain his brother’s birthright.

29 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:  30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.  31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.

32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?  33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.  34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.

Rather than meet his brother’s need of hunger, Jacob gave what he had (the stew) to gain what he wanted (the birthright).  It’s true that the birthright meant little to Esau as he considered himself near death (Gen 25:32), but Jacob took advantage of his brother in his weakened state.  Oh, what little love Jacob had for his brother and what selfish desire controlled his heart.  

Lessons from Jacob

As Christians, with the revealed word of God, we know that “we who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak…” (Rom 15:1) and we are to love one another to fulfill the royal law (James 2:8). 

We see a great lesson in Jacob, here in chapter 25. Jacob should have given his brother the stew, rather than using it to “buy” his brother’s birthright. And later we’ll see another lesson when Jacob and Rebekah manipulate his father’s blessing.  We understand these were sins, but we also know that God forgave them.

Some have suggested Jacob was doing God’s work in obtaining the birthright and the blessing of the firstborn (Read: Who is Sweet Jacob?), but God never condones serving Him in sinful ways and both actions were by trickery and manipulation.  Jacob and Rebekah were not trusting God to work things out.  They did exactly what Sarah did in offering Hagar to bear Abraham’s child.  All were examples of thinking, “let’s help God to make this happen.”

The great lesson for us is: rather than taking matters into our own hands and working through sinful actions, we should wait on the Lord.  God will bring about His promises, in His way, and in His time. 

Psa 27:14  Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!



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