Sunday August 18, 2019
Subject: " Sons for Isaac and Rebekah"
Scripture: Genesis 25:19-28
III.Prayer Answered (Genesis 25:19-23)
IV. Personalities Different (Genesis 25:24-28)
"And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived” (Genesis 25:21).
In our lesson this week, we see how God used twin boys to begin separate nations that have affected history to the present day. Esau and Jacob were rivals in the womb and they would also be rivals in the history of the world. Our lesson this week shows us that our God is the sovereign Ruler of history. Esau and Jacob were born into a family chosen by God to be the progenitors of two great nations. One nation would be blessed by God and be a blessing to the world. The other nation would oppose that blessed nation.
II. Lesson Background
In the preceding chapter 24 of Genesis, we find Abraham who was steeped in old age sending his trusted servant to the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia, near his home to find a wife for his son Isaac (see Genesis 24:1-10). When the servant arrived at a well outside the city, he prayed to God that He would reveal the woman that He wanted for Isaac’s wife by her actions, and the Lord did just that causing the servant to respond in worshipful thanksgiving. The woman God chose was Rebekah (see Genesis 24:11-28). After being invited into Rebekah’s family home, the servant reviewed everything that had happened with Rebekah’s brother Laban. This included the time Abraham sent him out to the very moment he was invited into Laban’s home (see Genesis 24:29-48). The servant then asked Laban and Bethuel, Rebekah’s father, if he could take her back with him to be Isaac’s wife (see Genesis 24:49). Laban and Bethuel agreed to send Rebekah back with Abraham’s servant, who gave them all gifts which was the custom of that time (see Genesis 24:50-56). After her brother and father confirmed with Rebekah that she was willing to go back with the servant to marry Isaac, they blessed her and she took her female servants and went with Abraham’s servant (see Genesis 24:57-61). They finally arrived back in the southern part of Canaan where Isaac lived, and Isaac saw them coming and went to meet them (see Genesis 24:62-65). After Abraham’s servant told Isaac everything that had happened, Isaac took Rebekah into his mother’s tent who had died prior to Abraham sending his servant for Rebekah, and he married her (see Genesis 24:66-67). Chapter 25 opens stating that Abraham took another wife named Keturah who bore him six children (see Genesis 25:1-4). After some period of time, Abraham sent his sons by Keturah away from Isaac toward the east (see Genesis 25:5). Then in Genesis 25:7-11, we are told that Abraham died and was buried by his sons Isaac and Ishmael, and God blessed Isaac who lived by the well Lahai-Roi. In verses 12-18, the genealogy of Ishmael, his death and where his descendants settled is given. Our lesson begins with verse 19.
III. Prayer Answered (Genesis 25:19-23)
A. The marriage of Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 25:19-20).
1. (vs. 19). Our first verse says “And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham begat Isaac…” The Hebrew word translated “generations” istoledoth. It is translated in most English Bible translations as“generations” or “descendants.” Here the phrase “And these are the generations of” has the meaning of “Now these are the records of the descendants of.” The “generations” or record of“Isaac’s” descendants begin with “Abraham” who is the father of the Hebrew nation. Then we are told that “Abraham begat Isaac…” The word “begat” means that “Abraham”was “Isaac’s” father.
2. (vs. 20). This verse says “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.” Although we don’t know how old “Rebekah” was at the time of her marriage, we do know that “Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife.” She was also “the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram” who was the youngest son of Abraham’s brother Nahor (see Genesis 22:20-23). This meant that Isaac married his cousin. Marrying relatives was a common practice in the ancient world. “Padanaram” was the region of northwestern Mesopotamia, the area Abraham’s family went to after leaving Chaldea (see Genesis 11:27-32) in response to God’s call (see Genesis 12:4-6). “Rebekah” is also identified as “the sister to Laban the Syrian.” Although “Bethuel” was still living when“Rebekah” left home (see Genesis 24:50), her brother“Laban” seems to have been the most influential person in the household (see Genesis 24:29-31, 53, 55). The word “Syrian”used here to identify Abraham’s relatives can also be rendered “Aramaean” which is the actual Hebrew word for “Syrian.” Ancient Aram included a much larger geographical area than the region later identified as Syria.
B. Rebekah’s difficulties conceiving (Genesis 25:21-22).
1. (vs. 21). This verse says “And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.” Like her mother-in-law Sarah, Rebekah “was barren” which means that she had no children. There were no medical treatments to help her. They needed to rely totally on the Lord to enable her to conceive. So, “Isaac” realizing that the covenant promises made to Abraham, his father (see Genesis 12:1-3; 15:5; 17:5) required that he have children, he“intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren.” The words “intreated the Lord” mean that “Isaac” prayed and pleaded with “the Lord” on behalf of his wife because she was unable to have children. According to verse 20, “Isaac”was forty years old when he married “Rebekah,” but they did not have any children until he was sixty (see Genesis 25:26). So for twenty years, there can be no doubt that both “Isaac”and “Rebekah” prayed to “the Lord” for help. Helplessness is good for us when it causes us to turn to God’s strength (see II Corinthians 12:9-10). Although God is sovereign, He still wants us to bring our requests to Him in prayer (see Philippians 4:6). When we make our requests in accord with His will, He has promised to answer them (see I John 5:14-15). Certainly praying for a son was in God’s will. As with everyone who prays, “Isaac” and “Rebekah” had to wait upon the Lord. But in His own time “the Lord was intreated of him (Isaac)”which means that God answered Isaac’s prayer, “and Rebekah his wife conceived.” She finally became pregnant.
2. (vs. 22). This verse says “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.” During Rebekah’s pregnancy, she felt unusual movement in her womb because “the children struggled together within her.” The Hebrew word translated “struggled” refers to violent jostling. This was more than the usual movements experienced by an expectant mother. Rebekah was deeply perplexed because the movements in her womb were more like a struggle than the normal movements of a baby. At this time she had no idea that there were two babies in her womb. As a result of what she was experiencing, Rebekah “went to enquire of the Lord.” She brought her problem to “the Lord” and asked Him “If it be so, why am I thus?” Most likely she meant “If you gave me the ability to conceive why is this now happening to me?” What had seemed like a blessing and a fulfillment of covenant promises now was something frightening to Rebekah. Note:The struggle between the two babies in Rebekah’s womb was an indication of not only the struggle that would take place between Esau and Jacob as they grew up, but also to the struggle between their descendants. The descendants of Esau were the Edomites who hated the Israelites (see Numbers 20:17-21; I Kings 11:15-16; Obadiah 1:8-14) who were Jacob’s descendants (see Genesis 32:28; 49:2-3, 5, 8-9, 13, 14, 16, 19-22, 27).
C. The prophecy (Genesis 25:23). This verse says“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.” God’s answer to Rebekah revealed that the movements within her were the beginnings of far-reaching national rivalries.“The Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb.” In other words, she would give birth to twins and each one would become the head of a nation. The “two nations” were Israel, the descendants of Jacob, and Edom, the descendants of Esau. The history of Israel reveals that these two nations were constantly at war with each other (see I Samuel 14:47; Ezekiel 25:14). God also said “and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels.” The term “manner” indicates that they would have nothing in common; they would be incompatible in their outlooks and ways of life. Finally, God said “and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” As we shall see, the firstborn child was Esau, but here even before their births, God declared that “the elder shall serve the younger.” This was a reversal of what normally happened in a Jewish family. Under normal circumstances, the firstborn or oldest son held the higher position in the family and received the larger share of the inheritance (see Deuteronomy 21:15-17). The fact that “the elder shall serve the younger” was fulfilled in the subjection of the Edomites for many ages, to the house of David until they revolted (see II Chronicles 21:8). We are not told why the younger son, Jacob would take precedence over his brother; however it was a matter of God’s sovereign choice. Note: Here is evidence of God’s sovereignty at work. He chose Jacob over Esau contrary to what humans would do for reasons only He knows. As Paul later pointed out, God’s choice was not based on their merits, because they were not born yet and had not done either good or evil (see Romans 9:10-13). This was not an isolated case either, for God based His entire program for Israel on election. There were other occasions where the Lord replaced the oldest son in favor of the youngest as in the cases of Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Rueben and Joseph. In none of these cases did God choose as man would have. A cloud of mystery always hangs over God’s methods. He works in His own way to emphasize His grace and to prevent people from taking credit for what takes place. Paul said “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (see Romans 9:16).
IV. Personalities Different (Genesis 25:24-28)
A. The birth of Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:24-26).
1. (vs. 24). This verse says “And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.” Since God answered Rebekah’s prayer telling her that there were two nations “in her womb,” it’s not clear whether she understood from the Lord’s words to mean that she would have twins. Whether she understood or not, “when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.” When the time came for her to give birth, the Lord’s word was confirmed: “behold, there were twins in her womb.”
2. (vs. 25). This verse says “And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.” We are told that “the first (child) came out red, all over like an hairy garment.” From this statement it appears that both the skin and hair of this first child were reddish in color. In addition, his skin was so “hairy” that it was likened to a “hairy garment.” It was as if he was wearing a fur coat. Because of his “hairy” skin, “they (his parents) called his name Esau” which means “hairy.” Later, after“Esau” traded his birthright for a bowl of red soup, he was also called “Edom” which means “red.” Note: Esau’s rugged appearance was indicative of the kind of life he would live (see verse 27). Undoubtedly, the “hairy” coat of skin that he was born with apparently didn’t go away, because many years later Jacob would say “Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man” (see Genesis 27:11). His rough sturdy exterior was matched by a personality that was independent and unappreciative of life’s higher things (see Genesis 25:30-34).
3. (vs. 26). This verse says “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.” After Esau came out of Rebekah’s womb, then “came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel.” As “Esau’s” twin brother followed him from the womb, he grabbed hold of “Esau’s heel;” so “his name was called Jacob.” The name “Jacob” comes from the combination of a Hebrew noun that means “heel” and a verb meaning “to seize at the heel” or “to supplant” which refers to someone who takes the place of another. Then we are told that“Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.” This means that “Isaac,” the twins’ father was 60 years old when Rebekah gave birth to them. Note: Like Esau, Jacob also revealed his personality at birth. Although he was born second, Jacob was tenaciously pursuing his brother from the womb, trying to grasp everything he could from him. Sometime later, Jacob’s deceitful ways of getting what he wanted eventually caused Esau to cry bitterly saying, “Is not he rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted (replaced) me these two times” (see Genesis 27:36). However, Jacob’s tenacity was not wrong in itself. In the end, it helped him receive a great blessing from God (see Genesis 32:26-30). But too often even when Jacob was striving for legitimate goals, it led him to use methods that discredited God’s name (see Genesis 25:29-34; 27:1-29; 30:25-43; 31:1). A central theme of Genesis—the struggle between brothers—occurs here in the womb of Rebekah. The conflict between brothers began with Cain and Abel and continues throughout the book. The point is not that the struggles were necessary for the accomplishment of God’s will, but that God’s will was accomplished in spite of the conflicts.
B. The differences between the boys (Genesis 25:27). This verse says “And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.” Added to the striking difference in the boys’ appearance at birth was the difference in their interests. These differences became more evident as “the boys grew” or matured. “Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field.” We might expect the firstborn son to follow his father as a shepherd and herdsman, but “Esau” didn’t. He loved the freedom of the open “field” or country, and he was described as “a cunning” or skillful “hunter.” He was what we would call and outdoors-man. On the other hand, “Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.” The Hebrew word for “plain” literally means “complete,” but it can also be translated as “quiet.” “Jacob” was a quiet man. He is also described as “dwelling in tents” which simply means that he was content to stay at home instead of facing the risks of hunting wild animals like “Esau” did. Most twins are very much alike, but in this case “Esau” and “Jacob” were very different. Some of this may have been due to nature, but as the next verse indicates, much of their differences may have been due to the way they were nurtured.
C. The parents’ favoritism (Genesis 25:28). Our final verse says “And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.” The contrasting life-styles of the two sons were encouraged by the parents who chose sides. Even though “Isaac” surely knew the prophecy that the older would serve the younger (see verse 23), nevertheless he “loved Esau.” But his motive was not proper. We are told that “Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison.” In other words, “Esau” gained his father’s favor through the game he killed and cooked. Such a fleshly reason for favoritism was unworthy of “Isaac,” a man of God. On the other hand, “Jacob” was “Rebekah’s” favorite, for she “loved Jacob.” Although our text doesn’t tell us why “Rebekah” felt this way, mothers are often attracted to sons who are obedient, orderly, and not inclined to cause trouble. “Jacob” was this type of person. Like her husband, “Rebekah” also knew the prophecy that the older would serve the younger. God had chosen “Jacob” for the greater blessing and the higher position of leadership (see verse 23); so maybe “Rebekah” was less to be blamed for her favoritism than “Isaac.” At least she took God’s will into account. But both “Isaac” and “Rebekah”eventually played a part in the rift in the family which was tragic. Note: Parents who have favorites among their children bear a fearful responsibility before God for the damage they may cause. Unfortunately, whether we want to admit it or not, most parents have favorite children. But since God is no respecter of persons (see Acts 10:34), we should imitate Him by not showing favoritism. Whenever we do, we create a potential for conflict, whether it’s in the home, the Sunday school, or the church.
When God blesses His people, He has a specific plan for them. He blessed Esau and Jacob to become the fathers of two nations, Edom and Israel. Even though they were rivals, we still see that God had a specific plan for each of them in history. Ultimately, the house of Jacob will win out. The Messiah, a descendant of Jacob will reign, and we are called to receive Him. History is moving forward toward this final and glorious end.