Welcome to Episode 9 of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We stand at a pivotal point in our story. We have now transitioned from Abraham to Isaac, so we are so glad you are joining us at this point. But that means that, if this is your first episode, you’ve missed quite a bit and it would benefit you immensely to go back and start from Episode 1 to hear the story of Abraham.
You could also pick it up here and then go back, not a big deal. I am confident it will be fruitful and enjoyable for you. My name is Mario, glad to make your acquaintance. If you have comments or questions, feel free to find us on Facebook @MariosMinistries. You can definitely leave us a comment there or visit our website at mariosministries.com.
When we left off, Isaac had married Rebekah, after the death of his mother, Abraham’s wife Sarah. And now we start on Genesis chapter 25 with the account that Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah and she bore him 6 children and 10 grandchildren. Then we are told he died at the ripe old age of 175 years. He was buried with Sarah in the tomb he had purchased for her.
We are then given the descendants of Ishmael, Abraham and Hagar’s son, and we are told he lived 137 years before he died. It is worth noting for future studies that his descendants settled, we are told in verse 18 of chapter 25, “over against all his kinsmen.” So, some of the conflict we will read about in Scripture later, are born out of this arrangement.
Then we get to Isaac, through whom the Abrahamic covenant – the promise God had made—will be carried through. Isaac was 40 when he married Rebekah, and we get an interesting parallel right away because we are told that Isaac prayed for Rebekah, his wife, because she was barren—she couldn’t have children.
As you will remember, this was the struggle of his parents, early on in their walk with the Lord, when they were given the promise of many descendants, but they were not able to have children, so it is interesting to contrast how the two handled the situation, at least initially.
You see Abraham believed God, which was huge, under the circumstances. But both he and Sara, struggled with the infertility issue a bit, to the point that they fell into that fool’s errand of trying to help God keep His promise by making Abraham have a child with Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant. And, as we’ve discussed, much pain ensued from that misguided decision.
But here we are told now that Isaac prayed to God and, “the Lord granted his prayer” – verse 21. Note, it was not an instantaneous prayer either. Isaac was 40 when he married Rebekah and will be 60 by the time she gives birth. Therefore, we can calculate 19 plus years of praying before Isaac’s prayer for his wife is ultimately answered.
I hope that is encouraging to some of you out there. Maybe you who have been praying a long time for something, and you must realize that God’s timing is not human timing. We saw what he did in the life of Abraham, and here too we have in the case of Isaac, God waiting for His timing in answer to Isaac’s prayer. So don’t give up. We know for a fact that God hears our prayers and that He loves us, that He will keep His Words—His promises—so we can trust Him in His timing too.
Rebekah gets pregnant then, and we are told the children (plural) struggle within her. So yes, surprise, surprise, there is more than one baby in her womb. But it looks like the kicks and movements within her felt so out of the ordinary, that she inquires of the Lord about it.
Let’s not miss that, this is admirable, once again. God will answer her, and it shows us that God cares about everything in our lives. We do well when we inquire of Him, instead of what most of us do, which is complain to God about most things.
The Lord tells Rebekah, starting on verse 23, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”
The matter is revealed further then. Rebekah indeed, has twins. The older is called Esau. The younger they named Jacob, and even as they came out of the womb, we are told Jacob was holding on to Esau’s heel, further symbolizing the struggle God had explained to Rebekah.
This revelation by the Lord then will weigh in in the hearts and minds of, at least Rebekah, though we can safely assume she shared the word with her husband. I think that is a safe assumption for us to make.
We are told the boys grow up and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents—which means he was a man of the house, if you will. So, in that sense, we can see how Esau became close with his dad, while Jacob gravitated towards his mother. We are told Isaac loved eating of Esau’s game, which will be important for the next event we read about at the endo of this chapter.
It is a strange account that leaves you asking many questions, perhaps because we do not fully understand the weight of the birthright idea at that time, but here is what happens. Jacob was cooking a stew. Esau came from the field, and he was exhausted. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of the stew, for I am exhausted.” Because of the response, we sort of figure that he was in bad shape. If you’ve ever been outdoors and run out of water or food, you might understand that things can get pretty desperate. One day, I’ll tell you the story of my friend Ken and I doing the Appalachian Trail.
But that’s a story for another occasion. Esau is desperate then, ask for stew, and Jacob, seizes on the opportunity and tells him, well, if you want some stew, sell me your birthright.
Now, again, lots of questions: was that “a thing” back then, the selling of the birthright? That is, was it common back then. What are the effects? Why does Jacob do this? Was he aware of the promise God had given her mother? We have already been told Rebekah and Jacob were close, so it would not be a stretch to think that Rebekah had laid it upon his heart about his destiny. So, maybe.
The answers to this question do not seem to be determinative, though, so let’s continue reading. Esau, does not seem to think it a big deal, for he tells him, “I am about to die here, of what use is a birthright to me?”
Jacob makes him swear. Esau does, and Jacob gives him the stew.
Now, thankfully, in order to understand this event, we have help from other passages in Scripture, which is an essential principle for us to understand. We read Scripture in light of Scripture. I think we might have mentioned that before. So, for this account we have help from this very interesting passage in Hebrews 12:15-17 where the writer tells us:
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
Wow. So, there you have it. Note how it connects this story with God’s grace and guarding against allowing that “root of bitterness” to spring up on us. That is what Esau had allowed. And that’s why he made the choice that he made.
Some of you are there right now. You can feel the “root of bitterness” within you right now, and I want to sign the alarm for you: DANGER! We make bad decisions when we allow bitterness in our heart. Therefore, repent, come to the LORD, the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob immediately, while there is still time, before you make a choice you will regret. Do not be like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.
Note that the passage compares what Esau did to sexual immorality. Because isn’t that exactly the way that many of our sexual immorality comes about? A husband or wife feels neglected, perhaps unappreciated, lets bitterness enter his or her heart and now is ripe for the picking, as they say, in danger of making a choice he or she will regret for the rest of his life. Many throw away their entire lives for a single meal (a night of pleasure), an act to blow off steam, to relax and have a good time. Only those times are very short, and the regret lasts a lifetime.
Do not be like Esau, Scripture tells us. Do not neglect what is eternally good and pleasurable, for a fleeting moment of perceived release. That sort of “freedom” enslaves.
Certainly, there is much more to say, but we, unfortunately cannot stay here for long, so I commend you this story for further meditation and study. The Hebrews passage also gave us a glimpse of what is to happen, that Esau will indeed regret his decision, but we’re not quite there yet, so let’s keep going.
We are told next that there was a famine in the land and Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech, the king of the Philistines— ostensibly to overcome the famine.
We’ve already dealt with Abimelech of Gerar, the king of the Philistines before in Genesis chapter 20. He was one of the kings who took Sarah before realizing she was Abraham’s wife, but, because of the passage of time, it is likely that this is a different Abimilech, perhaps his son? There are several characters named Abimelech in Scripture.
At any rate, the Lord appeared to Isaac and speaks to him. Let’s read what He said (this is Genesis chapter 26:2-5):
“Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”
First of all, note God’s faithfulness to Abraham. He will bless Isaac and his offspring for Abraham’s faithfulness. Think about that, you parents out there, the sort of impact you can have in your family and children, if you are faithful to God.
Remember our term, this is the Abrahamic Covenant still being unfolded through God’s amazing grace, and the promises of God, again being found unshakeable from generation to generation. You can count on His Word, 100 percent of the time.
But he is not to go to Egyp. So, Isaac settles in Gerar. And, you won’t believe what we read about as he settles there, the men of the area ask him about his wife Rebekah, and guess what he decides to do, he was afraid, so he said she was his sister.
Seriously? He’s going to follow his dad on that? Well, yes, apparently. And not surprisingly if we are honest with our own human nature. Yes, we will fall in the same hole, we saw our father fall. The many promises we made to ourselves not to be like them, notwithstanding. Right?
Rebekah was beautiful, so that we know what is going to happen. But thankfully, Abimelech was astute enough to notice something. Verse 8 of chapter 26 tells us that when he saw the two of them laughing together, he knew something was up. So he called up Isaac and said, “Look man, don’t give me none of this she’s my sister business, she is your wife” (he didn’t quite speak like that, but you get the idea). Isaac confesses and Abimelech says, “what have you done, you could have brought guilt upon us.” Which is interesting, right. These people, even though they do not know or serve the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they know that certain things are wrong.
Which is something many philosophers, thinkers and theologians have explored. How this moral law written in our hearts, points us to a moral law giver—to God. Yet another thing for you to think about.
But here, Abimelech let’s everyone know that no one is to touch Rebekah as she is Isaac’s wife. The Lord blesses Isaac, as Abraham was, in his time in Gerar. He became very rich, and the Philistines envied him. So, they filled up all the wells that they used, even the ones that Abraham had dug up, and Abimelech ultimately asks him to leave for apparently Isaac had become more powerful than their entire kingdom.
He leaves and settles in the Velley of Gerar and has to re-dig up the wells that Abraham had dug up during his time there and that the Philistines had covered up. But when the water came out, the herdsmen of Gerar, fought them saying the water was theirs. So, Isaac moved and dug a new well, but they fought him about that one too.
So, he moved and dug a third well, and was finally left in peace to use it. He called Rehoboth, saying, “For now the Lord has made room for us and we shall be fruitful in the land.”
Then he went to Beersheba where the Lord appeared to him that same night he got there and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham's sake.” So, they built an altar there and dug another well.
Interestingly, Abimilech and his advisors where indeed very afraid of Isaac’s prosperity because they follow after Isaac and ask that he make a pact with them not to harm them. Isaac does.
Finally, we are told that when Esau was 48 years old, he took Judith and Basemath, daughters of two Hittites to be his wives. Not a wise move that we are quickly told made life “bitter” for Isaac and Rebekah.
And there is that word again, I believe the Scriptures are sounding the alarm on for us today: bitterness. Do not let it take root in you, fight it with all your heart. Trust in God, full trust in His Sovereignty and goodness and love for us, is the answer. “What can man do to me?” sung David in his Psalms, and it is affirmed for us again in Hebrews 13:6, “we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” Rest in that. And don’t fret. Do not let your anxieties rule, leave them at the foot of the Cross.
One last event at the end of Isaac’s life will mark the course of history. It’s an important one, we don’t want to rush it. So, we’ll live it for next time. It begins in chapter 27, if you want to study ahead before we meet again.
It should be fun. See you then.