Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 25:29-34

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.

Here we have the famous scene of Esau selling his birthright for a mess of pottage. Of course, God had already foretold that his covenant blessings would be continued through Jacob, not Esau, and I wonder whether Jacob was aware of that prophecy, or if he was fulfilling it unknowingly.

There are those who decry Jacob for taking advantage of his brother, though personally his methods have in these verses have never disturbed me. Esau might have said “I am at the point to die,” but he was still walking and talking, hardly the behavior of someone who is literally at death’s door. And if Esau was willing to trade the blessings of God to satiate his hunger, then he didn’t deserve to have it in the first place. He was literally valuing the things of the body more than the things of God. Even after Esau had taken care of his physical needs it then describes him as simply rising up and walking away, not showing the slightest sign of remorse at the priceless birthright that he had just given up.

And no doubt Esau’s temporal-focused mindset was evident in the way he lived his life, even before this moment. Jacob would have known that his brother would never honor and cherish God’s birthright in the same way that he would. Perhaps part of the reason why Esau was willing to sell the birthright was because he knew it, too.

There is a good deal of supposition from me in all of that, but I do think there is enough room for doubt that we shouldn’t try to judge Jacob on the matter. Maybe he was in the wrong, but also maybe he was not. And in any case, this whole exchange was only a bit of human theatrics, it did not actually change either man’s destiny. God had already determined where the blessings would go years prior, and Esau and Jacob were merely playing into his foreordained plan.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 25:24-28

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.

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.

I imagine that this detail about Jacob reaching out and taking hold of Esau’s heel was preserved to us by Rebekah. Because of what God had foretold of her twins, she would have been the most likely to perceive the significance in the younger brother grabbing hold of the other’s heel, as if to catch and surpass him.

From the very moment of their birth the two were opposites to one another, and so they continued throughout the rest of their lives. Esau became hairy and wild and beloved of his father, Jacob smooth and calm and beloved of his mother.

Esau was expected to receive Isaac’s blessing and inheritance, because that was what the culture of the time said should happen. But God had already revealed to Rebekah that the custom of firstborn sons receiving the inheritance meant very little to Him. He would not be choosing Isaac’s successor based on which son happened to be born first, but on which of the sons was worthy.

God’s choice of Jacob over Esau reminds me of another firstborn that he passed over years later, when Samuel the prophet was looking for the next king of Israel. Samuel was going to anoint Eliab, Jesse’s firstborn, but the Lord told him “I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Then and now, what matters to God are not the random circumstances of our birth, but the intentional choices of our life.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 25:19, 21-23

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

21 And Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was entreated 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 inquire 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.

Isaac’s story only begins in earnest after Abraham has passed away. I have mentioned before that some people, such as Abraham, seem to have a story so expansive that it is necessary to get out from under their umbrella before one’s own narrative begins. Up until this moment the only word or action we heard from Isaac was when he walked through the field to meet Rebekah for the first time. Here, though, we learn that he, like his father, had a special relationship with God. Rebekah was unable to bear children, so Isaac spoke to the Lord for her sake, and God healed her.

That exchange sounds very simple. Evidently God was more than ready to heal Rebekah, but perhaps He waited for Isaac’s petition to start cultivating that God-Son relationship with him. Admittedly the relationship between God and Isaac is only briefly touched on in the Bible, not nearly so much as it was detailed with Abraham, his father, or as it will be with Jacob, his son.

However, we do get some special insights into God’s relationship with Rebekah. In these verses we read how she felt her twin children struggling in her womb, and went to inquire of the Lord why it was so. This already shows her quality of faith, believing that she could receive understanding for the simple matters of life. And indeed, she did. Long before the drama would play out between Esau and Jacob, Rebekah already knew from God what would happen and who would prevail over the other. Later on, when she helped Jacob to secure his father’s blessing, she was only helping him into the larger story that she already knew God intended for him.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 25:11-17

11 And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahai-roi.

12 Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid, bare unto Abraham:

13 And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam,

14 And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa,

15 Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah:

16 These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations.

17 And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people.

Before we dive into the story of Isaac we have this summation of Ishmael, his life, and his family. Ishmael became a father to twelve sons, twelve princes who had towns and castles, powerful men in their own right. It is an interesting parallel that Ishmael’s legacy expands with twelve sons and Isaac’s legacy will be defined by twelve grandsons.

Of course, Ishmael’s line would eventually become the Islamic people, who have had a long and complicated relationship with the Israelites. But all of that drama would come later. For the duration of the Bible the Israelites competed more with the descendants of Lot (Moabites and Ammonites), Esau (Edomites), and Keturah (Midianites) than they did with the descendants of Ishmael.

So, this is where we take our leave of Ishmael and the nation that came from him. From here on out our focus is solely on Isaac and his posterity.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 25:7-10

7 And these are the days of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years.

8 Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.

9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre;

10 The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.

Here we have the end of Abraham’s story. 175 years, many of them spent in tents beneath the stars, but with numerous travels in between. For years he waited for his promised son, and in the end he sired not one, but two, great nations. He raised a mighty household, fought in battle, and was a digger of wells. His death brought back together his two first sons, Isaac and Ishmael, who laid him to rest with his wife, Sarah, in the cave he purchased for them.

Looking back at his story what stands out to me is that Abraham was steady and flexible at the same time, like a strong reed. His experiences required a great deal of shifting and adapting, moving with life as it rose and fell, yet through all that change he also maintained a steady faith in Jehovah, and followed God’s instructions to the letter. He was bold enough to campaign to God that Sodom and Gomorrah should be spared for the sake of the righteous, but also willing to acquiesce in the event that those righteous could not be found.

Another quality that stands out is Abraham’s great trust that things would work out. When he and Lot parted ways he accepted the worse portion of land. When Lot was again captured by armies he gave battle to them. When instructed to set Ishmael and his mother free he did so. When tasked with sacrificing his own son he complied. None of these were pleasant tasks, things that anyone would naturally want to do, things that one would expect to find success in. But he did them all anyway, and as he had been promised, all of them worked out for his good.

The third quality that stands out to me is Abraham’s deep sense of duty. All throughout his story we see examples of him giving his God, his family, and his neighbor what each of them is due. He treated them all with courtesy, even when he had received offense from them or their household, as in the case of Abimelech’s servants. Two scenes that particularly show Abraham’s good manners is how he receives the three heavenly messengers before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and how he negotiates with Ephron to buy the burying place for Sarah.

Abraham made a deep influence on the lives of those who knew him, but his heritage at this point was very small. The righteous nation God had promised would not manifest for a few generations more, but when it did it would be built upon the foundation that he so faithfully laid down.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 25:1-2, 5-6

1 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.

2 And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.

5 And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.

6 But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.

After Sarah’s passing Abraham took another wife, who bare him six sons that we hardly hear anything about. Abraham gave gifts to all of these sons and then sent them away to establish their own households, retaining the full inheritance for Isaac. Giving the inheritance to a single son was a common custom of the time, but more than that, God had chosen Isaac to carry on His covenant, and not the other sons.

Similarly, God would select only one of Isaac’s sons to receive the covenant promise: Jacob. But then, in the next generation, all of Jacob’s twelve sons would be included in the covenant, not just one. Thus, the decision for how the covenant was passed along to each generation was God’s to make, and then the father’s inheritance followed suit.

While God’s reasoning for which sons he chose for the covenant are not always elaborated, we do see in the case of Jacob and Esau that God selected the son who was more faithful. It seems likely that the continuation of the covenant was based on one’s worthiness, rather than a matter of random election.