The last time Jacob and Esau were under one roof it was a VERY tense situation. Maybe that is putting it a little lightly. The last time the two brothers were together it was more than tense… Esau wanted to kill his brother.
Many years have passed and now is the big moment… Esau is coming with his 400 men to Jacob's camp. Jacob’s mind is racing. What is Esau going to do? Will God really protect him? Did he send enough gifts to appease Esau’s anger? Well, he is about to find out.
Vs 1: Jacob looked up and saw Esau and divides his family. Even after being assured by an angel and blessed by God he is still acting out of fear. He wanted to preserve his family (which was a noble thing but as we will see unnecessary).
Vs 2: He divides them with the servant women and their children in the front, Leah and her children and Rachel and Joseph last. We do know that Jacob favored Rachel so it is probably no surprise that he divides them up the way he does.
Vs 3: Jacob goes before all of them. This is not the Jacob we are familiar with. He is no longer the coward who is bent on deceiving, running and hiding. He is a humbled man who met and wrestled with God and won. He was blessed by God and his new life has made him a new man. Still he was a little skeptical.
Vs 4: Esau’s response was not what Jacob was expecting. Jacob was cautiously going to his brother in humility, reverence and fear. However Esau runs out and embraces and kisses him. They wept together and no words are spoken. Forgiveness happens first then they speak.
The response of Esau is much like the response of the father in the story of the Prodigal son...
Vs 5: Jacob’s humility and repentance is evident in the way he speaks to Esau. He refers to Esau as lord and himself as “your servant.” This is a changed man. Not only is Jacob a changed man but we see his brother is as well.
Vs 11: Jacob in a sense is saying, “I feel bad about what I have done to you so take back what I have taken from you. God has given to me abundantly.” He insists on giving it back to Esau because if he does accept it then he will know Esau has forgiven him.
Vs 12 – 15: Jacob does not go with Esau to Seir. This may show that Jacob still does not trust Esau or it shows that Jacob needs to be obedient and do what God told him to do and go back to Canaan. I think the latter makes the most sense.
Vs 18 – 20: Jacob goes to Shechem and buys some land from the sons of Hamor. He erects an altar there.
In this account I believe the key theme is forgiveness. It is a wonderful account of how two brothers once at war are now reconciled to each other. Esau gives forgiveness and Jacob seeks and receives it. I think giving and receiving forgiveness comes easy to some and for others with great difficulty. Giving and receiving forgiveness go hand in hand. For example, if someone has difficulty showing forgiveness to others he/she is most likely will have a hard time receiving forgiveness as well.
The Greek word for forgiveness is aphiemi (a fee ah mee) and means “to let go” or “to leave”. We can see how Jacob would be reluctant to receive forgiveness because only the night before he was doing everything but letting go of God. He was determined and clung to God with all he had. So in order for him to receive forgiveness he would have to let go (which some see as a sign of weakness) and this was not something that came naturally to Jacob. We also see something that may not have come naturally to Esau. He has a complete turnaround. Esau has a change of heart. His hard murderous heart was turned to a soft heart willing to forgive. He was willing to let go of the past wrong doings of his brother and his murderous heart has turned to compassion and forgiveness.
If you are a follower of Christ you know what it is like to receive forgiveness. You have received the ultimate pardon of sin through faith in Jesus Christ. Because of his sacrifice you have received forgiveness. This however does not make one perfect. We remain sinful individuals. There is a saying that goes like this, “Christians are not perfect… they are forgiven.” Since we are imperfect the end result is sin against God and we do hurt those around us. Thus there is a need for continual seeking of forgiveness. There are sins that can and will hinder our fellowship with God temporarily. This hindering and in some cases severing does not cause us to lose our salvation, it does however affect our relationship and fellowship with God which ultimately leads to being out of God’s will. Unfortunately as imperfect believers we still have the capability of hindering and severing relationships with those we love (with our words and even our actions); we have a “falling out” with someone, and we have the nature to do and say things that can bring discord. Yet all is not lost. Even though our sins can and do hinder our relationship with God and others we are reminded that in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." According to the Bible Reader’s Companion, “Confessing sins is not 'saying you’re sorry.' It is agreeing with God that a particular act is sin—and thus taking sides with Him and against yourself. What happens if we confess our sins to God? Then God forgives our sins and continues the process of purification from unrighteousness the Spirit has begun in us. What happens if we make excuses, or refuse to acknowledge a particular act was sin? We put up a barrier between ourselves and God.”In Christ we can know that we are truly forgiven if we confess our sins to God and seek his forgiveness. If we ask for forgiveness we will receive forgiveness. What happens if we confess our wrong doings to others and seek forgiveness and they do not give it? That is not up to us to determine. We are commanded seek and receive forgiveness because God first forgave us.
Maybe forgiveness is really something you struggle with. Maybe there is someone in your life who has wronged you and you honestly feel like you cannot forgive. Or maybe you need to seek forgiveness from someone. May I give you some challenging words and encouragement? Before I do this I do acknowledge that I know showing forgiveness and asking for forgiveness is not always easy (trust me I know all too well). This is something that must be bathed in much prayer but it is possible.
Richards, L. O. (1991; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996). The Bible readers companion (electronic ed.) (892). Wheaton: Victor Books.
I know it has been quite a few days since my last devotional. Since this is the case I am going to quickly touch on Genesis 29 - 31 with a brief overview and spend most of the time in Genesis 32. I would encourage you to take some time today (or this week) and read through these chapters on your own and allow God to speak to you.
Genesis 29 - 31
We last left Jacob fleeing for his life from his brother. He goes to his uncle’s home. In these passages Jacob gets married – two wives (Rachel & Leah) and He was tricked and deceived into marrying Leah. The deceiver is deceived. He ultimately ends up working 14 years for two wives.
Chapter 30 gives account of Jacobs 11 sons and one daughter from four different mothers (Rachel, Leah, their servants Bilhah and Zilpah). Not only did Jacob grow in size of family but also he began to prosper.
He desires to leave and go back to his home country but Laban tells him he should stay because success is coming to Laban as a result of Jacob. Jacob’s prosperity eventually puts him at odds with his brother-in-laws and his deception gets him in trouble with his father-in-law. Fearing for his life Jacob takes his family undercover of the night and leaves his father-in-laws household. Laban notices they left and he pursues Jacob and catches up with him. They talk to each other and eventually make a covenant. Laban is able to see his daughters and grand children off properly.
Jacob can be considered many things (a scoundrel, a mama’s boy, a deceiver, etc.) but in this account he is seen as a man of persistent prayer… Or as I call it Jacob is a stubborn pray-er.
Vs 1 - 5: It has been 20 years since Jacob’s last encounter with God (Ladder). He is in a situation where God has told him to go back to his homeland. Jacob meets with God’s angels… This is to show that God is with him. We are not told what they talked about.
He sends messengers to his brother Esau in the land of Seir and essentially sends him gifts. He tells his brother he is wealthy and he is willing to consider everything that has happened as water under the bridge. The messengers inform Jacob that Esau is coming with 400 men.
Vs 6 - 8: Naturally upon hearing this Jacob is freaked out. He is scared. He is unsure what his brother is going to do. He is fearful that he may come and try to kill Jacob and his wives and children. He comes up with a plan to divide his camp in two. This way if one camp is destroyed there will still be another one left. His memory may have failed him as just moments before the Angels were assuring him that they would be with him.
Jacob’s response is fairly typical. He does what we humans do best in desperate times. He goes into defense mode and devises a plan on his own and then eventually goes to God in prayer. I am so much like Jacob – how often I forget that prayer should always be my first response, not my second, third or last resort. This is how the process goes...
1. Oh no, there's a problem... Ok, I have everything under control God.
2. Oh wait, maybe I don’t… help!
3. God this is what I want to do so PLEASE bless it!
This is pretty much what Jacob's prayer looked like. However, his prayer may have come out of desperation; it is a persistent prayer nonetheless.
Vs 9 - 12: Jacob reminds God of his promises. This wasn’t because God forgot about it. I like what George Mueller wrote, “I argue with God not to convince him but to convince me.” Wherever we may be in our lives (desperate, scared, needy, hopeless, helpless, or uncertain) we need to be reminded of the necessity of prayer… More so the need for persistent prayer. Jacob was desperate but God eventually met with him. God will always meet you if you take the time to meet with him.
Jacob asks to be delivered from the hand of his brother. He admits his vulnerability and fear. After sending a large gift to his brother, Jacob sent his families away and he was left alone.
Vs 22 – 31: That evening a man comes and wrestles with Jacob all night long. We find out a little later that this man was indeed the Lord himself. Was it Jesus? Probably. Why were they wrestling? We are not told. All we know is Jacob wrestles with God until the morning.
Some may look at this wrestling match as pointless because we all know, one can never win when he fights God. But I challenge you to question that logic. Can someone truly prevail when fighting God? The answer is yes! Jacob did. But his victory may not look like the victory we are used to seeing.
In the midst of the struggle (hours of grueling and sweaty grappling) the Lord pulls an “uncle” move on Jacob’s by simply touching his hip and putting it out of its joint. God did this not because he was tired and couldn’t win but so Jacob could finish victorious. This is how Jacob was victorious.
a. Once his hip was dislocated Jacob clung all the tighter to the Lord.
b. The Lord tells him to let go. Jacob refuses and hold on tighter.
c. He refuses to let go unless the Lord blesses him.
d. Jacob is not going to leave empty handed. He knows God has promised victory. He has promised offspring. He has promised land and blessings. Jacob knew what God had promised him and he was not going to give up the fight. He knew the promises of God were worth fighting for. Does this ring true in your life? Do you believe God’s promises to you are worth fighting for? I do.
This is a major turning point in the life of Jacob. He lived a life of lies. He tricked people. He deceived people. He lied and cheated his way in life. In fact his name was, “Jacob” AKA “deceiver”. He tells God that this is his name. He confesses who he is. He says, I am not Esau, I am Jacob. Jacob confesses his true nature to God. He is deception, trickery and a liar. Everything he has and done up to this point was received or done by deception and trickery. He confesses and repents of his past.
God responds, “You are no longer ‘deceiver’, you are now Israel” which means “God fights”. Blessing usually comes in the form of name change… Abram & Sarai. Jacob is no longer the deceiver; he is now a humbled man who allows God to fight his fights… He will no longer fight his own battles. He will no longer deceive and trick. He will be a man who is dependant on God. He is the man who has humbled or submitted himself to God and in this submission and humility there is victory.
In his fight with God Jacob won by losing or submitting. This rings true for all of us today. Jesus tells us that if we want life we must lose life. Jesus conquered death by allowing himself to be defeated by it. This fight between man and God has a wonderful picture of grace. In this fight I see three acts of God’s grace.
After Jacob received his blessing he called the place Peniel – which means “face of God”. Jacob met face to face with God and lived to tell about it. He wrestled God and he prevailed by losing. In his Spiritual grudge match Jacob was ensured safety and blessing and his limp would be a constant reminder that he was a blessed man.
What is our take away for today?
Vs 1 – 5: Jacob is blessed & sent to Laban - Isaac instructs Jacob not to marry a Canaanite woman and tells him to take a wife from his Uncle’s family. The blessing of Isaac is very similar to the blessing of Abraham (it contains all the components). This is the first time Jacob is designated by Isaac as the heir of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Vs 6 – 9: Esau responds by marrying an Ishmaelite - Esau’s intention of marrying an Ishmaelite woman was probably one way of trying to appease his parents. He thought if he took a wife from his family it would please his parents. Gordon Wenham writes, “Esau decides to marry a daughter of Ishmael. That it was only after he heard Isaac sending Jacob off that he realized his wives were unpopular suggests Esau was rather slow-witted.”
Vs 8: “So when Esau saw that Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father…” Amazingly he was oblivious to his parents loathing of his wives. They either hid it well or he was not a very bright man.
Vs 10 – 15: Jacob leaves home and heads toward Haran and stops for the evening. It is at this point Jacob probably feels lonely, vulnerable and afraid. He was forced to leave his home (for his own safety) and now he was alone in the wilderness with no protection or a place to spend the night. When nighttime comes he takes a stone and uses it for a pillow (not the most comfortable of pillows). As he drifts off into sleep Jacob has a dream. The dream is significant and intended to encourage, assure and bless Jacob in his time of despair. There are three features to this dream that we should focus our attention.
God uses this dream to meet and speak with Jacob. What is interesting to note is this is the first encounter he has with God. It is possible that up to this point Jacob may not have been committed wholly to the God of his father. He may not have even been a monotheist. However in this vision God assures Jacob that He will be with him and protect him no matter where he goes. Jacob does not and cannot know what the future holds for him. As far as he knows he is going to be stuck in the wilderness without any land, blessing or inheritance from his earthly father. God lets him know he will be fine. God is sovereign over Jacob’s situation and over the world. Not only will God be with and protect him but he will bring Jacob back to the land of Promise. At this point Jacob is leaving the land but God will bring him back. He is unaware that it will be about two decades until this happens but this promise is something Jacob has to hold on to for the remainder of his life.
Vs 16 – 17: When Jacob awakes from the dream he realizes that he was in the presence of God and he was afraid. He was a sinful man in the presence of a holy God so there should be sense of awe and reverence. His fear led him to the understanding of the awesome presence of the Lord. Here is a man who was in the presence of the Lord and did not know it and once he realizes his encounter with God he is overcome with repentance, awe and worship. He says, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate to heaven!” Jacob is overcome by the presence of God and He responds appropriately as one who has come face to face with God.
Vs 18 – 22: When he wakes in the morning Jacob makes a vow to God and builds a pillar and pours oil over it to commemorate his encounter and to mark this as the gateway to God’s house. His vow includes a promise to serve the Lord His God as long as the LORD will be with him, protect him and provide for him. He essentially gives himself as a living sacrifice to the Lord as an act of worship. It is here that Jacob commits himself to the one and only True God. This once again is a natural response as he makes the vow to serve and he gives a tithe in worship.
This beautiful passage continually reminds me of God’s sovereignty, his protection, and his presence amidst his people. It is a wonderful reminder that God is present and active with us today. The passage has led me to ask many questions and it challenges me to look at how this encounter with God can relate to us today.
One of the saddest things that I see today is when God does show up and many people don’t even know it. This is a sad because it is a common occurrence. Some people are so tied up in either the world or themselves that sometimes God shows up and they are so focused on other things they miss out on what God is up to. This may be common for someone who has an agenda and he is determined to have his will done regardless of what God is doing. He is so focused on getting what He wants that he cannot hear or sense God and his plan. Some are so consumed in the world and the cares of the world that they could care less if God showed up or not.
It is vitally important to be sensitive to God’s presence. Whether you feel him or not, He is present with you. He is in the midst of his people right now. I want to encourage you today to be sensitive to his presence because He does still speak through visions, dreams and his Word. He is active in this world and in each of your lives. I can’t give you exact details as to how God’s presence is made known to you. Really that is something you must determine through prayer, wise counsel and His Word. I think what is most important for us to take with us today is to know that when God does show up lives are changed and we are transformed into his likeness for his glory.
 Wenham, G. J. (1998). Vol. 2: Genesis 16 - 50. Word Biblical Commentary (214). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
The story of Isaac, Rebekah, Esau and Jacob would make a great television show. It contains all the components for saucy soap opera, dysfunction, parental favoritism, deception, complete disregard for doing what is right and revenge.
Vs 1 - 4: Isaac was old and he was blind or close to being blind. We are told this beforehand so we know how Jacob is going to trick his father. Jacob and Rebekah will use Isaac’s handicap to deceive him. Isaac calls Esau to him tells his son to make a meal for him that he loves (Esau was a hunter and he would make delicious food for his father) so he could eat the meal and then bless Esau because he was nearing death. This could have been his last meal of sorts. I wonder that If Esau made life bitter for his parents then why was he still Isaac’s favorite and why was he so determined to bless him and not Jacob? Being that Jacob was a natural son he was entitled to a blessing, but this private meeting with Esau shows us Isaac was determined to bless Esau and potentially leave nothing for Jacob (and his siblings). We are told that Isaac loved Esau more than Jacob because Esau was the man’s man, the hunter who brought home meat for his father to eat. It is apparent that Isaac got a lot of enjoyment out of the food his son made. Regardless of the fact that Esau was rebellious and made life bitter for his parents Isaac favored him because Esau did good things for him… i.e. made him tasty food. Was food or his appetite his vice or idol or is it symbolic of Isaac’s bondage to sensuality or instant gratification?
Vs 5 - 7: Rebekah (Isaac’s wife) overheard or she was eaves dropping on the conversation between Isaac and Esau. Upon hearing it she devises a plan to deceive Isaac into blessing her favorite son Jacob over Esau. Reminder Jacob was a momma’s boy and Esau was Isaac’s favorite. I believe this whole scheme is designed around the fact that she favored Jacob and was angry with her husband because he was going to bless Esau. She knew that Esau had blatantly disobeyed the family tradition of not marrying Canaanites and that this was enough to disqualify him from receiving the blessing passed down from Abraham.
Vs 8 - 13: “obey my voice as I command you.” This sentence tells us this was a premeditated act. This was not something she just thought up. She had thought this through and devises a detailed plan to trick her husband. She knew it was wrong and she knew Jacob knew it was wrong. This is why she tells him to obey her. Regardless of his conscience he was commanded to obey his mother’s wishes and disregard his father’s will. In these first thirteen verses we are given a glimpse at the complete dysfunction of the family.
She tells Jacob to kill two young goats and she would prepare a meal for Isaac. Jacob would then receive the blessing. The only problem… Esau was hairy and Jacob was not. Rebekah’s plan involved putting the goat hair skin on Jacob’s hands, arms and neck so when Isaac touched him he would think he was touching Esau. Naturally Jacob was afraid of being caught. He was worried that his dad would find out the truth and then curse him instead of bless him. His mother assures him that if he is found out then the curse should fall on her. However curses (just like blessings) cannot be transferred down. So his willingness to comply with her shows that he is on board with her.
“Obey only my voice…” Could Jacob have questioned his mother? Was he reluctant to go through with this? Jacob could have been conflicted in what to do and his mother is just assuring or telling him that he is to only obey her.
Vs 14 - 17: Rebekah prepares the meal, gets clothes for Jacob and puts the goat hair skins on her son. She is the one who does all of the work. This once again shows Jacob’s reluctance. He wasn’t playing an active role in devising the plan and making it come to pass.
Vs 18 – 25: Jacob now brings the meal to his father. From the beginning Isaac is a bit skeptical as to who is speaking to him. He notices the voice sounds like Jacob but he feels and smells like Esau. Since the boys were twins their voices may have had some similarities that made it difficult for Isaac to tell the two apart. Notice up to this point Jacob does not play an active role in the deception; he just does what his mother tells him. However now he boldly lies to his father by stating and convincing him he is Esau. He may have been reluctant but now he is 100% involved and committed to this deception.
The Lies of Jacob
1. I am Esau
2. The Lord granted me success
3. Isaac: Are you really my son? Jacob: I am
Vs 26 – 29: Isaac blesses Jacob and then eats the meal. Jacob kisses his father and Isaac smells his son. This may have been one more test to see if this was in fact Esau. Since Rebekah put Esau’s clothes on Jacob his smell and odor was probably in the material and Isaac is satisfied to bless him.
“See the smell… the Lord has blessed!” The blessing is intended for Esau but is pronounced over Jacob. God has granted him success in the field… He was a skilled man of the earth (hunter) and God had blessed him.
Vs 30 – 38: After Isaac blesses Jacob Esau comes in from his hunt and prepared a meal for his father. He brings the meal to his father expecting a blessing and what he finds out will forever change his relationship with his brother. When he finds out Jacob deceived his father and stole his blessing Esau is infuriated and desperate for a blessing. He demands a blessing from his father. Esau now realizes that he has no birth right and no blessing from the father. It is only now that he realizes what he gave away for such a small price. “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” Esau is aware that the blessing of Jacob could not be taken back so he desired a blessing for himself. There was nothing left. Everything was given to Jacob (this shows us Isaac intended to give nothing to Jacob).
Vs 41 – 46: The end result is Esau hates his brother Jacob and we can hardly blame him for his feelings. The hatred was festering in his heart and his mother hears Esau say that he plans on killing his brother for stealing his blessing. Rebekah responds by warning Jacob and sends him away to her brother Laban. Her hope is that Esau’s anger will subside and one day the two can co-exist; but for now this will not happen so Jacob needs to flee for his life.
Dangers of Deception
As any good modern soap opera comes to a conclusion we are left with a cliff hanger. What is going to happen to the family? Will Jacob and his brother ever make amends? What will happen now to Jacob as he goes to his uncle’s farm? Will Esau ever get revenge? Stay tuned next week for our dramatic conclusion to “Deceiver”.
As we see that amidst all this dysfunction and deception God’s will is still being done… but not without some casualties. The overall lesson to learn in this account is that even though it may seem Jacob’s deception was successful there are many dangers to thinking that deception is a good thing. I have noted three dangers of deception.
Vs 1: In this chapter we will look primarily at Isaac’s interactions with King Abimelech and the Philistines. We are told there was a “Famine in the land” - The former famine is the one spoken of in Chapter 12 when Abraham and Sarai went to Egypt. The story of Isaac and Rebekah have many similarities to Abraham’s and Sarah's adventures except they did not go to Egypt. Isaac instead goes to Gerar to Abimelech the King of the Philistines (a side note, it is believed this is not the same Philistines spoken of in Judges and Samuel for the “real Philistines” did not come to Canaan until 1200 B.C.) These Philistines were relatively peaceful and did not war with Isaac.
Vs 2 – 5: “The LORD appeared to him…” The LORD (YHWH) makes an appearance to Isaac and specifically tells him not to go to Egypt (like his father did). Generally when a famine occurred people would go to Egypt. God tells him to dwell in the land that God will show him. Not only is he to go but God says He is going to go with him. Notice God does not say he will go before him or after him, but WITH him AND he will BLESS him. This statement is huge because it is Isaac’s guarantee for success. Since God will go with him he will be successful regardless of the circumstances. This statement in itself should have comforted and assured Isaac that wherever he went or whatever crisis he faced God would be with him. Not only will God be with him but he will also bless him. God’s divine presence will be with him wherever he is and will protect him in all situations.
God continues with reiterating the blessing of his father Abraham PLUS all nations will be blessed. This is the first time God makes this specific statement in regards to blessing the nations. I love how God’s promise keeps getting better and better; not because it needed to be “new and improved” but because of Abraham’s obedience and God’s kindness he will do more than bless Abraham, Isaac and their offspring… He will also bless the nations because of them. Isn't God’s grace a marvelous thing?
Vs 6 – 8: Isaac settles in Gerar (this would be a great memory verse for those who have a hard time memorizing scripture). It is in the next couple of verses we see that even when God himself promises to be with and protect Isaac his faith and trust waivers. Isaac was afraid to tell the men of Gerar that Rebekah was his wife because she was beautiful. He does not know what the people of this area are like and he doesn’t trust that they will be kind to him or may even kill him if they only knew she was his wife. He quickly forgets that God led him to this place, He was with him and He was going to bless him. There was no need for Isaac to be deceptive because God had made a promise. Regardless he makes a bad choice and lies about Rebekah being his wife and claims she is his sister. This lie soon becomes a point of tension. Ironically deception becomes an even bigger issue in the years to come with his son Jacob.
“Had been there a long time…” Apparently Isaac and Rebekah have been in the area for some time without issue. Interestingly nobody has made an advance toward Rebekah and she remains a single woman. So it seems Isaac’s fears were unfounded. One day the king was looking out his window and sees Isaac “laughing” (ESV) or most bibles read, “Caressing” his wife Rebekah. The ESV translates it “laughing” because the Hebrew word used here is taken from the root word that means laughter. Either way the implication is that something intimate is happening that should only be shared by husband and wife.
Vs 9 – 11: King Abimelech is a God fearing man. His response to Isaac shows that he knows his deception was wrong and it could have potentially led to someone taking Rebekah as his wife and committing adultery with her. Abimelech apparently has contempt for sin.
He tells the people of Gerar that they are not to touch Isaac and his wife. Anybody who does will be killed.
Vs 12 - 16: During the famine Isaac sowed and reaped a hundredfold. This is written to show that God was indeed blessing and providing for Isaac as he had promised. His successful harvest just solidified the fact that He did the right thing by trusting God and not going to Egypt. His success is yet another indicator of divine blessing. He became an influential man in the land. The NET Bible says, “His influence continued to grow until he became a prominent man.” His success and possessions were so great that people began to envy him which did ultimately lead to aggressive measures. The Philistines filled all of the wells that his father had dug probably out of spite and jealousy of Isaac’s blessing (unbeknownst to the king). His wealth and possessions also worried King Abimelech as he tells Isaac to leave their land because he was becoming too powerful.
Vs 17 - 22: Isaac leaves and settles in the valley of Gerar. It is here that he realizes that the wells his father dug were filled; so he has them dug up again. Once they found water some herdsmen came and fought with Isaac and his clan and demanded that the wells belong to them. Isaac decided not to fight back and we are not sure if he chose not out of cowardice or out of the desire to keep the peace. He names the well Esek because there was contention at this well. By all rights the wells belonged to Isaac but he did not retaliate and instead went out and dug another well with pretty much the same response. He named the second well Sitnah which means enmity. He digs up a third well and no fights break out and he named it Rehoboth which means room or broad places.
Vs 23 – 25: The LORD appears again to Isaac at Beersheba and assures him of his promise. Isaac responds by building an altar and worshiping God. His servants also dig a well and name it Shibah (Oath) and the name of the city that is located there is called Beersheba (Vs 32,33).
Vs 26 – 31: Abimelech came to Isaac with his adviser and commander of the army to make a treaty with Isaac. Obviously Isaac is a bit reluctant or cautious with their visit since Abimelech recently kicked him out of his land. Isaac asks why they have come to him since they made it clear they hated him. Abimelech’s response is important for us to note, “We plainly see the LORD has been with you…” Isaac’s success, material possessions and way he lived his life clearly indicated that God was walking with him. His faith was evident and the Philistines wanted what he had. They wanted to be allies because they saw the God Isaac served was blessing him and they wanted that for themselves.
Isaac makes them a feast and exchange oaths. He sent the king and his men away in peace. It is here in this passage we now see the promise of God fulfilled in Isaac as he has become a blessing. Since the oath is done Abimelech is indirectly securing a blessing on him and his people.
I can’t help but notice when God is involved in whatever affairs of his chosen people good things happen. They may not always be easy to face or endure but when God is with his people his will is accomplished. The key passage I want to drive home today is “I will be with you…” When God declares that he will be with you then you can rest assured that He will be with you. Here are three observations in this passage.
 Wenham, G. J. (1998). Vol. 2: Genesis 16 - 50. Word Biblical Commentary (188). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
It is in chapter 25 the story of Abraham comes to a conclusion and the story of Isaac begins.
Vs 11: Abraham had a good long life… 175 years. This means he had lived in the Promised Land for 100 years. When he died Isaac and Ishmael buried their father with Sarah. “God blessed Isaac”.
Vs 12 – 18: The family history of Ishmael. He lived to be 137 years old. He also becomes the patriarch of 12 tribes (sons) thus receiving the promise of God as well.
Vs 19 – 20: Our attention is now shifted to the life and blessing of Isaac.
Isaac and Rebekah married when he was forty years old. This means that it could have been three years from the time she left her home to the point of marriage.
Vs 21: Rebekah was unable to have children, thus we continue to see God uses mightily the barren for his glory. Isaac takes the initiative and persistently prays for her. As we will soon find out he prays for 20 years to have a child before the Lord grants his request.
Vs 22 – 23: God answers Isaac’s prayer (in his timing) and gives him more than he asks for. Rebekah has twins in her womb but it was a difficult pregnancy. The pregnancy is so difficult Rebekah wonders if she wants to go on living. We see even in the womb a sibling rivalry beginning (and this is merely the beginning). Gordon Wenham writes, “Their firs battlefield is their mother’s womb.”
She was concerned with this pregnancy so she inquires of the LORD (Probably goes to a prophet or prays). An answer is given to her in a prophecy… From the outside looking in it is nothing eye opening but what Rebekah hears is certainly a shock and probably a concern.
Two nations – two children (both will be the father of a nation… Jacob - Israel & Esau - Edom). Israel and Edom will not be friendly with each other, and also there will be conflict between the brothers and nations. The older shall serve the younger – Jacob will be the dominant brother even though Esau is technically the first born.
Vs 23 – 26: When the twins were born the conflict was still in full swing. Esau (which means red) was the first born, he was a hairy red baby… and clutching at his heal was his younger brother Jacob (takes by the heel or he cheats). Interestingly there was even in ancient times a prejudice against red haired people. Judas Iscariot is depicted as red head in medieval art.
Isaac is 60 years old. Twenty years Isaac prays for his wife and he ends up with sons who can’t stop fighting since being in the womb. Regardless Isaac and Rebekah must be ecstatic.
Vs 27: Fast forward a number of years (doesn’t tell us how many)… I wonder what their actual childhood was like. Esau becomes a skilled hunter and a man of the field. You can imagine him as a big hairy brute… a true man’s man. Jacob… well he was a quiet son… what on earth does this mean? Jacob liked to stay home; he was a momma’s boy. Ironically when the word quiet is used to describe a person it means “perfect” however we find Jacob is far from this. Isaac favored Esau because he loved that he brought home meat to eat. We see now that Isaac is a man of prayer who loves his food. We see that he could certainly be adding fuel to the rivalry fire between the brothers because he favors Esau over Jacob. However Rebekah favors Jacob. Why? Maybe because he was the quiet home body or maybe because she knew God was going to bless him. Either way we see some dysfunction going on here. Parental favoritism is a recipe for destruction and the cause of great conflict in the future.
Vs 29 – 34: This is an important account because it describes how the younger brother gains the right to the inheritance of the father. The way this opening verse is written there is a play on words. “Jacob was cooking stew” could also be translated “Jacob set up a trap by cooking.” It is here the hunter becomes the hunted. The tactics Jacob uses to trick his brother into giving up his birthright are deceptive and premeditated.
Esau comes in from the hunt and is famished. He asks his brother to feed him the red stew (probably a meat stew) that he is cooking. The only thing on Esau’s mind is food and he is literally willing to give anything for something to eat. His desire to eat was dictating his life. The text is intended to paint Esau in a negative light; he is supposed to be depicted as a ravenous animal whose only concern is eating. Jacob on the other hand is depicted as a calculated deceiver who intends on cashing in on his brothers weakness. He responds, “Sell me your birthright now.” He didn’t mince words here. In other words he says, “Before I give you anything to eat you must first give me your birthright.” Jacob has no intention of feeding or serving his brother until he agrees to sell his birthright and give Jacob what he wants.
What’s so important about a birthright? Glad you asked… The firstborn is always held in high esteem and with special regard. He was privileged, he was the recipient of the first fruits of the father and he was regarded as blessed by God. The firstborn would receive double the portion of any other brother in family. It was a special blessing. It was an extraordinary gift to be the first born. It was a special gift that only the eldest could acquire. So naturally Jacob would want this right. By all rights it belongs to Esau but his response is, “I’m about to die, of what use is the birthright to me?” Essentially he was saying, “I want to eat and I want to eat now. I don’t care about the birthright anyhow so give me something to eat.” When in reality all Esau had to do was get up and get the food for himself but because of his impatience and ill regard for the birthright he sells it to his brother for a bowl of soup. This only begins to pave the way for future loss of blessing for Esau.
In return Jacob gives him not the meaty stew Esau wanted but he gives him a dish of lentils and bread. Esau did not complain. He ate drank and went away. Esau despised the birthright means that he treated this extraordinary gift with disdain and impertinence.
The Call to Persistent in Prayer – Isaac prays for his wife for 20 yrs. That’s a long time. I am sure there are times when he felt his prayers were falling on deaf ears but he continued to persistently pray. Eventually God answers Isaac in the way he hopes. I do believe God desires we continually pray. We are told in I Thessalonians “Pray without ceasing…” I believe this means we are to be persistent in prayer. God does hear and He will answer according to His will.
The Dangers of Impatience – Thankfully Isaac doesn’t give up. Esau on the other hand does give up his birthright because he wants what he wants NOW! He gives up his precious birthright (something that will benefit him greatly in the future and is exclusively for him) for a meal right now (Think of Wimpy from Popeye). We live in a McWorld where we can have anything we want and we can have it now. Sometimes we compromise our values or we just cannot patiently wait. Sometimes we go through things in our life and we feel we cannot patiently endure but we are told in James 1:3 – 4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Patience builds your faith. Impatience causes us to make bad choices.
The Danger of Allowing the Extraordinary Become Ordinary – The Birthright was a blessing and Esau was willing to sell it for a bowl of soup. How often do we take for granted the wonderful blessings God has given us? How often will we exchange the blessings of God for a cheap thrill? This is one of the greatest deceptions of sin. Sin tells us what it has to offer will be far better that anything God can give you; because it is immediate and seemingly satisfying. This is why we so easily give in to temptation. Think of it this way. If Christians firmly believed that what God has to offer is far better than what the world has to offer then Christianity would look drastically different. I think of the gift of salvation, God has given to us his wonderful and perfect son as a sacrifice and atonement for the sins of humanity. He has provided us with his Spirit and the call to live holy lives. But we can so easily take it for granted. We justify our sin because we know God will forgive us. May God help us when we start allowing the extraordinary Gospel of Jesus Christ become ordinary and common truth in our lives?
  Wenham, G. J. (1998). Vol. 2: Genesis 16 - 50. Word Biblical Commentary (175). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
Preview or buy my books
I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.