Thursday, January 20, 2011

Genesis 25 & 26 - A Birthright and Like Father, Like Son

LINK: Genesis 25 & 26


The most notable of the children of Abraham's concubines is Midian because his descendants, the Midianites, gave Israel trouble. We will read more about them in Judges 6 where "Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites."

He gave gifts to the children of his concubines and sent them away from Isaac to the land of the east, but Abraham "gave all that he had to Isaac" as the child of promise.

Notice that both Ishmael and Isaac buried him in the cave of Machpelah that he had purchased from the sons of Heth. Even though Ishmael was "sent away" at the weaning of Isaac, he obviously had contact with the family.

In Genesis 25:18, it says that the descendant of Ishmael lived in defiance of all his relatives. There has been hostility between the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac since this time (about 1990 B.C.) into the present day!

Yesterday was the prequel to the "generations of Isaac" and the story about how Rebekah, the Aramean, was found and brought back to Isaac. In today's reading, Isaac prays (only second occurrence of this word in Genesis. His father did not pray regarding barrenness, but he prayed and waited 20 years.) and she conceived and bore two sons: Esau and Jacob. The story of the two twins is the story of two nations where one will be stronger than the other and the older (Esau) will serve the younger (Jacob). Esau's descendants will become the Edomites of which we will hear quite a bit in future books.

Genesis 25 concludes with Esau selling his birthright for bread and lentil stew. The Hebrew word for birthright is bekhouroh and means "priority" or "seniority." The only other occurrences are in 27:36 and 1 Chronicles 5:1. Towns explains the importance of the birthright:
Traditionally, a number of distinct privileges belonged to the first-born son in a family. Called a birthright, this gave the oldest son, the firstborn, a special claim on the inheritance left by his father and the unique privilege of carrying on the family name to future generations. In the patriarchal family, this birthright had a special spiritual significance. the possessor of the birthright was the one who (1) became heir of the covenant of God, (2) received the promises given to Abraham, and (3) offered sacrifices for the family. 
(Towns, Elmer. History Makers of the Old Testament, p. 164)
He sold this for a bread and stew?

Hebrews 12:16-17 says:
. . . that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. for you know that afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

This whole episode fulfills the prophecy of verse 25:23. We see a pattern in Genesis where God sets aside the older of Cain, Ishmael, and Esau. As revelation progresses, we see that God sets aside Israel so the Gentiles (most of us) might be grafted into the tree of salvation. We know that birthright is per the doctrine of grace. Isn't that exciting? See Romans 9:1-16 to cement this exciting concept.

In Genesis 26, we see many parallels between the life of Abraham and Isaac. So, let's compare:
-Famine (26:1 with 12:10) 
-Lied about wife being sister (26:1, 6-11 with 20:1-18) 
-Blessing, land, oath (26:3 with 12:7; 13:15; 15:18) 
-Multiply descendants, lands, all nations blessed (26:4 with 12:3; 15:5; 22:17) 
-Wells of water conflict with Philistines (26:18 with 21:25) 
-Oath, cutting covenant, feast, depart in peace with two (different) Abimelechs (26:26-31 with 21:22-34)
We will talk about the end of Genesis 26 and Esau's choice of wives tomorrow.


There are so many things to reflect on in this chapter. The thing that stuck out to me was how Isaac, like his father before him, made peace with the surrounding people. Abraham prayed for Abimelech, and his wife conceived. He proclaimed that "God is with you in all that you do." The second Abimelech said,
We see plainly that the LORD has been with you; so we said, "Let there now be an oath between us, even between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you, that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the LORD." (26:28-29)
Both these Patriarchs had a quiet influence and proposed a challenge to the pagan peoples around them. What a challenge that is to believers of today to quietly live a life of love for the LORD and to peacefully be among those whose values are different than our own. Often, we live more like Samson and Saul against the Philistines in the "culture war" around us. There has to be a balance that includes LOVE!

One of my mentors said to me that I needed to "live a life that demands an explanation." That has always so challenged me! It would be so awesome to have people around me who don't know the Lord say, "We saw plainly that the LORD has been with you."

"God is a peacemaker. 
Jesus Christ is a peacemaker. 
So, if we want to be God's children 
and Christ's disciples, 
we must be peacemakers too."
John R. W. Stott


This book goes along with making a witness to the world around us through how we live among others. It is called The Externally-Focused Church and might be a great application.

Another more academic application would be to do a family tree of Abraham, Nahor, and Haran. You see the start of many groups of people in this family tree who will end up being enemies of God's chosen people. It is very academic, but it is helpful in your understanding.


Lord, make us people who shine Your light in the darkness of the world around us. Help us to walk a walk of love and peace. Amen
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