Genesis Chapter 25

GENESIS - Chapter 25 – Chapter 401

"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"


Abraham had another wife, Keturah, who bore him six sons. From these came seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Through these descendants, the promise that Abraham would be the father of many nations was typically fulfilled. Nevertheless, the superior rights of Isaac as the true son were preserved, in that whilst Abraham gave gifts to all his sons, the residue, forming the major portion, was given to Isaac. The other sons were sent eastward out of Canaan, so that there would be no question as to the right of inheritance. Afterwards Abraham died, and was buried by Isaac and Ishmael in the cave of Machpelah.

Abraham's Family By Keturah — Vv. 1-4.

Keturah, Abraham's concubine (1 Chron. 1:32-33), is promoted to the status of wife, and bears him six sons.


"Then again Abraham took a wife" — This section of Genesis poses a problem. Why should Abraham, at his advanced age, take a further wife; and how was it possible to have children by her in view of Paul's statement in Romans 4:19? The R.V. omits again, and renders: "And Abraham took another wife," leaving the chronological setting of the incident in doubt. However, the literal Hebrew has: "And Abraham continued and took a wife," or "And Abraham added and took a wife". In 1 Chron. 1:32-33, Keturah is called a concubine, or a secondary wife (see also v. 8). Possibly Keturah had been appointed concubine before the death of Sarah, and on her death, was elevated to the status of wife.


"And her name was Keturah" — The word signifies Incense, the symbol of prayer, perhaps indicative of the character of Keturah.


"And she bare him"— The record of Scripture claims that at the age of 100 years, Abraham's body was practically dead. However, his physical vigour obviously had been renewed to bring about the birth of Isaac, and evidently it remained with him like that of Moses (Deut. 34:7). Thus he represents those of the Spirit who receive "new life" as a result of the promises given (2 Pet. 1:4). Abraham outlived Sarah by some thirty-eight years, providing ample time for the birth and growth of his six additional sons. These sons developed into nations, so that there is a foreshadowing of the fulfilment of the promise that Abraham would become a "father of many nations". It is quite appropriate to the fulfilment of the promise, that Abraham should be divinely strengthened to beget sons.


"Zimran" — His name means Musical, or Singer. His descendants have not been identified with certainty. Perhaps they may be identified with the Zabram west of Mecca.


"And Jokshan" — Sig. Fowler.


"And Medan" — Sig. Judgement.


"And Midian" — Sig. Strife or Contention. The Midianites comprised a race dwelling to the east and south of Palestine. Through intermarriage, or close association, they are classed with the Ishmaelites (Gen. 37:25,27,28,36). Moses married a Midianitish wife, after having taken refuge with her father (Exod. 3:1). Later, at the instigation of Balaam, women of Midian associated with those of Moab, to seduce the Israelites (Num. 22:4,7; 25:6-15). In the days of Gideon, the Midianites invaded the land of Israel in force (Jud. 6:1-8). Reference is made to Midian in relation to Christ's future conquest of the nations (see Hab. 3:7). Isaiah prophesies that they will be converted to the true worship in the Age to come (Isa. 60:6). Modern-day Midianites comprise some of the Arab tribes.


"And Ishbak" — Signifies Free,

Empty, Exhausted. The progenitor of a North African Tribe (Unger).


"And Shuah" — Signifies Prosperity. Perhaps the progenitor of the Shuhites (Job 2:11).


"And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan" — Signifies respectively Seventh, or Oath and In Judgement. These two brothers are several times mentioned together. Here they are named as sons of Jokshan, but in Gen. 10:7 they are given as the sons of Raamah, son of Cush. Probably there was intermarriage between the Cushites and the descendants of Abraham, with the result that the tribes established were an inter-mixture of both. Sheba established a monarchy in the spice country adjacent to modern Aden (Muscat). The descendants of Dedan settled to the north of the Persian Gulf, adjacent to Muscat. They occupied the southern and northern extremities of Arabia, and doubtless are incorporated in Ezekiel's prophecy (Ezek. 38:13) as representative of all the Arab tribes within the compass of those two extremes. The descendants of Sheba are known also as the Sabeans; and those of Dedan as the Dedanim. Both are represented as entering the Kingdom when established by Christ (Isa. 60:6; Isa. 21:13-15; Psa. 72:10). The Arabs will be converted to Christ at his return, fulfilling the requirements of these prophecies.


"And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim" — Signifies Mighty Ones. Identified by some with the warlike tribe of the Asir, to the south of Hejas.


"And Letushim" — Signifies Oppressed or Struck. The names are in the plural, as are all the names of the sons of Dedan. This would seem to indicate tribes that descended from them.


"And Leummim" — Signifies Peoples, Nations, Unidentified.


"And the sons of Midian; Ephah" — Signifies Obscurity, Darkness. A tribe of Arabia situated on the east coast of the Persian Gulf. Referred to in the Kingdom prophecy of Isa. 60:6-7, as worshipping in Jerusalem.


"And Epher" — Sig. Young calf. A tribe of Arabia, unidentified.


"And Hanoch" — Sig. Dedicated.


"And Abidah" -— Sig. Fatherof Knowledge. No knowledge of Him!


"And Eldaah" — Sig. God of knowledge.

Abraham's Preference For Isaac Vv. 5-6

Gifts for the others; but the inheritance for Isaac. He thus represents the Son of God who receives the divine inheritance, though blessings are provided to the other members of the human family that is, Israel after the flesh.


"And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac" — The superior rights of Isaac as the true son were preserved, though the claims of the other children were not ignored. Gifts were given to the latter, but the inheritance of promise, the divine blessing, and most of Abraham's possessions went to Isaac. For the antitype see Heb. 1:2.


"But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had" — The concubines were Hagar and Keturah, though the latter was elevated to the status of wife on the death of Sarah. In the terms of the allegory, the sons of the concubines represent Israel after the flesh, and the Gentiles, whilst the seed of promise represents the Ecclesia. Though the former will receive blessing in the age to come, the true inheritance is vested with Isaac, the seed of promise, the multitudinous Christ.


"Abraham gave gifts" — There will be given "gifts unto men" in the Age to come, comparable with those that are received through the Gospel today (see Eph. 4:8). But the main inheritance will be reserved for the antitypical Isaac.


"Sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country" — They departed to what is known today as Arabia.

Abraham's Death & Burial Vv. 7-11

He dies at a good age, and his two sons are united at his funeral.


"And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years" — He outlived Sarah by about 38 years. Esau and Jacob were about 15 years of age at his death. The number of the years of his life are divisible by either five or seven, the numbers of grace, and of the covenant. As he was 75 when he entered the land (Gen. 12:4), he had been a sojourner therein for one hundred years.


"Then Abraham gave up the spirit" — The RSV renders: "breathed his last". It was evidence of his mortality which resulted from the calamity of Gen. 3:19.


"And died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years" — There is a note of completeness, of finality and satisfaction in these words, as though life had provided him with all that was possible in view of the imperfection of human nature.


The phrase "full of years" does not mean a long life, but of a life filled with valuable experiences and packed with the blessings of God (cp. 1 Chron. 29:28; Job 42:17; Jer. 6:11).


"And was gathered to his people" — Abraham died and was buried. His people were idolators (Josh. 24:2), so it cannot relate to his immortal soul wending its way to heaven as some suppose! Both the righteous and the wicked are "gathered" in the grave (Ecc. 3:19-20).


"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" — As the heir Isaac takes the precedence. In the allegory, the two sons represent Israel after the spirit and Israel after the flesh. They are united in paying their respects to their father. They will be united again when he arises from the dead. For the cave of Machpelah, see the notes on Chapter 23.


"The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth" — See notes Ch. 23:16.


"There was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife" — So they were united in death and await the coming day of resurrection. See Ch. 49:31. Though buried Abraham will yet witness the glory of the kingdom and the elevation of his exalted Son (Mat. 8:11; Luke 13:28).


"And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son, Isaac" — He gained in prosperity; a token that God was with him.


"And Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi" —See notes Ch. 16:14; 24:62. He dwelt by the Well of Life and Vision. The multitudinous seed of promise will be found dwelling by such a well; for Christ provides the antitype of this. The water of that well is so satisfying, that when one drinks from it he never thirsts again (John 4:14). Meanwhile, as Isaac dwelt there, Ishmael developed into a nation of twelve princes, typifying Israel after the flesh (Gal. 4:22-31). This statement completes the section of Genesis headed: The Generations of Terah, and recording The Calling Out Of A Family. It comprises Genesis 11:27-25:11.

Personalities of the Old Testament

Abdeel — Son of Ishmael

His name means Miracle of God (El) according to Gesenius. He was the third son of Ishmael.

Aholibamah — Wife of Esau

Her name is given as Oholibamah in the Revised Version. It signifies Tent of the High Places. She was the wife of Esau (Gen. 36:2); and the mother of three "dukes" or chiefs by name of Jeush, Jaalam, and Korah. There is some confusion about the references to her. For instance, she is referred to as a daughter of Anah, the daughter of (Rotherham has "son of") Zibeon the Hivite in Gen. 36:2, but is styled Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite in Gen. 26:34. The probable explanation is that her proper name was Judith, and that Aholibamah was the name she received as the wife of Esau and foundress of the three tribes of his descendants.

Aholibamah — The Duke

Among the descendants of Esau is Duke Aholibamah (Gen. 36:41). The word alluwph, Duke, is from a root signifying the first, or chief According to Young it signifies "a leader, head of a thousand," for aleph, the root of alluwph, does service for first or thousand. Duke Aholibamah was probably given that name because of the territory he ruled over, and not because it was his original name. This is suggested from the expression in the heading, "after their places, by their names," (v. 40), when compared with v. 43: "according to their habitations in the land of their possession." Perhaps Aholibamah, Esau's wife, gave her name to a certain territory over which this son assumed authority, and so was given this title.

Ahuzzath: Friend to Abimelech

Ahuzzath (Gen. 26:26) was among the deputation under the Philistine King Abimelech which approached Isaac in order to enter into covenant with him. His name means Possession. He is described as Abimelech's "friend" an official who acted as confidential adviser, or "vizier" to the king (cp. 2 Sam. 16:16; 1 Kings 4:5; 1 Chron. 27:33).

Ajah: The Horite

He was the son of Zebeon the Horite, or Cave dweller. His name signifies Screamer according to Gesenius, whereas others give it as A Bird of Prey. References to him are found in Gen. 36:24; 1 Chron. 1:40.

Akan: Great-Grandson of Seir

Akan was the son of Ezer, grandson of Seir the Horite (Gen. 36:27; 1 Chron. 1:42). His name means Twisting, and is also given in the form of Jakan.

Alian: Descendant of Seir

His name is given as Alvan in the A.V., but is changed to Alian in the margin. According to Gesenius, his name signifies Unjust. He was a son of Shobal and a descendant of Seir (Gen. 36:23; 1 Chron. 1:40).

Almodad: The Agitator

Almodad was the eldest son of Joktan, of the family of Shem (Gen. 10:26; 1 Chron. 1:20). His name, according to some, signifies Fond Of Compressing; and by others The Agitator. Nothing further is known of him.


The Separation of the Natural from the Spiritual Seed (Chapter 25:12-18)

The record of Genesis is subdivided by the eleven "generations" listed throughout the book, and which separate it into twelve parts. Previously we have commented upon the use of this word, and the significance of the divisions effected by it. We have shown that The Generations of Ishmael come between those of Terah and Isaac. The former relate to the calling out of a family; the latter to the development of the seed of promise. In comparison with both of these, the Generations of Ishmael speak of the separation of the natural from the spiritual. Therefore, it is appropriately set between those of Terah and Isaac.


Ishmael represents the man of flesh. God put him aside in favour of Isaac, the seed of promise. It is characteristic of Genesis to first notice, and then dismiss, persons closely related to those whom God chose, leaving the true line of descent intact. Thus Cain, Japheth, Ham, the descendants of Shem other than Terah's family, and now Ishmael, are first noted then dismissed. Now the time had come to remove Ishmael's family from the mainstream descent of those in whom God was directly interested. The record concerning Ishmael provides a partial fulfilment of the promise made to Hagar (Gen. 21:18), though its complete fulfilment awaits the future.

Ishmael's Descendants, Inheritance and Death — Vv. 12-18.


"Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's handmaid, bare unto Abraham" — See notes on Ch. 16:15.


According to the allegory of Genesis, as interpreted by Paul (Gal 4:21-31), Ishmael typed Israel after the flesh, whereas Isaac represented the true seed, whether of Israel or the Gentiles. Prophetically, Ishmael relates to the Arab tribes. It is significant, both from the allegorical as well as the prophetical aspects of related Scripture, that Ishmael should develop into twelve princes, inheriting a wide territory.


"And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations:" — There are twelve names listed, linking Ishmael of the allegory with the tribes of Israel.


"The firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth" — This was Ishmael's firstborn son. His name signifies either Husbandry, or, according to Gesenius, High places. His descendants are listed among the Arab tribes that will be converted to Christ, and find a national place in the Kingdom of God (Isa. 60:7). Nebajoth gave his name to the Arabs generally. Under the title of Nabateans, they spread their influence westwards in the days of the Maccabees, occupying the fortified places of Edom (including Petra), and extending their influence through the Negeb in southern Palestine. At one time, they controlled the whole area through a line of forts that stretched from Petra, through Avdat, on to Gaza; and from these centres, they dominated the trade-routes of the Middle East.


"And Kedar" — His name signifies Powerful. His descendants, likewise, are listed among those who will accept Christ, and worship, as mortals, at Jerusalem in the Age to come (Isa. 60:7).


"Abdeel" — Signifies Languishing for God, or, according to Gesenius, Miracle of God.


"Mibsam" — Signifies Sweet odour.


"And Mishma" — Signifies Fame or Hearing.


"And Dumah" — Signififes Silence or Remembrance. A prophecy is devoted to Dumah in Isa. 21:11-12. In it this Arab tribe is represented as occupying Seir, or Edom, and enquiring as to the significance of the signs of the times. An invitation is extended to the people of Dumah to turn, come and listen. The prophecy implies that the descendants of Ishmael, in the Age to come, will turn to God, and worship before Him as mortals.


"And Massa" — Signifies Burden.


"Hadar" — Signifies Mighty or Fierceness.


"And Tema" — Signifies Sunburnt or a Desert (Gesenius). A reference to Tema, or Thema, is found in the prophecy of Arabia recorded in Isa. 21:13-15, relating to the future. The inhabitants of Tema are portrayed as offering hospitality to the Jews fleeing from the effects of military invasion. The prophecy concerns the latter-day Assyrian, who, in the person of Gog, will invade the land, at "the time of Jacob's trouble". The Arab powers will be subdued under Christ (Hab. 3:3); and evidently the terms of capitulation will include a demand that they cease their age-old hostility towards their half brothers, the descendants of Isaac. Thus descendants of Tema will find inheritance in the Kingdom as mortals.


"Jetur" — Signifies Defence.


"Naphish" — Signifies Numerous.


"Kedemah" — Signifies Eastern or Precedence.


"These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names" — The names of Ishmael's sons form a sentence, thus: "In the high places a powerful people will experience a miracle of God. For they shall cause sweet odours to ascend, calling His fame to remembrance. Their burden will be lifted, they will become mighty in power, conquerors of the desert, strong in defence, numerous in population, at the forefront of the nations."


Whether or not the names are intended to express this meaning, it does state what Israel after the flesh will attain to in the Age to come. And, allegorically considered, Ishmael represents natural Israel (Gal. 4:22-31); whereas the true Israel of God (Gal. 6:16) are represented by Isaac, the seed of promise.


Literally, however, Ishmael represents the Arab tribes. They will be incorporated into the Kingdom of God, though not in the land of promise. They will be "sent eastward" (Gen. 25:6) into Arabia (Isa. 21:13), which country will then flourish exceedingly (Isa. 43:19-20). There they will comprise a powerful and honoured people, whose offerings will be received with acceptance on Yahweh's altar in Jerusalem (Isa. 60:6-7). Thus, when Abraham arises from the grave, he will play a part in reconciling the descendants of his two sons, and his ardent prayer on behalf of Ishmael (Gen. 17:18) will be realised.


"By their towns" — The Hebrew chatserim is from a root signifying to surround, suggesting separation (Dr. Strong). Thus, a settlement. Abraham's descendants, whether of Israel or of Ishmael, should maintain a separation from the Gentile nations.


"And by their castles" — Heb. tiyrah, walls, hence fortresses. The R.V. renders encampment.


"Twelve princes according to their nations" —It is significant that both Ishmael and Israel should be founded upon twelve patriarchs. See Gen.17:20.


"And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty seven years" — This statement of Ishmael's death anticipates the events of the chapters that follow, for Esau and Jacob were born fifteen years before the death of Abraham, and nearly fifty years before the death of Ishmael. In fact, Esau visited Ishmael before his death, in order to seek Mahalath, his daughter, to be his wife (Gen. 28:9). These times have an important bearing on the chronology of Jacobs life as we shall see.


"And he gave up the spirit and died; and was gathered unto his people" — See note v.8.


"And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur" —Havilah signifies sandy, and comprises a large tract of sandy desert in Arabia. Shur signifies wall. It was the name given to a great wall of forts that shut off the Negeb from Egypt.


"That is before Egypt" —The wall of forts closed in a tract of territory that acted as a buffer between Egypt and Palestine. The description shows that Ishmael's descendants spread from Arabia throughout the lower Negeb at least. The statement "before Egypt," can be applied spiritually to Ishmael when considered allegorically. Like the unbelieving Jew under the old covenant (of whom he is a type: Gal. 4:23-25), he did not exactly live in the world, but his inclinations were towards it, and he lived on its borders.


"As thou goest toward Assyria" — There was a trade route linking Egypt with Assyria in those days. It followed the coast through Gaza to the north.


"And he died in the presence of all his brethren" —This repeats in essence the promise of Gen. 16:12. The Hebrew word "died" as here used, is not the normal one for death. It is naphal and literally means to fall. It has been translated in a variety of ways. The R.V. suggests that the right meaning is abode.


The reference, therefore, maybe to the geographical position of the descendants of Ishmael. They dwelt "in the presence of or to the east of their brethren. Ishmael had left the land of promise, and dwelt on its outskirts. In that he typed Israel after the flesh, or that class of person who knows of the Truth but will not take hold of it. He mocked at the son of promise, and so was "cast out" of the privileged position that could have been his.

Personalities of the Old Testament

Alvah: The Duke

His name is given as meaning Sublime. He was a duke of Edom descended from Esau (Gen. 36:40; 1 Chron. 1:51).

Amalek: The Warrior

He was the son of Eliphaz and grandson of Esau (Gen. 36:12). His name signifies Warrior according to some, and Labouring according to others. He is not to be confused with the nation of Amalek, which existed before his time. Cp. Gen. 14:7.

Ammon: Son of Lot

Ammon was the younger son of Lot by his younger daughter. He was born in a cave near Zoar, and became the ancestor of the Ammonites (Gen. 19:38; Num. 21:24). His original name is given as Ben-ammi, or The Son of My (paternal) Kinsman according to Driver, or The Son Of My People, according to others. His name emphasises his fleshly origin. Ammon signifies Tribal or Inbred, underlying flesh-loyalties.


The Development of the Seed of Promise (Chapter 25:19-35:29)

This is the eighth of the series of Generations which divide Genesis. Having considered the natural seed of Abraham in the life-history of Ishmael, attention is now diverted to the Seed of Promise. Though the life of Isaac is overshadowed by the wonderful faith of his father, Abraham, and the dramatic qualities of the life of his son Jacob, yet his life is not lacking in wonder. He was the seed of promise, fulfilling the desire of his father, Abraham, and vindicating the promise of God. He was ever submissive to the will of his father: as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah; as well as to his father's efforts in obtaining a bride for him. Thus he typed the Lord Jesus Christ, the true Son of Promise. The remainder of his life is mainly recorded in two chapters in which weaknesses of his character are revealed. In those chapters he represents the multitudinous Christ rather than the personal Christ, beset by fears, making mistakes. Meanwhile, he dwelt by the well Lahairoi, the Well Of Life and Vision (Gen. 25:11).



First we are introduced to the stark contrast between the appearance of the characters of Esau and Jacob: between the profane man and the religious man. They are clashing personalities, causing strife and contention in the tents of Isaac, and even antagonism between his parents. Jacob was the man whom Yahweh remade. His history is typical of Israel after the flesh, or of a man of God who allows the moulding hands of Yahweh to change him for the future. Two outstanding facts emerge from his life-history which should not be overlooked in studying it:


(1) God is "not ashamed" to be surnamed his God (Heb. 11:16); and (2) The Temple of the Age to come is described as "the house of the God of Jacob" (Isa. 2:3), and he is the type of all who shall worship therein.


For all his weaknesses, Jacob is described as "a perfect man", a complete man, one who resolutely set before him the hope of the promise, and strove to attain unto it. Jacob is the man whom Yahweh reformed, through bitter experience. Therefore, he has many lessons for those who strive for spiritual success in circumstances of difficulty. Paul cites the history of Esau and Jacob as illustrative of the principle of election in Christ Jesus (Rom. 9:10-13).

The Prophecy and Birth of Esau and Jacob — Vv. 19-24

Isaac, deeply distressed at the barrenness of Rebekah, prays that they may be granted children. The prayer is granted, but Rebekah's pregnancy proves difficult. On ascertaining the cause of this, she is advised that she is carrying twins, and that they are so different in character as to cause her the distress she feels. She is given a prophecy relating to both her sons which colours her view point for the rest of her life, and is partly responsible for the antagonism in the home that subsequently resulted.


"And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife" — Forty is the number of probation. It is significant that Isaac, the type of Christ, should take his bride at such an age. It foreshadows the "marriage of the Lamb" after the period of probation for those who constitute "the Lamb's bride."


"The daughter of Bethuel the Syrian" — See notes on chapter 24.


"Of Padan-aram" — The word signifies The highland, or plateau, of Syria.


"The sister to Laban the Syrian" — See note Ch. 24:29.


"And Isaac intreated Yahweh for his wife, because she was barren" — See note Gen. 11:30. The bride of Christ remains barren in the absence of a faith which will cause the "seed of God" (1 Pet. 1:23) to germinate and produce fruit. Isaac, as a man of faith, gave himself to prayer in view of the prolonged barrenness of Rebekah. He realised that she was the divinely-appointed bride through whom the seed would come, and accepted the delay as a challenge to faith (cp. Psa. 127:3).


"And Yahweh was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived " — His prayer was answered. Both parents and later the children should have realised that the resultant births were an answer to prayer. It should have given them a sense of Divine purpose in their lives. Let parents recognise in their children, channels of continued blessing from Yahweh, and scope of service to Him (Psa. 127:3-5). They should educate them with that in view.


"And the children struggled together within her" — Before their birth their mutual antipathy became apparent. They were to be different in character and in destiny. They typify the flesh and the spirit, always antagonistic (Gal. 5:17). The Hebrew ratsats, "struggled together" signifies to violently crush, to bruise, to break. This would have given Rebekah great pain, as the antagonism of flesh and spirit always does. There was a struggle for priority of birth, anticipating the struggle predicted from the beginning (cp. Gen. 3:15).


"And she said, If it be so, why am I thus?" — If I have conceived as a blessing from Yahweh, why this distress? This is a question frequently asked by those in whom "Christ is being formed." The Godly life brings its measure of distress and antagonism; its trials and difficulties. Why? Because characters must be shaped and moulded, and this is best done under trial. Paul taught that "it is through much tribulation" that we will enter the Kingdom (Acts 14:22). The word, thlipsis, in the Greek, signifies pressure. The pressure of trial, suffering, opposition, striving, and so forth, helps to mould a character in which Yahweh will find delight. Trouble is beneficial in its effects, when faced in faith, and when we understand its purpose. Paul recognised this, and declared: "We glory in tribulations also; knowing ..." (Rom. 5:3). He did so because he had come to understand the purpose that Yahweh has in permitting such. Let us learn the same lesson, and we will recognise the benefit of trouble. It humbles flesh; causes a man to recognise that he cannot place any confidence in it; reveals to him his need of God; and results in him more ardently desiring and praying for the coming of Christ.


"And she went to enquire of Yahweh" — The record implies that she approached somebody to act as mediator to that end. Perhaps she approached Abraham, her father-in-law, to seek his help in interceding for her.


"And Yahweh said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb" — The two nations are Israel and the Gentiles, representing the spirit and the flesh, for Edom is typical of the latter. The political striving of Jew against Gentile today is illustrative of the pain of Rebekah, for the anxiety and agony caused by it are really the birth pangs of a new era under Christ.


"And two manner of people" — Jacob is described as a "plain" (or perfect) man; Esau is styled "a profane" person (Heb. 12:15-16). They thus represent the spiritual and the profane. For all his faults, Jacob never lost sight of the objective that Yahweh had placed before him, and constantly strove to overcome his difficulties and himself in attaining unto it.


"Shall be separated from thy bowels" — It is separation from the flesh that commends one to God (2 Cor. 6:14-18).


"And the one people shall be stronger than the other people" — Each possessed a strength of his own. Esau would prove stronger in physical ability; Jacob stronger in spiritual qualities. Which would prevail ultimately? This question is experienced in all who feel the combat of flesh and spirit. Paul found two opposing laws in his life (Rom. 7:23) and sought divine help that the spiritual "law of the mind" might succeed (v. 25).


"And the elder shall serve the younger" — The elder Esau was stronger physically; but the prophecy revealed that spiritual strength is much more enduring than that of the flesh. By divine choice and purpose those who are spiritually stronger will ultimately gain the power over those physically stronger. These words of the prophecy are quoted by Paul to illustrate the purpose of election. In Romans 9:8-13, the Apostle points out that the flesh profiteth nothing in the absence of spiritual virtues. He showed that mere fleshly descent from Abraham was not enough to entitle one to claim to be a son of the promise. Both Esau and Jacob were sons of Isaac; but Yahweh had declared: "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Mal. 1:2-3; Rom. 9:13). God had made choice before the birth of the two boys, before they had done "any good or evil" (v. 11). Is such a choice just? On the part of man — No; but on the part of God — Yes. Why is it unjust for man to make such a choice and yet entirely just for God to do so? Because man does not know the "end from the beginning," but God does. In His omniscience, He could foresee the characters of both boys, and in His foreknowledge, made choice accordingly. Therefore, He shows mercy on whom He will have mercy, not in any arbitrary way, but because He knows what the future will reveal, and the qualities of an individual before they are developed. His ability in that direction is shown in the subsequent characters of Esau and Jacob, and the qualities of the two races that sprung from them. When these are considered it is recognised that Yahweh's choice was a wise one, and obviously governed by His foreknowledge. On that basis, He is calling individuals unto Himself from out of the Gentiles (Acts 15:14), recognising that each one so called has the ability to reveal in character that which Yahweh requires of him or her.


The prophecy also pointed forward to the grand purpose of Yahweh in relation to the human race. Normally, an elder son was placed over his younger brother, as a privilege of the birthright. But in this case, it was to be reversed: the "elder shall serve the younger". It typed Yahweh's intentions in regard to the two outstanding sons of God, revealed in Scripture. The "elder son" was Adam (Luke 3:38); the younger son, born some four thousand years later, was the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:14). Adam as a sinner, was deposed from his privileged status as firstborn, and the title bestowed upon the Lord Jesus (Psalm 89:26-27; Col. 1:15). Such an appointment was provided by the Law of Moses. It was legal for a parent to depose an elder son from the status of firstborn if he proved incompetent or unworthy, and to pass the title and position on to a younger son. A case in point is provided in Reuben (cp. 1

Chron. 5:1). At the same time, the Law guarded against abuse of such a privilege (Deut. 21:17). Obviously, this strange law was incorporated into the Mosaic ordinance to illustrate the purpose of Yahweh with humanity and seen in the elevation of the Lord Jesus Christ over the "elder son" Adam. Now, in the case of Esau, the wisdom and purpose of this instruction were to be dramatised.

The Characteristics of Esau and Jacob — Vv. 25-27

The difference in appearance of the two babies was viewed with wonder, and gave rise to the names that were given unto them.


"And the first came out red" — The Hebrew admoni is from the root adam, and signifies "red" or "ruddy". The ruddy complexion of the first child indicated his abundant physical health. There was ample of the "life of all flesh" (Lev. 17:14) in him; but it is a principle of Scripture that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 15:50).


"All over like an hairy garment" — A red, hairy covering is a direct contrast to the smooth, white, linen garment of righteousness (Rev. 19:8). The word "hairy" is from the Hebrew sa'ar, "rough," from whence is derived the word Seir.


"And they called his name Esau" — That is, The Hairy One. The word is from a root, asah, signifying "to do or make," "to handle," that is, to make or establish a thing in one's own strength. It is expressive of fleshly ability to handle a matter to one's advantage.


"And after that came his brother out" — First the natural, afterwards the spiritual.


"And his hand took hold on Esau's heel" — This act was regarded by Hosea as symbolic of prevailing power. The antagonism of the brothers was apparent at birth; but Jacob's action indicated that he would ultimately prevail (Hos. 12:3).


"And his name was called Jacob" — Jacob signifies Supplanter, or Heel-Catcher. James is the Grecized form of the name.


"And Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them" — Thus over twenty years had passed away before the birth of the boys.


"And the boys grew" — As they grew their characters developed; they had inherited latent characteristics that they began to manifest.


"And Esau was a cunning hunter" — He lived by his wits, following the example of Nimrod (Gen. 10:9). He knew how to stalk and destroy the beasts and birds of the field.


"A man of the field" — This expression is used by the Lord to describe the world (Matt. 13:38). Esau was a typical man of the world. He provided a contrast to Jacob. He was cunning, whereas Jacob was sincere; he was a hunter killing with the sword, whereas Jacob was a shepherd, building up the flock; he was of the field, whereas Jacob was of the tabernacle. The variations are clearly defined in this verse.


"And Jacob was a plain man" — The word tarn signifies a complete, sincere, or pious man. The same word is translated "perfect" in Job 1:1,8; 2:3; Psa. 37:37; 64:4 etc. He was a sincere, single hearted man, with one objective: to attain unto the Kingdom of God. He obviously thought long and deeply upon the covenants of promise, and determined to make them the main objective of his life. He was a pious man, worshipping God in sincerity and truth. But at the same time he made grievous mistakes — as do we all.


"Dwelling in tents" — Jacob was a shepherd, caring for the flock, seeking to build up the herd. The Hebrew Ohelim is the plural of the word rendered "tabernacle". In Hebrews 11:9, the fact of him "dwelling in tabernacles" is set forth as an action of faith. It indicates that those so doing recognised that there was no permanent dwelling-place for them then, no more than there is for us today. Therefore they "looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10).

Disharmony In the Home — v. 28

The contrasting characters of the two boys brought out contrasting preferences in the parents, which emotionally separated them. The self-effacing Isaac developed a stronger preference for the outgoing Esau; the forthright Rebekah sought to protect and advance the more timid Jacob.


"And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison" — Isaac does not appear with good effect in this statement. He showed a preference to the manly, easy-going, pleasant Esau who so willingly satisfied his fleshly desires. The word "venison" is the Hebrew tsayid, "hunting". Esau brought home the results of his hunting, and Isaac enjoyed it. The Hebrew is: "his hunting was in his mouth" (see mg.). The gullible Isaac was taken in by the hearty generosity of his elder son, for what he supplied appealed to the flesh. Esau probably deceived his father by his attitude towards the family worship, for it is obvious that he was accustomed to wearing the special family priestly robes (see Gen. 27:15).


"But Rebekah loved Jacob"—Her protective nature drew her more closely to her younger, more timid son. Thus, the house became divided, as enmity was developed between the two seeds. As in the case of Adam's family, these two sons of Isaac in turn represented the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman.

Esau Sells His Birthright — Vv. 29-34

This incident is cited by Paul to illustrate the profane character of Esau, and to show the "two manner of people" that are found in relation to the Truth (see Heb. 12:16-17). The true character of Esau becomes manifest under pressure. The naturally free and easy, good nature of this profane son of Isaac, is ruined and rendered useless by his fickleness, unsteadiness, want of faith and principle. On the other hand, the craft, duplicity, and timidity of the religious Jacob is turned finally to lasting good by his steadfast purpose, his resolute sacrifice of present advantage for future glory, and his fixed principles which ultimately purified and elevated the baser qualities of his character. His single-minded determination to seek God's way is seen even in his purchase of the birthright from his brother who despised his God-given credentials.


"And Jacob sod pottage" — The term "sod pottage" is old English for "cooked stew". The Berkeley Translation renders: "Jacob was boiling a stew". He was using the things of the world legitimately. Paul exhorts: "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).


"And Esau came from the field" — He had evidently been hunting — cp. v. 27.


"And he was faint" — He had completely exhausted himself in the chase. He had probably expended his energy for several days without reward, and without food, and staggered back to Jacob's tent on the point of collapse. He illustrated the principle of complete domination by the flesh and the desire for physical gratification (1 John 2:16-17).


"And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint" — The Hebrew expresses it: "With that red red ..." (adorn, adorn). He saw the stew as reddish in colour, and craved for the strength and satisfaction it would bring him. In doing so, he typed the "profane" of every age, who prefer the things of Adam to those of God, and despise their birthright (the discipline of the Truth which leads to the right of son ship, the right of the "firstborns"; Heb. 12:23) to obtain them (see Heb. 12:16-17).


"Therefore was his name called Edom" — Edom signifies red, and is from a common root with the word Adam. The name is a title for profane earthy men or nations. Prophetically it is used of the flesh in political and religious manifestation, which will be completely overthrown by Christ at his coming (see Obadiah). The prophetic references to Edom show that the nation should not be confused with the Arabs who are descendants of Ishmael, not Esau.


"And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright" — To Jacob, the birthright meant everything; to Esau it was of secondary consideration. Whereas Jacob saw the possession of it as the great objective in life; Esau treated it with flippant disregard. The privileges of the birthright were threefold: priesthood, authority and inheritance. The firstborn was consecrated to God (cp. Exod. 13:2; 22:29); the authority of the family was conferred upon him (2 Chron. 21:3); he received a double portion of inheritance (Deut. 21:15-17). The benefits of the birthright, therefore, all lay in the future, whereas Esau's pleasure was in the present. He was not particularly interested in "laying up for himself a good reward in time to come."


"And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die" — His weakened physical state caused him to feel the impact of mortality.


"And what profit shall this birthright do to me?" — Esau, as a profane man, saw profit only in present advantage. His attitude was that expressed in the words "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die" (1 Cor. 15:32). On the other hand, the attitude of Jacob was: "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (v. 19). Esau completely misunderstood the benefits of the birthright, having little faith in the resurrection.


"And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him" — He took advantage of his brother's hunger. Many consider this demand to be mean, but it was an opportunity which Jacob seized because of his intense desire for the spiritual advantages it conferred. Perhaps, too, he was irritated at Esau's lack of appreciation of that which meant so much to him. In The Ways Of Providence, (p. 35) the incident is summarised:


"Some might say it exhibits Jacob in an unneighbourly aspect, and that he ought not to have seized the moment of hunger to extort a bargain; but ought rather to have unconditionally ministered to his brother's need. The answer is, there is a time for everything, and that these men were in the hands of the special providence for the working out of a national purpose in their posterity, and for the development of a spiritual allegory, serviceable for all time. Esau's character comes out, and he seals his own doom. Physical craving is more powerful with him than the perceptions of wisdom. For a moment's gratification, he bargains away a position germinally containing countless gratifications in the future. He stands before us as a man swayed by his senses, and not by the dictates of enlightened judgement; and, therefore, as the type of class who love the present world, and have not faith sufficient to practise that self denial by which the birthright of the future Age is preserved and secured".


"And he sold his birthright unto Jacob" — Paul uses this incident to describe the worldly man, whose sense of values is perverted by his own fleshly desires and describes Esau as "profane" or unhallowed. He contrasts his state with that of holiness (a state of being separated for God's use) "without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14,16). A profane person is one who lacks a sense of relationship, affinity or responsibility to God, being wholly governed by fleshly self-interest. Such was Esau "who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright" (v.16).


"Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils" — Esau received his part of the bargain. He rated these things higher in value than the divine birthright.


"And he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way" — These words describe the almost flippant way in which Esau disposed of his birthright. He did so in complete ignorance of the wrong he had committed. In that lay his greatest sin. He was profane, or worldly-minded, and for "one morsel of meat" — for that which was short lived and provided but temporary satisfaction and pleasure — he threw away the riches of eternity. That attitude is repeated by the transient generation of the present (Luke 12:19) and can be easily imitated by foolish believers.


"Thus Esau despised his birthright" — He despised it not merely because he bargained it away, but in the manner in which he did so. The birthright seemed to him of little value. He lacked spiritual vision and was absorbed with the present. The temporary satisfaction of his appetite weighed more heavily with him than a future inheritance; and so "he went on his way". Notice that no other crime nor great fault is laid against Esau than the fact that he "despised his birthright". In short, there is no greater sin than this! The person who treats the Truth lightly is "profane" (Heb. 12:16) and in the same position as Esau. He despises that for which Christ died.


In the case of Esau, apart from this sin, he shows forth to advantage over Jacob. But, there is an attractiveness about his character that is deceptive. He was an impulsive, thoughtless man rather than a bad one: his great sin, being his indifference towards the things of God.



We need to separate ourselves from the world

We should judge by inward appearances of the heart rather than that which is only skin deep

We can be indifferent towards the things of God

God answers things in His own time, we must wait patiently

We should think long-term not just about the things of today



Genesis Expositor - HP Mansfield

Bible Dictionary - Unger

Analytical Concordance - Young

Bible Lexicon - Gesenius

Analytical Concordance - Strong

The Ways Of Providence - Robert Roberts



Why does the Bible list names of people that we know nothing about?

What privileges did the birthright bring?

How many wives did Abraham have?

Who were Abrahams direct descendants?

Who is Ishmael a type of in this chapter?

Who is Isaac a type of in this chapter?

Who is Jacob a type of in this chapter?

Who is Esau a type of in this chapter?



Which two nations were in Rebekah's whom?

Who was the strong son of Rebekah?

Is it right to hunt animals for food?

Why is red emphasised in the account about Esau?

Was Jacob acting deceitfully when he took the birthright?

Who is Rebekah a type of in this chapter?

Who is Isaac a type of in this chapter?

Draw a family tree from Terah through to Esau and Jacob; include all the characters found in this chapter.



What are the best ways in which we can keep our Ecclesia separate from the world?

How can you judge what is in a mans heart?

How do we avoid the African culture that is to live only for today?


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