Short Bible Study

Pastor’s Bible Study, Genesis 25-26, Jacob and Esau

October 2, 2018

Genesis 25:1-11         Abraham’s Descendants and Death

The reason for this passage is to establish the kinship of Israel with many other peoples. We aren’t given any explanation why Abraham marries Keturah, and at this distance in time, we are poor judges.  But we see that Isaac and Ishmael come together to bury their father, which amounts to a touching scene to envision.

Genesis 25:12-18       Ishmael’s People

These passages tax the patience of the reader, though for most centuries, these would be considered part of the essential setting of the story. They show God’s blessing in establishing a continuing community. They also place the people in the land by way of showing affinities of family and land. Even now, people from other culture are likely to insist on an account of a man’s family when a story is told about him, though we would consider the information non-essential.

Genesis 25 19-26        The Birth of Jacob and Esau

Statements about the birth of a child and its destiny are not as unusual and peculiar as we might first suspect. I was predicted to be future blessing to my reluctant-to-have-a-fifth-baby mother by my dying grandmother. Mom always felt this was amply proved to be true. We should not say that there was an inexorable fate attached to the boys. The stories that follow are full of personal choice. But we do well to remember that we live our lives partly surrounded by events that were set in motion long before our time.

Genesis 25:27-34       Esau Despises his Birthright

We ought to be shocked at Esau’s callousness. This is likely not as casual an exchange as we suppose. If it is casual to Esau, it should not be. Isaac bears the promises, (this is the birthright) and God is very determined to less all nations through Israel. Jacob, however, though a successful trickster here and elsewhere, receives only some admiration for his seizing the opportunity. He ought to show a gentler regard for his brother, but that lesion will not be learned for many years yet.

Genesis 26:1-6           God Confirms His Promise to Isaac

The famine in Abraham’s time led him to go to Egypt, something that god presumably did not want, and it led to a potential compromise of Sara with Pharaoh. Isaac is told to stay in the land and trust to the promises. Famine was a very real concern to the people of the times. Isaac may be acting against prudence. Perhaps ‘everybody’ was going to Egypt.

Genesis 26:7-11         Isaac and Abimelech

We have almost, but only almost a repeat of the scene with Abraham and Sarah. Does Isaac perform in a better way? Isaac has almost no negative information about him in the Genesis story. It is likely that the declaration of a ‘sister-wife’ was common parlance for very dearly loved and ‘principal’ wife. The language about fearing people of the land is repeated enough to be less than a real, perceived threat. (I didn’t really intend to ‘buy more guns’ when my daughters got to be teens, it is just something people say.) But circumstances and the fundamental difference between the trajectory of Isaac and the people of Canaan is highlighted.

Genesis 26:12-22       Isaac as a Stranger in the Land

Isaac really has no place to be. The Jews by Jesus’ time had clearly seen that they seemed to be a wandering, houseless people in much of their history. The writer of Hebrews tells us that they were looking for an Eternal Dwelling, either consciously or as demonstrated by how their lives played out. Also, the covenant people could walk out of the fulfillment of promises, and would also have to wait for the timing of the Lord. Abraham could have told Isaac, and probably did tell him, that there was to be a delay in the possession of Canaan.

Genesis 26:23-35        God Reaffirms His Promise to Isaac

Passages like this should trumpet their message, though we don’t read them with excitement. Isaac is sent from place to place, but the promises are not attached to the place, but to the ongoing relationship between the Lord and His chosen.  This seems to be what Abimelech, speaking outside of the people of God, points out for them to see. Abimelech is a voice that helps Isaac see who he is.