The lesson continues from the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. Here, the passage centered on the last days of Abraham and the descendants of his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. From these narratives, we will learn more on how the progression of the Lord’s promise begin to take place and to be fulfilled in the descendants of Isaac.
Did You Know...?
- “Abraham again took a wife” (25:1): In Hebrew, the sentence can be literally translated as “Abraham added and took a wife.”
- Keturah (25:1): The spelling of the name Keturah in Hebrew is almost similar to the word “incense or sweet smoke of sacrifice.”
- Zimran (25:2) can be identified with Zabram, west of Mecca on the Red Sea or the Zimareni in the interior of Arabia. [ref]
- Jokshan (25:2) is either the Kassamitoe on the Red Sea or the Jakish tribe of the Southern Arabia. [ref]
- Medan and Midian (25:2) are known as Modiana on the east of the Elamitic Gulf and Madiana of the north of the Elamitic Gulf. [ref]
- Shuah (25:2) may point to Northern Idumaea. [ref]
- Asshurim (25:3) have been associated with the war-like tribe of the Asir, to the south of Hejas. [ref]
- Letushim (25:3) is associated with the Bann Leits in Hejas. [ref]
- Leummim (25:3) is associated with the Bann Lâm, which extended even to Babylon and Mesopotamia. [ref]
- Hanoch (25:4) may refer to the Hanakye, three days north of Medinah. [ref]
- Abidah and Eldaah (25:4) have been referred to the tribes of Abide and Vadaa in the neighbourhood of Asir. [ref]
- “Full of years” (25:8) can also be translated literally in Hebrew as “satisfied with days.”
- Nebajoth (25:13) is identified with the Nabathoeans, a people of Northern Arabia who possessed abundant flocks (Isa 60:7). [ref]
- Kedar (25:13) has been associated with the people who dwell between Arabia Petraea and Babylon. [ref]
- Mishma (25:14) is connected with the Maisaimeneis in the north-east of Medina. [ref]
- Dumah (25:14) is similar with Syrian Dumah in Arabia, on the edge of the Syrian desert. [ref]
- Massa (25:14) is accociated with the Massanoi of the north-east Dumah. [ref]
- Hadar (25:15) is identified with a tribe in Yemen, between Oman and Bahrein. [ref]
- Tema (25:15) has been connected with the tribe Bann Teim in Hamasa on the Persian Gulf. [ref]
- “He died in the presence of all his brethren” (25:18): The sentence in Hebrew can be literally translated as “he settled in front of all his brothers.”
- “The children struggled together within her” (25:22): This sentence can be literally translated in Hebrew as “the sons crushed one another in her womb.”
- Esau (25:25): The wording of the name is similar to the word “hair” in Hebrew.
- A mild man (25:27): In Hebrew, this phrase can literally be translated as “a sound man.”
- “Please feed me with that same red stew” (25:30): In Hebrew, the phrase of Esau can be translated literally as “Let me swallow from the redness of this red lentils.”
25. Birthright (25:31) can be literally translated in Hebrew as the right of the first-born. In other words, the firstborn will automatically receive the birthright (Gen 43:33). According to the Scriptures, the firstborn son symbolizes the father’s excellency of dignity and the excellency of power (Gen 49:3). In addition, the book of Deuteronomy explains that the firstborn has the right to receive double share of the father’s inheritance (Deut 21:17).
Who were the other children of Abraham?Hide Answer
Apart from Ishmael and Isaac, Abraham also had children from his other wife, Keturah. The children were Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah (Gen 25:1).
How did Abraham treat his other children compared to Isaac? And why did Abraham treat them differently?Hide Answer
While Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac, Abraham only gave gifts to the sons of the concubines which he had. In addition, Isaac stayed together with Abraham. But the other children were sent away by Abraham eastward, to the country of the east, away from Isaac (Gen 25:5-6).
Abraham’s deeds here were similar to what he did to Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis 21. He sent Ishmael and the other children of the concubines away from Isaac because the Lord had specifically told Abraham that Isaac was the one who would be called Abraham’s seed (Gen 21:12). Moreover, the Lord had already emphasized to Abraham that He would establish His covenant only with Isaac, whom Sarah would bear (Gen 17:21). In other words, Abraham’s decision to send away all the other children of the concubines was based on God’s promise that the everlasting covenant of God would only be established with Isaac, and not with the children of the concubines.
How did the Scriptures describe the death of Abraham?Hide Answer
The Scriptures describe the death of Abraham as one who lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then he breathed his last and died in a good old age. He was an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people (Gen 25:7-8).
Share an experience of someone at church who has died in “a good old age and full of years.”(The answer is empty)Hide Answer
How was the statement in Hebrews 11:13 in accordance with the event in Genesis 25:9-10?Hide Answer
Genesis 25:9-10 tells us that Abraham was buried in the cave of Machpelah, the field which he had purchased from the sons of Heth. The field was only a piece of land acquired by Abraham among the vast land of Canaan. Though the Lord had promised Abraham through a covenant that he brought him out from Ur of the Chaldeans to inherit the land of Canaan (Gen 15:7f), at the end, Abraham—in his nomadic life—still stayed as a pilgrim in the land of Canaan.
The statement in Hebrews 11:13 was in accordance with the event of Genesis 25:9-10. At the end of his life, Abraham did not yet acquire the land of Canaan. He only purchased a burial place. But the writer of Hebrews explained further that Abraham died in faith. Although he did not receive the promises of God, he saw the promises afar off, assured of them and embraced them.
Today, what lesson can we learn from Abraham who died not having received his promises?Hide Answer
From Abraham’s death and not having received the promises of God, we can learn about his faith. Though in his lifetime Abraham only dwelled in the Promised Land as a stranger and did not inherit the land, he saw the promises of God afar off, assured and embraced them. Today, embracing and feeling assured of the promise which we have not received, not seen nor experienced, is a challenge of faith in our spiritual journey. Just as Abraham saw God’s promises afar off and embraced them, we too shall embrace and be assured that God will never forget His promises to us.
How does the phrase “God blessed Isaac” in Genesis 25:11 still relevant for us today? See also Rom 4:16 and Gal 4:23f, 5:1, 22.Hide Answer
Genesis 25:11 says, “After the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac.” Here, the sentence indicated that God blessed his son Isaac though Abraham had died. The blessing was indeed the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. In Genesis 22:18, the Lord said to Abraham that in his seed, all the nations of the earth should be blessed.
According to the book of Romans, the promise of the blessings of God is certain to all seed, not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham (Rom 4:16). Thus, the blessing of God to Isaac is also passed down to us today. The apostle Paul explains further the blessing of Isaac in his letter to the Galatians, that those who are born of the promise of God are considered as free (Gal 4:23, 26, 28, 31). The promised blessing that we can also enjoy today, as the descendants of a free-woman, is to be able to live freely in Christ so that we can walk in the Spirit and bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Gal 5:1, 22).
Record the names of the children of Ishmael.Hide Answer
The names of the children of Ishmael are Nebajoth, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadar, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah (Gen 25:13-15).
List the achievements of Ishmael and his descendants. Compare the achievements with the promised blessing of God in Genesis 17:20.Hide Answer
The achievements of Ishmael were the establishment of towns and settlements according to the nations of the twelve princes, the sons of Ishmael. The region of their territory extended from Havilah as far as Shur, which was east of Egypt (Gen 25:16, 18).
The achievements of Ishmael and his descendants were in accordance with the blessing of God in Genesis 17:20. The Lord promised Abraham to bless Ishmael that he would beget twelve princes and he would be a great nation. Later, the blessing was fulfilled through the establishment of towns and settlements of the nations of Ishmael’s twelve princes.
How old was Ishmael and how did his life end?Hide Answer
The years of life of Ishmael was one hundred and thirty-seven years. When he breathed his last and died, he was gathered to his people. He died in the presence of all his brethren (Gen 25:17-18).
What irony do we see from the phrase “he died in the presence of all his brethren”? See also Genesis 16:12.Hide Answer
In Young’s Literal Translation, the phrase is translated as such “in the presence of all his brethren hath he fallen.” The NKJV also narrates the alternate translation as “he fell in the presence of all his brethren.” Such an emphasis shows an irony that in all his achievements and successes, Ishmael fell and died in the presence of all his people.
Moreover, the phrase in Hebrew can also be literally translated as “he settled in front of or against all his brethren.” Such a translation is similar to the Lord’s prophecy in Genesis 16:12. The NIV recounts, “And he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” Even though Ishmael lived to achieve the establishment of towns and settlements by his twelve princes, it was an irony that his life was filled with hostility toward all his brothers.
Compare Isaac’s and Rebekah’s reaction toward their barrenness with that of Jacob’s and Rachel’s.Hide Answer
When knowing that Rebekah, his wife, was barren, Isaac pleaded with the LORD for his wife (Gen 25:21). After Rebekah had conceived, she also went to inquire of the LORD when the children struggled together within her (Gen 25:22).
But Jacob and Rachel had a different reaction when facing their barrenness. Knowing that Rachel bore no children, she envied her sister, Leah. She also threatened Jacob that she would die unless he gave her children (Gen 30:1). In responding to Rachel’s threat, instead of inviting his wife to plead with the Lord, he was aroused in anger and reprimanded Rachel (Gen 30:2).
What can we learn from the different reactions between Isaac – Rebekah and Jacob – Rachel toward their barrenness?Hide Answer
In difficulties, both Isaac and Rebekah did not grumble or complain against God nor each other. In both instances, when faced with the barrenness and problems with the fetuses in the womb, Isaac and Rebekah prayed and inquired of the Lord for His guidance. But Jacob and Rachel, when faced with barrenness, they blamed and complained against each other and did not seek God’s guidance and help.
The examples of Isaac – Rebekah and Jacob – Rachel teach us about the proper attitude in facing life’s challenges and difficulties. In those moments, sometimes we may react based on pressure and emotion, blaming it on others with an aroused anger. But through Isaac and Rebekah’s example, we are reminded that reliance upon God’s guidance and help is the answer to the challenges.
Share a testimony of a spouse who relies in the Lord when facing his / her barrenness.(The answer is empty)Hide Answer
What is the significance of the phrases of the Lord’s sayings to Rebekah in Genesis 25:23? “Two nations are in your womb”;Hide Answer
The “two nations” signifies the process of fulfillment of God’s promise to Isaac’s father, Abraham. In Genesis 17:4-6, God had promised Abraham that he would be a father of many nations. Thus, the twins in Rebekah’s womb would be the progenitor of the fulfillment of that promise.
“Two peoples shall be separated from your body”;Hide Answer
The separation indicates division of the two sons and their descendants. The parting was realized later in Genesis 36:6f when Esau took his families away from Canaan from the presence of his brother, Jacob and dwelled in Mount Seir, Edom. Genesis 36:7 explains that because Jacob’s and Esau’s possessions were too great, they could not dwell together and they had to separate.
“One people shall be stronger than the other”;Hide Answer
Although Jacob and Esau were twins, one of them would be stronger than the other. According to Genesis 32:6 and 33:15, Esau had at least four hundred men with him and was willing to leave some of the men for Jacob. Apart from the military strength, Esau and his descendants were able to reign as kings in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the children of Israel (Gen 36:31).
“The older shall serve the younger”;Hide Answer
The last phrase specifically implies that though Esau was the older, he would eventually submit to his younger brother, Jacob. The history of the descendants of Esau revealed repeated submissions to the Israelites. For example, the submission of Edomites to the Israelites was mentioned throughout the time of Moses, King David, the prophet Amos and the prophet Obadiah (Ex 15:15; Num 24:18;
2 Sam 8:11-14; 1 Kgs 11:15-16; Amos 9:11-12; Obad 1:18).
Describe the physical differences of each Esau and Jacob. Esau;Hide Answer
The book of Genesis describes Esau as the first who came out and he was red. Because he was hairy all over his body, he was named Esau (Gen 25:24, 25). In addition, the writer of Genesis narrates that Esau grew up to be a skillful hunter and a man of the field (Gen 25:27).
According to the book of Genesis, Jacob came out later and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel. Thus, he was called Jacob (Gen 25:26). Unlike his brother, Esau, Jacob was a smooth-skinned man (Gen 27:11), a mild man and he dwelled in tents (Gen 25:27).
How did Isaac and Rebekah treat their children differently?Hide Answer
The writer of Genesis explains, while Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, Rebekah was the one who loved Jacob (Gen 25:28).
What was the result of such a treatment? And how does it serve as a warning for us in parenting?Hide Answer
Because Isaac ate of Esau’s game, the book of Genesis describes to us that Isaac loved Esau (Gen 25:28). Though the Lord had said to Rebekah that the older would serve the younger (Gen 25:23), Isaac still insisted on blessing Esau, the older, with the same words of the Lord (Gen 27:29). Rebekah, out of his love for Jacob, was willing to lie to her husband so that Jacob was the one who received the blessing (Gen 27:8-10).
The different treatment of Isaac and Rebekah toward their sons serves us as a warning today. Showing preference and loving one child more than the other, not only prove to be detrimental to the relationship among the children but also prove to be harmful to the relationship between husband and wife. Since both Isaac and Rebekah, each had a favorite son, they made decisions according to their individual judgment and disregarded the other’s view. They did not realize that their acts only worsened the relationship, causing an enmity between their two sons.
How did Esau view his birthright? See also Heb 12:16.Hide Answer
The book of Genesis narrates that Esau despised his birthright (Gen 25:34). The writer of the book of Hebrews clarifies that Esau was considered as profane, godless or worldly because for one morsel of food he sold his birthright (Heb 12:16). Esau had exchanged what was temporary with the God-given right of one’s entire life.
What actions did Esau make in support of his view of the birthright? And why did he do them?Hide Answer
When Esau was weary, he was willing to sell his birthright in exchange of the red stew (Gen 25:29-31). He even swore the exchange of his birthright (Gen 25:33). He did the exchange just to satisfy his hunger and weariness. Esau thought that since he was about to die anyway (Gen 25:32), because of his hunger and weariness if he did not eat the red stew, the birthright would not have any meaning at all. But the Scriptures emphasize that Esau despised the birthright, he would rather satisfy and fulfill his hunger and physical weariness than hold fast to the right of the firstborn. Even after he had finished eating and drinking, he arose and went his way not thinking or regretting the birthright which he had just sold to Jacob (Gen 25:34).
What lesson can we learn from Esau’s actions toward his birthright?Hide Answer
The event of Esau and his birthright serves as a reminder for us to value and to prioritize godly inheritance over worldly needs. Today, God’s promise of salvation and the inheritance of the heavenly kingdom are far more valuable than anything of this world. Therefore, the Lord Jesus reminds us, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mt 16:26). Achieving the successes of the world will be meaningless if one loses one’s soul, because one can no longer enjoy the profit of the successes without one’s life. How much more of a loss if one loses his salvation!
How did Jacob view the birthright of Esau?Hide Answer
From Jacob’s own words to Esau, he viewed the birthright of Esau as something which can be traded with and which must be obtained in haste (Gen 25:31).
What actions did Jacob make in support of his view of Esau’s birthright? And why did he do them?Hide Answer
In his effort to obtain Esau’s birthright, Jacob made Esau sell his birthright to him in his hunger and weariness (Gen 25:30-31). In other words, unless Esau sold to Jacob the birthright that very day, Jacob would not provide the red stew to his brother, Esau. Furthermore, to confirm the trade, Jacob made Esau swear the trading (Gen 25:33). Thus, through the oath, Esau had willfully and formally sold his birthright and could not take it back again, for now it belonged to Jacob.
Jacob insisted on taking Esau’s birthright because he valued the benefit and the power of a birthright. Knowing that as a younger son, he did not receive the right of the first-born, he sought a way to obtain it. Apart from gaining a double portion of his father’s inheritance and a symbol of his father’s dignity and power, obtaining the right of a first-born also made Jacob to be superior above his brother, Esau.
What lesson can we learn from Jacob’s actions toward Esau’s birthright?Hide Answer
When Rebekah was pregnant, the Lord promised her that the older would serve the younger (Gen 25:23). In other words, the Lord promised Jacob his blessing. According to the words of Esau in the book of Genesis 27:36, the blessing and the birthright were two different things. Therefore, as the younger son, Jacob did not deserve the right of the firstborn.
Jacob did not only take something which did not belong to him, he also took it by deceit. Jacob cheated both his father, Isaac and his brother, Esau in order to obtain the birthright (Gen 27:35, 36). Jacob’s deceit did not only hurt his father’s feeling but also caused hatred in Esau’s heart. Jacob’s deeds serve as warning for us that using all means to achieve the result is ungodly. The Lord Jesus has warned us, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Mt 5:37). The Lord Jesus’ warning for us is clear, deceit comes from the evil one. And if we continue to live in deceit and become comfortable with it, gradually we will lose our conscience and the ability to discern between good and bad.