Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Genesis 25:19-28

After learning briefly about the line of Ishmael, God’s Word now turns to the line of promise.
This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac.

Abraham became the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. (Gen. 25:19-21)

Have you ever noticed how many women in the Bible have trouble conceiving? Sarah was barren for most of her married life, and now we see that Rebekah also suffered from infertility (and let’s not forget Rachel and Hannah). She and Isaac had been married nearly 20 years by this time. Isaac knew that God had promised that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars - he believed the promise he’d been raised on, yet the promise was not to be fulfilled on his time schedule, but God’s. God was stretching his faith, even as He had done with Abraham.

We are told that Isaac prayed to the LORD for Rebekah, and that the LORD answered and she became pregnant. While we would like to know the exact details of this answer to prayer, the Bible doesn’t tell us. Did Isaac wait for 20 years before he finally prayed? Did he just pray once? I would imagine that he had been praying for many years, before God finally answered. This birth would continue the line of the promised Messiah, so there was not going to be anything ordinary about it! It would be clear when these babies came that it was of God! Those of us who have waited what seems like an eternity to see a promise of God fulfilled in our lives can attest to the fact that when we finally received the promise, there was no doubt that it was a God thing!

So, Rebekah is confused when she finally gets pregnant that there is so much activity within her:

The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; 
one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them. (vs.22-26)

Right off the bat, we can see signs of the differences between these two, and can tell there will be a competition between them. Esau was red and hairy (hence his name, which means hairy)! It cracks me up to picture him, because my Emmy was a hairy baby, too! Jacob (which literally means heel grabber, or conniver/deceiver ) is grabbing Esau’s heel from birth! He wanted all that his big brother was entitled to!

The most foreboding part of this story is in the next two verses, where we see their differences so clearly:

The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (vs 27-28)

The Smothers Brothers made sibling rivalry famous with their line, “Mom always liked you best.” But there is nothing funny about this particular competition for the love of a parent. Esau was a man’s man and the pride of his father, while Jacob was more of a mama’s boy, who probably liked to stay close to home. Anyone with brothers and sisters understands the feeling of competition for parental approval. And certainly any parent can understand how this would impact a marriage! We tend to think that twins are joined at the hip - many even sharing a secret language. But often there is a natural comparison that goes on that can be damaging, not only to each child’s self-image, but to their relationship with their sibling. This is definitely a cautionary tale for parents, and we will see the ramifications of parental favoritism in tomorrow’s passage. Family dysfunction is nothing new!


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