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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

March 2, 2016

Genesis 25:22-34

  1. Verses 22-23. The struggle going on in Rebekah's womb was more than just normal, fetal movement. The Hebrew says the children smashed themselves inside her. Literally, it is used to describe skulls being smashed (Judg 9:53; Ps 74:14) or reeds being broken (e.g., Isa 36:6). The use of such a term vividly indicates the violence of the struggle within Rebekah's womb. This leads Rebekah to ask a question. The sense of her question is, “Why then did I ever become pregnant?” Or, “Why do I go on living?” Rebekah was so puzzled by this internal struggle that she prayed to God for an answer. In the face of infertility, Isaac's response is to pray. In the face of a difficult pregnancy, Rebekah’s response is to pray. Isaac and Rebekah both know God and worship Him as God. Their faith is real and they take it seriously. At the key junctures of their lives, what we’re told about them is that they went to God. In response to her prayers, the Lord offers a prophetic word. The reason for the disturbance in the womb that Rebekah is experiencing is that she is pregnant with two nations. The Lord then informs Rebekah that the older shall serve the younger. There is plenty of biblical precedence for this. The offering of Cain, the older brother, was rejected, whereas the offering of the younger brother, Abel, was accepted. The line of Seth, the younger brother, was the chosen line (4:26-5:8); Isaac was chosen over his older brother, Ishmael (17:18-19); Rachel was chosen over her older sister, Leah (29:18); Joseph, the younger brother, was chosen over all the rest (37:3); and Judah was chosen over his older brothers (49:8). The intention behind each of these "reversals" was the recurring theme of God's sovereign plan of grace. The blessing was not a natural right, as a right of the firstborn son would be. Rather, God's blessing is extended to those who have no other claim to it. They all received what they did not deserve (cf. Mal 1:1-5; Rom 9:10-13). This is also a picture of Jews and Gentiles (John 1:11-12). The greatest king in the Old Testament, King David, was the youngest kid in his family, the one his father didn't even think of when asked to line up his boys to see which one might become the next king. When Jesus came and talked about the coming of the kingdom of God, it wasn't the social or religious elite who got was the people on the margins of society. There seems to be a special place in God's heart for people who are overlooked, for people in low positions.

  2. Verses 24-26. As was predicted by God, Rebekah gives birth to twins. Esau means “hairy one.” Jacob means “God will protect.” Now while Esau's name reflects his appearance, Jacob's name later came to reflect his character. The Hebrew word for “Jacob” is similar to “heel.” From Jacob's grasping of Esau's heel, at birth, came the nickname “heel holder” (i.e., one who outwits by trickery). It's a wrestling term, a deceptive move, a reaching out, a grasping of the ankle of the other person, a tripping them up. We must be careful not to follow in Jacob's trickery. Rather, we must accomplish God's will, God's way.

  3. Verses 27-28 provide some interesting background. There is a contrast right at the beginning between these twins. Esau was what the world might label as a “man’s man.” He was an outdoors man. He was a skillful hunter, and he knew how to handle himself in the outdoors. Jacob, on the other hand, was orderly. He was well disposed. He was the kind of man who liked to stay at home. He was a man of peaceful habits. There is a real contrast between these two. Jacob is the homebody; Esau is the hunter.

  4. Verse 28. Isaac loved Esau more than Jacob. The only rational we are given in the text is: Isaac had a taste for wild game. And while Isaac knew God's desire to pass on the physical and spiritual blessing of the inheritance to Jacob, Isaac failed to obey God's will and to transfer the birthright on to Jacob. Tragically, Isaac and Rebekah, who had prayed so long and persistently for offspring, chose sides. No doubt each loved both of his/her sons. But they each preferred one over the other. Of course, their favoritism served to further exacerbate the boys’ differences. Parents please don't be guilty of this type of favoritism. While a child's interests or disposition may tempt you to be partial, do not succumb. Love each of your children with equal fervor...anything less causes division and disunity.

  5. Verses 29-30. The incident with the stew appears to take place away from home; otherwise Esau could have appealed to his parents. Jacob is not the hunting type, so it would be unusual for him to be out in the countryside alone. He has been described as a man “staying among the tents,” which may indicate he was more closely associated with the shepherding business. The shepherds moved their camps over a broad area of land in order to find water and grazing for the flocks. It is most likely that Jacob would be out supervising some of the shepherds at such a camp when Esau stumbled upon them. Jacob would be the one in charge at the camp, so the decision would be his, and there would be witnesses to the agreement made between Jacob and Esau.

  6. Verse 31. Esau literally demands Jacob's food. Some versions soften the force of the imperative to a request: “Please let me have a swallow.” This is no polite request, however; it is a forceful demand. Not only does Esau demand food but he demands to devour it. The word translated “swallow,” or better yet, “gulp down,” contains a Hebrew verb, which normally describes the feeding habits of cattle. Although lentil stew was a well-known staple, Esau called it literally “this red stuff”—hardly something that a sensitive adult would say. Jacob responds to Esau’s demands with a demand of his own: “First sell me your birthright” (25:31). The way Jacob states his demand suggests that he has long premeditated his act and ruthlessly exploited his brother's weakness.

  7. Verses 32-33. In what he sensed were his dying moments, Esau didn't value his birthright. Again, Jacob sought to take advantage of him. His insistence that Esau swear to him strengthens this impression. One question that must be answered is: What was the birthright, and why did Jacob want it so badly? Deuteronomy 21:17 and 1 Chronicles 5:1-2 tell us the birthright involved both a material and a spiritual blessing. The son of the birthright received a double portion of the inheritance, but he also became the head of the family and the spiritual leader upon the passing of the father (Gen 43:33). And, in the case of this family, the birthright determined who would inherit the covenant God made with Abraham, the covenant of a land, a nation, and the Messiah. Rather than showing his brother any mercy or grace, Jacob saw this as an opportunity to gain the advantage. How many times have I been tempted to take things into my own hands, to make sure that I get my rights, or to make sure that I am not taken advantage of? But God’s ways are very different. He wants us to accomplish His will His way.

  8. Verse 34. Despite Jacob's premature longings, his trickery was successful. It was just another meal to Esau. It was all so casual. The cunning hunter fell into a better hunter’s trap, becoming prey to his own appetite. Esau valued his birthright so cheaply that he sold it for a bowl of stew in the same way. He “despised” it. We can understand the word’s usage perhaps by looking at how we use the word “contempt.” The English verb can refer to a sentiment or mood, but it can also be used in the legal context of being held in “contempt of court,” which means that one is not showing the judge and the legal process the respect they deserve.

  9. There are many people who have traded their blessings for what amounts to a bowl of soup. When we exchange our purity, our integrity, our family, or our relationship with God or His church, the benefit we receive is nothing more than a pile of beans! Satan is constantly tempting us to forfeit the eternal riches of our spiritual inheritance in Christ for the pleasure of immediate gratification: An evening of watching ungodly programming on the TV, an illicit affair, financial compromise to get ahead, lusting after money or material things, letting loose our anger in abandonment of reason, succumbing to depression without check, or cursing God in despair or disappointment. We are in constant danger of being tempted to give up something very precious in order to indulge a sudden strong desire. The pile of beans that is dangerous to you and to me is any temptation to gratify the “feelings” of the immediate moment in a way that shows we “despise” the promises of the living God for our future. Whatever you do make sure that your life is bent on accomplishing God's will God's way.

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