James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.
And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham begat Isaac:Genesis 25:19-28:22
JACOB AND ESAU
THE DEFRAUDED BIRTHRIGHT (Genesis 25:19-34)
As we read the introductory part of this chapter, we are impressed that many of the mothers of the notable men of the Bible were for a long while childless: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and the mothers of Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist. Was this that their faith might be proved? We wonder, too, what is meant by the statement that Rebekah “went to inquire of Jehovah.” There seems to have been some way, even in that early time, where individuals could communicate with God. As Abraham was a prophet, and living not far from her, it has been suggested that she may have gone to inquire of the Lord through him.
In considering Genesis 25:23, be careful not to charge God with partiality in the choice of Jacob, and it will save us from so doing if we remember that (1) on the natural plane of things, if there be two nations one is likely to be stronger than the other; (2) God not only foresees this but has the right to pre-determine it, especially when the blessing of all the nations is involved therein; and (3) this determination in the present case brought no hardship upon the weaker nation as such, nor did it prevent any of its individuals for receiving all the blessings of the life to come.
And yet this by no means justifies the meanness of Jacob, any more than the recklessness of Esau. Neither brother distinguishes himself in the transaction, while Jacob’s conduct is only another illustration of an attempt to assist God in the fulfillment of His promises. Patience would have gotten him the birthright with honor to himself as well as glory to God.
HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF (Genesis 26:1-33)
How much of this chapter reminds us of the previous one in the life of Abraham! There is little to be explained, but the facts should be noted.
The well called Rehoboth still remains strengthened with masonry of immense proportions and great antiquity. It is believed that it is the well which Isaac dug, although the country is now a desert in contrast to its fruitfulness in his time. We may add that at present there are two old wells in Beersheba, three hundred yards apart, and Dr. Edward Robinson gives his opinion that the larger may be the famous well of Abraham, while possibly the second may be that which Isaac dug when the former was stopped up by the Philistines. The locality still bears the same name, only in Arabic form.
THE DEFRAUDED BLESSING (Genesis 27:1-40)
The closing verse of chapter 26 gave us a further insight into Esau’s character, qualifying our sympathy for him. His purpose in marrying the daughters of the Canaanite princes was doubtless to increase his worldly importance, a circumstance opposed to the divine purpose in the separation of Abraham and his seed from the other nations. If the descendants of Abraham were the daughters of the heathen Canaanites, they would soon lose the traditions of their family and every trace of their heavenly calling. As a matter of fact, this became true in the case of the descendants of Esau, who were always the enemies of Israel and figure in the prophets as the type of the enemies of God.
We can hardly believe, however, that Isaac was entirely without blame in this case. But who can justify Rebekah, to say nothing of Jacob? Surely the goodness of God is of grace, and these things show that He has a plan to carry out in which He is simply using men as He finds them, and subsequently conforming them to Himself as His sovereign will may determine.
Notice that the blessings of Isaac on Jacob were a formal transmission of the original promise of God to Abraham (Genesis 27:28-29), which when once transmitted could not be recalled (Genesis 27:34-38). Esau is blessed, but it is not the blessing which he receives. Notice the differences between his blessing and that of Jacob. There is an intimation that Esau that is, the nation that should spring from him would at some time break from his brother’s yoke, but later prophecies show that this freedom would be only for a season. In connection with Esau’s conduct compare Hebrews 12:15-17.
Note in passing that Herod the Great, the last king of Judah, was a descendant of Esau, an Idumean on the side of both father and mother, a circumstance, which was the foundation for that irreconcilable hatred with which the Jews regarded him during his long reign.
JACOB’S FLIGHT (Genesis 27:41-46; Genesis 28:1-22)
What was the cause of Jacob’s flight (Genesis 27:41-45)? The excuse for it (Genesis 27:46; Genesis 28:1-5)? At what place is he next found (Genesis 28:10)? What did he see in his dream? Whom did he see, and why? How did the speaker introduce Himself? Do you recognize the promise given him? What particular addendum of a personal character is attached (Genesis 28:15)? What effect had this on Jacob? How did he express his feelings? What did he name the place? (Bethel means “The House of God.”) Compare John 1:51, Hebrews 1:14, and Luke 15:10, and recall that the beautiful hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee” is based upon this impressive incident in Jacob’s life. For the pious servants of God this dream threw a flood of light upon the certainty of heaven, of which they had known little or nothing until that time, as well as the facile communication there might be between heaven and earth, and the profound interest which God and the holy angles felt in the affairs of men. What vow did Jacob offer? In the consideration of this vow, which was entirely voluntary on his part, observe that “if” does not necessarily express a doubt in his mind, since it might be translated “since,” or “so then.” It may be viewed as his acceptance of the divine promise, so that from that moment Jehovah did in some sense become his God, as well as He had been the God of Abraham and Isaac.
We are accustomed to speak of the selfish proposition of Jacob in Genesis 28:22, last clause. But before casting the mote out of his eye, should we not cast the beam out of our own? With all the knowledge of God we possess does our character shine brighter? Do we not still use the “if” in the face of the promises? And do we give even as much as a tenth of our possessions to Him, notwithstanding the richer blessings we enjoy? Is it not still true that He is dealing with us on the principle of grace, and not merit? God sometimes consents to call Himself by the name “the God of Jacob.” What unutterable comfort it should bring to us!
1. on what grounds is God released from the charge of partiality in the choice of Jacob?
2. In what ways does Isaac’s life and character differ from Abraham’s?
3. What name is sometimes given to Esau’s descendants?
4. What is the meaning of Bethel?
5. How would you explain God’s patience with Jacob?