This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.
God promised Abraham a kingdom full of descendants. Though Abraham had many sons through his concubines, only the son of the promise—who born through his wife, Sarah—would receive the blessing and covenant of the LORD. Through him would come a son who would become the nation of Israel. That nation would give birth to the Messiah, the long-awaited seed of the woman, who would deal with the sin problem and set up His kingdom to return the world to the perfection that sin destroyed.
1 Now Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. 2 She bore to him Zimran and Jokshan and Medan and Midian and Ishbak and Shuah. 3 Jokshan became the father of Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim and Letushim and Leummim. 4 The sons of Midian were Ephah and Epher and Hanoch and Abida and Eldaah. All these were the sons of Keturah. 5 Now Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac; 6 but to the sons of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts while he was still living, and sent them away from his son Isaac eastward, to the land of the east.
Abraham had six other sons through a wife of his old age. He could have been married to Keturah for more than thirty years. It is unclear where she was from. However, her sons would by no means partake in the inheritance which was reserved for Isaac alone. So he sent her sons away to the east with gifts, just as he had done with Ishmael more than fifty years beforehand. If his sons had settled in the land of Canaan, they would have been wiped out during the conquest. Thus, Abraham sent them away.
7 These are all the years of Abraham’s life that he lived, one hundred and seventy-five years. 8 Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people. 9 Then his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, facing Mamre, 10 the field which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth; there Abraham was buried with Sarah his wife. 11 It came about after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac lived by Beer-lahai-roi.
The cave of Machpelah and its field was the only land in Canaan that Abraham owned during his lifetime. He died without seeing the fulfillment of the covenant. Yet he still had faith in God that He would bring about everything that He had promised. With the death of Abraham, Isaac was given the mantle of blessing.
12 Now these are the records of the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maid, bore to Abraham; 13 and these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael, and Kedar and Adbeel and Mibsam 14 and Mishma and Dumah and Massa, 15 Hadad and Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. 16 These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages, and by their camps; twelve princes according to their tribes. 17 These are the years of the life of Ishmael, one hundred and thirty-seven years; and he breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people. 18 They settled from Havilah to Shur which is east of Egypt as one goes toward Assyria; he settled in defiance of all his relatives.
Just as had been prophesied by the angel of the LORD, Ishmael became a fruitful nation that lived to the east of Canaan. He had twelve sons who, like the sons of Jacob, became twelve tribes. He lived in opposition to his brothers, and that opposition continues to the present.
19 Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham became the father of Isaac; 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife.
This provides a timestamp on the events of the previous chapter. Sarah died when Isaac was thirty-six or thirty-seven. The servant was sent to bring back Rebekah some three or four years later. They married upon their arrival in the Promised Land when Isaac was forty years old.
21 Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived.
Like Sarah before her, Rebekah was barren. Her barrenness lasted twenty years, and Isaac prayed for her. He knew that God had brought them together and appointed their marriage. He also knew that God had promised that a nation would come through him. So he knew that he was praying according to God’s will. And he persistently prayed that God’s Word would come to pass, just as it had with his own birth. So God answered his prayer by making Rebekah conceive.
22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. 23 The LORD said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb;
And two peoples will be separated from your body;
And one people shall be stronger than the other;
And the older shall serve the younger.”
When Rebekah asked the LORD about the struggle within her, God told her that she would give birth to twins who would each become a nation. The two twins would be separated from one another, and one of their nations would become stronger than the other. That strong nation would be the one coming from the younger son, for the older son would serve the younger.
24 When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.
It happened just as the LORD had told her. Rebekah gave birth to twins when Isaac was sixty years old. They must have wondered how the prophecy would play out. It was apparent that Jacob had been appointed to be the inheritor of the Abrahamic covenant, even though Esau was the eldest.
27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. 28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; 30 and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 But Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” 33 And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
Jacob went about the securing of the birthright through opportunistic means. He had a long way to go to become a man who walks by faith like his father Abraham. But God humbled Jacob and taught him to trust in Him and to walk in righteousness.
So often, we resemble Jacob more than we resemble Isaac. Let us learn to trust the will of God to work all things for good to us who love God. He will not forget His promises, and we can live by faith that He will do everything that He promised. Thus, let us rest secure that He will fulfill His covenant with Abraham, and that we, the church, will reign with Christ forever.