The book of Genesis appears to be split into several sections each starting with the phrase ‘These are the generations of…’ In this chapter we come to end of one of these – The generations of Terah, which started in chapter 11 and has covered the life of Abraham. There is a very short section, the generations of Ishmael followed by that of Isaac starting in verse 20.
Abraham outlived Sarah by about 38 years and during that time we are told he had another wife, Keturah and several sons. We noted that in the names of these sons we can see that the promise to Abraham that he would be a father of nations was starting to be fulfilled.
In verse 5 we saw Abraham ensuring that these other sons would not interfere with the special promise and blessing God had made and which he knew should be through Isaac. So Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines and sent them away from the land of promise where Isaac would be remaining.
Abraham died at the age of 175, 100 years after he left Haran. The narrative points out once again (Genesis 25 v10) that he is buried with Sarah, in ground that he had bought. Though promised this land he had not been given it during his life – a promise yet to be fulfilled. It is interesting that Ishmael comes back to join Isaac in burying Abraham their father.
The section on Ishmael narrates the fulfillment of the promise made about him in Genesis 17 v 20 that he would have 12 princes as children and be a great nation.
The section on the generations of Isaac, starting in verse 20, goes back a few years. Rebekah was barren for 20 years after her marriage to Isaac. Isaac prays to God for his wife (verse 21) and we can see in this the trust they had in God – there was no suggestion of taking a concubine, Isaac recognized the hand of God in choosing Rebekah to be his wife.
The pregnancy was difficult and this caused Rebekah to wonder and inquire of the LORD. She is told she has twins and is given a prophecy concerning them. We considered whether this prophecy, that the elder would serve the younger, influenced Rebekah’s preference of Jacob to Esau later. The description of Jacob grasping Esau’s heel seems significant in indicating the struggle between the two sons in the womb and later.
We can calculate that at Abraham’s death Isaac was 75 and Esau & Jacob were about 15. As Jacob stayed at home in the tents, he may well have used his opportunity to talk with his grandfather Abraham as well as Rebekah and Isaac and so had acquired his interest in the promises and the birthright. The last episode of the chapter, where Esau sells his birthright for the ‘mess of pottage’ or a stew shows the contrast between the two sons. Esau appears to be only interested in physical things of immediate value to him and disregards any future value. So the final comment on Esau’s attitude and action that he despised his birthright is strongly worded and seems to imply more than that he just didn’t care.