Let’s continue the Inductive Bible Study Method we learned last time.
Abraham takes a third wife when he’s very old (a replacement for Sarah perhaps? Since Hagar, his second has been sent away). He has tons more kids, but leaves everything to Isaac, but still gave gifts to his concubines’ (more than one?) sons so that they wouldn’t be empty-handed when he died. Ishmael reappears and helps Isaac bury their father with Sarah – on the field he bought (smart guy). Then, God blessed Isaac, and Ishmael’s sons are recorded. Turns out, Ishmael also has 12 sons who become 12 tribes (as does Isaac’s son Jacob). They live near Egypt, and live in hostility toward all their brothers.
Isaac married Rebekah at age 40, but she was also barren – as Isaac’s own mother had been for 90 years. So, Isaac prayed for her. She became pregnant with twins, who struggled in her womb – destined to be two nations as the Lord says. Esau (“red and hairy”) came out first, caught on the heel by his brother Jacob (“grasping the heel” or “deceiver”). Esau became a rugged, manly man – a hunter. Jacob remained a momma’s boy. Isaac loved the manly man (Esau), but Rebekah loved her baby (Jacob).
One day, Esau returns from hunting, famished. He asks his brother for some stew, but Jacob forces him to sell his birthright to him before chowing down. He does. He made a stupid decision.
Just because Abraham had Isaac and lots of faith at the beginning of his story, doesn’t mean he got a free pass to awesomeness for the rest of it (like Noah also didn’t). He may not have neglected the marriage covenant directly by taking a third wife, since Sarah was dead – but surely his concubines – were a violation of it. And that brings up a good question. Did he get all those concubines because he became so wealthy? It seems like rich men in the Bible often end up doing that sort of thing…
Isaac’s prayer for his barren wife is a good example. Prayer for pregnancy may work. It’s a good idea to take the desire for children to God, especially when a wife has difficulty conceiving. And one more thing we can learn from Isaac is not to play favorites with your children – or at least, not to make it obvious who your favorite is. Those kinds of things can backfire at some point in the future, when the favorite child doesn’t live up to the expectations of his parents, or when the least favored surpasses the favored or stands in opposition to his parents.
Additionally, unlike Esau, we should think about the ramifications of our decisions before taking action. He was only thinking with his stomach, and didn’t think about his future, or that of his children. His one stupid decision becomes one of the roots of a big stupid problem later on.
- We should strive to keep the marriage covenant holy before God.
- We should not allow riches, position, or authority to go to our heads so that we abuse those things, take advantage of others, or sin.
- We should pray for barren women – that God would open their wombs (and everything else as well).
- We should not play favorites with our children.
- We should think about the far-reaching effects of our decisions, and not only think with our body parts.
Another famine comes (as it did when Abraham was alive), but God tells Isaac to stick around and not go to Egypt (as Abraham did). So, he sticks around. But, he also lies that his wife is his sister, just as his father Abraham did (sins of the fathers…), and gets caught. The king gets quite upset with Isaac, but then gives orders to all his men not to touch Isaac or his wife. Isaac plants crops and gets tons of dough (literally). The Philistines envy him, so block all the wells that his father’s servants had dug. Then the king asks Isaac to move away. So he did, then reopened the wells, quarreled with the locals over them, moved away, and on and on, until he reached Beersheba. God met him there, blessed him and made promises to him again (as he had to Abraham). Then Abimelech, the king came to him again and made a peace treaty with him. He dug a new well for water. Esau married two Hittite women when he was 40 whom his parents didn’t approve of.
Much of this story echoes much of Isaac’s father Abraham’s story. There are many similarities between the two, their travels, their personalities, even their sins. And it is likely that Abraham had never told Isaac about many of the same deeds and sins that Isaac repeated. So, it is true what Exodus 34:7 says, that the sins of the father may be carried on for three or four generations. Therefore, it is important to realize and remember that we are each a product of our parents and we may commit the same, or similar sins that the previous generation committed – even with no prior knowledge of such sins. Therefore, we also must be careful about how we live, so that patterns of sin may stop with us, and so that our children and children’s children will not get caught in the same patterns of sin.
Additionally, as far as Esau’s marriage goes – it is true that they were foreigners, but their skin color actually matters less to God (and Esau’s parents) than their spiritual color. They may be from a foreign land, but they are also from a foreign spirituality – and that brings the most grief to Isaac and Rebekah. The same is true for us today. When parents don’t approve of a match-up, we would do well to listen to them. If they come from a different religious background, chances are there will be much grief caused by that union. But different skin color with the same religious background makes a much better match than the same skin color with different religious backgrounds (I myself am an American, married to a Korean, both Christians).
- We are all products of our parents, and at some point are bound to repeat some of the same mistakes our parents made.
- We should take care then, how we live, so that we can stop sin patterns in our lives before they carry over into our childrens’ lives.
- We would do well to listen to the concerns of our parents regarding spouses.
- But also remember that same skin color with different religions brings far more grief to a family than different skin color with the same religion.
Isaac tells Esau to prepare some fresh game for him to eat so that he can bless him. Esau sets out, but Rebekah had overheard and decides to take advantage of the situation. She dresses up her little prince like Esau and makes some tasty food for her husband just like Esau would. Jacob feels a little worried he might be cursed, but his mother brushes that aside and says, “Oh, whatever, I’ll be cursed, just do what I say.” So, he does. And he lies to his father that he is Esau so that he can receive the blessing. Then he tells more lies as his father questions him about the kill. And he lies again when Isaac wants to touch him to double check his identity. Isaac blesses him, then asks again if he’s really Esau. Jacob lies again. Isaac tried to test him again by smelling him, but Jacob had worn Esau’s clothes so that the smell would be Esau’s (another lie). Isaac blessed Jacob greatly again. Jacob leaves and Esau enters at the same moment with food. His father can’t believe what has just happened – neither can Esau. They both tremble and cry out. Isaac has reserved no great blessing for Esau, who begs for one anyway. So, his father blesses him, less than Jacob. Esau plans to kill Jacob once their father dies, so Jacob flees to his mother’s brother Laban. Then Rebekah tries to blame Esau’s and his wives for anything, and makes an excuse to send Jacob away.
Lies, lies, lies. So many lies in one chapter. Jacob lies to his father at least 5 times during the same event. And Isaac’s wife Rebekah lies to him at least 3 times as well (directly and indirectly – through Jacob and regarding Jacob). Over and over and over again, Jacob had a chance to flee temptation, to escape his lies, but he just kept weaving the lies tighter, and digging his hole deeper. It’s no wonder then that his brother wanted to kill him. But then Rebekah (not the ideal wife – eavesdropping on her husband, lying to him, cheating him for her favorite son) tries to blame much of their problems on Esau and his wives – who may be a problem, but not the root of all their problems.
- Jacob listened to sinful council from his mother and sinned. Just as Adam did with Eve. Just as Abraham did with Sarah. If someone gives sinful council, and your conscience is seared – don’t do it!
- Even children should not obey sinful council from their parents. And wives should not obey sinful council from their husbands, nor husbands from wives.
- If you are tempted, there is always a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). If you begin to sin, there is still a way out. Often, there may be many escape routes during a sin. Be wise and take one of them, before the sin envelopes you completely.
- Yes, lying is a sin.
- Eavesdropping, cheating for your own advantage, and blaming a scapegoat are also sins (Rebekah).