{10}   Jacob and Esau (Gen 25—26)


Part K. Isaac’s Family (25:1—28:22)

K1.   Death of Abraham (25:1–11)

·         This passage confirms that Isaac was the chosen descendant. Abraham died at the age of 175.

K2.   Ishmael’s family (25:12–18)

·         A list of 12 sons of Ishmael

K3.   Birth of Esau and Jacob (25:19–34)

·         For two generations, the father (Abraham/Isaac) perferred the elder son (Ishmael/Esau) and the mother (Sarah/Rebekah) favoured the younger son (Isaac/Jacob).

·         Isaac’s prayer for children, its divine answer, and the oracle received by Rebekah testify to the piety of the couple. But their sons did not exhibit the same measure of spiritual virtue. Three early events showed the battle of wills that eventually fractured the family: the struggle in the womb, the tussle at birth, and the contentious sale of the birthright.

K4.   Isaac and Rebekah in Gerar (26:1–35)

·         Isaac emerged as a power in the region of the Negeb, southern Canaan. He then fell into the same transgression as his father. Yet he rises to the occasion too, when he trusted God for his protection and needs in the face of trials.

·         Chiasmus of the story of Jacob. Please observe the parallelism.


A 25:19–34 Struggle at birth and birthright

            B 26:1–35 Deception and strife with the Philistines

                        C 27:1—28:9Stolen blessing and flight to Paddam Aram

                                    D 28:10–22 Promise of blessing at Bethiel

                                                E 29:1–30 Laban deceives Jacob

                                                            F 29:31—30:24 Birth of children

                                                            F’ 30:25–43 Birth of herds

                                                E’ 31:1–55 Jacob deceives Laban

                                    D’ 32:1–32 Struggle for blessings at Peniel

                        C’ 33:1–20 Restored gift and return to Shechem

            B’ 34:1–31 Deception and strife with the Hivites

A’ 35:1–22 Blessing and struggle at birth

Appendix 35:23–29 Descendants of Jacob and death of Isaac




25:6     to the land of the east: Abraham dismissed all rival offspring to the east, reminiscent of the expulsion from Eden.

25:12   account of Abraham's son Ishmael: a new toledot section (7th of 10).

Sarah's maidservant, Hagar the Egyptian: This makes it clear that the son was not the legitimate recipient of Abraham’s inheritance. Egypt was also a nation hostile to the chosen people.

25:18   hostility toward all their brothers: a confirmation of the earlier prophecy (Gen 16:12) about Ishmael’s confrontation against others.

25:19   the account of Abraham's son Isaac: a new toledot section (8th of 10).

25:21   Isaac prayed: Unlike his parents who chose a substitute wife to get children, Isaac turned to prayer, showing Isaac’s piety.

she was barren: Esau and Jacob were born when Isaac was 60 (v.26), 20 years after his marriage.

25:22   The babies jostled: The word “jostled” means a violent collision, a crushing or breaking, and reciprocal blowed occurring between the children. The forcefulness of their movements prompted Rebekah’s worries, not only about her children’s survival but also her own survival.

25:23   the older will serve the younger: The oracle was fulfilled not by the brothers but by their descendants as Edom repeatedly submitted to the Israelites (Ex 15:15; Nu 24:18; 2Sa 8:12–14).

25:26   grasping Esau's heel: Jacob grasped Esau’s heel in an attempt to supersede him.

Jacob: (Heb. ya-aqob) The word means “he grasps the heel”. It could also mean “May God protect”. The word “heel” (Heb. aqeb) is also a play on the word “deceived” (Heb. aqab).

25:27   a skillful hunter: Like Ishmael, Esau the eventually outcast son also became a hunter.

a quiet man: The word “quiet” (Heb. tam) elsewhere refers to a person who is “perfect, blameless” (Job 1:1,8; 8:20; Ps 37:37; Pr 29:10) but Jacob was hardly blameless.

25:28   Rebekah loved Jacob: Rebekah might have been influenced by the oracle.

25:31   birthright: (Heb. bekora) In ancient Near East, the eldest son typically possessed inheritance rights over younger sons. In Mosaic Law, the firstborn was granted a double share.

25:34   Esau despised his birthright: Esau casually gave up his birthright as he ate and hurried off with indifference.

26:1     Isaac went to Abimelech: Because of the famine, Isaac was on the way of moving to Egypt but he was stopped by God.

the oath I swore: God’s words expressed His presence (“I will be with you”), the affirmation of His promise (“I will bless you”), His assurance that the promise would be fulfilled.

26:28   the LORD was with you: The Philistines realized that their attempts at hindering Isaac’s rise were futile, for they opposed a power greater than Isaac alone.

26:34   he married Judith: Esau married a Hittite showing that his attitude toward his family’s religious heritage was deficient. The incident likely also fortified Rebekah’s preference for Jacob.


·         Isaac pleaded with God for children. God wants to grant our requests but He wants us to ask Him. Even then, as Isaac learned, God may decide to withhold His answer for a while in order to: (1) deepen our insight into what we really need, (2) broaden our appreciation for His answers, or (3) allow us to mature so we can use His gifts more wisely.

·         Esau traded the lasting benefits of his birthright for the immediate pleasure of food. He acted on impulse, satisfying his immediate desires without pausing to consider the long-term consequences. We can fall into the same trap. When we see something we want, our first impulse is to get it. But immediate pleasure often loses sight of the future. We can avoid making Esau’s mistake by comparing the short-term satisfaction with its long-term consequences before we act.

·         Isaac committed the same mistake as Abraham. He probably knew about the action of his father. Parents help shape the world’s future by the way they shape the children’s values. The first step toward helping children live rightly is for parents to live rightly. Your actions are often copied by those closest to you. What kind of example are you setting for your children?