I am referring to Isaac, unfortunately.
Within the previous chapters of Genesis, Isaac appears to exude immense faith, going so far as to comply when his father, Abraham, was going to offer him as a sacrifice to God. My, how the tides have changed once Isaac got his way.
Abraham and Sarah are getting older, and Sarah dies first at the age of 127. Abraham secures a burial place for her (and later himself) among the Hittites. He offers them money for the plot, but they initially refuse it. Later they settle on a price of four hundred shekels. Abraham is careful to make sure all loose ends are tied up with this transaction. It is recorded that all of the Hittites who had come to the gate at that time witnessed the transaction.
Abraham is concerned about Isaac finding a wife. He summons an unnamed servant and requests that he find Isaac a wife. However, she cannot be just ANY woman. Abraham has special instructions as to how this diligent servant is to secure Isaac’s bride-to-be in Gen. 24:
1. The wife is to come from Abraham’s country and relatives. It would have been unacceptable to allow Isaac to marry a heathen wife.
2. Isaac is not to go back to Abraham’s country. Perhaps Abraham was seeing signs of his son’s waning faith and was concerned about his ability to follow instructions–the servant did exactly as he was told when he found Rebekah. I am not entirely sure why Abraham insisted that Isaac stay behind–perhaps he was also concerned about his son attempting to settle there, since that was not the Promised Land. Even if either of these two inferences are true–that Abraham did not trust Isaac to find the right bride or was worried about Isaac staying there–it tells me that his son’s faith was already not as strong as it should have been.
Luckily the servant does an exceptional job at adhering to his master’s instructions. The servant prays for a sign that will enable him to identify this special woman (Gen. 24:11-15):
“He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water. Then he prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.” Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor.”
Why was this important? Drawing water was probably back-breaking work, and camels can drink a lot of water. Rebekah exuded Godly character when she fulfilled the servant’s prayer. How kind and hospitable she was to this stranger! Interestingly, Rebekah appeared before the servant had even finished praying. The Bible does not say that many women came before the prayer was answered–it illustrates very clearly that Rebekah was the first and only one. The servant obviously had the right heart when he prayed–he was truly seeking to do his master’s will. He could have been praying selfishly because he wanted to hurry up and find the bride so he could get back home, and I doubt God would have been so quick to answer the prayer. I have done this many times–prayed with a selfish heart and wondered why it went unanswered, or done something with selfish motives and wondered why it went unnoticed or unrewarded.. It is always important to make sure to do some mental preparation before praying. Sometimes I have to talk with myself before I pray in order to make sure I am not praying for the wrong reason. It is also necessary to make sure to serve our Master with the right intentions. When we put together a program at church, are we doing it to please God or to elevate our position among the other members of the congregation? Do people really dance like David did because the Holy Spirit has compelled them to do so, or do they do this to put on a show and appear “holier” than the members who quietly worship in their seats? This servant seemed to have no deficiency there.
Oh and before anyone says anything, Rebekah and Isaac were in fact second cousins.
The servant goes on to give Rebekah a gold nose ring and two gold bracelets. The nose ring may have been the equivalent of our engagement ring today, symbolizing her impending marriage to Isaac. At this time the servant inquires as to Rebekah’s identity, asking who her father is and if there is room for him and his camels to lodge. Undoubtedly, the marriage had to be discussed with Rebekah’s father. I am not sure, but the nose ring may have symbolized that Rebekah was to be married into Abraham’s family–when her brother Laban sees the nose ring, it appears he recognizes it as just that, for he says “Come, you who are blessed by the Lord…”
The servant is brought into the familial home and treated very well–his camels are lodged, his feet are washed, and food is placed before him. Before he eats, although he was probably hungry from his trip, the servant gets to the business of his master and secures the marriage. Bethuel (Rebekah’s father) and Laban agree to the marriage, as it is from the Lord, and the servant presents the family with costly gifts and remains with the family overnight. However, Laban and Rebekah’s mother are not quite ready to let her go the next day, asking for her to remain with them for ten days. The servant allows Rebekah to decide whether or not she will go or stay, per Abraham’s instructions. She chooses to go and meets up with Isaac on Mount Moriah (there is that Mount Moriah again, which may be the same place where Christ was crucified–In this way Isaac is a type of Christ, with Rebekah symbolizing His Bride–the Church).
Laban was only human and probably did want to spend some more time with his sister before she departed for the long journey to meet her new husband and begin her new life. I am sure her mother felt the same way. However, Rebekah knew when God says jump, we should be ready to do just that. Not saying Laban’s intentions were wrong, but he kind of reminds me of those friends who do not want to see your relationship with the Lord mature. Sometimes we have to cut people off in order to better cultivate our spiritual side and grow. It does not matter if they are family or not–if they are holding us back from what God would have us do, they gots to go. Simple as that (forgive the bad English there). In my own life, when I left Grand Valley State University (that is where I was raped), there were a lot of people I stopped talking to completely. I had to move on and heal and they were not part of that purpose. They were a part of my sinful lifestyle that I wished to escape.
After Sarah’s death, Abraham married another woman, Keturah, and fathered six more children. Although Abraham gave these six sons gifts while he was living, he left everything he owned to Isaac upon his death at the age of 175. Ishmael comes back into the picture as he and Isaac bury their father in the same plot as Sarah among the Hittites.
Ishmael’s 12 descendants are named next. Ishmael dies at the age of 137, and it is recorded that his descendants lived in hostility with their neighbors, just as it had been predicted. And next comes the unraveling of Isaac’s line with one of my favorite stories in Genesis–that of Jacob and Esau.
Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau–why can’t these brothers ever get along?
Anyway, after being childless for 20 years of marriage, Rebekah and Isaac pray and Rebekah becomes pregnant with twins who fight even in the womb. Esau, the oldest, is entitled to certain privileges as a result of being the firstborn. However, the Lord has already revealed to Rebekah that contrary to tradition, the older brother would serve the younger. (This becomes even more important later on). The Lord tells her: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”
Their differences are immediate right away–Esau is given his name because he is hairy. He is also described as being red. Jacob came out with his hand grasping at Esau’s heel (imagine that!). Esau, like Cain, was the outdoorsy twin, while Jacob, like Abel, preferred to remain in the house. Unfortunately, parental favoritism may have played a part in the rivalry among the two–Isaac “loved” Esau, and Rebekah loved “Jacob”. I wonder how much that influenced the boys’ personalities in addition to how it contributed to their apparent disdain for one another… I guess what I am saying is that it seems to be expected that the father figure would approve more of the more adventurous, rugged son, while the mother would prefer the son who stayed close to her… but that is just my personal speculation. Either way, it proved to be deleterious to the relationship between these two brothers.
But the story goes on. One day Esau returns from hunting and is starving so bad he believes he will die (Gen. 25:32). This is how one can easily tell how bad their relationship is–instead of just giving his brother some of the lentil stew he has prepared, Jacob offers to exchange it for Esau’s birthright, which basically guaranteed him a double portion of whatever his father had as a result of being the firstborn son.
That stew must have smelled delicious. Esau completely wrote off his birthright privileges in exchange for that stew. It seems a bit extreme, but then again, who knows, maybe Esau really did think he was going to die of hunger! Esau appears to have a certain level of disinterest in his birthright. As the oldest son, not only would he inherit most of his father’s wealth, but the responsibility that came along with being the head of the household. Esau would have to lead the household in all matters, spiritual, financial, etc. Maybe he did not want to bear that “burden”. Perhaps that is why we are told that Esau “despised his birthright”. A lot of selflessness and sacrifice comes from being the head of the household–I can think of my own home, where my husband has to serve diligently as the spiritual leader, principal breadwinner, etc. It is not a role to be taken lightly.
Jacob’s motives were equally as underhanded–he obviously coveted the potential money and power. Undoubtedly he got his underhanded ways from his mother, much to my disappointment.
When a famine occurs, Isaac and Co. travel to Gerar, where Abimelek is the king of the Philistines. Here is where the like father, like son bit comes in… Afraid that he will be killed due to Rebekah’s beauty, Isaac does the exact same thing Abraham did–he lied and said Rebekah was his sister. The Bible says that Isaac was there a long time before Abimelek sees Isaac caressing his wife and figures out their true relationship. He confronts Isaac, and understandably so: That lie could have made Abimelek or one of his men party to adultery. Abimelek issues a command to his people not to harm Isaac. Isaac plants crops in the land and they increase a hundredfold despite the famine, because God has blessed it.
(Although America seems to be going through a time of spiritual famine, this can happen to us. If we plant the seeds (the Gospel) in the right place at the right time and with the right heart, God can bless it and increase our ministry a hundredfold). Isaac becomes very wealthy and proceeds to refurbish all the wells his father had previously dug, even giving them the exact same names his father had given them. Meanwhile, Esau marries heathen Hittite women, much to the chagrin of his parents.
The relationship between the two brothers goes from bad to worse. Jacob’s deception shows no bounds as he takes advantage of Isaac’s failing health and poor vision. Isaac, getting older and going blind, for whatever reasons determines his time on earth is short and summons Esau to him to deliver him with a special blessing. Insert Rebekah, who is no longer the picture of Godly character. She overhears Isaac request that Esau prepare him a special meal of the finest game he can hunt so that he can give Esau his final blessing. Rebekah instructs Jacob to receive the blessing. Again, it is of no doubt that Jacob got his sinister ways from his mother, and I do not understand how a woman who appeared to have been so faithful would go so far as to A) disregard what God had previously told her, B) deceive her husband in such a manner, and C) show such disdain for her own child. These are definitely not the actions of a Godly woman (Gen. 27: 6-14):
Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’ Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.” Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.” His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me”.
Jacob does as he is told… he brings Rebekah the goats and somehow she is able to prepare them so that they taste like venison. She also goes so far as to put some of the goatskins on Jacob so he appears to be hairy like his brother. Although Isaac appears to be suspicious–he questions how “Esau” could have hunted so quickly and even acknowledges that the voice is Jacob’s–he has chosen to rely on his own senses, smelling Jacob and saying he smells like he had been hunting, and rubbing his “hairy” hands. Nowhere in the Bible does it say why Isaac handed out the blessing so hastily. Even though he was in poor health, he did not know his “expiration date” and actually lived to be 180. Everything in this passage of Scripture was sloppily done.
Right after Isaac finishes the blessing upon “Esau”, the REAL Esau returns. Of course he is bitter about what has happened, which is ironic because he did not seem to care about blessings and birthrights before. Wonder why this blessing was important? Let me examine the blessing itself (Gen. 27: 27-29):
“Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed. May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness—an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”
Nothing corrupts the hearts of men and turns them from God faster or more consistently than does the promise of money and/or power. So while Esau shirked his responsibility as the leader of Isaac’s estate, he was content to take the power and money. When he cries, it is not because he is remorseful about despising his birthright. He cries because that money and power is no longer within his reach. This is apparent by the fact that he asks his father to bless him too. Isaac instead predicts the tension that will occur between the nations his two sons would go on to father (before reconciling) in Gen. 27:39-40:
It goes without saying that Esau is ticked off by this betrayal. Like Cain, he plots to kill his brother. Again, insert Rebekah. When she becomes aware of Esau’s anger toward her beloved Jacob, she tells him to go her brother Laban’s house until Esau’s fury dissipates. At the end of chapter 27, Rebekah expresses frustration with Esau’s wives, saying that it would kill her if Jacob married Hittite women (paraphrased). I could not help but marvel at this perhaps minor statement–although it may have grieved her when Esau married the two heathen women, she did not go so far as to say it “killed her”, but she could not conceive of her precious Jacob doing the same thing.
This family’s story absolutely fascinates me and definitely has applications for present-day life. Look at the damage these two parents did their sons. First, God had already told Rebekah when she was pregnant that the younger son would rule over the old. So there was no need to scheme and plot for Jacob to receive Esau’s blessing. Her favoritism clouded her judgment and diluted her faith. As a mother, she appalls me. How can you so callously slight one of your children for another???? One might wonder if there was something about Esau that caused his mother to have such disdain for him, but as a mother, I believe that deficiency lies within Rebekah, not Esau–what was wrong with HER that she was unable to love both sons equally?
Obviously a poor example had been set for both boys at the hands of the parents. Of course kids naturally know how to lie–even when my son was little he knew to tell a lie if it might get him out of trouble. But Jacob not only had it down to a science, he had someone who supported and even encouraged him to lie–his mother! I could NEVER picture myself instructing either of my children to lie to their father. How can I be the picture of moral character for them to follow if I am telling them to deceive their own dad? Instead of being obedient to God, Jacob went along with his mother’s scheme. He did suffer the consequences later on, when his own sons deceived him into thinking his favorite child, Joseph, had been killed. (Deception appears to be an inherited trait here).
Mothers are powerful influences in their children’s lives, and it is no more obvious than within this story. Perhaps Esau would have been different if he had the same portion of his mother’s affection. Perhaps Isaac is to blame for the poor spiritual state his family appears to be in–he is the head honcho here. Whatever the case, this family had fallen away, but still had a place in God’s plan. HOWEVER, the lying and scheming was NOT a part of the plan. God does not do anything messy. Isaac and Rebekah seem to have forgotten what God has done for them–allowing her to bear twins after two decades of fruitlessness–and what God has already said would happen. As we have seen in the Bible already, when people take things into their own hands, sloppiness ensues. This story is the epitome of sloppy, as it turned two brothers against each other for many, many years. Is it possible that this could have been avoided but the initial prophecy of having the older brother serve the young be fulfilled? Of course anything is possible with God. I am just speculating as to how it could have happened otherwise.
This family was in spiritual turmoil. Parents destroying a sibling relationship with favoritism, a wife deceiving her husband, spiritually deficient, carnal-minded sons with the wrong desires and motivations. I doubt Abraham would have been pleased.
However, most of us go through times of waning faith, although I would like to believe most of us would not go to the extremes of this story. And how often do we get complacent and kind of put God on the back burner when things in our lives are going well? Sometimes it takes tragedy, disappointment, or even flat-out mayhem to get our minds right. I have been there before. I’ve said it before and I will say it again–the mayhem of my life, the rape, reminded me how I had fallen out of God’s will for me.
Although I was not a fan of Isaac and Rebekah in particular at the end of chapter 27, I did take something from their marriage: The servant asked God for a sign that would show him who Rebekah was. I think this is something a lot of people fail to do when they are searching for a potential mate–ask God! When I found my husband, I was not looking for anyone. He just appeared. What is interesting is that we have been in relatively close proximity to each other all of our lives, living in the same area, but never met before eight years ago 🙂 Anyway, I think it is important for all of us to ask God if the person we think we ought to marry is indeed the right person, and if we are looking for a mate, ask God to show us one.
And parents should NEVER allow a sense of favoritism to harbor within their hearts, EVER. I already know that my kids may or may not have my characteristics or take after me when it comes to their interests. For example, I was never into some of the things my other girlfriends were into–like fashion or cheer-leading. I was always tomboyish. So let’s just say my daughter decides to be a cheer-leader instead of playing basketball or softball like I did. Will I be disappointed? Nope. I will encourage her to do her absolute best. What if my son does play football, which I don’t particularly care for? I will be at every single game, cheering him on. I do not understand how every single parent does not have that unconditional love for ALL of their children. As mine get older, I plan to spend equal time with each of them, helping them grow and nurture their interests and personalities. I like what my parents did when I was growing up with my older sister–they attended parent-teacher conferences, choir and dance (for my sister) recitals, my plays, participated in NAAPID, and had the entire family go out to dinner every Friday. At the same time, they also spent time with us individually. Even if it was something as simple as window-shopping, it was time alone.
My parents set a great example for me to follow. If there was favoritism, I did not feel it. I feel that my sister and I were sometimes treated differently only because we were just that–different.
Ahhh, what compelling stuff. I can’t get enough of it… well, maybe I can for now. I have finally gotten sleepy 🙂