Genesis 25:19-26 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What does the Lord (Jehovah) reveal to Rebekah about the babies in her womb? See Genesis 25:23 (printed below)

And Jehovah said to her, Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples coming from your bosom shall be separated. One people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger. (Genesis 5:23)

The Lord reveals to Rebekah that the two babies being formed in her womb shall become the progenitors of two separate nations of people. Most significantly, the Lord reveals that the older son will serve the younger. In other words, contrary to the prevailing custom, the younger son will receive the pre-eminent position. Note: in the case of the patriarchs (the fathers of God’s covenant people), receiving the pre-eminent position involved receiving the covenantal blessing.

2. Compare and contrast Jacob and Esau with regard to how they viewed the birthright (which contained the Lord’s covenantal blessing). See Genesis 25:27-34 (printed below)

The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. (28) Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (29) Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. (30) He said to Jacob, Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I am famished! (That is why he was also called Edom.) (31) Jacob replied, First sell me your birthright. (32) Look, I am about to die, Esau said. What good is the birthright to me? (33) But Jacob said, Swear to me first. So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. (34) Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:27-34 The New International Version, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1994.)

In the case of the patriarchs, the birthright would include the covenant blessings of the Lord—note Abimelech’s words to Isaac recorded in Genesis 26:29b; “You now are the blessed of Jehovah.” Esau is so focused on the immediate gratification of his earthly desires that he discounts the birthright—with all of its spiritual and divine significance. Esau’s opinion is that the divine blessing is not worth dying for. Although Jacob wrongly takes advantage of Esau’s weakness and moment of vulnerability, he shows an active interest in the covenant blessing. Although his actions are unworthy, his attitude shows the work of God’s grace: there is an active desire to possess the covenant blessing.

3. Compare and contrast Jacob and Esau with regard to their selection of a marriage partner. See Genesis 27:46 and 28:1-5 (printed below)

Then Rebekah said to Isaac, I am disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living. (Genesis 27:46 The New International Version, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1994.)

So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him and commanded him: Do not marry a Canaanite woman. (2) Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. (3) May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. (4) May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien, the land God gave to Abraham. (5) Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, who was the mother of Jacob and Esau. (Genesis 28:1-5 The New International Version, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1994.)

Like his father, Abraham, before him, Isaac also shows a concern that his son, Jacob, have a Christian spouse. He instructs Jacob not to marry a daughter of the Canaanites; but rather to take a wife from his family in Paddan Aram who had a knowledge of the Lord and a connection to the covenant community (Genesis 28:1-2). Jacob obeys his father’s directive and sets out for the distant country of Paddan Aram. In so doing he is showing a respect for the Lord’s sacred covenant—he is aware that the people of God are to be distinct from the world and to maintain that distinctiveness as God’s holy people (note 2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1). Esau, on the other hand, initially takes two wives from the daughters of the Canaanites (Genesis 26:34). Later, in an inept attempt to gain Isaac’s blessing, Esau takes another wife from Ishmael’s family (Genesis 28:6-9). Esau does not comprehend the fact that Ishmael is not a part of the covenant community—Esau’s gesture is superficially religious, because he lacks any true vital spiritual life.

4. Describe Jacob’s experience as he journeys to Paddan Aram. What is his reaction to this experience? See Genesis 28:10-22 (printed below)

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. (11) When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. (12) He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. (13) There above it stood the LORD, and he said: I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. (14) Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. (15) I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. (16) When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it. (17) He was afraid and said, How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven. (18) Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. (19) He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz. (20) Then Jacob made a vow, saying, If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear (21) so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God (22) and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth. (Genesis 28:10-22 The New International Version, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1994.)

Genesis 28:10-15 records the divine revelation Jacob received when he set out for Paddan Aram. He sees a ladder extending between heaven and earth, the angels of God are ascending and descending this staircase-like ladder, and the Lord Himself is seen standing above the ladder. Note that the whole emphasis of this revelation is the assurance of the Lord’s covenant blessing. When the Lord speaks to Jacob He identifies Himself as the covenant God of his fathers, He confirms to Jacob the covenant promises, and He assures Jacob of His divine protection. It is very significant how Jacob responds to this divine revelation. Even as the Lord ministers His covenant mercy and blessing, Jacob is aware of the awesome majesty of the Lord God, and he expresses a holy, reverent fear of God.

5. Describe Jacob’s experience as he is returning home to Canaan. See Genesis 32:6-7, 9-12, 24-32 (printed below)

When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.(7) In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well…(9) Then Jacob prayed, O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper, (10) I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups. (11) Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. (12) But you have said, I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, that cannot be counted. …(24) So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. (25) When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. (26) Then the man said, Let me go, for it is daybreak. But Jacob replied, I will not let you go unless you bless me. (27) The man asked him, What is your name? Jacob, he answered. (28) Then the man said, Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome. (29) Jacob said, Please tell me your name. But he replied, Why do you ask my name? Then he blessed him there. (30) So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared. (31) The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. (32) Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon. (Genesis 32:6-7, 9-12, 24-32 The New International Version, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1994.)

In response to God’s instruction (Genesis 31:11-13), Jacob prepares to leave Paddan Aram and return to Canaan (Genesis 32:1). As he approaches Canaan and receives the report that Esau is advancing towards him with 400 men, Jacob is distressed with fear (32:6-7). Jacob turns to the Lord and humbly appeals to His covenant mercies (verses 9-12). In response to his prayer, Jacob has a mysterious encounter with God in which he wrestles with the angel of the Lord (verses 24-32). Jacob’s whole spiritual life is defined in his declaration: “I will not let You go, unless You bless me” (verse 26). Even though he has been exposed to a life-threatening situation (in consequence of obeying the Lord’s command to return to Canaan,) and because he finds himself in an incapacitated state, both physically and spiritually, (as symbolized by the Lord putting his hip out of joint,) Jacob tenaciously clings to the Lord his only Savior (note Psalm 73:25-28).