Genesis 25 - Abraham's Line

October 09, 2019

1 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.

And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.

And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim.

And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abidah, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.

And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.

But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.

And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years.

Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.

And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre;

10 The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.

11 And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi.

12 Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's handmaid, bare unto Abraham:

13 And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam,

14 And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa,

15 Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah:

16 These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations.

17 And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people.

18 And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria: and he died in the presence of all his brethren.

19 And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham begat Isaac:

20 And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian.

21 And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the Lord.

23 And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.

24 And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.

25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.

26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.

27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.

28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.

29 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:

30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.

31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.

32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?

33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.

34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.

Events:

1. Abraham takes Keturah as a wife and has six more sons.

2. Abraham dies and is buried.

3. Ishmael is blessed with twelve sons.

4. Isaac and Rebekah are blessed with two sons, Jacob and Esau.

5. Esau sells his birthright for a bowl of red lentil stew.

What does this passage teach us?

Verses 1–6. Life was not over for Abraham following the death of his first wife, Sarah. He continued to live life to its fullest by marrying another woman and populating the earth with six more sons. Although Yahweh God had clearly established the covenant with Isaac alone (Gen. 17:21), Abraham was still being true to the basic dominion covenant God made with Adam and Noah. Both then and now, God intended for men to populate the earth, work the soil, and harness animals and minerals for the benefit of mankind. Though it is a sad reality in a fallen world, some children who are born into Christian homes do not remain in the covenant.

Although we hope this to be the irregular case, it was not so for the sons of Samuel, David, and Solomon. But even when a disobedient, apostate son turns out to be a sorrow to his father and mother, this does not mark the end of all hope and purpose for the family. At the very least, godly parents are still fulfilling the dominion mandate when they raise children. They are still endeavoring to live life in obedience to God’s will. Moreover, we also find that the covenant promises revisit a man’s posterity in generations to come. It was out of the ungodly behavior of Lot’s daughters and the unbelieving Moabites that Ruth came, and blessed God’s people through furthering the line of David and the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself. 

It is important to note that Abraham refused to provide any significant part of the inheritance to anyone but Isaac, the son of the covenant. When the interests of the kingdom of God are of primary importance in the eyes of the man of faith, he will want to put his resources on God’s project. 

Verses 7–10. Abraham died at 175 years of age, and his sons buried him in the cave that he had purchased from the sons of Heth. From these early records of divine revelation, those who read with eyes of faith will identify several clues pertaining to the afterlife. Very early in the history of the world, Genesis records Enoch’s ascension to be with God. The man did not die. This was a strong sign to generations of faith afterwards that there was something other than death awaiting the righteous. As we read that Abraham was “gathered to his people,” we cannot help but to think that this was a veiled, but hopeful allusion to a reunion of the living somewhere beyond death! We are those who believe in the resurrection ourselves, so we ought to use such references to death. While life on earth may involve separation from our roots—as is the case with the wandering vagabond and stranger—believers can rest assured that one day they will arrive at their final home for eternal fellowship with loved ones, never to part again.

As we approach the New Testament, we begin to find more explicit references to the resurrection of the body, centered on the bodily resurrection of our Lord. With the Old Testament writings, however, we find only veiled references to heaven and resurrection—but even these veiled references would have inspired hope in the hearts of believers. Sadly, the skeptical sect of the Sadducees in the time of Christ did not pick up on these references. They would not believe in the final resurrection. For all true believers throughout all time, the belief in the resurrection is one of the most basic truths of all.

Verses 11–18. The book of Genesis is organized mainly around family lines, beginning with Adam, Seth, and Noah, and ending with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Chapter 25 then summarizes the line of Abraham, beginning with his oldest son, Ishmael. Some parts of God’s covenant promises for Abraham materialized right away. True to God’s promise, Abraham became the father of several nations immediately. Ishmael quickly rose to power and influence by way of his twelve sons, who themselves became powerful princes over cities. By God’s providence, Isaac had to wait a generation for his twelve sons! Sometimes God’s kingdom works slowly and somewhat surreptitiously. Nevertheless, the Edomites had no part in the covenant and so the kingdom they established was merely an earthly kingdom. Today the Edomites are gone. Their kingdom did not last. But the Kingdom of Christ, David, Moses, and Jacob continues to prosper, even to this day.

Verses 19–26. It should be pointed out that God’s Word is most concerned with the people of the covenant. Until the Gospel reached Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome, very little was said about the great empires of men. A few paragraphs were afforded to cover Babel, Egypt, and Greece. The book of Daniel had a tiny bit to say about Greece and Rome. Although Ishmael produced a great nation, only a sum total of eight verses addressed his kingdoms. God is more interested in His own covenant people. The last half of the book of Genesis will provide minute detail concerning the descendants of Isaac and his covenant son, Jacob.

As is characteristic in the development of God’s people, Isaac and Rebekah faced their own difficulties. They suffered through twenty painful years of barrenness before they added one more grain of sand to the posterity that was supposed to be more numerous than the sand on the seashore. Comparing the fertility and accomplishments of Ishmael with that of Isaac, it may seem at first that God was blessing the unfaithful more than the faithful. But He always has good reasons for what He does with His own. The meek do inherit the earth… eventually. But they have to be meek first. God carefully humbles His people in order that He might exalt them. This is how He works in history. Just so they will rely upon Him, God trains His people to patiently endure much difficulty along the way, as they grow His kingdom through the generations. Without question, He is testing their faith.

Under these trying circumstances, Isaac did not repeat the same mistake Abraham made, when his father took a second wife. Instead, he interceded to God for his wife. The Lord answered his prayer and Rebekah conceived twins. Still alive, Abraham would have been 160 years old when his grandsons were born. What a tremendous confirmation for Abraham and Isaac’s faith!

Then we read that the two babies wrestled in Rebekah’s womb through the pregnancy.

Helpfully, the Lord God explained this ferocious prenatal competition to her. By His providence, He planned that these two children would form two nations. They would represent two sides of the great cosmic war that existed since the Garden. For hundreds of years, the Edomites would set themselves against the descendants of Jacob. To this day, the wars in the Middle East may still represent some of this dissension. Towards the end of God’s revelation to Rebekah, we find an encouraging promise that remains a comfort to the sons and daughters of the covenant forever: “The older son will serve the younger.” This was the preferred modus operandi by which the kingdom of God would play itself out in the succeeding millennia. Again and again throughout history, God would exalt the disadvantaged and humble the proud. The younger brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son got the fatted calf and received great mercy and acceptance from his father. This principle always renders hope to the downtrodden, the humble, and the needy, while at the same time checking the pride of the privileged and presumptuous. 

So the younger emerged from the womb gripping the heel of his elder brother and he was named Jacob, or “heel holder.” Throughout his life, Jacob demonstrated a strong competitive spirit, and an overweening inclination towards usurping the position of the elder.

Verses 27–34. As with all siblings, there were marked differences between Esau and Jacob—Esau was full of vigor and a hunter in the field while Jacob preferred to stay in the tent. For better or worse, Isaac and Rebekah played favorites with their sons. Certainly, Rebekah had good reason to choose Jacob as the favorite, having received God’s revelation concerning the matter. The basis for Isaac’s favoritism was less rooted in divine revelation than in his stomach. According to verse 28, Isaac was especially fond of the venison that Esau brought home from the hunt. As parents, our primary interest in our children should be their spiritual well-being, not the immediate gratification we receive from externalism and superficiality.

A man’s values and priorities are eventually clarified at certain crossroads in his life. This is what happened to Esau the day he sold his birthright. On that fateful day, he clarified his own priorities in life by choosing a meal over his birthright in the inheritance. The importance of this event in Esau’s life can hardly be overstated. In fact, the name used for his generational line is “Edomite,” and refers to the “red stew” he ate that day in exchange for his birthright. Evidently Esau had little interest in the long-term promise of the land (which was still 400 years to follow). Nor was he all that interested in being part of the covenant line. His carnal, temporal commitments were manifest in his all-controlling desire to have something he could touch and taste and enjoy in the present.

How does this passage teach us to walk with God in faith and obedience? 

1. Any one of us may die today. As Christians we must hang all of our hopes on a final resurrection. We must believe that we will be present on that day with Christ and all true believers, friends, and family members. For this reason, we do not have to be afraid of death.

2. Where are you in relation to the covenant and the kingdom of God? Are you an Esau or a Jacob? Do you look forward to the blessings of heaven or do you seek all your blessings in the present? Jesus told his disciples to lay up for themselves treasures in heaven. Sometimes you may have to deny yourself and suffer for Christ in this world. You will not find this so burdensome if you have faith that God has a great inheritance waiting for you in heaven. Without a solid faith placed in the promises of God, you will throw away that inheritance in exchange for a little pleasure here and now.

Questions: 

1. What are the themes of Chapters 1 through 25?

2. What problem did both Rebekah and Sarah share? 

3. What was the sin Abraham had committed that Isaac did not commit? How was Isaac to be commended in this chapter? How did he demonstrate weakness?

4. What do the names “Jacob” and “Esau” mean?

5. What did Esau do that demonstrated his lack of interest in being an heir to the covenant?

6. How did Esau come to be called Edom?

Family Discussion Questions:

1. What are the problems that may develop when parents play favorites with their children? When is it appropriate to commend a child for something? Is there any sin in preferring one child in the inheritance over another child? 

2. Does it appear that Christians have the upper hand in our country at this time, or does it appear that the wicked are prospering? Is God humbling His people? Can we expect that God will bring the proud down as well