Genesis 24-25
(Isaac and Rebekah)
January 7th


Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verses

Jacob said, “Make me a trade: my stew for your rights as the firstborn.”

Esau said, “I’m starving! What good is a birthright if I’m dead?”

Jacob said, “First, swear to me.” And he did it. On oath Esau traded away his rights as the firstborn. Jacob gave him bread and the stew of lentils. He ate and drank, got up and left. That’s how Esau shrugged off his rights as the firstborn.

- Genesis 25:31-34 (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

Over the last few days we have been reading a history of the life of Abraham, a descendant of Noah and faithful servant of God who became the patriarch of the Israelites. Today's readings begin the story of the next generation of this family. Abraham dispatched his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac among their own people living some distance away. The servant obeys, following every instruction diligently, and brings home a relative named Rebekah, who marries Isaac. They conceive twins who jostle each other in the womb, much to Rebekah’s dismay. The LORD counsels her by saying:

    Two nations are in your womb,
       two peoples butting heads while still in your body.
    One people will overpower the other,
       and the older will serve the younger.

    - Genesis 25:23b (MSG)


Esau came out first, but Jacob followed him “with his hand grasping Esau’s heel (Gen 25:26 - NIV).” This birth-grip symbolized events to take place later. One day Esau impulsively gave up his birthright for a bowl of stew from Jacob – who requested this price from the hungry boy in exchange for the stew.

These chapters also record Abraham's marriage to a second wife, Keturah, and a set of additional offspring. Abraham died after 175 years on earth. The torch had been passed to the next generations.


Reflection and Application

This generational story is mentioned often in the remainder of the Bible because Esau becomes the father of Edom, an erstwhile enemy of Israel that is addressed often by God and the prophets in later books. Remember back to this chapter when you read the oft-mentioned phrase, “Woe to Edom!”


Notice the difference in the approach to decision-making demonstrated by Abraham’s servant versus the impulsive decision-making exercised by Esau.

The servant had followed Abraham’s instructions to the “T” and asked for God to guide him as he waited by the well. He was rewarded when Rebekah appeared. Subsequently, when Rebekah’s family suggested that she wait ten days, the servant insisted that they must leave right away, in accordance with his master’s wishes. It might have been a nice opportunity for the servant to rest and enjoy Laban’s hospitality, but he steadfastly followed the instructions from the boss.

By contrast, we have Esau, the impetuous first son of the woman who the servant found for Isaac. How is it that he agreed to give up his birthright of inheritance in exchange for a bowl of stew that he quickly ate and digested? Esau did not stop to think about the implications of his decision but reacted according to the needs of his body – he let his body rule his mind. The Renaissance artist known as Rembrandt (1606 – 1669) honored this story as well with a drawing of the scene in which the brothers agree to this monumental trade. The art work is currently on display at the British Museum in London and can be seen online at artbible.com by clicking the following link: "Esau Sells his Birthright to Jacob"

We often hear the advice not to go food-shopping while hungry, because we will experience the same inner rebellion of stomach over wisdom. Many of us have made this mistake on at least one occasion, albeit at a lower cost than the one paid by Esau. When we are faced with big decisions, it would be wise for us to consult with God, as the servant did, and ignore the grumblings and groans of our body.

It’s interesting to pay attention to two recurring Biblical themes in this section: Relations between two brothers and meetings at wells:

Cain and Abel were brothers, Ishmael and Isaac were brothers, and Esau and Jacob were brothers. In each case, there was coveting and jealousy. The first one led to murder, the second one to a divided family, and the last to a lost inheritance and eternal enmity. In a few days we will be reading about the the sons of Jacob and the relationships that they had with each other. We shall observe sibling competition, jealousy, betrayal, and reconciliation.

As for meetings at wells, note in today's reading that Abraham’s servant met Isaac’s future wife, Rebekah at the well, and in later reading we will learn that Moses met his future wife at a well in Midian:

    When Pharaoh heard of this (that Moses had murdered an Egyptian), he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.

    When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, “Why have you returned so early today?”

    They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.”

    “And where is he?” Reuel asked his daughters. “Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.”

    Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.”

    - Exodus 2:15-21 (NIV)

In a later example, Jesus met a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar, where he assured her that he is the living water and she became an evangelist in her village (John 4:1-26). Water is an essential part of life. As such, the wells mentioned in the Bible were central places for gathering and meeting others. It was a life-changing experience for each of the women in these stories. For two of them, it led to marriage, and for the third it led to salvation by accepting the Living Water offered by Christ. Let us pray that we thirst for this water and are satisfied by it.

"Come to the Well," performed by Casting Crowns


Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. For which type of decisions do you consult God? How did you arrive at those criteria?
    2. How does God’s performance record on decision-making compare to yours?
    3. How do we tap into the living water that will satisfy us so that we can avoid submitting to our cravings and coveting?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father, please help us to stop, drop into prayer, and listen for your response before making important decisions. Help us to know which decisions are important enough to request help.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Reconciliation for siblings who quarrel

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Genesis 26-28 (Jacob's Ladder).

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