Genesis 24–27: Isaac & Rebekah

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 7: Monday

Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.” Thus they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse with Abraham’s servant and his men.
Genesis 24:58–59 LSB

The four chapters in today’s Bible reading of Genesis 24–27, rapidly span major events. In his old age Abraham sends a servant back to his relatives for a bride for Isaac, and the servant brings Rebekah to Canaan. Abraham himself marries again after Sarah’s death, and has more sons before he dies. After his burial by Isaac and Ishmael, brief information is given about Ishmael and his sons before 25:19 shifts to Now these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son…

The rest of today’s reading includes the birth of two sons, Esau and Jacob, to Isaac and Rebekah, and the growing tensions within the family that come to a head when Isaac blesses Jacob.

Most importantly, in Genesis 26, God promises Isaac that He will establish in him the covenant He made with his father, Abraham.

Now there was a famine in the land, besides the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. So Isaac went to Gerar, to Abimelech king of the Philistines. And Yahweh appeared to him and said,
“Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your seed I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. And I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and I will give your seed all these lands; and by your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham listened to My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”
Genesis 26:1–5 LSB

Later, after Abimelech tells Isaac to leave Gerar:

And he went up from there to Beersheba. And Yahweh appeared to him that night and said,
“I am the God of your father Abraham;
Do not fear, for I am with you.
I will bless you and multiply your seed,
For the sake of My servant Abraham.”
So he built an altar there and called upon the name of Yahweh and pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug out a well.
Genesis 26:23–25 LSB

This family reveals their nature by their words and deeds, as we see their fears, jealousies, and favoritism. When Rebekah was pregant with her two sons, Esau and Jacob:

But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of Yahweh. And Yahweh said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb;
And two peoples will be separated from your body;
And one people shall be stronger than the other;
And the older shall serve the younger.”
Genesis 25:22–23 LSB

Although Isaac knows God has said Esau will serve Jacob, later in his life, as an old man, he calls Esau, intent on giving his blessing to his oldest son.

Now it happened that when Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see, that he called his older son Esau and said to him, “My son.” And he said to him, “Here I am.”
Genesis 27:1 LSB

However, because of the subterfuge of Rebekah and Jacob, Isaac gives his blessing to Jacob, believing him to be Esau.

“Now may God give you of the dew of heaven,
And of the fatness of the earth,
And an abundance of grain and new wine;
May peoples serve you,
And nations bow down to you;
Be master of your brothers,
And may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be those who curse you,
And blessed be those who bless you.”
Genesis 27:28–29 LSB

When my pastor, Mike Braun was teaching through Genesis, he said that in Genesis 27:33 when Isaac realized he had given his blessing to Jacob and trembled exceedingly violently, he realized that despite his efforts to circumvent God’s words to Rebekah, God was, in truth, sovereign over his actions. Derek Kidner writes (his emphasis):

“We shall misjudge the situation if we overlook the evidence of Hebrews 12:16,17 that in selling the birthright (25:31ff.) Esau had traded away the firstborn’s blessing. This makes all four participants in the present scene almost equally at fault. Isaac, whether he knew of the sale or not, knew God’s birth-oracle of 25:23, yet set himself to use God’s power to thwart it (see verse 29). This is the outlook of magic, not religion. Esau, in agreeing to the plan, broke his own oath of 25:33. Rebekah and Jacob, with a just cause, made no approach to God or man, no gesture of faith or love, and reaped the appropriate fruit of hatred…

“All five senses play a conspicuous part, largely by their fallibility, in this classic attempt to handle spiritual responsibilities by the light of nature…But the real scandal is Isaac’s frivolity: his palate had long since governed his heart (25:28) and silenced his tongue (for he was powerless to rebuke the sind that was Esau’s downfall); he now proposed to make it his arbiter between peoples and nations (29). Unfitness for office shows in every act of this sightless man rejecting the evidence of his ears for that of his hands, following the promptings of his palate and seeking inspiration through—of all things—his nose (27). Yet God put these very factors to work for Him…

“Isaac’s yea, and he shall be blessed expresses more than mere belief that the spoken word is self-fulfilling: he knows he has been fighting against God, as Esau has, and he accepts defeat.”

Rebekah, taking things into her own hands, even as Sarah did, rather than approaching God, is left with similar disastrous results (27:6–46, cf. 16:1–16, 21:9–21, 25:12–18). The hatred between brothers means she is forced to plan to save the son she loves by sending him away from her.

God again shows His faithfulness despite the sin of Isaac. He reiterates to Isaac the promise He made to Abraham (26:3–5, 24–25). God demonstrates His sovereignty as Isaac’s plan to give his blessing to Esau (27:1–4) turns out to be the blessing of Jacob, and God brings to pass His words to Rebekah that her older son will serve the younger (25:23).

Sadly, this family provides examples of what we should not do. The writer of Hebrews will bring up Esau in warning us not to fall short of the grace of God. And when we find ourselves becoming fearful or impatient of our circumstances, and are facing the temptation to think we can manipulate God or to seize things into our own hands, we need to remember the fallout this family had to live with, and remember who God is, the promises He has made to us, and ask for His help.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Rebecca Meets Isaac by the Way: James Tissot. Public Domain.
Isaac Blessing Jacob: Bible Primer. Public Domain.
1Derek Kidner, Genesis (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1967) 155–156.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2021–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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