ABRAHAM’S DEATH (1-11)
So finally the man of faith, Abraham, dies at a good old age of 175 years. Its been100 years since God spoke to him in Canaan (12:4). Its been 35 years since Sarah died. Ishmael is 89 years old, Isaac is 75, and Isaac twin sons Jacob and Esau are 15 years old.
Remember that “blessing” means increase. God blessed Abraham in every way so in every way Abraham experienced increase: increased wealth, increased fame, increased power, increased faith, and so many other ways. And here we see increased years, as verse 8 says he “died at a good old age, an old man full of years…” Not only years but God increased his children even more. In the last 35 years of his life, from 140 years old to 175 years old Abraham had 6 more children through his 2nd wife Keturah. That is a very “active” old man. However, I’m sure he wasn’t the guy changing diapers and getting up in the middle of the night when the babies were crying.
When Abraham died he died in faith. What I mean by that is what Hebrews 11:13 says, if you’ll turn there with me. READ. Abraham’s faith didn’t die because he hadn’t yet received everything God promised. Much of what God promised would be given to him at the resurrection and in the future age. That is faith: faith that there is more God is promising to us than simply what’s in this life. Think of our memory verse in the next few weeks, 2 Cor 4:18, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” That’s where Abraham’s eyes were: the unseen and eternal. He knew the difference. He knew the difference between what is eternal and what is temporary. Therefore his faith didn’t die, but it lived on even in his death.
APPLICATION: Biblical faith means a confident anticipation of things to come after death that won’t come before death. Biblical faith is the certainty of great things awaiting us on the other side that wait ON the other side.
ISHMAEL BLESSED (12-18)
We’ve never profiled Ishmael but we should. He was the son of Abraham and Hagar, the Egyptian slave to Sarah, Abraham’s wife. His name means “God hears.” He was 14 years older than Isaac, the promised son. He grew up and became an archer, living in the desert, and his mother went and got him an Egyptian wife (21:21).
Since Ishmael is not the focus of the text he is not our focus today. However, here we are given another example of God’s faithfulness: Ishmael became a great nation. Notice in verse 16 that there were 12 sons of Ishmael who became rulers, “….” This was a specific promise God made to Abraham in 17:20 (turn and read). He promised this to Abraham FOR Abraham’s sake, as He explains in 21:13, “….”
APPLICATION: When God promises God fulfills. When God says something we need to believe it will happen.
JACOB & ESAU BORN (19-34)
So at 40 years old Isaac marries Rebekah. Then for 20 years they are unable to have children, which reminds us of the struggle Abraham and Sarah had. But at 60 years old Isaac prays for his wife and God allows her to conceive, and she gives birth to twin boys. Their names are Jacob and Esau.
Esau was the first one out of the womb and his name means “hairy.” He was covered in hair from the day he was born. He grew up to be an outdoorsman, rugged, and a great hunter. His freezer was full of all kinds of meat and his walls were covered with all kinds of animal heads. If you were going to find Esau it was going to be way out somewhere while he was hunting and exploring the land. Esau was Isaac’s favorite because it says Isaac loved the taste of the wild game that Esau brought home.
His brother Jacob was different. Born second, his name means “he grasps the heel.” He was given that name because when the boys were born as Esau came out Jacob had a hold of his heel. You can imagine the doctor holding Esau up and there was Jacob dangling there from Esau’s heel with a kung fu grip, “Whup, looks like we’ve got 2 here!”
The phrase “he grasps the heel” was a Hebrew idiom meaning “he deceives.” It would be like saying, “Oh don’t do business with that guy, he’ll get a hold of your heel and cheat you.” Or, “Don’t hang out with her because she likes to hold your heel…she’ll lie to you.” Doesn’t that phrase sound weird? If it does just think about trying to explain our phrase, “Ah, I was just pulling your leg.” I’m sure they would think we have weird idioms too.
Anyway, Jacob grew up to be different than his brother Esau and he was an “indoorsman.” He preferred the quiet life of inside the tents rather than being outdoors (27). And while his father favored Esau, Rebekah favored Jacob and loved him more than she loved Esau.
The boys also had one parent in their corner. It says that Isaac favored Esau
There are 2 things to pull out from this last section. The Prophecy and the Birthright.
First, the prophecy. While Rebekah was pregnant it says in verse 22, “the babies jostled each other within her.” Every woman who has been pregnant knows those feeling of their baby rolling around and being active inside her womb. When they get bigger it is really something to see a little elbo or knee or head press up through the stomach! But Rebekah had a little more going on and was alarmed by it. The boys seemed to really be “going at it.” So she prayed asking God what in the world was going on. God answered her in verse 23, “…..” God doesn’t give her any assurance its going to settle down inside her. His answer is a prophecy.
- Those two boys are two nations, they will grow to become two separate nations. Esau’s descendants would be called the Edomites. Esau’s other name was “Edom” which means “red” (v30), and so the “Edomites.” Jacob’s name would be changed to Israel, and his descendents we are all familiar with, the “Israelites.”
- Furthermore God indicates that one of the nations will be stronger than the other, and that the older brother will serve the younger brother.
This pattern of the younger being chosen by God over the older brother: Abel was greater than Cain, and Seth was greater than Cain….Isaac was greater than Ishmael….Joseph was chosen over his brothers…Judah was chosen over his older brothers…..Ephraim was chosen over Manasseh….King David was chosen over all his brothers….and on and on God does this. You might even look at angels and humans this way too: angels are the “older brother” who preceded humans, yet humans are going to rule angels in the age to come (1 Cor. 6:3). And here we have Jacob the younger brother chosen by God to rule over Esau the older brother.
APPLICATION: undeserved blessing is what we get from God. When God does this throughout Scripture it goes against the natural order of things. The firstborn son got everything. Even as we’ll see in a moment the birthright was Esau’s, the firstborn.
Secondly we’ll look at the Birthright. Specifically we are coming to that famous incident when Jacob gets the birthright from Esau.
A birthright meant the firstborn son received a double-portion of his father’s inheritance (Dt 21:17). This could be revoked by the father if the son did something disgraceful and given to a younger brother (1 Chron 5:1-2).
The way it happened is strange to me. Esau comes in famished and exhausted by a hunting trip. He wants some of what Jacob is cooking. Jacob says not unless you give me your birthright. At this point Esau should have looked at him and said, “You’re kidding right?” And then he should have gone to another tent in the household and gotten food somewhere else. Abraham was rich after all and there would have been more food in the camp than just Jacob’s stew.
But he doesn’t. Instead he agrees. Look at his rationale in vers 32, “I’m about to die, what good is a birthright to me?” How many foolish decisions have been made because of some momentary powerful desire? Some craving or appetite for something? How many lifelong consequences are suffered because in a moment someone gave in to an indulgence? You couldn’t have a better picture here of foolishness and unworthiness than Esau trading away his birthright for a simple meal. If you’re going to sell it or trade it, which you could apparently, then at least get something for it! All Esau got was a bowl of soup.
The Scriptures condemn Esau for trading away his birthright. There is no condemnation of Jacob. But for the rest of history Esau is regarded as godless for what he did. Hebrews 12:16-17.
Notice what he did: he traded away the honorable rights he had as the firstborn and all that it entailed for one meal. Because of his momentary fleshly appetite he gave away all the great things in his birthright. I’m reminded of Philippians 3:19 when it describes ungodly people: “their god is their stomach.” Esau was governed in this moment by his stomach.
APPLICATION: Do not live your life for your moment by moment appetites. We must not live our lives trying continuously to gratify the fleshly appetites we have. We don’t live for what we want. We live instead by eternal principles and eternal righteousness.
LESSONS: Silent Reflection
- Base your actions on eternal principles not on momentary desires.
- Have the kind of faith that confidently anticipates great things to come after death that won’t come in this life.
- Humans don’t limit God. Our customs, ways, plans, etc. do not keep God from doing what He chooses to do.
- God is faithful and does everything He says.