Introduction: Genesis Chapter 25 might at first seem to cover a number of random subjects. These include: Abraham’s concubine Keturah, his descendants through her, his death, the confirmation of the promise on Isaac, the descendants of Ishmael, Rebekah’s 20 years of infertility, the prophecy of conflict between Esau, Jacob, and their descendants, Isaac’s blind favoritism of Esau over Jacob, and Esau’s selling of his birthright over a bowl of lentil stew.
Yet, this account is related and should be read at three levels. First, this chapter retells the transitions from Israel’s first patriarch to its third. Second, without taking away from the historical nature of this chapter, this chapter also reveals seven lessons on protecting yourself from the flesh. The descendants of Keturah, Ishmael, and Esau all symbolized the flesh. The flesh is constantly seeking to wage war against the Spirit. Third, in Romans 9, Paul reveals that these events tell us about divine election. God elects those people who will voluntarily embrace Him in faith. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all sinned in this account. They were not saved because of their merit. Instead, God elected them because they at one point believed in faith. By contrast, God did not elect Keturah, Ishmael, or Esau because they lacked faith in Him.
The seven lessons on protecting yourself from your flesh include: (1) separating yourself from worldly influences; (2) placing your hope in heaven; (3) trusting God to provide for your flesh; (4) petitioning Him to deliver you from the problems of the flesh; (5) being vigilant at all times because the flesh constantly wars against the Spirit; (6) discernment to avoid becoming spiritually blind to the dangers of the flesh; and (7) placing your faith in God and not this world.
First, Abraham sinned by taking on a concubine. He was later forced to send his children of the flesh out of the Promised Land. From this, God reveals that you must separate yourself from the desires of your flesh. He also reveals that His divine election of Abraham was based upon faith alone and not merit. Second, at his death, both Isaac and Ishmael attended Abraham’s funeral. From this, God reveals that the hope of an eternal inheritance is available to both children of the promise (the Jews) and the children of the flesh (the gentiles). Divine election is also based upon faith and not your pedigree or heritage. Third, Ismael gave birth to 12 sons. From this, God reveals that He is faithful to provide for the needs of mankind and your flesh when you trust Him. Where He guides, He provides. Fourth, Rebekah struggled with infertility for 20 years. Only through the righteous prayers of Isaac did God heal her womb and grant them children. From this, God reveals that He wants you to pray fervently and with patience when confronting problems of your flesh. Fifth, although God blessed Isaac and Rebekah with twins, He warned that the two brothers and their descendants would be in conflict. From this, He warns to be vigilant at all times because the flesh constantly wages war against the Spirit. From His additional prophecy that the older twin would serve the younger twin, He reveals again that His divine election is again not based upon merit. Sixth, although Esau embraced things of the flesh, Isaac became spiritually blinded to his motives and favored him as his firstborn son. From this, God reveals that you must exercise spiritual discernment at all times about the things of the flesh or you will become spiritually blind like Isaac. This also shows that Isaac’s election was not based upon merit. Finally, as a nonbeliever, Esau had little regard for the blessings of God that were available to him as Isaac’s firstborn son. Thus, he gave into Jacob’s scheme and gave up his rights for a bowl of stew. From this, God reveals that you must put your faith in heaven. From Jacob’s scheming, God also reveals that his election was also not based upon his merit.
Abraham’s expulsion of his children of the flesh. Just as he did with Hagar, Abraham at one point gave into his flesh by taking a concubine and having six additional sons and ten grandsons: “1 Now Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. 2 She bore to him  Zimran and  Jokshan and  Medan and  Midian and  Ishbak and  Shuah. 3 Jokshan became the father of Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim and Letushim and Leummim. 4 The sons of Midian were Ephah and Epher and Hanoch and Abida and Eldaah. All these were the sons of Keturah. 5 Now Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac; 6 but to the sons of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts while he was still living, and sent them away from his son Isaac eastward, to the land of the east.” (Gen. 25:1-6). This genealogy is partially recorded again in Chronicles (1 Chr. 1:32-3). Including Ishmael, Abraham had seven children of the flesh and one child of the promise. Abraham previously expelled Hagar and Ishmael so that they would not undermine Isaac’s inheritance: “So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar, putting them on her shoulder, and gave her the boy, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered about in the wilderness of Beersheba.” (Gen. 21:14). For the same reason, he was forced to expel his last six children of the flesh. Yet, even though expelled from the Promised Land, the seven children of the flesh received God’s blessings by being associated with Abraham: “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3). This blessing is symbolized by the gifts that Abraham gave to each child through Keturah.
The consequences of Abraham’s action. Because Abraham was not meant to have children with others besides Sarah, the Jews paid for his sins of the flesh. Keturah’s fourth son “Midian” later became the father of the Midianite nation (Gen. 25:2). The Midianites lived in the northwestern Arabian Peninsula (Gal. 4:25). Initially, they were friendly to the Jews. Moses lived in Midian in Saudi Arabia (one possible location for Mount Horeb) and married a Midianite named Zipporah (Ex. 2:21). Later, the relationship between the Jews and the Midianites changed for the worse. Midianite women later seduced a large number of Jewish men to worship their idol Baal-phegor through temple prostitution. The Jews then killed an entire clan of Midianites (Nu. 31:1-54). During the time of the judges when Israel turned away from God, He allowed the Midianites to pillage the Promised Land for the Jews’ food resources for seven years (Jdgs. 6:1-6). After the Jews cried out for help, God then used Gideon’s army of only 300 soldiers to kill 120,000 enemy Midianites (Jdgs. 7:16-22; 8:10). None of this suffering would have happened if Abraham had not sinned by taking a concubine.
Make no provision for your flesh. The Keturah account is real. Yet, it is also filled with symbolism. Abraham’s expulsions of his children through Hagar and Keturah symbolized God’s mandate that he make no provision for the things of his flesh. Paul also commanded believers to make no provision for the flesh: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Ro. 13:14). “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16). “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:24). “[K]nowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;” (Ro. 6:6). Part of living by the Spirit requires that you renew your mind every day to live according to the Spirit: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:2). Like Abraham, are you purging the unnecessary things of the flesh from your life?
The flesh is at war with the Spirit. Just as the descendants of Keturah would later wage war against Isaac’s descendants, your flesh is at war with the Spirit. “And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also.” (Gal. 4:28-29). Satan seeks to put your flesh at war with God’s Spirit: “[T]he mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God . . .” (Rom 8:7). “and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:8). “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (Gal. 5:17). If you give in to your flesh, the devil will ultimately enslave you: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Ro. 6:16; Gal. 4:7-9). If you then fail to ask for Christ to deliver you from your bondage, He will turn you over to your addictions until you repent: “Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, . . .” (Ro. 1:24-33; Ps. 81:12). Thus, you must pick who you will serve: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matt. 6:24). Thus, you cannot lead a dual life. Which master are you serving?
Don’t take more than one spouse. The account of Keturah and her children raises two important theological questions. First, did Abraham have children with her before or after Sarah’s death? Second, was she a wife or a concubine? Some argue that she was simply a wife that Abraham took after Sarah’s death. She is mentioned only after Sarah’s death. She is also called Abraham’s wife in this account. “Abraham took another wife.” (Gen. 25:1). The non-canonized Book of Jubilees also suggests that Abraham took Keturah as his “wife” after Sarah’s death: “And Abraham took to himself a third wife, and her name was Keturah, from among the daughters of his household servants, for Hagar had died before Sarah . . .” (Jubilees 19:11(a)). Yet, the Bible later refers to Keturah as a mere “concubine”: “The sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine, whom she bore, were Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. And the sons of Jokshan were Sheba and Dedan.” (1 Chr. 1:32). Also, the Hebrew word for “took” in Genesis 25:1 (“וַיִּקַּ֥ח” or “vai·yik·kach”) can also be translated as “had taken,” which allows for the event to have happened earlier. Furthermore, if she were a full wife, her sons would have had an equal right of inheritance with Isaac. Moreover, at his advanced age at Sarah’s death, he could not have had children naturally with Keturah: “Abraham was said to have been old, beyond having children at age 100 (cf. Genesis 18:11). Paul referred to Abraham as being “as good as dead” (Romans 4:19) so far as bearing children was concerned. Those who are mentioned here would have had to have been born to a man at least 140 years old if Abraham married Keturah after Sarah died and Isaac was married to Rebekah. These children listed in verse 3 would have been more of a miracle than Isaac.” (Robert L.(Bob) Deffinbaugh “The Principle of Divine Election” (Genesis 25:1-34) https://bible.org/seriespage/26-principle-divine-election-genesis-251-34). Thus, God would have had to have intervened supernaturally for him to give birth to these six children the same way that He did for Isaac. Yet, there would be no reason for Him to do that because these were not children of the promise. The Bible likely uses the term “concubine” to suggest that Keturah had lesser rights according to the world’s standards when Abraham took her sometime during his marriage to Sarah. At the same time, she was Abraham’s third “wife” in God’s eyes because He did not and does not recognize ancient or modern conventions for sleeping with other people outside of marriage. In God’s eyes, if you have had ten partners, you have had ten marriages. Yet, this leads to the uncomfortable conclusion that the father of the faith had children through both Hagar and Keturah while he was still married to Sarah. Critics of the Bible often imagine that God must condone polygamy because so many men in the Old Testament had more than one wife. This view, however, is rooted in ignorance. In reference to God’s leaders, the Bible warns that the leaders “must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.” (1 Tim. 3:12). A married man and woman further become “one flesh.” (Mk. 10:8). Jesus’ standards of sexual morality also did not change between the Old and New Testaments: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8). Without exception, every man who acted out of the flesh to take on a second wife suffered long-term negative consequences. With Hagar, Abraham suffered from conflict between his wife and him, his wife and Hagar, and his wife and Ishmael (Gen. 16:3-5). The same conflicts most likely existed between Sarah and Keturah and their children. Jacob likewise suffered when he married two sisters and had children through their servants as well. His children and the 12 tribes of Israel also suffered from jealousy and conflict. David also suffered conflict after he took another man’s wife, Bathsheba, through lust. The many wives of Solomon also turned his heart from God (1 Kgs. 11:4). If you feel tempted to go down the road of having an affair, stop and think about how that road turned out for others.
Don’t be unequally yoked. God commanded Abraham to send the descendants of Keturah outside of the Promised Land because He did not want the descendants of the promise to be unequally yoked with them: “Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.” (Dt. 7:3; Ex. 34:16; Josh. 23:12). God also wants you to be pure and holy for His use. He wants us to be holy because He is holy (1 Pet. 1:16; Lev. 11:44-5; 19:2; 20:7). Part of being pure and holy includes being separate from marriages to non-believers: “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” (Dt. 22:10). “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;” (1 Jo. 1:6). If you are not married, are you limiting your dating to believers? Are you giving clear guidance to your kids about dating?
Abraham’s seven deadly sins, and his divine election. Many are tempted to elevate the great leaders of the Old Testament on a pedestal. Yet, like you, every one of them was a sinner. Abraham committed at least seven deadly sins in his life. Any one of these sins could have resulted in his dearth and disqualified him from becoming the father of the faith. First, he was an idol worshiper before God called him out of Ur (Josh. 24:2). Second, he disobeyed God’s calling to leave Lot behind in Ur (Gen. 12:1-2, 4). Third, he failed to trust God in the Promised Land when he experienced a drought and fled for Egypt (Gen. 12:10). Fourth, he again failed to trust God by lying to Pharaoh about his wife (Gen. 12:11-16). Fifth, he failed to trust God’s promise of a son when he slept with Hagar (Gen. 16:1-4). Sixth, he failed to trust God when he lied about his wife to Abimelech (Gen. 20:1-2). Finally, he sinned by taking on a concubine and having children through her (Gen. 25:1-6). Paul explains in Romans chapter 9 that the patriarchs were divinely elected by God. Yet, the Bible makes clear that they were not divinely elected because of their merit. Each was a sinner. Instead, God elected the patriarchs because He knew before time the choices that each would make. He knew that they would all at some point in their lives believe in Him.
Jesus also loved and called you while you were still a sinner. Just like Abraham, Jesus also loved you and called you while you were still a sinner: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Ro. 5:6, 8). Like Abraham, you are called upon to accept and confirm God’s calling in your life: “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;” (2 Pet. 1:10). “knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;” (1 Thess. 1:4). Have you responded in faith to His calling in your life? Or, are you clinging to your old life?
Abraham’s death, and God’s confirmation of His blessings upon Isaac. After Abraham’s death at age 175, God confirmed His blessings upon Isaac, the child of the promise: “7 These are all the years of Abraham’s life that he lived, one hundred and seventy-five years. 8 Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people. 9 Then his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, facing Mamre, 10 the field which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth; there Abraham was buried with Sarah his wife. 11 It came about after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac lived by Beer-lahai-roi.” (Gen. 25:7-11). Abraham’s death at 175 years of age showed that he was blessed. His long life also fulfilled God’s promise to him: “As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age.” (Gen. 15:15).
Isaac’s receipt of the blessings promised to Abraham. As the child of the promise, Isaac received all of the blessings that God had poured upon Abraham. God blessed Abraham with tremendous wealth (Gen. 24:35; 13:2). Abraham in turn made Isaac a wealthy man by giving him all that God gave him: “for he had possessions of flocks and herds and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him.” (Gen. 26:14). “It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” (Prov. 10:22). Isaac settled in “Beer-lahai-roi”, the place where Hagar previously met Jesus in the wilderness (Gen. 16:14).
The judgment upon those who live according to the flesh. Although Ishmael returned to the cave where Abraham was buried, neither the Jews nor Muslims believe that he was buried there. According to Muslim tradition, Ishmael and his mother Hagar are said to be buried next to the Kaaba, a building at the center of Islam’s most sacred mosque, Al-Masjiz al-Haram, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia (Gibb, Hamilton A.R. and Kramers, J.H. (1965) Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. pp. 191-198). Being born of the flesh, Ishmael was excluded from Abraham’s burial location. Paul reveals that Ishmael also symbolized the judgment that exists for those who live under the Law: “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.” (Gal. 4:22-25). Without faith, there is no hope for either the Jews or gentiles.
There is hope for all born of the flesh who embrace Christ. Like Isaac, Ishmael shared in the hope of Abraham’s resurrection. This is symbolized by his presence at Abraham’s funeral. According to Isaiah, the descendants of Ishmael’s second son Kedar (Gen. 25:13) and his first son Nebaioth (Gen. 25:13) will worship together at Yahweh’s altar during the reign of the Messiah: “All the flocks of Kedar will be gathered together to you, the rams of Nebaioth will minister to you; they will go up with acceptance on My altar, and I shall glorify My glorious house.” (Is. 60:7). In that time, all the gentiles will worship together with the Jews (Is. 56:5-7). Muslims, like all people, are all eligible to receive eternal life. Yet, they also need to accept Jesus as their Lord and their only Savior. Jesus’ door of salvation would be offered to Ishmael’s descendants: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 2:12). “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”’ (Jo. 14:6). Are you pointing the way to non-believers?
To find your life, you must lose it. Like Ishmael who fled from the Promised Land, you must lose your worldly life to find your spiritual one: “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:39; 16:25). “‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’” (Luke 9:23; Mark 8:34). Paul later realized that his prior accomplishments were nothing compared to the value of his relationship with Christ: “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” (Phil. 3:7; Heb. 13:13). Do you value your relationship with Jesus more than your accomplishments in this world?
God’s faithfulness to keep His promise of blessing to Ishmael. Even though he was a child of the flesh, God was also faithful to bless and provide for Ishmael. God blessed Ishmael with 12 sons, and he later became the father of all the Muslim peoples across the world: “12 Now these are the records of the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maid, bore to Abraham; 13 and these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, in the order of their birth:  Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael, and  Kedar and  Adbeel and  Mibsam 14 and  Mishma and  Dumah and  Massa, 15  Hadad and  Tema, Jetur,  Naphish and  Kedemah. 16 These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages, and by their camps; twelve princes according to their tribes. 17 These are the years of the life of Ishmael, one hundred and thirty-seven years; and he breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people.” (Gen. 25:12-17). God previously promised Hagar that He would make a great nation out of Ishmael: “Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, ‘I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.’” (Gen. 16:10). God confirmed this promise by repeating to Abraham: “As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.” (Gen. 17:20). “Rabbinical commentators in the Midrash Genesis Rabbah also say that Ishmael’s mother Hagar was the Pharaoh’ s daughter, thereby making Ishmael the grandson of the Pharaoh. This could be why Genesis 17:20 refers to Ishmael as the father of 12 mighty princes.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishmael). By granting Ishmael a long life until age 137 and making him the father of the Muslim peoples of the world shows that God also is faithful to keep His promises to all peoples. You also can trust in His promises. Yet, most people don’t know God’s promises. If you don’t know His promises, how can you trust them?
The fulfillment of God’s warning of the Arab – Israeli conflict. Unfortunately, the descendants through Ishmael became hostile to all of their relatives through Isaac: “18 They settled from Havilah to Shur which is east of Egypt as one goes toward Assyria; he settled in defiance of all his relatives.” (Gen. 25:18). Ishmael’s second son Kedar (Gen. 25:13) was the father of the “Qedarites”. This was a northern Arab tribe that eventually controlled the area between the Persian Gulf and the Sinai Peninsula. According to Muslim tradition, he is also the ancestor of the “Quraysh” tribe. The founder of Islam, Muhammad, was a member of this tribe. Muhammad’s descendants would later fight endless conflicts against the Jews. This fulfilled a sad prophecy that God previously gave to Hagar in the wilderness: “He will be a wild donkey of a man, his hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; and he will live to the east of all his brothers.” (Gen. 16:12). Thus, mankind has lived for generations with the consequences of Abraham’s indiscretions. This conflict will continue until Jesus returns. Are you doing things that may harm your descendants?
Trust God and lean not your own understanding. God blessed Ishmael with 12 sons. In the Bible, 12 is symbolic of the government of mankind. There were 12 tribes and 12 disciples. God provides for the tribes of Israel, the nations that came out of Ishmael and for you as well. Even if you find yourself in a wilderness, like either the descendants of Hagar or Keturah, you must learn to trust God and not rely upon your own understanding: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5; 28:26; Ps. 62:8). “Trust in the LORD forever, for in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock.” (Is. 26:4). When you are facing a doubt, do you trust in God in faith?
Isaac’s prayer for Rebekah’s infertility. Like her mother-in-law Sarah, Rebekah also struggled with infertility. Only through the righteous prayers of Isaac for 20 years did God heal her womb and grant them children: “19 Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham became the father of Isaac; 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived.” (Gen. 25:19-21). Isaac learned from Abraham’s mistakes and instead trusted God.
Pray incessantly with faith when faced with problems of the flesh. God can do all things. Yet, He waited until Sarah and Abraham believed before He transformed her 90-year-old womb. Sarah and Abraham lived in the Promised Land 25 years before they finally believed: “By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.” (Heb. 11:11). “Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb;” (Ro. 4:19). If you are praying with doubt, don’t expect your prayers to be answered any time soon. “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” (Jam. 1:6). Are your prayers filled with conviction or doubt?
God also requires your patience in waiting on His timing. Isaac was 40 years old when he married. (Gen. 25:20). He was 60 years old before God gave him children (Gen. 25:26). Thus, Isaac and Rebekah still had to pray for 20 years before God fulfilled His promise. Abraham had to wait until he was 100 years old to see God’s promise of a son with his wife fulfilled (Gen. 21:5). Many give up on praying for family members, friends, addictions, or other problems. Do you patiently wait for Him to answer your prayers?
Only God can transform you. Like the dead wombs of first Sarah and then Rebekah, you were also once dead to sin. “ . . . you were dead in your trespasses and sins,” (Ep. 2:1). Like their restored wombs, you must also be born again of the Spirit through faith in Christ: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”’ (Jo. 3:3). Are you spreading this message to others?
Give thanks for any child as a blessing from God. Even if you never struggle with infertility, you should always give thanks for any child as a blessing from God: “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” (Ps. 127:3). “He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children. Praise the LORD!” (Ps. 113:9). ‘“Shout for joy, o barren one, you who have borne no child; break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed; for the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous than the sons of the married woman,’ says the LORD.” (Is. 54:1; Gal. 4:27). If you have been blessed with children, do you give thanks on a regular basis for His blessing?
God’s prophecy of the struggle between Isaac’s descendants. Although God blessed Isaac and Rebekah with twins, He warned that two brothers and their descendants would struggle against each other: “22 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 the Lord. 23 The Lord 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.’ 24 When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.” (Gen. 25:22-26). According to one Jewish tradition, Rebekah sought God’s guidance after “the children fought in the womb as men doing battle.” (Genesis 25:22, Targum Pseudo-Yonatan). Her name for Jacob also translates as “heel”. He would later be called Israel. As the father of the nation Israel, he would fulfill the prophecy that God gave to Eve of the bruised “heel” (Gen. 3:15). Israel would first be bruised in conflict. Then its Messiah would be bruised to give life to all.
Be vigilant to avoid Satan’s attacks. God’s prophecy here foreshadowed the future conflicts between the nations of Israel and Edom. This prophecy also speaks to the constant war the flesh wages against the Spirit inside of you. Just as Rebekah was warned of the conflict between her sons, God warns you to be vigilant against Satan’s attacks: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8). “so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (2 Cor. 2:11; Gal. 5:17). If you resist the devil, he will flee: “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (Jam. 4:7). Are you staying vigilant against Satan’s attacks and his attempts to cause you to sin?
God elected the patriarchs without regard to their conduct or heritage. Because God exists outside of time and knows the choices that each will make, David explained that “The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth.” (Ps. 58:3). Paul, however, explained that God’s selection of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were based upon God’s election without any regard for the merit or background of these men. The fact that He chose Jacob before he was born demonstrates that His divine election is not based upon either merit or status: “6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: ‘Through Isaac your descendants will be named.’ 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. 9 For this is the word of promise: ‘At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.’ 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ 13 Just as it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” . . .. 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” (Ro. 9:6-13, 18). Thus, even if you have sinned and come from a poor background, you can still be part of His divine calling. “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:14). You can confirm your calling by believing in faith that Jesus is your Lord and Savior: “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;” (1 Pet. 1:10). God exists outside of our time. Thus, His elect are the ones He knows in advance will accept Him in faith.
Isaac’s spiritual blindness in his love for Esau over Jacob. Although Esau embraced the things of the flesh, Isaac also became spiritually blinded to these things and favored him over Jacob. By contrast, Rebekah favored Jacob as a man of the Spirit: “27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. 28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” (Gen. 25:27-28). God draws a parallel between Esau, Ishmael, and Nimrod. Esau was “a skillful hunter” (Gen. 25:27). Ishmael was “an archer”(Gen. 21:20). Nimrod was also “a mighty hunter.” (Gen. 10:9). Each was valued by mankind because of their skills in combat. Yet, many times the things that are valued by mankind are worthless before God. “Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways.” (Prov. 3:31). “Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them;” (Prov. 24:1). The Jews also taught that Esau deceived his father with false acts of piety, like pretending to tithe (Gen. Rab. 63.10). Isaac’s blindness to Esau’s wickedness shows that believers must never become complacent. Isaac started off his life with great faith. Yet, he became complacent in his later years.
Be at peace and submit in service to others. In the beginning of his life, God looked with favor upon Jacob as “peaceful man, living in tents.” (Gen. 25:27). By “living in tents,” he quietly served others behind the scenes preparing meals and performing chores that brought him no glory. The Hebrew word for “peaceful” “תָּ֔ם” can also be translated as “blameless.” Like Jacob, you are commanded to be at peace and blameless with others. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Ro. 12:18). “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:50). If you stay at peace with others around you, Jesus promises to bless you: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt. 5:9). Are you a peacemaker to those in conflict around you? If you quarrel and fight or cause conflict with others, what kind of witness for Christ are you?
What God values, mankind considers weak and foolish. Esau gained respect for his hunting and fighting skills. Jacob would have likely been mocked as a weak “mama’s boy.” Yet, God values the humble, even when the humble seem foolish to mankind: “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor. 1:25, 21). Have you picked on those who are weak and humble around you? Are you trying to impress others with your skills like Esau? Or, do you quietly serve for His glory?
Don’t be spiritually blind to the influences of the flesh around you. Like Esau, both Samson (Jdgs. 16:21-26) and Paul (Acts 9:7-8) were struck with physical blindness to reflect their spiritual blindness. All who walk by sight are spiritually blinded: “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor. 4:3-4; Matt. 13:22; Is. 42:16). Thus, you must carefully examine everything in your life, including yourself and your children. If not, you may become like Isaac. Have you become spiritually blinded by any of your sins?
Only Jesus can restore your spiritual sight. Unlike Esau and Samson, Jesus later removed the scales from Paul’s eyes (Acts. 9:18). He comes to give sight to the spiritually blind (Is. 61:6; Lk. 4:18; Matt. 11:5). “And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.’” (Jo. 9:39). Are you praying for Jesus to give sight to those who are in spiritual blindness around you?
Esau sells his birthright for lentil stew. As a child of the flesh, Esau had little regard for the blessings of God available to him as the firstborn son of Isaac. Thus, he gave them up for a bowl of lentil stew: “29 When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; 30 and Esau said to Jacob, ‘Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.’ Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 But Jacob said, ‘First sell me your birthright.’ 32 Esau said, ‘Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?’ 33 And Jacob said, ‘First swear to me’; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.” (Gen. 25:29-34). In the book of Hebrews, God revealed that Esau sold his birthright because he was both immoral and did not believe with faith in God: “that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.” (Heb. 12:16). He later regretted what he lost: “For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.” (Heb. 12:17). Yet, his mere “regret” was not enough because he was unwilling to change his heart.
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669 (Esau Selling his Birthright to Jacob)1
Don’t mock your spiritual birthright. Like Esau, many treat their birth rights in Christ with no greater importance than a bowl of stew. “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor. 2:14). The “gift” Jesus offers is free (Ro. 5:15; 2 Cor. 9:15). Yet, many find no value in His free gift. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18). One pastor notes: “Spiritually speaking, many today despise their birthright. Ephesians 1:3-14 shows us a treasury of riches that are ours by birthright in Jesus: Every spiritual blessing; The blessing of being chosen in Jesus; Adoption into God's family; Complete acceptance by God in Jesus; Redemption from our slavery to sin; True and total forgiveness; The riches of God’s grace; The revelation and knowledge of the mystery of God's will; An eternal inheritance; The guarantee of the indwelling Holy Spirit; Far too many neglect or trade away this birthright for cheap entertainment, momentary popularity, or passing pleasures.” (David Guzik on Genesis 25).2 God wants you to place your value in what He offers over what the world offers: “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,” (Phil. 3:7-8). When others mock what the Bible says or what God offers, do you stay steadfast in your faith? Are you using your spiritual gifts each day for God’s glory?
God’s judgment upon Esau. Every good and perfect thing is from God (Ja. 1:17). Yet, like many people today, Esau believed that the only good things in his life came from the respect he received for his own skills. Because he had no regard for the things of God, he was not thankful for his spiritual birthright. With sorrow, God “hated” the evil in his heart: ‘“I have loved you,’ says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have You loved us?’ ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ declares the LORD. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” (Mal. 1:2-3; Ro. 9:13). God initially protected Esau’s descendants when they founded the kingdom of Edom in southern Jordan. “You shall not detest an Edomite, for he is your brother; . . .” (Dt. 23:7). Yet, He later judged them for their wars against Israel. “Flee away, turn back, dwell in the depths, O inhabitants of Dedan, for I will bring the disaster of Esau upon him at the time I punish him.” (Jer. 49:8; Is. 34:5; Ez. 25:13).
Jacob was saved by faith alone. Although God confirmed that Jacob would inherit Abraham’s blessings, it was not based upon Jacob’s merit. In this account, Jacob manipulated Esau in a moment of weakness. He would later manipulate his father Isaac and his father-in-law Laban. God elected Him only because He later believed in faith in God’s promises. You also only need to believe in Jesus to be divinely elected (Jo. 3:16).