In our study of Genesis chapter twenty five, we look at God's fulfilled promises to Abraham. We will see how they were fulfilled in both the physical and spiritual realms.
Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan; the descendants of Dedan were the Ashurites, the Letushites and the Leummites. The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanok, Abida and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah.
After Sarah died, Abraham took another wife named Keturah. We see that they had several sons and grandsons. This was a continued physical fulfillment of the promise that God had made to make Abraham the father of many nations (see Genesis 17).
Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east.
Although the children from the concubines were a part of the physical fulfillment of the promise, they were not the heirs of the spiritual promise. So, Abraham gave them gifts and sent them away. This was so that there would not be any doubt about who the chosen heir was.
Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. After Abraham's death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi.
It is interesting to note that Ishmael returned from Arabia to help in the burial of Abraham. It is also a reminder of the battle that goes on between the physical and the spiritual. Although Ishmael was older, he is listed after Isaac who was the fulfillment of the spiritual promise.
This is the account of the family line of Abraham's son Ishmael, whom Sarah's slave, Hagar the Egyptian, bore to Abraham. These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nabaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps.
In this family line, we see that God kept His promise to Hagar and to Abraham. In chapter 16, God had promised Hagar that He would make her descendants numerous and, in chapter 17, God promised Abraham that twelve rulers would come from Ishmael.
Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people. His descendants settled in the area from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt, as you go toward Ashur. And they lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them.
Ishmael's family lived in the northern part of what we call Saudi Arabia. The hostility that was predicted by God towards the sons of Isaac continues even to this day.
This is the account of the family line of Abraham's son Isaac. Abraham became the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.
Now, we are introduced to the family of the son of the promise and are reminded of the answered prayer in finding him a suitable wife.
Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, 'Why is this happening to me?' So she went to inquire of the Lord.
Like her mother-in-law, Rebekah was barren and so Isaac prayed for her. God heard and answered the prayer by giving them twins but the twins struggled with each other even while they were still in the womb. Rebekah did not know what was going on so she took the matter to the Lord. That is a reminder to us that, if we don't understand what is going on in our lives, we can ask God because He does know the why as well as the what.
The Lord said to her, 'Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.'
God gave the answer to Rebekah's question and it would have been easy for her to understand except for the last part. When God told her that the older would serve the younger, that would have been hard for her to understand because that went against the normal order of things. She must have accepted it even though she did not understand and that is the very definition of trust (faith). We all have to ask ourselves if we are ready to trust God enough to accept things that we do not understand.
When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau's heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.
This was before the modern technology of ultrasounds and prenatal care. They would not have known that she was having twin boys until they were delivered. This would have served to build her up in her faith as she saw that what God had told her came to pass.
The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
As the boys grew up, Esau liked the outdoors like his father and so they grew closer. Meanwhile, Jacob liked to spend more time at home with mom so they grew closer. It is just a simple fact that we get closer to the people that we spend more time with. It should also be a reminder to us that, if we want to draw closer to God, we should spend more time with Him in prayer and study of His word.
Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, 'Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!' (That is why he was also called Edom.)
We see that Esau was a man of the flesh as, when he saw some stew, he just had to have it then and now. He would not have been that hungry as he was a child in Abraham's family and they were well off.
Jacob replied, 'First sell me your birthright.' 'Look, I am about to die,' Esau said. 'What good is the birthright to me?' But Jacob said, 'Swear to me first.' So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
Jacob immediately asked for Esau's rights as the firstborn son in return for a bowl of soup. Surely, Rebekah had told him about what God had said concerning the older serving the younger. Instead of waiting on God to fulfill His word, Jacob took matters into his own hands. We all must admit that, at times, we try to do the same thing as we get impatient. We must remember that God has always kept His promises and His timing is perfect.
Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.
This birthright included the majority of the family wealth but also at the heart of it were the promises that God had made to Abraham. With these rights came responsibility for the spiritual health of the family. Esau, being a man of the flesh, did not care about spiritual matters and didn't want the responsibility of being the family priest. He cared so little about the things of God that he thought that a little bread and soup were worth more. This struggle between the physical and the spiritual is something that we all must face.