In our study of Genesis chapter twenty five, we look at God's fulfilled promises to Avraham. We will see how they were fulfilled in both the physical and spiritual realms.
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Avraham took another wife, whose name was K'turah. She bore him Zimran, Yokshan, Medan, Midyan, Yishbak; and Shuach. Yokshan fathered Sh'va and D'dan. The sons of D'dan were Ashurim, L'tushim and L'umim. The sons of Midyan were 'Eifah, 'Efer, Hanokh, Avida and Elda'ah. All these were descendants of K'turah.
After Sarah died, Avraham 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 Avraham the father of many nations (see Genesis 17).
Avraham gave everything he owned to Yitz'chak. But to the sons of the concubines he made grants while he was still living and sent them off to the east, to the land of Kedem, away from Yitz'chak his son.
The Hebrew word "pilegeshim" is translated here as "concubines" which has negative implications to it but the word actually speaks of either young women that were poor or became orphans and had no home or divorced or widowed women. In this case, a righteous man like Avraham would take them in and treat them as daughters and basically adopt any children that they might have had. Although the children from these women were a part of the physical fulfillment of the promise, they were not the heirs of the spiritual promise. So, Avraham gave them gifts and sent them away. This was so that there would not be any doubt about who the chosen heir was and it was basically Avraham investing in the promises of God. The land of Kedem speaks of continuation or progress and this sending them away was consistent with the covenant that God made with Avraham.
This is how long Avraham lived: 175 years. Then Avraham breathed his last, dying at a ripe old age, an old man full of years; and he was gathered to his people. Yitz'chak and Yishma'el his sons buried him in the cave of Makhpelah, in the field of 'Efron the son of Tzochar the Hitti, by Mamre, the field which Avraham purchased from the sons of Het. Avraham was buried there with Sarah his wife. After Avraham died, God blessed Yitz'chak his son, and Yitz'chak lived near Be'er-Lachai-Ro'i.
We see that Avraham lived 55 years more than the lifespan prescribed in chapter 6 and this is to emphasize his fruitfulness and God's blessing upon him. The Hebrew word "sabea" is translated here as "full of years" but it actually means "satisfied". In this, we see that, even though God's promises to him had not been completely fulfilled, Avraham was satisfied as he was confident that God would keep all of His promises in His perfect time. It is interesting to note that Ishmael returned from Arabia to help in the burial of Avraham. 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. We see that they buried him in the cave at Makpelah and it is emphasized that Avraham had purchased the land. We see that, even though Yitz'chak had already gotten everything from Avraham's estate, God blessed him with more and this speaks of God's approval of Avraham's actions in sending the others away. We also see that Yitz'chak lived near the well where he had went to pray in the previous chapter.
Here is the genealogy of Yishma'el, Avraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian woman bore to Avraham. These are the names of the sons of Yishma'el, listed in the order of their birth. The firstborn of Yishma'el was N'vayot; followed by Kedar, Adbe'el, Mivsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Teima, Y'tur, Nafish and Kedmah. These are the sons of Yishma'el, and these are their names, according to their settlements and camps, twelve tribal rulers.
In this family line, we see that God kept His promise to Hagar and to Avraham. In chapter 16, God had promised Hagar that He would make her descendants numerous and, in chapter 17, God promised Avraham that twelve rulers would come from Ishmael.
This is how long Yishma'el lived: 137 years. Then he breathed his last, died and was gathered to his people. Yishma'el's sons lived between Havilah and Shur, near Egypt as you go toward Ashur; he settled near all his kinsmen.
We see that Yishma'el (Ishmael) also lived longer than the term set by God and demonstrates that he was also blessed by God but he was gathered to "his" people and not the people of Avraham. We also see that his heritage was connected to Egypt and stretched as far as Assyria. We are reminded that, throughout the Bible, Egypt is associated with worldliness. 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 Yitz'chak (Isaac) continues even to this day.
Here is the history of Yitz'chak, Avraham's son. Avraham fathered Yitz'chak. Yitz'chak was forty years old when he took Rivkah, the daughter of B'tu'el the Arami from Paddan-Aram and sister of Lavan the Arami, to be his wife.
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. We see that he was forty years old when Rivkah became his wife and are reminded that the number forty is associated with transition. In this case, it is a covenant transition with the promise passing from Avraham, to Yitz'chak, and on to his son who has not been born yet.
Yitz'chak prayed to ADONAI on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. ADONAI heeded his prayer, and Rivkah became pregnant. The children fought with each other inside her so much that she said, "If it's going to be like this, why go on living?" So she went to inquire of ADONAI,
Like her mother-in-law, Rivkah was barren and so Yitz'chak prayed with her and 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. The Hebrew word used here speaks of a fight to the death between the two children. Rivkah did not know what was going on so she took the matter to the Lord. The Hebrew word "lidros" is translated here as "inquire" but it speaks more of an intense almost begging God. 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.
who answered her, "There are two nations in your womb. From birth they will be two rival peoples. One of these peoples will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger."
God gave the answer to Rivkah'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 it speaks of the one being stronger than the other, it is not talking about physical strength but it is speaking of spiritual strength and depending on God.
When the time for her delivery came, there were twins in her womb. The first to come out was reddish and covered all over with hair, like a coat; so they named him 'Esav. Then his brother emerged, with his hand holding 'Esav's heel, so he was called Ya'akov. Yitz'chak was sixty years old when she bore 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. In the case of twins, to determine the traditional firstborn, the baby that gets its heel out first is considered to be the firstborn. So, we see that Ya'akov was holding onto the heel of his brother struggling to keep him from being the firstborn but not having the physical strength to do so. Ya'akov basically means follower or one who pursues.
The boys grew; and 'Esav became a skillful hunter, an outdoorsman; while Ya'akov was a quiet man who stayed in the tents. Yitz'chak favored 'Esav, because he had a taste for game; Rivkah favored Ya'akov.
As the boys grew up, 'Esav liked the outdoors and physical things. Meanwhile, Ya'akov liked to spend more time in "tents" which speaks of seeking God. We see that Ya'akov is described as "quiet" but the Hebrew word is "tam" which speaks of one who recognizes their own insufficiency and so relies on God. So, we see how appropriate the name Ya'akov is as he spends his time pursuing God while his brother spends his time pursuing things of the world. We see that 'Esav was the favorite of Yitz'chak because Yitz'chak liked the food that 'Esav was able to hunt while Ya'akov was the favorite of Rivkah because of his pursuit of God.
One day when Ya'akov had cooked some stew, 'Esav came in from the open country, exhausted, and said to Ya'akov, "Please! Let me gulp down some of that red stuff - that red stuff! I'm exhausted!" (This is why he was called Edom.)
In this passage, 'Esav is described as "exhausted" but the Hebrew word is "ayef" and it speaks of one who is in the process of dying. 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. The stew was red in color and we see that there is a name change from 'Esav to Edom and, as we will see later in the Torah, there is nothing good said about the Edomites.
Ya'akov answered, "First sell me your rights as the firstborn." "Look, I'm about to die!" said 'Esav. "What use to me are my rights as the firstborn?" Ya'akov said, "First, swear to me!" So he swore to him, thus selling his birthright to Ya'akov.
Ya'akov immediately asked for 'Esav's rights as the firstborn son in return for a bowl of soup. Many try to make this out to be something underhanded or less than upright but it is simply a case of Ya'akov pursuing the things of God and this refers to the covenant. At the heart of the covenant is the promise that the decendants of Avraham will be a blessing to the world. As a man of the world, 'Esav was all about self with the things of God meaning nothing to him and so he did not think twice about giving them up.
Then Ya'akov gave him bread and lentil stew; he ate and drank, got up and went on his way. Thus 'Esav showed how little he valued his birthright.
We see that Ya'akov went above and beyond the deal as he not onlyb gave "esav the stew but also bread in exchange for the 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.