Monday, March 1, 2010
Isaac: Genesis 25:19-28:9
Fraud, furriness and the filling up of water wells, No this is not an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, this is the story of Isaac, his naughty children, and his insubordinate wife…..hmmmm maybe Malcolm in the Middle is a spin off of the story of Isaac, just a thought.
I wish I could say, don’t worry, the story of Isaac is only 4 chapters long. But it doesn’t matter I still found plenty to write about.
Chapter 25:19 When Isaac was 40 years old, he married Rebekah who had trouble getting pregnant. So, Isaac prayed for her to have a child and almost 20 years later, God answered his prayers and Rebekah became pregnant. Rebekah must have been having horrible gas, and morning sickness, because she is quoted as asking God, “Why is this happening to me?” Geeze, you think she’s be a little more grateful seeing as how she tried to get pregnant for nearly two decades. Anyways, ever patient, God explains to her that the sons (yes, I said sons, as in twins) in her womb are destined to be two rival nations, and that the descendants of the oldest brother will always serve the descendants of the younger one. So D-Day comes and the twins enter the world fighting. Poor Rebekah….no epidural for her as the first boy comes out with the second boy holding onto his heel…literally. I am so glad I gave birth in the 21st century with 21st century medicine. Anyways, the flames of sibling rivalry are fanned when Isaac and Rebakah name the boys. The first born is named Esau, which means “Covered in hair.” And the second twin is named “Jacob” which means, “He deceives.” I’m not sure what their parents were thinking naming their children this, because as we all know, children live up to their names. There is nothing mentioned about their early childhood but based on the way they came into this world, it is safe to assume that they both spent a majority of their early years in timeout…..or being flogged. Esau became a hunter, which is appropriate because his hairiness probably provided him with very good camouflage. All that is said of Jacob is that he “liked to stay home,” I guess the term couch potato had not been invented yet. Isaac favored Esau, and Rebekah favored Jacob. We don’t need Dr. Phil to tell us that this is never a good parenting tactic. One day as Esau was out hunting and providing for his family, Jacob was inside watching the Food Network and cooking stew (sorry, do I sound biased?). Esau comes home famished, from hunting for who knows how long, and asks his brother Jacob for some food. Jacob says, “Sure, I’ll trade you a bowl of soup for your birthright (refer to the “ Questions that got answered…” for more on birthrights),” and without much thought, Esau allows his hunger to control his better judgment as he makes the trade. It’s pretty much all down hill for Esau from her on out.
Chapter 26 I thought I was having déjà vu when I read the next chapter. Turns out that it was actually a case of like father, like son. Remember Abimelech? He was the king from chapter 20 that Abraham lied to, then in chapter 21 Abraham makes a treaty with him? Well, Isaac and Rebekah had to move to Gerar due to a famine, so when Abimelech’s men ask about Rebekah, Isaac says, “she is my sister.” Any guesses on what happens next? Well, it’s not the same exact thing that happened to Abraham, but it might as well be. Abimelech catches Isaac feeling up Rebekah, and is obviously very upset about being lied to. God blesses Isaac anyways with lush crops and livestock to spare. Next there is this big long boring part about conflicts over water rights, and Abimelech kicks Isaac and family out to the valley. Gerar Valley to be exact. Then there was more arguing over water wells so Isaac and Rebekah moved to Beersheba. God appears to Isaac and reassures him that he will be blessed…..yadda yadda,…..lots of descendants,….. Blah, blah , blah, so Isaac builds and altar. But wait, we haven’t heard the last of Abimelech. In the final part of chapter 26 he finds Isaac and offers him an alliance. They celebrate with a feast then take a solemn oath of nonaggression. Then there is a prelude into the next chapter, stating that Esau married Judith and Basemath (both pagans), who made Isaac and Rebekah’s lives miserable. Okay, so now me and Esau have three things in common: hairiness, love of soup, and love of upsetting our parents.
Chapter 27 Okay, so now this is where the story of Isaac turns into, “Days of our Lives.” Isaac is almost blind and is basically on his death bed when he asks Esau to make him his favorite meal, so that after he eats he can pronounce his blessing over Esau (for more on this “blessing” read the “questions that got answered….”section). Like any good woman, Rebekah is eavesdropping and she wants Jacob, being her favorite, not Esau, to receive the blessing (talk about your dysfunctional family). In Rebekah’s defense, her actions did fulfill what God had told her when she was pregnant, that Esau and his descendants would have to serve Jacob and his descendants (25:23). Once Jacob stole Esau’s blessing, it would make Jacob the official owner of the family birthright. However, the way Rebekah went about fulfilling Gods promise was wrong. She did not trust that God would make Jacob the head of the family, so she took matters into her own hands, which as you can guess turns into a catastrophe. Anywho, back to the story. Rebekah talks Jacob into tricking his father into thinking that he is Esau. Isaac gives Jacob Esau’s blessing even though he is skeptical. Just as the blessing is finished, Esau comes back from his hunting trip and discovers that his brother has stolen his blessing, which means that Jacob is now the official owner of the birthright. He weeps and begs his father to give him a blessing too. The best Isaac can do is to promise Esau that after a time of serving his brother, he will be free from him. Which is not much compared to the list of blessings Isaac accidentally gave Jacob. Esau is filled with hatred and decides to murder Jacob (I’m having a Cain and Able flashback), but before he can, Rebekah tells Jacob to flee to Haran to see his uncle Laban (Rebekah’s brother). Rebekah then tells Isaac that she does not want Jacob to marry one of the local Hittite women.
Chapter 28:1-9 Isaac accepts the fact that Jacob is now destined to be the head of the household, so he blesses him (intentionally this time), and sends him off to Uncle Laban’s house telling him not to marry a local woman, but to marry one of Uncle Laban’s daughters. Esau gets wind of this and is upset, so he went to his Uncle Ishmael’s house (Isaac’s half brother), and married one of Ishmaels daughters. Although, I’m not sure why.
It is really starting to concern me that the only characters in the Bible I can relate to, are the ones that end up causing so much controversy. First Hagar, then Ishmael, and now Esau. I think I need to go pray.
Things I loved:
*25:21 God made Isaac wait for his wife to get pregnant just like his father Abraham had to, but Isaac did not make the same mistake his father did by getting a concubine pregnant. A lot of children tend to repeat the mistakes of their parents. Isaac was not perfect and he did repeat at least one of his fathers mistakes that we know of (lying to Abimelech), but when God promised him a child he believed God and waited, and God blessed him with not one, but two children at the same time.
* 26:1-11 Abimelech. It is safe to assume that this is not the same Abimelech that Abraham deceived, but nonetheless, the Abimelech family seem to be very tolerant and understanding. They were deceived in a particularly cruel way, and yet they forgave and even offered both Abraham and Isaac an alliance.
*26:12 Even after Isaac lies to Abimelech, God blesses him. Yet another example of Gods unfailing love and patience toward his children.
*26:17 I was pretty bored reading about all the water rights conflicts, but looking back on that section (and reading a lot of research on the subject, refer to the, “Questions That Got Answered by doing….” section), I can now see the lesson of peace that God wants us to get out of this section. There are so many examples in the Bible of the way God expects us to live our lives. One of the ways that we are to live, is in peace. Heaven is a peaceful place and as Christians, we are not meant to cause conflict, we are meant to keep peace in our homes and in our lives. I need to keep this in mind when a conflict arises. I believe that turning away from conflict, even if it means relocating like Isaac had to do, is necessary and is full of rewards. And I don’t just mean the earthly reward of not fighting, I am talking about heavenly rewards as well. That being said, I do think that sometimes God calls us to be warriors and fighting sometimes is necessary. But the amount of battles we must fight are a lot less than the compromises we must make for peace sake.
*27:45 When sending Jacob away, Rebekah tells Jacob to stay with his Uncle until his brothers fury is spent, then she says, “….Why should I loose both of you in one day?” I interpret this as Rebekah expressing sorrow for loosing Esau to his anger and his intentions to murder. Rebekah must have known that in choosing murder, Esau had chosen a life without God, which I imagine to be one of the most heartbreaking scenarios as parent can experience. Even though Jacob was her “favorite” she still loved Esau.
Things I did not love:
*Okay, I’m not going to name any names here (Rebekah, Sarah, and Abraham!) but I am really getting sick and tired of everyone taking matters into their own hands. I mean, I know God blessed us with free will and everything, but come on!!!! When God tells you that he is going to take care of things, like giving you a child, or giving your younger son the birthright, let him! God is so unbelievably patient. By now, I would have struck everyone down with leprosy or something.
Questions to ask God when I get to heaven:
* Why did Esau marry Ishmael’s daughter? Was he trying to upset his parents more, or was he finally trying to please them? I wish we knew more about the relationship between Isaac and Ishmael. Like I said in the Abraham blog, I never found any evidence that these brothers hated each other. So maybe it pleased Isaac and Rebekah to see Esau married to one of Ishmael’s daughters.
Questions that got answered by doing this bible study:
* What is a Birthright? A birthright is a special honor or privilege that was given to the oldest son of every family. This included leadership over the family when the head of the household died, as well as a share of the family inheritance. The head of the household (the father) had final say over who has the birthright. If he feels that the oldest son is unfit he can give the birthright to another son. The birthright is not officially put into action until a blessing is spoken over the chosen person just before the death or resignation of the head of the house hold.
*Why was Esau indifferent to handing over his birthright? He might have been indifferent because the birthright trade off would not be official until his father blessed it, therefore he probably assumed that he would still get the birthright since he was favored by his father Isaac and perhaps Isaac didn’t know that he had traded his birthright for a bowl of Cambell’s.
*Wasn’t it unfair for Jacob to tempt Esau with food? Upon first reading the part about Esau trading his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup, I felt sympathy for Esau. I felt that Jacob had taken advantage of Esau’s hunger to gain what he wanted. This is only partially true. Yes, what Jacob did was wrong. He wasn’t named “he deceives,” for nothing! But Esau was not a victim. He had a choice. Everyone of this time period knew the importance of a birthright, Esau included, it‘s not like he didn‘t know what he was giving up. In the New Testament, there is a story about Jesus fasting for 40 days in the wilderness and then Satan tempting him with food. I believe that one of the many reasons this story was included in the Bible was because of Esau. Jesus proved that it was physically possible to go without food and to withstand temptation through the power of God. Jacob obviously wanted the honor of the birthright more than Esau. He wanted it bad enough scam his brother into trading it. No, it was not fair of him to so this, and it was obviously Gods will for him to have the birthright, but Jacob shouldn’t have taken maters into his own hands. God would have found a better way for Jacob to claim the birthright without the seed of hatred that this action planted in Esau.
*What is a blessing? A blessing can mean a lot of different things depending on the person, place and time period. People in America today tend to think of a blessing as “well wishes” for someone. The word “blessing” as referred to in the story of Jacob and Esau was a ceremonial, legally binding oral contract. A blessing was given by the head of the household to his intended son when he was near the end of his life. A blessing was the official handing over of the birthright and all the privileges that, that entails.
*If Isaac meant the blessing for Esau, wouldn’t it have gone to him even if Jacob was the one in the room? No. Like I mentioned before, a blessing was a legally binding oral contract. Once Isaac spoke those words, there was no going back. I believe also, that Isaac, being a man of God, recognized that since Jacob received the blessing, that it was Gods will for Jacob to be his heir. I also believe that deep down Isaac knew that it was Jacob because of how hesitant he was to perform the blessing in the first place.
*Why couldn’t Isaac give Esau the blessing once he found out that he was deceived? Again, Isaac would have broken the law had he revoked Jacobs blessing. It’s not like Isaac had an unlimited amount of birthright/blessings to hand out. There was only one, and Jacob got it!
*Abimelech. The Abimelech that Abraham deceived was probably not the same Abimelech that Isaac deceived. The name Abimelech literally means “Son of a King.” It was a common name of Philistine kings, much like the name “Pharaoh” was of the Egyptian kings. This is good to know especially since we will being seeing the name Abimelech in later books of the bible.
*What can be learned from the water rights conflict? After Isaac tricks Abimelech, into thinking that Rebekah was his sister, you would think that God would punish him, but God does the opposite and blesses him…..majorly. But as is true today, once things start going good in your life, the devil is waiting right their to attack. And attack he does. The devil uses jealousy among the philistines to provoke them into filling up Isaacs water wells with dirt. This is such an assault on Isaac for so many reasons. #1, those wells were dug by Isaac’s father Abraham‘s servants, so they must have been sentimental to him. #2 During this time, if someone dug a well on some property, they didn’t go to the escrow office to make it official with paperwork, they dug a well to stake their claim on that land, so those wells being filled up with dirt was not only illegal, but it was also an act of war. #3 Gerar was a desolate place located in a desert. Those wells were the only source of water, if someone filled them up with dirt, that meant that they wished death upon you, which would surely happen without a working water well. From Isaac’s reaction we can learn a great deal about his character. He had every earthly right to go to war with the Philistines but he instead chose peace by moving away from the conflict. This eventually paid off because Abimelech finds him and offers him a peace treaty.
When I saw this portion of my Bible, I thought to myself, “It’s only four chapters long, this will be short and easy!” that was 10 days ago. I have learned so much about God from such a little section. He is consistent, patient and he wants to bless us regardless of our actions. I can’t wait to read what’s coming up next. Stay tuned for the on going saga of Jacob….