When Sarah was 127 years old she died and Abraham buried her in Canaan in a cave he purchased from the Hittites. Abraham sent his chief servant to Abraham’s relatives to get a wife for Isaac so he wouldn’t marry a Canaanite. Abraham’s servant prayed and he found Rebekah, the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother. Abraham’s servant gave gifts to Rebekah and her family and told them how the Lord had blessed Abraham and given everything he owned to Isaac, the child Sarah bore in her old age. Rebekah agreed and went to Canaan where she became Isaac’s wife. Later, Abraham died when he was 175 years old and Isaac and Ishmael, Abraham’s sons, buried him in Canaan in the cave Abraham he bought from the Hittites as a grave for his wife Sarah. After Abraham’s death, God blessed Isaac (Gen.24-25). Watch the below video and read the comments below.
God promised to make Abraham into a great nation and Isaac is a transitional figure between Abraham and the twelve tribes coming from Jacob known as Israel. Abraham’s multiple descendants were to come through Isaac but Rebekah, like Sarah forty years earlier, was barren (Genesis 25:21). But Isaac and Rebekah didn’t take matters into their own hands as Sarah and Abraham had. We’re not told when Isaac prayed only that the Lord answered his prayer and Rebekah became pregnant (Gen. 25:21). They may have had to wait up to twenty years since Isaac married at 40 and became a father at 62. Abraham and Sarah’s example must have taught Isaac and Rebekah to trust God for there would be no Hagar and no Ishmael for them.
There were two babies struggling with one another in Rebekah’s womb, and Rebekah wondered why. We’re not told how but only that Rebekah inquired of the Lord and the will of the Lord was made known. The Lord revealed that there were two nations struggling within Rebekah’s womb. Rebekah would give birth to twin boys and it was foretold even before they were born that the older son would serve the younger (Gen. 25:23). The firstborn was named Esau and the nation of Edom would come from him. Edom means ‘red’ and they named their land Seir, which sounds like the Hebrew word for ‘hairy’. The second child was named Jacob which can mean ‘deceitful’. When the twins grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter while Jacob, being a quiet man, liked to stay among the tents.
Jacob was born grasping his brother’s heel and this episode was the beginning of a lifelong struggle. In fact, Genesis reveals the ongoing rivalry between those the Lord has chosen and those he has not (3:15, 25:23). God accepted Abel and not Cain. God chose the line of Seth and not the line of Cain. God chose Isaac and not Ishmael, and here Jacob is chosen over Esau (Romans 9:10–12):
Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”
It appears that Isaac and Rebekah valued Jacob and Esau for what they could do for their parents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau who was skillful hunter and Rebekah loved Jacob. Rebekah would have remembered the prophecy but maybe she just liked Jacob being around her among the tents.
Jacob tired of waiting on God so when given an opportunity Jacob tried to trick Esau into selling his birthright. Once when Esau had been out hunting Jacob stayed behind in the camp and was cooking stew. Esau returned famished from hunting and found Jacob in the camp with a pot of stew (Gen. 25:29–30). Now instead of sharing some stew with his brother, Jacob saw this as an opportunity to take advantage of Esau. Before Jacob would give his brother any stew Jacob wanted Esau to sell him Esau’s birthright. Sadly, Esau said that the birthright was no good to him since he was about to die. Jacob demanded that Esau first swear an oath which Esau gladly did (Gen. 25:31). So Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew which Esau ate and so Esau despised his birthright.
Isaac and Rebekah had waited on God for their child but their child, Jacob, didn’t want to wait on God for the birthright. It seems that Jacob wanted the blessing more than he wanted God. This was a lesson his forefather, Abraham, learned by being called to offer up Isaac (Gen.22). Now Esau wasn’t really going to starve to death and yet Esau forsook being in the Messianic line for a single meal. Esau devoured his brother’s stew and left despising his birthright (Gen. 25:32-34). Esau considered a single meal more valuable than his spiritual birthright, while Jacob considered the birthright something to be purchased.
Neither brother deserved God’s favor which only goes to show that grace is underserved favor! Jacob’s sinful scheming illustrates that God works out His plan through very flawed people. The poor choices of God’s flawed people have consequences but they cannot frustrate God’s plans. Clearly, God’s choice of Jacob over Esau was not unfair. God graciously gave to Jacob only what Esau considered of no value. By contrast God’s Messiah, the Lord Jesus, would wholeheartedly surrender his will to do God’s will. Moreover, Jesus so valued God’s people that he gladly gave his own precious blood to purchase them for God (Rev. 1:5-6, 5:9).