Do You Help or Exploit

Explore the Bible Series

February 24, 2008

 

Background Passage: Genesis 25:1-27:46

Lesson Passage: Genesis 25:29-34; 27:6-8, 15-19, 34-36

 

Introduction:

 

This lesson covers a broad range of topics, leading up to the unseemly story of Jacob and Esau.  These chapters contain straightforward narrative, and the text provides little interpretation of the events.  Nevertheless, the lessons seem clear to any sincere reader.

 

First, we learn the lesson of mortality.  Abraham lived a long, meaningful life, 175 years.  But, in the end, he died like all men do.  All Christians must come to grips with their own mortality. 

 

Second, we learn of the work of God in the conception and birth of a child.  Just as God numbers our days, so he shapes in us in the womb.  Rebekah did not conceive until the Lord acted. Also, in connect with the conception of Esau and Jacob, we learn of the power of prayer.  The Scriptures make very clear that, in some sense, Rebekah’s fertility resulted from Isaac’s intercession.

 

Third, we observe the contagious nature of deception.  As we studied the life of Abraham, we discovered his tendency to lie when confronted with difficult circumstances.  You will recall that the patriarch lied, on two separate occasions, about his relationship with Sarah.  The godly couple apparently set a policy of lying before they ever entered Canaan, and, when pressure came, they followed through on their unfortunate agreement.  Not surprisingly, Isaac and Rebekah engaged in a similar lie as they interacted with the Philistines.  Then, as we encounter the story of Jacob, we find a pattern of lies and deception that would trouble any godly reader.

 

Last, we learn about sad tendencies that harm family relationships.  Rebekah and Jacob played favorites with their sons, and this favoritism set the stage for significant tension and scheming.  Furthermore, we learn of the heartbreaking consequences of ungodly marriages.  Esau, in defiance of his parents’ wishes, married pagan women.  These marriages grieved Isaac and Rebekah and brought long-term tensions to the family circle.

 

We are not immune to these problems, and, hopefully, all of us will take these lessons to heart.  The patriarchs were great men of faith; nevertheless, the Bible clearly outlines their weaknesses.  Christian living, for all of us, evidences similar patterns.  We follow the Savior, but we often stumble in our pilgrimage. We find, in these lessons, heart-warming stories about the sons of promise (Isaac and Jacob); yet, we also must realize that, for the believer, only one Son of Promise will not fail or disappoint us, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Lesson Outline:

 

I.                   Abraham’s Last Years (25:1-18)

A.    Abraham’s marriage to Keturah (vv. 1-6): After Sarah’s death, Abraham took another wife, Keturah.  The text seems to indicate that the patriarch took other concubines (v. 6), and Keturah may have been a concubine as well (See I Chronicles 1:2).  These unions produced several sons, but Abraham reserved the position of honor for the son of promise, Isaac.

B.     Abraham’s death (vv. 7-18): At 175 years, Abraham died, and his sons, Isaac and Ishmael, buried their father in the cave of Machpelah, with Sarah. In accordance with God’s promise, Ishmael fathered many children, and he died at 137 years of age.

 

II.                Esau and Jacob (25:19-28)

A.    Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah (vv. 19-21): Isaac married at forty, and, for several years, Rebekah could not conceive. Isaac and Rebekah’s offspring came only through prayer and the intervention of God.

B.     The birth of the twins (vv. 22-28): The Lord told Rebekah that she would soon bear twins, and, in due time, Esau and Jacob arrived.  Esau (name means “red”) was born first; then Jacob (name means “deceiver” or “supplanter”), the son of promise, was born.  The boys had very different personalities.  Esau was a man’s man, an outdoorsman and agriculturalist.  Jacob was a quiet man (Hebrew word means “cultured” or “civilized”.  The passage indicates that parental favoritism troubled this family.

C.     Esau sold his birthright (vv. 29-34): Esau, famished from an active day in the field, begged Jacob for some stew.  Jacob agreed to “sell” his stew for Esau’s birthright.  Esau, in selling his birthright, despised the Lord and his father.  This disrespectful act brought the Lord’s displeasure.  Jacob did not trust the Lord either.  He must have known that God had favored him as the elect son, but he took matters in his own hands to win the birthright through this unseemly transaction.

 

III.             God’s Promise and Isaac’s Sin (26:1-35)

A.    God’s promise in a time of need (vv. 1-5): Like his father before him, Isaac was tested by a season of famine in Canaan.  Following his father’s example, Isaac considered moving the family to Egypt; however, before Isaac arrived in Egypt, God confirmed the Abrahamic Covenant and told Isaac to remain in Canaan.

B.     Isaac’s lie to Abimelech (vv. 6-11):  The blessed family settled in Gerar. The Philistine men found Rebekah beautiful, and, like Abraham, Isaac lied about his wife.  In time, Abimelech saw Isaac with Rebekah.  The Philistine ruler deduced that the couple was husband and wife, and he confronted Isaac with the deception.  The embarrassed husband acknowledged and justified his lie in much the same way Abraham justified his dishonesty.

C.     Isaac’s prosperity in the land (vv. 12-33): After the disgraceful episode with Abimelech, Isaac settled in other parts of the land of promise: the valley of Gerar and Beersheba.  In Gerar, Isaac’s servants quarreled with Abimelech’s men about the use of wells, and Isaac made a covenant of peace with Abimelech.

D.    Esau’s marriages (vv. 34-35): Esau married two Hittite women, and these marriages brought great turmoil to Isaac’s household.  Perhaps the pagan background of these women troubled Isaac, but the patriarch certainly had concern about Esau marrying Canaanite women, thus disregarding the Abrahamic Covenant.

 

IV.             Isaac’s Blessing of Jacob (27:1-46)

A.    Rebekah’s deception (vv. 1-17): As Isaac aged, he anticipated his death.  The old man told Esau to kill some game and prepare a meal.  Rebekah overheard the conversation and conspired with Jacob to deceive Isaac.  She sent Jacob to kill prey of his own, and she then prepared a sumptuous meal for her husband.  Furthermore, she planned to clothe Jacob in Esau’s garments and prepared a sheep skin to place on Jacob’s neck.  With these deceptions Rebekah hoped to mimic Esau’s smell and the hairiness of his body, all in hopes of tricking Isaac. 

B.     Jacob’s compliance in the deception (vv. 8-29): In full agreement with the deceit, Jacob donned his brother’s clothes and brought the meal to Isaac.  The old man suspected the scheme, but his poor eyesight made it impossible for him to distinguish between Esau and the dishonest brother.  Jacob received the blessing that Isaac had intended for Esau. 

C.     The aftermath of the deception (vv. 30-46)

1.      the discovery of the scheme (vv. 30-40): Soon after Jacob stole the birthright, Esau arrived with his prepared game, anticipating the blessing of his father. Isaac, of course, realized what had occurred, and he told Esau of the deceit.  The two men grieved over the situation, and Isaac predicted that Esau would serve his brother, but he also anticipated hostility between the two siblings.

2.      Esau’s wrath (vv. 41-46): Esau, of course, was furious with his brother and swore to kill him.  Rebekah heard of Esau’s plan for revenge, and warned Jacob to flee to her family in Haran.  While Jacob lived with Laban, Rebekah hoped that her son would take a wife from the descendants of Terah.