Genesis 25:19-34

19 This is the genealogy of Isaac, Abraham’s son. Abraham begot Isaac.

20 Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian.

21 Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.

23 And the Lord said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.”

24 So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb.

25 And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau.

26 Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

27 So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents.

28 And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

29 Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary.

30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom.

31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.”

32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?”

33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.

34 And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

The next section, beginning in Genesis 25:19b and continuing through 37:2a, was probably recorded by Jacob. — Morris, page 411.


The birthright included (1) the father’s blessing involving supremacy; (2) a double portion of the family estate; and (3) the domestic priesthood. Jacob, deplorable as was his character, valued divine and eternal blessing; and had he placed himself in God’s hands, the prophecy, made to his mother before he was born, would have been fulfilled to him, and without the degradation and suffering which his own scheming brought upon him.

The domestic priesthood meant that the eldest son acted as priest for the family, and offered the sacrifices which God had commanded Adam and his sons to offer. These are the priests, without doubt, spoken of in Exodus 19:2, and also in Exodus 24:5. With this priesthood were joined the Ten Commandments and the simple laws connected with them; but Israel having rejected this high honour, saying to Moses, “speak thou to us, but let not God speak to us”this peculiar glory was taken from them and vested in the tribe of Levi. — Williams, page 30.


Isaac was forty years old when he was married to Rebekah, and it would be another twenty years before they would have any children. Like Abraham and Sarah, they had to wait many years and to make it a matter of special prayer, before God sent them a son. Rebekah was from Syria and her relatives are said to be Syrians. Aram was a son of Shem, so the Armaeans, or Syrians, were Semites. She had lived in Padan-aram (“the plain of Aram”), where the towns of Haran and Nahor were settled, and to which her family had migrated. — Morris, page 411.


Rebekah was feeling more than normal fetal movements; an actual struggle was taking place in her womb, and Rebekah seemed to realize that this was a portent of something significant. … Whether through a prophet, or dream or theophany, we are not told, but in some way God spoke to her, so clearly that she could never forget the remarkable revelation which she received.

The twins in her womb were of two utterly different and antagonistic temperaments. The nations which they would establish would inherit these tendencies. … Which, then, would prevail? The Lord was most specific in His reply: “The elder shall serve the younger.” … since one of the two must carry on the Messianic line and must inherit the promises of the Abrahamic covenant, it is crystal clear that God here told Rebekah that His covenant would be with the younger son. …

Men normally have felt that the first-born son should receive the greater honor and inheritance, but God does not necessarily work in such ways. In the Messianic line, it is significant that neither, Seth, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, nor David were first-born sons; and it is not certain if any of the others were.

There was surely no reason why God could not select the younger if He so willed. God is sovereign, and we do well not to question His choice. “And not only this, but when Rebekah also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth:) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger, As it is written, Jacob have I loved [see Malachi 1:1-2], but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:10-13). — Morris, pages 412-413.


The strikingly unusual appearance of the two boys is reflected in the names given them. The first was named Esau, which means “hairy,” He was obviously a rugged, strong child. The second was named Jacob, which means “heel-catcher” (perhaps also, by extension, “supplanter”). With respect to Jacob’s odd name, the prophet Hosea seems to interpret it as evidence of power with God. “He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God” (Hosea 12:3). — Morris, page 414.


The only other hunter mentioned in the Bible is “Nimrod the mighty hunter before [literally “against”] the Lord” (Genesis 10:9). One biblical hunter was a rebel against God, the other was a sportsman unconcerned with God. Esau preferred playing out in the fields [since, with his family’s wealthy, there was no need for extra food], even long after he was a grown man, to working for his family and serving the Lord. He also was a “fornicator” (Hebrews 12:16) and profane person. 

Jacob, on the other hand, was a “plain man, dwelling in tents.” Just like Abraham and Isaac, he “sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles” (Hebrews 11:9). … The translators have done Jacob a disservice by calling him a “plain” man, or a “quiet” man. The Hebrew word is tam, which means “perfect” or “complete” or possibly “mature.” It is exactly the same word God used to describe Job when He called him “a perfect man and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil” (Job 1:8). — Morris, page 415.


Isaac became partial to Esau, and indeed encouraged him in his irresponsible activities, for the highly unworthy reason that “he did eat of his venison.”… The right of primogeniture may have been a custom at this time, but it was not yet a biblical law. In any case, the father had the privilege of transferring it from the eldest son to another, more deserving son (1 Chronicles 5:1-2). — Morris, page 416.


Why do people so often consider Jacob the culprit in this transaction? [See Williams above.] Scripture does not offer one word of condemnation or criticism of Jacob. Instead, it condemns Esau unequivocally. “Thus Esau despised his birthright” (Genesis 25:34). “Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected” (Hebrews 12:16-17).

This experience with the red lentils, in fact, was closely associated with his very name after that. People from then on often called him Edom (meaning “red”), so that, whenever he heard his name, he was forced to remember that he had sold his birthright for a mess of red pottage!

Jacob, of course, should have been willing to let God work out the problem. God would certainly have overruled the situation even if Isaac had not been willing to give Jacob the birthright as God had instructed him. However Jacob’s sin was not a sin of greed or blackmail, but rather one of lack of faith. — Morris, page 417-418.


Lest the reader think that God’s response to Rebekah as merely prophetic (i.e., looking forward to the national ascendancy of Israel over Edom) rather than declarative (i.e., His decision for the twins as of that moment), that it was said with respect to the twins themselves, “even though they were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad” (Romans 9:12). The same point, Paul notes, is made by God in His statement through Malachi, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” (Malachi 1:2-3), in which the reference is not to God’s emotional attitude towards the two, but rather (and in keeping with the broader semantic range of the Hebrew verbs) to His simple, sovereign choice of one over the other. — Wechsler, page 224-225.

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