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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 25

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-18

ISAAC ’S MARRIAGE , ABRAHAM ’S DEATH

In Abraham’s time, communications between families separated by long distances were few and far between. But he seems to have gotten news from his brother’s home sometime after the birth of Isaac, as recorded at the close of chapter 22, linking that chapter to the one we are now considering.

SELECTING THE BRIDE (Genesis 24:1-52 )

Notice the preparation made by Abraham for Isaac’s marriage (Genesis 24:1-9 ), the oath he administers to his servant, the condition he exacts, the prohibition he places upon him, the assurances he gives him, the exemption he grants.

It may not at first appear why Abraham is so solicitous that Isaac’s wife shall be taken from his own people rather than the Canaanites, since both were idolaters. But the evil traits of the Canaanites, which afterwards caused them to be driven out of the land, must have been apparent to Abraham even then; moreover there may have been something in this people on the other side of the Euphrates making them more amenable to the purposes of God with reference to the coming Seed, in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed. But it is always to be kept in mind that Abraham was under the guidance of God, and that there was more than man’s wisdom or foresight in this transaction.

Notice the preparation made by the servant for his journey (Genesis 24:10-14 ), and observe that the gifts were a dowry for the expected bride, to be paid, however, in accordance with oriental custom, not to her but to her father. How does the servant show his knowledge of the true God? How does his prayer illustrate Proverbs 3:5-6 ? And yet there is another side to the matter, for it is ill-advised to leave the decisions of life to the arbitrament of signs, and grievous errors have arisen from accrediting God with the outcome of them. When we have the Word of God, the Spirit of God and providences of God for our guides, and the throne of grace open to our appeals, it is expected and doubtless salutary that we bear the responsibility of our own decisions in difficult places. Indeed, we are likely to show more reverence for and confidence in God’s guidance in this way than in the other.

Notice the facts about Rebekah in Genesis 24:15-28 .

Notice the servant’s faithfulness in Genesis 24:29-52 . Do we get a touch of Laban’s character in Genesis 24:30-31 ? How does it impress you? How does the servant testify to Abraham and his son in Genesis 24:35-36 ? What is the result of the embassy so far as the father and brother of Rebekah are concerned? Which of the two seems to assume the more importance?

ACCEPTING THE HUSBAND (Genesis 24:53-61 )

Notice the additional gifts now presented to Rebekah. But who else are also remembered? What objection is interposed, by whom, and why? Who settles the question, and how? What blessing is pronounced upon her? Do you think it has been, or will be, fulfilled?

THE MARRIAGE RITE (Genesis 24:62-67 )

Notice how Isaac is represented in Genesis 24:63 . Was he thinking about his bride? Notice the action of Rebekah, which was an indication of the inferiority to men with which women were then regarded. It would have been improper for Rebekah to have approached her future husband either unveiled or riding, instead of walking. What title did the servant give to Isaac, and what report did he make to him? In what did the wedding ceremony consist? What must have been the significance to the whole camp in this act of Isaac in bringing Rebekah “into his mother Sarah’s tent?” Did it now show that she had now come into that place of importance and authority theretofore occupied by Sarah, and belonging by right to her, who was the recognized wife of the head of the clan?

THE SYMBOLISM OF THE TRANSACTION

We have, in this beautiful story, a striking type of the union between Christ and His bride, the Church:

(1) Abraham arranged the marriage for Isaac, and so the Father has made the marriage for Christ (Matthew 22:1-2 ); The servant selected the bride, and so the Holy Spirit calls out the Church (1 Corinthians 6:11 ; 1 Corinthians 12:3 ; 1 Corinthians 12:13 ); The plan of the servant was simply to tell who his master was, and how he had honored his son, and so the Holy Spirit takes the things of Christ and shows them unto us (John 15:26 ; John 16:13-15 ).

See further the free agency of the bride in accepting Isaac, and the expression of her purpose in the words “I will go”; also, the separation from loved ones, but the compensation for all in anticipation.

Observe, as well, Isaac’s coming out to meet her in the eventide, with its suggestion of Christ’s return for His Church at the close of the present age (John 14:1-3 ); and even his leading Rebekah into his mother’s tent, how it foreshadows the place of authority and glory the Church shall have when she reigns with Christ over the millennial earth ( Mat 19:28 ; 1 Corinthians 6:2 ; Colossians 3:4 ; Revelation 20:4-6 ).

THE DEATH OF ABRAHAM (Genesis 25:1-10 )

It is presumable that Abraham’s relationship to Keturah was entered into sometime before the marriage of Isaac, and indeed it may have been before his birth. This seems probable, since Genesis 25:6 , as well as 1 Chronicles 1:32 , speaks of her as his concubine, and not his wife. The occasion for the allusion to the matter is suggested by the servant’s remark in the preceding chapter concerning the possessions of Isaac (compare Genesis 24:36 with Genesis 25:5 ). In other words, the gifts to the offspring of Keturah and the settlement of the latter in the east were matters that had been attended to before the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah.

Note the age of Abraham (Genesis 25:7 ), and the way in which his departure from this life is designated (Genesis 25:8 ), affording an intimation of the conscious and sentient condition of the dead while awaiting the resurrection of their bodies.

QUESTIONS

1. What connection do you see between chapters 22 and 24?

2. Can you give any reasons for Abraham’s solicitude about the wife of Isaac?

3. Can you quote from memoryProverbs 3:5-6; Proverbs 3:5-6 ?

4. Can you name four or five features in which the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah symbolizes the union of Christ and His Church?

5. Recall three or four features in which Abraham’s life-story illustrates Romans 4:20 , last clause.

Verses 19-34

JACOB AND ESAU

THE DEFRAUDED BIRTHRIGHT (Genesis 25:19-34 )

As we read the introductory part of this chapter, we are impressed that many of the mothers of the notable men of the Bible were for a long while childless: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and the mothers of Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist. Was this that their faith might be proved? We wonder, too, what is meant by the statement that Rebekah “went to inquire of Jehovah.” There seems to have been some way, even in that early time, where individuals could communicate with God. As Abraham was a prophet, and living not far from her, it has been suggested that she may have gone to inquire of the Lord through him.

In considering Genesis 25:23 , be careful not to charge God with partiality in the choice of Jacob, and it will save us from so doing if we remember that (1) on the natural plane of things, if there be two nations one is likely to be stronger than the other; (2) God not only foresees this but has the right to pre-determine it, especially when the blessing of all the nations is involved therein; and (3) this determination in the present case brought no hardship upon the weaker nation as such, nor did it prevent any of its individuals for receiving all the blessings of the life to come.

And yet this by no means justifies the meanness of Jacob, any more than the recklessness of Esau. Neither brother distinguishes himself in the transaction, while Jacob’s conduct is only another illustration of an attempt to assist God in the fulfillment of His promises. Patience would have gotten him the birthright with honor to himself as well as glory to God.

HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF (Genesis 26:1-33 )

How much of this chapter reminds us of the previous one in the life of Abraham! There is little to be explained, but the facts should be noted.

The well called Rehoboth still remains strengthened with masonry of immense proportions and great antiquity. It is believed that it is the well which Isaac dug, although the country is now a desert in contrast to its fruitfulness in his time. We may add that at present there are two old wells in Beersheba, three hundred yards apart, and Dr. Edward Robinson gives his opinion that the larger may be the famous well of Abraham, while possibly the second may be that which Isaac dug when the former was stopped up by the Philistines. The locality still bears the same name, only in Arabic form.

THE DEFRAUDED BLESSING (Genesis 27:1-40 )

The closing verse of chapter 26 gave us a further insight into Esau’s character, qualifying our sympathy for him. His purpose in marrying the daughters of the Canaanite princes was doubtless to increase his worldly importance, a circumstance opposed to the divine purpose in the separation of Abraham and his seed from the other nations. If the descendants of Abraham were the daughters of the heathen Canaanites, they would soon lose the traditions of their family and every trace of their heavenly calling. As a matter of fact, this became true in the case of the descendants of Esau, who were always the enemies of Israel and figure in the prophets as the type of the enemies of God.

We can hardly believe, however, that Isaac was entirely without blame in this case. But who can justify Rebekah, to say nothing of Jacob? Surely the goodness of God is of grace, and these things show that He has a plan to carry out in which He is simply using men as He finds them, and subsequently conforming them to Himself as His sovereign will may determine.

Notice that the blessings of Isaac on Jacob were a formal transmission of the original promise of God to Abraham (Genesis 27:28-29 ), which when once transmitted could not be recalled (Genesis 27:34-38 ). Esau is blessed, but it is not the blessing which he receives. Notice the differences between his blessing and that of Jacob. There is an intimation that Esau that is, the nation that should spring from him would at some time break from his brother’s yoke, but later prophecies show that this freedom would be only for a season. In connection with Esau’s conduct compare Hebrews 12:15-17 .

Note in passing that Herod the Great, the last king of Judah, was a descendant of Esau, an Idumean on the side of both father and mother, a circumstance, which was the foundation for that irreconcilable hatred with which the Jews regarded him during his long reign.

JACOB’S FLIGHT (Genesis 27:41-46 ; Genesis 28:1-22 )

What was the cause of Jacob’s flight (Genesis 27:41-45 )? The excuse for it (Genesis 27:46 ; Genesis 28:1-5 )? At what place is he next found (Genesis 28:10 )? What did he see in his dream? Whom did he see, and why? How did the speaker introduce Himself? Do you recognize the promise given him? What particular addendum of a personal character is attached (Genesis 28:15 )? What effect had this on Jacob? How did he express his feelings? What did he name the place? (Bethel means “The House of God.”) Compare John 1:51 , Hebrews 1:14 , and Luke 15:10 , and recall that the beautiful hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee” is based upon this impressive incident in Jacob’s life. For the pious servants of God this dream threw a flood of light upon the certainty of heaven, of which they had known little or nothing until that time, as well as the facile communication there might be between heaven and earth, and the profound interest which God and the holy angles felt in the affairs of men. What vow did Jacob offer? In the consideration of this vow, which was entirely voluntary on his part, observe that “if” does not necessarily express a doubt in his mind, since it might be translated “since,” or “so then.” It may be viewed as his acceptance of the divine promise, so that from that moment Jehovah did in some sense become his God, as well as He had been the God of Abraham and Isaac.

We are accustomed to speak of the selfish proposition of Jacob in Genesis 28:22 , last clause. But before casting the mote out of his eye, should we not cast the beam out of our own? With all the knowledge of God we possess does our character shine brighter? Do we not still use the “if” in the face of the promises? And do we give even as much as a tenth of our possessions to Him, notwithstanding the richer blessings we enjoy? Is it not still true that He is dealing with us on the principle of grace, and not merit? God sometimes consents to call Himself by the name “the God of Jacob.” What unutterable comfort it should bring to us!

QUESTIONS

1. on what grounds is God released from the charge of partiality in the choice of Jacob?

2. In what ways does Isaac’s life and character differ from Abraham’s?

3. What name is sometimes given to Esau’s descendants?

4. What is the meaning of Bethel?

5. How would you explain God’s patience with Jacob?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Genesis 25". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/genesis-25.html. 1897-1910.
 
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