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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 25". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ genesis-25.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 25". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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Then again Abraham took a wife,—literally, and Abraham added and took a wife (i.e. a secondary wife, or concubine, pilgash; vide Genesis 25:6 and 1 Chronicles 1:28, 1 Chronicles 1:32); but whether after (Kalisch, Lunge, Murphy) or, before (Calvin, Keil, Alford, Bush) Sarah's death it is impossible to decide—and her name was Keturah—"Increase" (Gesenius); probably a servant in the family, as Hagar had been, though not Hagar herself (Targums), whom Abraham had recalled after Sarah's death (Lyra), since Genesis 25:6 speaks of concubines.
And she bare him Zimran,—identified with Zabram, west of Mecca, on the Red Sea (Knobel, Keil); or the Zimareni, in the interior of Arabia (Delitzsch, Kalisch)—and Jokshan,—the Kassamitae, on the Red Sea (Knobel); or the Himarytish tribe Jakish, in Southern Arabia (Keil)—and Medan, and Midian,—Modiana, on the east of the Elamitic Gulf, and Madiana, north of this (Rosenmüller, Keil, Knobel)—and Ishbak,—perhaps preserved in Schobeck, in the land of the Edomites (Knobel, Keil)—and Shuah—for which the epithet Shuhite (Job 2:11) may point to Northern Idumaea (Keil, Knobel, Kalisch).
And Jokshan begat Sheba,—probably the Sabeans: Job 1:15; Job 6:19 (Keil)—and Dedan—probably the trading people mentioned in Jeremiah 25:23 (Keil). And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim,—who have been associated with the warlike tribe of the Asir, to the south of Hejas (Keil)—and Letushim,—the Bann Leits in Hejas (Keil)—and Leummim—the tribe Bann Lam, which extended even to Babylon and Mesopotamia (Keil).
And the sons of Midian; Ephah (vide Isaiah 60:6), and Epher (Bent Ghifar in Hejas), and Hanoch (Hanakye, three days north of Medinah), and Abidah, and Eldaah—the tribes of Abide and Vadaa in the neighborhood of Asir. Keil adds that all these identifications are uncertain. All these were the children of Keturah—six sons, seven grandsons, three great grandsons; in all sixteen descendants.
Genesis 25:5, Genesis 25:6
And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. I.e. constituted him his chief heir, according to previous Divine appointment (Genesis 15:4), and made over to him the bulk of his possessions (Genesis 24:36). But unto the sons of the concubines (Hagar and Keturah), which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts,—"doubtless established them as youthful nomads" (Lunge) and sent them away from Isaac his son,—Ishmael's dismissal took place long before (Genesis 21:14); probably he then received his portion while he yet lived (i.e. during Abraham's lifetime) eastward, unto the east country (or Arabia in the widest sense; to the east and south-east of Palestine).
And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived,—an impressive and appropriate expression for the computation of life (of. Genesis 47:9)—an hundred and threescore and fifteen years—i.e. 175 years; so that he must have lived seventy-five years after Isaac's birth and thirty-eight years after Sarah's death. "His grandfather lived 148 years, his father 205, his son 180, and his grandson 147; so that his years were the full average of that period (Murphy).
Then Abraham gave up the ghost (literally, breathed out, a the breath of life), and died in a good old age,—literally, in a flood hoary age, i.e. "with a crown of righteousness upon his hoary head" (Hughes)—an old man, and full of years. Literally, and satiated, i.e. satisfied not merely with life and all its blessings, but with living. The three clauses give an elevated conception of the patriarch's life as that of one who had tasted all the sweets and realized all the ends of a mundane existence, and who accordingly was ripe and ready for transition to a higher sphere. And was gathered to his people. An expression similar to "going to his fathers" (Genesis 15:15, q.v.), and to "being gathered to one's fathers" (Judges 2:10). "The phrase is constantly distinguished from departing this life and being buried, denotes the reunion in Sheol with friends who have gone before, and therefore presupposes faith in the personal continuance of a man after death" (Keil). Abraham died in the hope of a better country, even an heavenly (Hebrews 11:13-16). And his sons Isaac and Ishmael—Isaac as the heir takes precedence; but Ishmael, rather than the sons of Keturah, is associated with him at his father's funeral; probably because he was not so distant as they from Hebron (Lunge), or because he was the subject of a special blessing, which they were not (Keil, Murphy); or perhaps simply Ishmael and Isaac united as the eldest sons to perform the last rites to a parent they revered (Kalisch). "Funerals of parents are reconciliations of children (Genesis 35:29), and differences of contending religionists are often softened at the side of a grave" (Wordsworth)—buried him (vide on Genesis 23:19) in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre (vide on Genesis 23:3-20); the field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.
And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God—Elohim; whence the preceding section is ascribed to the Elohist; but the general name of God is here employed because the statement partakes merely of the nature of an intimation that the Divine blessing descended upon Isaac by inheritance (Hengstenberg), and the particular blessing of which the historian speaks is not so much the spiritual and eternal blessings of the covenant, as the material and temporal prosperity with which Isaac, in comparison with other men, was enriched (Murphy)—blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahai-roi (vide Genesis 16:14; Genesis 24:62).
The last days of Abraham.
I. ABRAHAM'S OLD AGE.
1. The taking of a second wife.
(1) Her name: Keturah, recorded because of her relationship to Abraham. Connection with God's people confers honors as well as privileges.
(2) Her marriage: of the second degree. Succeeding to Sarah's marriage bed, Keturah did not succeed to her social status. Neither did her issue possess legal claim to Abraham's inheritance. Concubinage, though permitted, was not necessarily approved by God.
(3) Her children: numerous and (in some instances) distinguished. The common seed of the flesh may often be more enlarged than the special seed of grace; but the descendants of good men, other things being equal, are likelier to come to honor than the families of the wicked.
2. The making of his will.
(1) Isaac, the son of Sarah, he constitutes his heir, in accordance with the Divine counsel, not attempting to interpose on behalf of Ishmael, his first-born. Primogeniture may involve certain rights in the world; it has no superiority in grace, or in the Church.
(2) The sons of Hagar and Keturah he endows with portions from his ample pastoral wealth before he dies, and sends away to settle as independent nomads in the unoccupied territory lying on the east of Palestine, thus providing for the prosperity of his children and the peace of his family after he is gone—two things which pious parents should as far as possible secure before they die.
II. ABRAHAM'S DEATH.
1. Before death. The age to which the patriarch had attained was—
(1) Numerically great, viz; 175 years. Mark the tendency of piety to prolong life (Psalms 34:12).
(2) Morally good. Neither beautiful nor desirable in itself, when associated with corresponding ripeness in grace old age is both delightful to look upon and pleasant to enjoy (Proverbs 16:31).
(3) Completely satisfying. He had experienced the Divine goodness and mercy for 175 years, had God's covenant established with himself and family, beheld Isaac born, married, and, the father of two promising sons, and seen Sarah away before him to the better land; now he had no desire left unfulfilled but one, viz; to depart.
2. At death. His end was peaceful; he "breathed out his spirit" into the hands of Jehovah. So did Isaac (Genesis 35:29), Jacob (Genesis 49:33), David (Psalms 31:5), Christ (Luke 23:46). "Mark the perfect, and behold the upright" (Psalms 37:37).
3. After death. He was gathered to his people—a significant intimation of
(1) the immateriality of the soul;
(2) the conscious existence of the soul after death;
(3) the gathering of pious souls into one society beyond the grave;
(4) the mutual recognition of the glorified;
(5) the complete separation of the righteous from the wicked.
III. ABRAHAM'S FUNERAL.
1. The chief mourners. Whether Keturah's boys were present at the affecting ceremonial is not stated, but the prominent positions were occupied by Ishmael and Isaac. It is a duty which surviving children owe deceased parents to see their remains deposited with reverence in the grave, and it is beautiful when fraternal estrangements are removed round a father's tomb.
2. The place of sepulture. The cave of Machpelah had three attractions for the patriarch: it was in the promised land, it was his own tomb, and it contained the dust of Sarah.
3. The bereaved son. Isaac, from his sensitive disposition and the unexciting character of his occupation, would feel his father's loss more keenly than Ishmael. Perhaps this explains the statement of verse 11. It is God's special care to comfort orphans (Psalms 27:10).
1. That though secondary wives are not agreeable to the word of God, second marriages are not against the will of God.
2. That good men ought to make a just disposition of their temporal affairs before they die.
3. That whether God's saints die soon or late, they are always satisfied with living.
4. That in whatever sort of tomb a saint's dust may lie, his immortal spirit goes to join the company of just men made perfect.
5. That the loss of earthly parents is more than compensated by the blessing of a father's God.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
The line of blessing.
Although Abraham has many descendants, he carefully distinguishes the line of the Divine blessing. His peaceful end at 175 years set the seal upon a long life of faith and fellowship with God. His two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, met at their father's grave, although living apart. The influence of such a character as Abraham's is very elevating and healing, even in the sphere of the world. Ishmael is not entirely forgotten, but Isaac, as the true heir of Abraham, hands on the blessing of the covenant.—R.
§ 8. THE GENERATIONS OF ISHMAEL (Genesis 25:12-18).
Now these are the generations of Ishmael,—the opening of a new section (cf. Genesis 2:4), in which the fortunes of Abraham's eldest son are briefly traced before proceeding with the main current of the history in the line of Isaac (cf. 1 Chronicles 1:29-31)—Abraham's son,—because of his relation to Abraham it was that Ishmael attained subsequent historical development and importance (vide Genesis 21:13)—whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's handmaid, bare unto Abraham (vide Genesis 16:1, Genesis 16:15).
And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth;—"Heights;" the Nabathaeans, a people of Northern Arabia, possessed of abundant flocks (Isaiah 9:7), and, according to Diodorus, living by merchandise and rapine (Gesenius). From Petraea they subsequently extended as far as Babylon (Keil)—and Kedar,—"Black Skin;" the Cedrei of Pliny (Gesenius, Keil, Rosen-mailer); characterized as good bowmen (Isaiah 21:17), and dwelling between Arabia Petraea and Babylon—and Adbeel,—"Miracle of God" (Gesenius); of whom nothing is known—and Mibsam,—"Sweet Odor" (Gesenius); equally uncertain.
And Mishma,—"Hearing" (Gesenius); Masma (LXX; Vulgate); connected with the Maisaimeneis, north-east of Medina (Knobel)—and Dumah,—"Silence;" same as Stony Dumah, or Syrian Dumah, in Arabia, on the edge of the Syrian desert (Gesenius); mentioned in Isaiah 21:11—and Massa,—"Burden;" north-east of Dumah are the Massanoi.
Hadar,—"Chamber" (Gesenius); Ha'dad (1 Chronicles 1:30, LXX; Samaritan, and most MSS.); though Gesenius regards Hadar as probably the true reading in both places; identified with a tribe in Yemen (Gesenius); between Oman and Bahrein, a district renowned for its lancers (Keil)—and Tema,—"Desert" (Gesenius); Θαιμὰν (LXX.); the Θεμοί, on the Persian Gulf, or the tribe Bann Teim, in Hamasa (Knobel); a trading people (Job 6:19; Isaiah 21:14; Jeremiah 25:23)—Jetur,—"Enclosure" (Gesenius); the Itureans (Gesenius, Kalisch, Keil )—Naphish, "Breathing" (Murphy); "Refreshment" (Gesenius); not yet identified—and Kedemah—"Eastward" (Gesenius); unknown.
These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns,—unwalled encampments, from hatzar, to surround; used of the movable villages of nomadic tribes (cf. Isaiah 42:11)—and by their castles;—fortified keeps (Murphy); tent villages (Keil); nomadic camps (Kalisch). Cf. Num 31:10; 1 Chronicles 6:39; Psalms 69:26; Ezekiel 25:4)—twelve princes—this does not imply that Ishmael had only twelve sons, like Israel—a very suspicious circumstance (De Wette); but only that these twelve became phylarchs (Havernick). The Egyptian dedecarchy rested on a like earlier division of names. Homer mentions a similar case among the Phoenicians; Thucydides another in ancient Attica (2. 15); vide Havernick's 'Introch,' § 18—according to their nations (or tribe divisions).
Genesis 25:17, Genesis 25:18
And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years:—a life shorter by nearly half a century than that of Isaac (Genesis 35:21); does this prove the life-prolonging influence of piety?—and he gave up the ghost and died; and wee gathered unto his people (vide on Genesis 25:8). And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward; Assyria (vide Genesis 10:29; Genesis 16:7): and He died—literally, fell down; not expired (Vulgate, A Lapide, Aben Ezra, et alii), but settled down, had his lot cast (Calvin, Keil, Kalisch); κατῴκησε (LXX.) in the presence of all his brethren (a fulfillment of Genesis 16:12).
The generations of Ishmael, or the biography of a prince.
I. THE PRINCE'S NAME. Ishmael.
1. The significance of his name. "God hears.' It was thus a perpetual reminder to its bearer of a grand religious truth, that God is essentially a hearer of prayer, and that he is never far from any of his intelligent and needy creatures.
2. The occasion of his getting it.
(1) Before his birth, because the Lord had heard the affliction of his mother.
(2) At his birth, because his father believed the report of Hagar concerning the instruction of the angel.
3. The verification of his name. When he lay beneath the shrub God heard the voice of his distressful cry (Genesis 21:17).
II. THE PRINCE'S LINEAGE. Abraham's son. That—
(1) Proclaimed his dignity. Though not a prince in the Church, he was a prince in the world, being Abraham's immediate descendant, Grace runs not in the blood, earthly rank does.
(2) Bespoke his privilege. Jehovah reckoned it a great thing for Ishmael that he was Abraham's seed. To be the offspring of those who are exalted in earthly station is a special honor, though not so great an honor as to be descended from those who are eminent in grace.
(3) Implied his responsibility. Degrees of rank in society are of God's ordaining, and involve the recipients thereof in corresponding obligations (Luke 12:48).
III. THE PRINCE'S FAMILY.
1. Princely in rank. This quality they received by birth, being Ishmael's sons.
2. Many in number. They were twelve princes, and as such they developed into large and flourishing tribes and nations. This characteristic was due to grace, God having promised that kings and nations should spring from Hagar's son.
3. Influential in power. The twelve princes mentioned were powerful chieftains of as many clans.
IV. THE PRINCE'S DEATH.
1. The time. At 137 years. The days of all, even of princes, in this life are numbered.
2. The manner. "He expired." "There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit" in the day of his death.
3. The result. "He was gathered unto his people," passing to the company of those who were like-minded with himself in the unseen world, as Abraham went to enjoy the society of those who were of kindred spirit with him.
V. THE PRINCE'S DOMINIONS. "His lot was cast in the presence of all his brethren," i.e. his empire was—
1. Outside of Canaan. He had no part or lot in the inheritance of Isaac. Neither have the world's princes as such any share in the heritage of heaven's peers.
2. Among the tribes of earth. And so the worldly man's portion is of the earth, earthy.
1. How comparatively unimportant the world's biographies are in the judgment of the Spirit.
2. How the children of the wicked often outnumber the offspring of the pious.
3. How it is appointed unto all men once to die, though not to all to die alike.
4. How certain it is that the wicked and the good shall be separated after death, since at death both are gathered unto their respective peoples. 5. How clearly and minutely God fulfils the promises he makes to wicked men no less than to good.
§ 9. THE GENERATIONS OF ISAAC (Genesis 25:19-29).
And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son. The usual formula for the opening of a new section (cf. Genesis 2:4). Abraham begat Isaac. A reiteration in perfect harmony not only with the style of the present narrative, but of ancient historiography in general; in this instance specially designed to connect the subsequent streams of Isaac's posterity with their original fountain-head in Abraham.
And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife,—the valuable chronological fact here stated for the first time proves that Isaac was married three years after his mother's death (cf. Genesis 23:1)—the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan-aram, the sister to Laban the Syrian (vide on Genesis 22:23; Genesis 24:29). Though a descendant of Arphaxad (Genesis 10:24), Bethuel is styled a Syrian, or Aramaean, from the country of his adoption. On Padanaram vide Genesis 24:10.
And Isaac entreated—from a root signifying to burn incense, hence to pray, implying, as some think (Wordsworth, 'Speaker's Commentary'), the use of incense in patriarchal worship; but perhaps only pointing to the fact that the prayers of the godly ascend like incense (Gesenius): cf. Tobit 12:12; Acts 10:4. The word is commonly regarded as noting precum multiplicationem, et vehementiam et perseverantiam (Poole): cf. Ezekiel 35:13—the Lord—Jehovah; not because verses 21-23 are the composition of the Jehovist (Tuch, Bleek, Davidson, et alii), but because the desired son was to be the heir of promise (Hengstenberg). The less frequent occurrence of the Divine name in the Thol-doth of Isaac than in those of Terah has been explained by the fact that the historical matter of the later portion furnishes less occasion for its introduction than that of the earlier; and the predominance of the name Elohim over that of Jehovah in the second stage of the patriarchal history has been partly ascribed to the employment after Abraham's time of such like equivalent expressions as "God of Abraham" and "God of my father" (Keil)—for his wife,—literally, opposite to his wife, i.e. beside his wife, placing himself opposite her, and conjoining his supplications with hers (Ainsworth, Bush); or, better, in behalf of his wife (LXX; Vulgate, Calvin, Keil, Kalisch), i.e. setting her over against him as the sole object to which he had regard in his intercessions (Luther)—because she was barren:—as Sarah had been before her (vide Gen 11:1-32 :80); the long-continued sterility of both having been designed to show partly that "children are the heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3), but chiefly that the children of the promise were to be not simply the fruit of nature, but the gift of grace and the Lord was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived (cf. Romans 9:10).
And the children struggled together within her. The verb is expressive of a violent internal commotion, as if the unborn children had been dashing against one another in her womb. Cf. the story of Acrisius and Praetus, who quarreled before birth about their subsequent dominion (Apollod; II. 2. 1). Vide Rosenmüller, Scholia, in loco. And she said, If it be so, why am I thus? Literally, If so, why thus (am) I? Of obscure import, but probably meaning, "If so," i.e. flit is the case that I have conceived, "for what am I thus?" what is the reason of these unwonted sensations that accompany my pregnancy? Aben Ezra, Calvin, Lange, Murphy); rather than, "If such be the sufferings of pregnancy, why did I seek to conceive?" (Rashi, Rosenmüller), or, why have I conceived? (Vulgate, Onkelos, Bush, Ainsworth), or, why do I yet live? (Syriac, Keil, Kalisch, Delitzsch). And she went to inquire of the Lord. Not by Urim (Bohlen), since this method of inquiring at the Deity did not then exist (Numbers 27:21); but either through a prophet,—Shem (Luther), Melchisedeck (Jewish interpreters), Heber (Lyra); more likely Abraham (Grotius, Ainsworth, Wordsworth, Kalisch, 'Speaker's Commentary'), or Isaac, the prophet nearest her (Lange),—or through herself by prayer, as in Psalms 34:5 (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Lange, Murphy, Inglis). The language seems to imply that by this time there was a regularly-appointed place for the worship of God by prayer and sacrifice—Theodoret suggests the family altar; Delitzsch, Hagar's well.
And the Lord said unto her,—in a dream (Havernick), a form of revelation peculiar to primitive times (Genesis 15:1; Genesis 20:6; Genesis 28:12; Genesis 37:5; 90:5; 91:1; 96:2; cf. Job 4:13; Job 33:15); but whether communicated directly to herself, or spoken through the medium of a prophet, the Divine response to her interrogation assumed an antistrophic and poetical form, in which she was informed that her unborn sons were to be the founders of two mighty nations, who, "unequal in power, should be divided rivalry and antagonism from their youth"—Two nations are in thy womb (i.e. the ancestors and founders of two nations, vie; the Israelites and Idumeans), and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels;—literally, and two peoples from thy bowels (or womb) are separated, i.e. proceeding from thy womb, they shall be divided from and against each other—and the one people shall be stronger than the other people (literally, and people shall be stronger than people, i.e. the one shall prevail over the other); and the elder shall serve the younger—i.e. the descendants of the elder shall be subject to those of the younger. Vide inspired comments on this oracle in Malachi 1:2, Malachi 1:3 and Romans 9:12-33.
And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled,—literally, and were fulfilled her days to bring forth; ἐπληρώθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτην (LXX.; cf. Luke 1:57; Luke 2:6). Jarchi accounts for the different phrase used of Thamar (Genesis 38:27), who also bore twins, by supposing that she had not completed her days, but gave birth to Pharez and Zarah in the seventh month (vide Rosenmüller, in loco)—behold, there were twins in her womb (cf. Genesis 38:27, where the full form of the word for twins is given).
And the first came out red,—Adhmoni, πυῤῥάκης (LXX.), rufus (Vulgate), red-haired (Gesenius), of a reddish color (Lange), containing an allusion to Adham, the red earth—all over like an hairy garment. Literally, all of him as a cloak of hair (not, as the LXX; Vulgate, et alii, all of him hairy, like a cloak); the fur cloak, or hair mantle, forming one notion (Gesenius). The appearance of the child's body, covered with an unusual quantity of red hair, was "a sign of excessive sensual vigor and wildness" (Keil), "a foreboding of the animal violence of his character" (Kalisch), "the indication of a passionate and precocious nature" (Murphy). And they called his name Esau—"the hairy one," from an unused root signifying to be covered with hair (Gesenius).
And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel. The inf. constr, standing for the finite verb. Not simply followed close upon the heels of Esau (Kalisch), but seized Esau's heel, as if he would trip him up (Keil, Murphy). It has been contended (De Wette, Schumann, Knobel) that such an act was impossible, a work on obstetrics by Busch maintaining that an hour commonly intervenes between the birth of twins; but practitioners of eminence who have been consulted declare the act to be distinctly possible, and indeed it is well known that "a multitude of surprising phenomena are connected with births" (Havernick), some of which are not greatly dissimilar to that which is here recorded. Delitzsch interprets the language as meaning only that the hand of Jacob reached out in the direction of his brother's heel, as if to grasp it; but Hosea 12:3 explicitly asserts that he had his brother's heel by the hand while yet in his mother's womb. And his name was called—literally, and he (i.e. one) called his name; καὶ ἐκάλεσε τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ (LXX.); id circo appellavit eum (Vulgate; cf. Genesis 16:14; Genesis 27:36)—Jacob. Not "Successor," like the Latin secundus, from sequor (Knobel, Kalisch); but "Heel-catcher" (Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Keil, Lange, Murphy), hence Supplanter (cf. Genesis 37:36). And Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them. Literally, in the bearing of them, the inf. constr, taking the case of its verb—when she (the mother) bare them; ὄτε ἔτεκεν αὐτοὺς Ῥεβέκκα (LXX.); quum nati sunt parvuli (Vulgate); though, as Rebekah's name does not occur in the immediate context, and ילד is applied to the father (Genesis 4:18; Genesis 10:8, Genesis 10:13) as well as to the mother, the clause may be rendered when he (Isaac) begat them (Kalisch, Afford).
The childless pair.
I. THE DISAPPOINTED HUSBAND.
1. The grievous affliction. Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, was barren. Though neither uncommon nor unjust, this was to Isaac
(1) a specially severe affliction, from its long continuance, from his love for Rebekah, from his own natural desire of offspring, but chiefly from his faith in the promise;
(2) a highly beneficial affliction, serving to instruct and discipline his faith as to the true character of the children of the promise, to refine and intensify his affection for Rebekah, to purify and elevate his own spiritual life, and to enable him to realize his complete dependence on the grace of God.
2. The earnest intercession. "Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife." Isaac's supplication was
(1) directed to the right quarter, since "children are the heritage of the Lord;"
(2) conceived in the right spirit, the word "entreated" implying earnest and repeated application to the heavenly throne;
(3) stated in the right way, with plainness and simplicity of speech; and
(4) seconded by the right helper, Rebekah, according to one reading of the text, joining her entreaties with her husband's. Husbands and wives should be helpers, not hinderers, of each other's prayers.
3. The gracious response. "The Lord was entreated of Isaac, and Rebekah conceived. Note the character of God as the Hearer of prayer, the habitual practice of God, which is to listen to his people's supplications, the power which belongs to prayer of being able to prevail with God, and the special virtue which resides in united prayer (Matthew 18:19).
II. THE ANXIOUS WIFE.
1. The unwonted experience. In two respects the pregnancy of Rebekah was unusual. First, she had never conceived before; and secondly, the attendant sensations were uncommon. Great mercies are often accompanied by great discomforts to prevent gracious souls from resting in the gifts and neglecting the Giver.
2. The remarkable interrogation. "Rebekah went to inquire of the Lord." Her conduct was remarkable for the impatience it displayed, the piety it evinced, the faith it implied. If in her querulous exclamation there was sin, m her seeking to God with her anxiety there were grace and faith.
3. The mysterious oracle. This contained three distinct announcements: the first hopeful, that Rebekah should be the mother of twins; the second painful, that, besides being mutually antagonistic from their birth, her two sons should develop into hostile nations; the third unusual, that the elder should serve the younger.
III. THE HAPPY MOTHER.
1. Her days were fulfilled. A special mercy which pregnant mothers can appreciate.
2. Her sons were born. Another cause of rejoicing to a mother (John 16:21).
(1) Their names. "Esau and Jacob." Names of men are sometimes prophetic of both character and condition.
(2) Their birth: remarkable for the singular phenomenon by which it was accompanied. Jacob's holding of Esau's heel was intended to foreshadow the early character of Jacob, his future over-reaching of Esau, and his ultimate precedence in grace. N.B The first in nature is often last in grace. Between nature and grace there is perpetual antagonism. The great achievements of gracious souls have sometimes fore-shadowings in nature.
(3) Their appearance. Esau red like a hairy cloak; Jacob catching Esau's heel. The boy is oft the father of the man.
3. Her husband was spared. "Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them." A third mercy not always granted to mothers, to retain their husbands to participate in their maternal joys (1 Samuel 4:19).
1. That children in a home are a special mark of Divine favor.
2. That anxious wives and mothers should carry their troubles to God's throne.
3. That the future histories and destinies of children are known to God, if not to their parents.
4. That mothers of families have peculiar joys as well as special sorrows.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
Divine purposes unfolded.
We are now entering a new stage of the sacred history, where we are looking less upon the development of one man's character than upon the unfolding purposes of Jehovah in the family with which he has made his covenant. Again we are in the region of—
1. Gracious interposition.
2. Supernatural assistance of human infirmity.
3. Prophetic announcements.
The atmosphere is that of the covenant. The children in the womb are two nations. The history of great peoples is anticipated.—R.