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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Genesis 25

 

 

Introduction

The Further Marriage and Death of Abraham and the Succession (Genesis 25).

Having introduced the changeover from Abraham to Isaac the compiler now deals with sundry matters relating to the final days of Abraham and the succession before going on with the main story. He clearly has here tablets which contain information which he wants to preserve and reveals that he is concerned here, not only with Isaac but also with the subsidiary fulfilment of God’s promises with regard to Ishmael.

ISAAC (Genesis 25:19 to Genesis 27:46).

After the heart warming record of the obtaining of a suitable wife for Isaac as a result of the direct activity of Yahweh little is told us about him. This is because during his lifetime important covenants and theophanies were few and therefore there was no recording in writing.

The family tribe over which he presided continued to be strong (Genesis 26:16) and he clashed with Abimelech at Gerar but that is almost all we know about him apart from the birth of his children and his part in the continuation of the chosen line. But he did continue Abraham’s policy of allying his family with the family of Abraham’s father Terah and was upset when Esau departed from it (Genesis 28:9). More dangerously (and with less justification) he also continued the policy of describing his wife as his sister. He seems to be a mirror image of his father but without his effectiveness and personality.

But his importance is that he was part of the fulfilling of God’s purposes. He was not charismatic, he was not outstanding, but he was chosen by God and was a necessary part of the chain that led up to Moses, then to David and finally to Jesus Christ. What Abraham began he had to hold on to and continue. And this he did, without fuss and without bravado. He was there when God wanted him.

We too may feel that we are not important, but if we are His and responsive to His words we too are an important part of the chain that leads to the fulfilling of His purposes. Isaac should be an encouragement to us all.

However, Isaac is seen later as an important member of those to whom the covenant was given (2 Kings 13:23; 1 Chronicles 6:16; Psalms 105:9). In Amos 7:9; Amos 7:16 Isaac is used as another name to designate Israel.


Verses 1-12

The Death of Abraham and His Dispositions (Genesis 25:1-12 a)

The first tablet contains Abraham’s final disposition of his estate (Genesis 25:1-12). This is described as ‘the family history of Ishmael, the son of Abraham, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maid bore to Abraham’ (Genesis 25:12) and would be maintained by him as the new senior member of the family. In the nature of what he was it is brief and only contains essential detail. (This may be the heading of the following tablet, but that is more probably described as ‘the family history of Isaac, the son of Abraham’ (Genesis 25:19 a).

It begins with Abraham’s remarriage and further children, and briefly describes his administration of his estate and death and burial. It suggests a happy state of affairs between Ishmael and Isaac.

Genesis 25:1-4

‘And Abraham took another wife and her name was Keturah. And she bore him Zimran and Jokshan, and Medan and Midian, and Ishbak and Shuah. And Jokshan begat Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim. And the sons of Midian, Ephah and Epher, and Hanoch and Abidah, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.’

We are not told whether Abraham took Keturah to wife before or after the death of Sarah but the fact that she is called a concubine (Genesis 25:6) may suggest the former. By a concubine is meant a slave wife, one who is not considered of sufficient standing to be a full wife. But he may also have taken her as a comfort after the death of Sarah. However, she clearly does not obtain full status. That is passed on to Rebekah.

Contrary to his fears (Genesis 17:17) he proves fruitful. He was not the last man of years to surprise himself. And this fruitfulness eventually results in twelve ‘children’ (compare for this Genesis 22:20-24 and Genesis 25:13-15 and the twelve children of Israel).

In the simplest scenario some of these are named after neighbouring tribes and those with whom he had trading relationships.

But the picture may well be more complicated than this. These may be intended also to represent twelve sub-tribes. Twelve ‘tribes’ may well have been looked on in the larger family (and possibly in wider circles) as denoting a twelve tribe grouping, thus a complete tribal grouping.

We must not just look on this tablet as a postscript. It is, of course, in the compilation a postscript to the main story but to its author it would have seemed an important part of the record of Abraham’s life. The bearing of sons was something of which the ancients were proud and it demonstrated Abraham’s life and vigour even in his later years. It was something of which a loyal son could be proud.

The names in the genealogy also refer us to the regions of Southern Palestine and North West Arabia. As noted earlier tribal groups would arise by birth, inter-marriage, amalgamation and accumulation and this genealogy might suggest that Abraham’s sons had important leadership roles in these tribes (compare Genesis 25:16). We especially note that the ‘sons’ of Dedan, whose names are plural in form, were, as the forms suggest, probably sub-tribes. And Dedan is a well know tribal grouping in Arabia, as is Sheba. Comparison should be made with Genesis 10.

We thus find here the possible connection of sons of Abraham with Midianites, Medanites (both closely associated elsewhere with Ishmaelites - Genesis 37:28 with Genesis 37:36; Judges 8:24 ), Sabaeans (from Sheba) and Dedanites among others. The result would be that through his sons his influence has become wide and effective. As we have seen earlier (on Genesis 14) he was an effective fighter, and he has passed these skills on to his sons making them welcome anywhere.

In Genesis 10 a Sheba and Dedan descend from Raamah, through Cush, son of Ham, clearly representing Arabian connections via North Africa. It is quite possibly with these that Abraham’s sons connect in ‘the land of the East’. In Genesis 10:28 a Sheba (Havilah is also connected with both) is descended from Joktan who is connected with Eber, who is the forefather of Abraham. The inter-relationship of these tribes is clearly complicated. Names are not, of course, necessarily proof of direct connection but the mention of Midian, Medan, Sheba and Dedan, well known in later Biblical records, would seem more than a coincidence, especially as connected with Ishmael and the fact that they are specifically said to have moved to the land of the East.

Genesis 25:5 a

“And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac.”

This is his ‘last will and testament’, made while he is still alive, and confirms Isaac as sole heir over the family tribe and its wealth.

Genesis 25:6

‘But to the sons of the concubines whom Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts. And he sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward to the east country.’

Abraham deals fairly with all his sons and provides generously for them. But he wisely ensures the succession of Isaac without trouble by ensuring that they establish themselves elsewhere. While he is still alive he sends them away eastward (from Beersheba) ‘to the East country’.

Genesis 25:7-8

‘And these are the days of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived, a hundred and seventy five years. And Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.’

The one hundred and seventy five years is made up of seventy five years prior to his arrival in Canaan (see on 12:4) and one hundred years in the land. Both are probably symbolic round numbers denoting a goodly time and suggesting a completeness in each sphere of his life. (See on chapter 5 and 12:4). To live a long life was seen as evidence of a man’s worthiness and Abraham was clearly worthy.

“And was gathered to his people.” Simply denoting burial. He went the way of all his family to the shadowy world of the grave. No clear teaching on an afterlife is evident in the patriarchal history, nor in Israel’s early history. They concentrated on God’s purposes in this world and left the future in God’s hands. This may well have been a reaction to the ideas in religions round about them which they rejected.

Genesis 25:9-10

‘And Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre, the field which Abraham purchased from the children of Heth. There was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.’

Isaac and Ishmael come together to bury their father. This suggests that they kept in close contact, for burials could not be delayed in a hot country. The general impression from hints in the narratives is that their relationship was friendly.

Stress is laid on the fact that Abraham is buried in what was his own territory. Possession of the land had begun. The basic facts in the account in chapter 23 were clearly familiar to the author.

Genesis 25:11

‘And it happened after the death of Abraham that God blessed Isaac his son, and Isaac dwelt by Beer-lahai-roi.’

This brief sentence speaks volumes. It demonstrates that Isaac prospered under God’s hand. It also shows that he went with his family tribe to live within easy contact of Ishmael (see on 24:62). The use of ‘God’ instead of ‘Yahweh’ may reflect Ishmael’s hand.

Genesis 25:12

‘This is the family history of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid, bore to Abraham.’

This give us good reason to believe that this record was made by Ishmael as the senior male in the family, and that this is the colophon to the tablet (see article, "Colophon"). We have already had cause to suggest record keeping by Ishmael (see on 21:1-21). It would serve to reinforce his good relationship with Isaac and accurately depicts the inheritance position and the influence of the wider family. That Ishmael had close connection with the sons of Keturah comes out later in that Midianites and Medanites can be referred to as Ishmaelites (Judges 8:24; Genesis 37:27-28 with Genesis 37:36).

The main early record in Genesis was clearly put together from ancient ‘covenant’ tablets, and traces of colophons are found throughout. Certain material was necessarily added by the original compiler to connect them and it is clearly not always possible to determine what was his work and what was in the original tablets, and what was omitted to ensure a reasonably smooth flow of the narrative. But perusal of the record does suggest that on the whole the records were incorporated as they were with connecting links but with little alteration. (Alternately this phrase may be seen as the colophon to the following tablet).


Verses 13-19

The Death of Ishmael (Genesis 25:13-19.a).

This section ends with ‘this is the family history of Isaac’ (Genesis 25:19), and its purpose is to record the death of Ishmael and outline his connections and the twelve sub-tribes that came from him. It is only the second record (the first was Genesis 11:10-27 a) not to be connected to a covenant and like that passage demonstrates descent, which would be seen as sufficient reason for its preservation.

Genesis 25:13 a

‘And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their family histories.’

The purpose of the narrative is to record Ishmael’s descendants and their tribal connections.

Genesis 25:13 b

‘The firstborn of Ishmael, Nebaioth, and Kedar, and Abdeel, and Mibsam, and Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa. Hadad and Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names by their villages and by their encampments, twelve princes according to their nations.’

It is immediately clear that the twelve tribe grouping here is much more closely connected than that of the sons of Keturah and appears to be on a similar basis to the twelve tribes of Israel. Each son is ‘prince’ of his sub-tribe. This title ‘prince’ (nasi’ (plural nesi’im) is that used also of the tribal leaders of Israel (Exodus 22:27; Numbers 1:16; Numbers 1:44; Numbers 7:2-84; Numbers 34:18-28; compare 10:14-26; 13:4-15), each the head of his tribe on the amphictyonic council.

An amphictyony is an inter-tribal grouping of associated tribes for common welfare, often united around a central sanctuary. This would appear to be the pattern of the Ishmaelite tribes, although whether they had a central sanctuary we do not know.

Esau married the sister of Nebaioth (Genesis 28:9). The rams of Nebaioth are mentioned in Isaiah 60:7 along with the flocks of Kedar, and both tribes are named together in Assyrian inscriptions. Kedar are also seen as the guardians of the land route from Palestine to Egypt by the Persians.

Kedar and Tema are connected in Arabia in Isaiah 21:13-17, where Tema brought food and water to travelling Dedanites. Tema and Dedan are mentioned together in Jeremiah 25:23, and the caravans of Tema are mentioned along with Sheba in Job 6:19. Massa may be mentioned with Tema (as Mas’a) as paying tribute to Tiglath Pileser III.

Thus we have confirmation of long term interrelationship between Ishmaelites and the sons of Keturah, and of their close connection with Arabia and the desert.

Genesis 25:17

‘And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, a hundred and thirty seven year. And he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people. And they dwelt from Havilah to Shur, which is before Egypt as you go towards Assyria. And he fell in the presence of (or in front of ) all his brothers.’

Like Sarah, a woman, and Jacob who died outside the land of promise, Ishmael’s age ends in seven. He too died outside the land of promise. The significance of this numbering now escapes us, but he was clearly of good age.

Like Abraham he ‘breathed his last’ and was ‘gathered to his people’. He died and was buried and went into the grave where his ancestors were.

“They dwelt from Havilah (probably in North West Arabia) to Shur.” Desert tribes, ever on the move, they inhabited the very extensive desert land south of Canaan and in North West Arabia, possibly with connections with Southern Arabia. Havilah is connected with the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:7) and is elsewhere connected with Northern and Southern Arabia (see Genesis 10:7; Genesis 10:29) but it simply mean ‘district’ and may therefore refer to a number of places. This would confirm Ishmael’s close connections with the sons of Keturah. Shur is on the direct road to Egypt from Southern Palestine (1 Samuel 15:7; 1 Samuel 27:8 compare Genesis 16:7).

“And he fell in the presence of all his brothers.” This possibly refers to his death in warfare, or while engaging in some other activity with his brothers, but certainly indicates further his close association with his brothers. If Isaac was now also on good terms with his brother we can see why he moved his own family tribe to an area where he had contact with him and did not fear the bedouin tribes in the desert.


Verses 19-26

Genesis 25:19 a

“This is the family history of Isaac, Abraham”s son.’ On the death of Ishmael Isaac becomes the eldest son of Abraham and accordingly takes responsibility for the family records and the recording of Ishmael’s death.

ISAAC (Genesis 25:19 to Genesis 27:46).

After the heart warming record of the obtaining of a suitable wife for Isaac as a result of the direct activity of Yahweh little is told us about him. This is because during his lifetime important covenants and theophanies were few and therefore there was no recording in writing.

The family tribe over which he presided continued to be strong (Genesis 26:16) and he clashed with Abimelech at Gerar but that is almost all we know about him apart from the birth of his children and his part in the continuation of the chosen line. But he did continue Abraham’s policy of allying his family with the family of Abraham’s father Terah and was upset when Esau departed from it (Genesis 28:9). More dangerously (and with less justification) he also continued the policy of describing his wife as his sister. He seems to be a mirror image of his father but without his effectiveness and personality.

But his importance is that he was part of the fulfilling of God’s purposes. He was not charismatic, he was not outstanding, but he was chosen by God and was a necessary part of the chain that led up to Moses, then to David and finally to Jesus Christ. What Abraham began he had to hold on to and continue. And this he did, without fuss and without bravado. He was there when God wanted him.

We too may feel that we are not important, but if we are His and responsive to His words we too are an important part of the chain that leads to the fulfilling of His purposes. Isaac should be an encouragement to us all.

However, Isaac is seen later as an important member of those to whom the covenant was given (2 Kings 13:23; 1 Chronicles 6:16; Psalms 105:9). In Amos 7:9; Amos 7:16 Isaac is used as another name to designate Israel.

Isaac and Jacob - the Family History of Esau (Genesis 25:19 to Genesis 36:1)

The family history of Esau takes us up to the death of Isaac (Genesis 35:29) and while doing so describes the covenants in which Isaac participated, and the finding of wives for Jacob and the birth of his twelve sons. As the senior male of the family he had the responsibility of maintaining and preserving the important family covenant records. However the work would be done by a tribal scribe and he may not even have known much about it.

Genesis 25:19 b

‘Abraham begat Isaac.’

Abraham is possibly a catch word connecting with the final word in the previous colophon, and this brief heading is therefore the title of a new tablet. But while Genesis 25:19 to Genesis 36:1 may make up a tablet in themselves they incorporate records made at various times which were originally on their own, for once more each of them was the record of a covenant.

The Birth of Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:19-26) - the Sale of the Birthright (Genesis 25:27-34).

This section Genesis 25:19-26 centres on Yahweh’s covenant in Genesis 25:23, and this is followed by the record of the covenant between Esau and Jacob resulting in the exchanging of the birthright (25:27-34).

Genesis 25:20

‘And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife.’

Forty years is a round number. Thus the suggestion is that he was fully matured. The detail with which Rebekah is described demonstrates the importance placed on who she was.

If we take the age as roughly correct this was when Abraham was about one hundred and forty (see Genesis 20:5). So if Sarah had died by this time she was probably approximately ten or so years younger than Abraham (she died at one hundred and twenty seven - Genesis 23:1). Thus Abraham is still alive at this time, although feeling his age, and at the time of the births of Esau and Jacob when he is one hundred and sixty.

“Paddan-aram”. ‘The field or plain of Aram’, that is the area around Haran in Upper Mesopotamia north of the junction of the rivers Habur and Euphrates.

Genesis 25:21 a

‘And Isaac entreated Yahweh for his wife because she was barren. And Yahweh was entreated of him.’

Quiet he may have been but one thing Isaac could do and that was pray. He knew how his father Abraham had had to pray in a similar way and he knew that because of the promises to Abraham a child would also be born to him. He had the quiet confidence that the Yahweh Who had found him a wife would now provide him with a child through that wife, for the one assumed the other.

So he prayed and his prayer was answered. We are given no detail of how he went about it, nor of what he prayed, for that was not considered important. The concentration is rather on the result of the prayer. And, as we are informed in Genesis 25:26, this was twenty years after the wedding. Thus Isaac too, like his father, has had to possess his soul in patience.

“Ten years” was the time Abraham spent in Canaan before Sarai lost courage and gave her maid Hagar to Abraham (Genesis 16:3). Thus Isaac and Rebekah, waiting for twenty years, are seen as very patient and we are intended to see in this his quiet confidence in Yahweh.

Genesis 25:21-22

‘And Rebekah his wife conceived, and the children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why do I live?” And she went to enquire of Yahweh.’

Rebekah conceived, but the birth was to be a difficult one for she was having twins and she was aware that all was not right within. In those days death in child birth was a fairly common experience.

“The children struggled together within her.” She seems to have felt that death was near (‘why do I live?) and she goes to enquire of Yahweh. We are not told where she went, but it may well have been the cultic centre under the tamarisk tree at Beersheba (Genesis 21:33). And Abraham the prophet may well have been the one through whom she enquired. But concentration is now on Isaac, and Abraham has slipped into the background so that he is disregarded. This has never been the story of a man, it is the story of God’s sovereign activity and covenants with man. The players, even Abraham, are secondary.

Genesis 25:23

‘And Yahweh said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples shall be separated even from your bowels. And the one shall be stronger than the other, and the elder shall serve the younger.” ’

This theophany and covenant are the basis of this covenant record. In accordance with His promises to Abraham Yahweh now promises that from Isaac will come not one but two separate nations, clearly divided. The original promises do not need to be repeated. Isaac knows them by heart and they are a part of the tapestry of their lives.

But here there is a further twist. ‘The one shall be stronger than the other and the elder will serve the younger.’ Ironically the one who will be the stronger will be the one who serves. The main point is that it is the younger who will carry on over the family tribe as the chosen of Yahweh. Yahweh is in control of events and He chooses whom He will.

The use of the word ‘rab’ for ‘elder’ is rare. It is a description which occurs elsewhere only in second millennium cuneiform texts.

Whether ‘the one who is stronger’ is meant as Esau or Jacob depends on viewpoint. Esau was the efficient fighting man and leader of a powerful roving band, but in the end it was Jacob with his strength of purpose who prevailed to lead the tribe.

Genesis 25:24-25

‘And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled behold there were twins in her womb. And the first came forth ruddy, all over like a hairy garment, and they called his name Esau.’

Esau was very red when born and covered with a mat of hair. The red may refer to the colour of his skin or to his covering hair. The name Esau probably reflects ‘hairy’ from the Arabic.

“Ruddy” ( ’athmonee). This connects with ‘Edom’ ( ’ethom - from the root ’thm red), a name given to Esau - see Genesis 36:1; Genesis 36:8.

Genesis 25:26 a

‘And after that came forth his brother and his hand had hold of Esau’s heel, and his name was called Jacob.’

The name Jacob (ya‘aqov - in its lengthened form ya‘aqov-el) probably means ‘may God protect’. It was in frequent use among Semites. But by a play on words it relates to ‘eqeb (to clutch) thus signifying ‘the clutcher’.

The clutching of the heel was seen as significant in the light of the preceding prophecy. Even from the womb Jacob sought to supplant his brother.

Genesis 25:26 b

‘And Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.’

Thus they had been married twenty years and Abraham was now approximately one hundred and sixty. All are certainly round numbers, the ‘twenty years’ indicating twice ten years (compare on 16:3), an extended and weary wait.

This short record of God’s covenant connected with the birth was probably written down immediately, as with all such covenants connected with a theophany, and later expanded to include the subsequent fulfilment now dealt with, which would also be a covenant record recording the covenant made between Esau and Jacob.


Verses 27-34

The Sale of the Birthright (Genesis 25:27-34).

Genesis 25:27-34

‘And the boys grew, and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the open country, and Jacob was a perfect man, dwelling in tents.’

The two boys, different in birth, grew up as very different people. Esau was the outdoor type, interested in hunting in the woods and the wide open spaces, away for days on end, never long at home. But Jacob was ‘a perfect man’, meaning that he was more ‘respectable’, more in keeping with the expectations of the family tribe, an established farmer tending the sheep and the crops and living in a ‘civilised’ fashion and remaining in the family tribe encampment.

Genesis 25:28

‘Now Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his venison. And Rebekah loved Jacob.’

Sadly both parents had their favourites. The one because Esau brought him luxuries to enjoy. He overlooked the fact that Jacob remained at home assisting with the main work. He probably just took that for granted. The other for reasons not given, but it may well partly be because Jacob was there and helpful in domestic affairs and was more responsive to her love.

Genesis 25:29

‘And Jacob boiled pottage, and Esau came in from the open country, and he was faint.’

Esau was a tough hunter. If he felt faint and hungry we can be sure it was something quite severe. He had possibly been out for many days and had not taken anything, and now famished and totally exhausted he is returning to the camp. He feels literally on the point of death. He may have been out in the scorching sun, and having run out of water, be feeling completely dehydrated. And in such a state he comes across Jacob in the act of preparing food and liquid.

Genesis 25:30

‘And Esau said to Jacob, “I beg you. Feed me with the red stuff, this red stuff, for I am weak.” That is why his name was called Edom (red).’

It has been suggested that Esau saw the red stuff cooking and thought it was a blood soup or red meat concoction. If he had a special liking for such things it helps to explain the comment about why he was called red, i.e. because of his liking for such things. But he may well not have been too bothered what it was. He was so desperately hungry and thirsty that anything would do. He genuinely felt as though he was dying. Thus it may be that his nickname Edom came from this incident of the red pottage.

Genesis 25:31

‘And Jacob said, “Sell me this day your birthright”.’

That Jacob was taking advantage of the situation cannot be doubted. But it is very probable that there is a past history to this suggestion, for the writer certainly does not moralise on it. The ‘birthright’ in mind was the elder son’s portion (probably a double portion as later) and would include leadership of the family tribe and responsibility for its possessions and wealth. We cannot really doubt from what has been said that Esau had no particular desire for such a position. He wanted to be free to hunt and venture far and wide. And there can be no doubt that Jacob was more suitable for the position.

It is probable too that Esau had often lamented to Jacob about the fate that would eventually tie him down to his responsibilities. Indeed this was probably what gave Jacob the hope that he might succeed in what he was doing. Thus what Jacob was asking him to give up was not something he greatly desired.

Yet we cannot admire the trait in Jacob’s nature that prompted him to take advantage of the situation. It was not a transaction that Esau had thought out but one arising on the spur of the moment, and he knew he had caught Esau at a time when he was most defenceless. But the final truth is, as the writer later points out, that Esau despised his birthright. It was, in fact, not what he wanted from life at all. Pleasure came before duty. So neither can be exonerated from blame.

Genesis 25:32

‘And Esau said, “Look, I am at the point of death. And what profit will the birthright do to me?”.’

Many subconscious factors no doubt brought him to this decision, including the wish to be free from something burdensome, the desire to enjoy full liberty to do his own thing, his scorn at those who could make do with camp life, all now brought to a point by his present condition of thirst and starvation.

Thus at a moment of great need like this he could dismiss his birthright as irrelevant. What good was a birthright to a dead man? It must be said in Jacob’s favour that had he been put in that position he would have died rather than yield it.

Genesis 25:33

‘And Jacob said, “Swear to me this day.” And he swore it to him. And he sold his birthright to Jacob.’

The seriousness of this transaction must not be underestimated. It was a genuine transaction carried out quite legally and not under duress. And it was established by an oath. Once that had been sworn the position was legally and permanently fixed. The birthright legitimately belonged to Jacob. And we cannot doubt that Jacob soon committed it to writing as permanent evidence of the contract which had taken place without witnesses (unless witnesses were brought in to witness the oath).

Genesis 25:34

‘And Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil pottage, and he ate and drank, and rose up and went his way. Thus did Esau despise his birthright.’

Jacob fulfils his part in the transaction. And it is noteworthy that any disapproval of the transaction by the writer is directed at Esau. He treated lightly what was so valuable, including his responsibilities to the tribe. Jacob merely took advantage of his contempt for his birthright. From now on Jacob can carry on knowing that the leadership in the family tribe will one day be his, and he can happily bide his time.

“He ate and drank and rose and went away.” This suggests that at this point Esau could not care less about his birthright. To him Yahweh’s covenant with His people mattered little. Future events suggest that to Jacob at least it was of more importance. But his methods demonstrated that his own trust in Yahweh was minimal at this point. He did not believe God’s promise could be fulfilled without his own intervention. Like many he sought the right things by the wrong methods.

An interesting example of a similar transaction to this is found at Nuzi coming from the second millennium BC. "On the day they divide the grove ... Tupkitilla shall give it to Kurpazah as his inheritance share. And Kurpazah has taken three sheep to Tupkitilla in exchange for his inheritance share."

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Genesis 25:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/genesis-25.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, September 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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