About a century has passed since Abraham came into Canaan, and now the record of his life is brought to a close.
Genesis 25 will continue the redemptive story by focusing on Isaac, but not without recording God’s faithfulness to fulfill His promise concerning Ishmael as well.
vv. 1–11 - 38 years have passed since Sarah’s death. We are told that Abraham married Keturah and had six sons. Many believe this marriage took place before Sarah died, but I do not think it necessary to believe that. Here is a man being fruitful in old age. But Isaac is the favored son. John 3:35 says, “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand” and that’s how Abraham treats Isaac in v. 5. But the children from his concubines, namely Hagar and Keturah, are given gifts sufficient to take care of them and then sent away from Isaac. This is the distinction between God’s people and the world. God gives people of the world gifts, but gospel inheritance is for those in Christ only. And after 175 years, Abraham dies and is buried by Isaac and Ishmael in Machpelah.
vv. 12–18 - these verses not only close the account concerning Ishmael, but they prove God’s faithfulness to His word, since He had promised that Ishmael would father twelve princes (Gen. 17:20).
vv. 19–23 - picking up from the end of the previous chapter, we are given a problem, two prayers, and a prophesy. The problem is a barren womb. But Isaac prays for his wife. From v. 26 we learn it took 20 years before Rebekah gave birth. Such is the violent activity in her womb, that Rebekah in concern, goes to God for an answer and is told she has twins, that she carries two rival nations, and that the elder will serve the younger. This didn’t literally happen until David’s day (2 Sam. 8:14), when the Edomites began to serve Israel, but possibly also points to the significance of the spiritual seed over the carnal seed.
vv. 24–28 - the record is given of their birth, their distinct appearance and nature, and the opposing parental favoritism. Note, though it is recorded later, Jacob and Esau were about 15 years old when Abraham died.
vv. 29–34 - fast forwarding some years, we are told the tragic circumstances of Esau despising his birthright. The birthright was the default double inheritance to the oldest child, as well as the place of authority in the family. But in the Abrahamic line, it also illustrated spiritual heritage. Thus, to despise the birthright is to despise spiritual privileges. The hunter becomes the hunted, as Jacob takes advantage of his brother’s carnal inclinations and negotiates an exchange of stew for the birthright.
God does not forsake any generation that follows in the footsteps of spiritual giants. Few men leave a mark upon the world like Abraham. However, the blessing and power of God does not die with great men. In v. 11, God blesses his son Isaac. Maybe you have known spiritual giants, but they have now gone. God calls you to get serious, step forward, and he will empower you to serve Him as well.
Funerals are opportunities of influence. There are some people you only see at funerals and weddings. Ishmael and Isaac walked different paths, but v. 9 shows they were temporally brought together. Try not to miss these occasions to positively influence those you seldom see.
God’s promises do not negate prayer. Knowing that God’s plan was going to be carried out through him, Isaac could have taken a passive approach to his wife’s barrenness. Instead, Isaac avoids his father’s example in taking Hagar, and prays, no doubt for the better part of 20 years. God’s promises are not merely to be assumed, they are to be prayed for, which is why, even though He has promised to provide, we are to pray for our daily bread. Are you praying over God’s promises?
Man’s problem is in his nature. Before Jacob and Esau are born, before they are conscious of their actions, there is contention and rivalry between them. Parents, remember this. No parental methodology can deal with human nature, only the gospel. Preach the gospel to your children.
God is sovereign in the characteristics and constitution of men. Jacob and Esau are very different, and so it often is between siblings. Children, do not be jealous of your siblings. Appreciate differences, and pray that God would give you godly interests, show you your gifts, and help you develop them for His glory. You do not have to be the same as one of your siblings in order to please God and be used by God.
Serving carnal appetites is a sure path to hell. Jacob is far from godly at this stage of his life, but he does not undervalue precious things. Esau, on the other hand, ignores God’s word, ignores the mark of circumcision upon him, and proves himself to be superficial and careless. Even after selling his birthright he is oblivious to what he has done. He eats, drinks, rises up, and carries on with life. In this he is the picture of a sinner that hears the gospel at church, hears the appeal of Christ to flee from the wrath to come and choose eternal life, ignores it, and carries on with life as if God will not hold him to account. Oh, children, do not be like Esau. Do not despise the gospel. Do not ignore the cross. Rather, admit your sinfulness, run into the arms of Jesus by praying, “God, you gave me Christian parents so I might be taught the gospel. Thank you for that. I believe died on the cross for my sins, and I am willing to turn from sin and follow you all the days of my life.”
“Even one person in a household may put all the rest into a wrong position. There may be but one who does not fear God, and yet that one may eat, as does a canker, into the very vitals of the peace of the family and the character of all the house, though they may be godly persons, may be seriously deteriorated through having perpetually to come into contact with that one. And this was the case with that otherwise holy family—the presence of Esau became the occasion of much wrongdoing.” — Charles Spurgeon