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Understanding Genesis 25: Wanting Our Birthright

Updated on August 26, 2015
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Read the entire chapter 25 of Genesis on your own. You can read a variety of versions, from contemporary English to literal translations. You can download bible apps, websites (blueletterbible.org or biblegateway.com) or buy one from your local bookstore. I will use King James Version because some of the nuances are missing from other translations. When you read the chapter, don’t just read it—study it with questions and try to make sense of it.

Planting a Seed

And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. Genesis 25:2

After Sarah dies, Abraham remarries and has more children. Unfortunately, he decides to send these children away, just like Ishmael. But it’s noted that he had a child named Midian, and when you read the book of Exodus, descendants of Midian play a big part in Moses’ life.

The Bible doesn’t mention anything about God directing Abraham to send these children away, but Abraham decides to separate his children from Isaac. Which is unfortunate, because no parent should lose a child. But Abraham is able to plant a seed, teaching his children about his God. As they mature and is sent away, some lose their faith, while Midian is able to retain and teach his own children about the God of his father. As the generations pass, the faith of Abraham is passed down until Jethro is introduced to Moses, and Moses is able to learn about God in the wilderness.

Abraham planted a seed in each of his child, but it was up to them whether they choose to keep his faith or not. By our actions and words, we are also planting a seed. Whether for ill or good, we must be careful that we reflect only Christ-like behavior to everyone we encounter. As our relationships deepen, God can bless and flourish the seed in their heart. The apostle Paul understands this: I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:6

There are No Ghosts

Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people. Genesis 25:8

The phrase, “gave up the ghost” in Hebrew is gava, which means “to die.” Other translations, doesn’t mention the ghost or spirit, but just translates to “then he died.” A lot of people read this verse, and believe that there are ghosts and spirits in our world; that there are white mists floating and hiding. This is not Biblical, in fact, spirits are used by the devil to deceive and God forbids the use of witchcraft.

"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Exodus 22:18 "There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination,or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch," Deuteronomy 18:10. King Saul went to a witch when he no longer had any of God’s prophets to lead him: "And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with hisface to the ground, and bowed himself." 1 Samuel 28:14 Saul did not see Samuel, but he was in such a need of Samuel, that he believed the witch and assumed that Samuel had come out of the grave to speak with him.

There are many people who need the comfort of a lost loved one, and while the devil may offer it to them, it’s only temporary and the long-term effect is superstition and belief in something not real. God does not want us to be fooled but to know the truth. We must have faith in His goodness and grace, in His word over anything that is not of Him.

God's Promise Fulfilled

And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre; Genesis 25:9

When Abraham dies, Ishmael comes to bury him, which indicates that he and his father must have reconciled at some point. Abraham trusted in God to take care of his son, and Ishamel and his mother lives within distance of travel or communication. His mother finds him a wife from Egypt and he lives prosperously with his children. "And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt." Genesis 21:21 Ishmael in fact, does become a father of many nations. And in time, Isaac’s son Esau marries Ishmael’s daughter.

Chapter 25 seems to be chronological, but it introduces the next generation of patriarch, Jacob. Abraham is 160 years old when Jacob and Esau are born. He had faith in God’s promise during the 20 years that Rebekah was barren. He sees God’s promise being fulfilled when he sees Isaac’s children.

Our Choice to Obey God's Will

And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. Genesis 25:23

God knows all; He is omniscient. He knows the beginning to the end. But when he gives a prophetic message, it does not mean He predestines the future. "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:" Isaiah 46:10

Esau had the opportunity to receive God’s blessing; as the elder, he could have taken the responsibility. But as you read in verse 32, he did not desire it. The birthright was not Isaac’s wealth, but the responsibility of being God’s chosen, God’s light to the world, and that was not what Esau was interested in. But Jacob knew the worth of being God’s chosen and desired it so much that he lied to his father and had to flee from his brother (Chapter 27). Lying and discord is not God’s pleasure. God would have worked it out, in His own time, but just like his grandfather with Hagar, Jacob also took it upon himself to live by his works and not by faith.

God Does Not Play Favorite

And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob. Genesis 25:28

As you look at this family of God grow and emerge, you start to realize how fallible they are. Even with God’s promises and help, they have made mistakes over and over again. You see a picture emerge of a broken family: half brothers sent away, fathers playing favorite, adultery, losing faith…Abraham has played favorite with Isaac, and his other children grow into nations that cause havoc and war with Isaac’s descendants. Isaac again plays favorite and causes dissension among his sons, and his wife.

Isaac was a quiet man, kept near the home by his mother, learning to manage his large household. He admires the athleticism of his vibrant son; his son who would go hunting and live in the wild and return to his father with meats and exciting stories. Rebekah on the other hand, has all her maternal instincts aroused by a sickly child, and “babies” Jacob, keeping him near her and caring for him, perhaps to make sure he grows into the prophecy.

As both boys grow up, they see the love showered on the other. The differences in personality becomes more obvious and while Esau enjoys the attention of his father, and the story of God’s faithfulness, he also enjoys the freedom to go out into the wild, and slowly pulls away from God's Will. As he wanders the land, he becomes more immersed in the culture of the pagan country, and eventually marries two heathen wives (Chapter 26).

Isaac and Rebekah’s mistake costs them their sons: one who marries heathens and leaves the faith; the other to flee and never live with them again. God’s example is to love all, but his children can’t see the mistakes of their forefathers. "Who [God] will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:4 Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: Acts 10:34

Despising Our Birthright

Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright. Genesis 25:34

When Jacob trades his lentils for the birthright, Esau knew it was not the wealth that Jacob was wanting. It was the blessing that God would give to the progenitor of His people. Esau didn’t just despise the birthright, he despised God and all the “burdens” of being God’s chosen. He didn’t want to follow God, and do what God needed him to do—he wanted to please himself.

When Jacob trades his lentils for the birthright, Esau knew it was not just the wealth that Jacob was wanting. It was the blessing that God would give to the progenitor of His people. Esau didn’t just despise the birthright, he despised God and all the “burdens” of being God’s chosen. He didn’t want to follow God, and do what God needed him to do—he wanted to please himself.

This is Cain all over again, sacrificing his “best” rather than obedient to God’s will. If being a Christian is a burden, you need to examine your relationship with God. Are your desires secular or holy? Are the burdens, God’s Will or your church’s doctrine? Being obedient to God should never be a burden but a joy. "And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." 1 Samuel 15:22 "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." Romans 15:13

The choices that a Christian face, isn’t between God and Satan—it is between God and selfishness.

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