GENESIS - CHAPTER 25
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
25:1. “Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.”
Many Bible scholars believe that Abraham had married Keturah while Sarah was still living, and there is reason to believe that they are correct, for in 1 Chr 1:32 she is referred to as “Abraham’s concubine,” which would indicate that Sarah was indeed still living. By referring to her in Chronicles as Abraham’s concubine, God would seem to be deliberately drawing attention to the fact that here in Genesis her marriage to Abraham has been purposely placed out of its correct chronological order, and since God does nothing capriciously we should then look for the reason, and that reason becomes apparent when we recognize that this chapter, like those preceding it, is not simply a record of the past: it is also a symbolic revelation of the future.
The birth of Isaac in chapter 21 was a symbolic foreshadowing of the birth of Christ, as his figurative death in chapter 22 was of Christ’s death. The death of Sarah in chapter 23 we have seen to be a picture of the setting aside of Israel during this present age; and the search for the bride for Isaac in chapter 24 clearly represents the outcalling of the Church during this present age to be the bride of Christ. Abraham’s marriage to Keturah seems to be a continuation of God’s symbolic revelation of the future, for it appears to be a typological picture of Israel’s restoration to a right relationship with God in the Millennium. That nation is frequently pictured in Scripture as the wife of Jehovah, put away because of her unfaithfulness, but to be restored in the Millennium, “... thou (Israel) shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker is thy husband: the Lord of hosts is his name” (Isa 54:4-5). “And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou (Israel) shalt call me Ishi (my husband)” (Isa 2:16). It seems therefore that Keturah represents what Israel will be spiritually in the Millennium, while Ishmael’s twelve sons may represent the nation as a physical entity.
Further confirmation that she may represent spiritual Israel in the Millennium, seems to be furnished in the meaning of her name incense, for since incense is a Biblical symbol of worship, this would speak of the universal worship, not only of millennial Israel, but of the nations, that will characterize this present earth’s last thousand years.
25:2. “And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.”
If we are correct in viewing her as a type of converted Israel in the Millennium, then these six sons should portray what will develop as that age progresses, and the lesson must lie in the meanings of their names, but before examining them we should note the significance of there being six of them, for since six is the number of man, incompleteness, weakness, and evil, we should be prepared to realize that while the Millennium will be a time of phenomenal righteousness and blessing, it will not be a time of perfection. For that we must wait for the eternal state when there will be a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness will reign, and sin be unknown.
Zimran, their song: psalmody is the only one having a meaning consistent with what might be expected of people enjoying fullness of blessing. Earth’s long night of weeping will give place to a glorious day of joy and singing as the Millennium begins.
The second, Jokshan, means their snare, and certainly one possible snare to those who enter the Millennium will be the children that will be born to them during that age, for while the Millennium will begin with a world population made up entirely of converted Jews and Gentiles, the children who will be born to them will be just like those born in every other age: they will be born unbelievers, and will require to be “born again” in order to enter heaven when the Millennium ends. Those unbelieving children may indeed prove to be a snare to their converted parents, just as is the case in many a Christian home today.
His being second on the list is also in keeping with the meaning of the number two, for it is not only the number of witness or testimony, but also of division.
The third, Medan, means strife: discernment, and it isn’t difficult to see that strife, and the need of discernment, will result from the presence of those unsaved sons and daughters. History may repeat itself in the Millennium as it has so often in the past. In Jg 2:10-11 for example, we read that after God had brought Israel into Canaan, “... all that generation were gathered unto their fathers, and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord....”
The significance of his being third in the line is also in harmony with the meaning of three for it represents resurrection or manifestation. The generations following that first one will manifest the resurrection of evil on the millennial earth, evil which will have reached fruition when the Millennium ends and Satan is released for a brief season before the end of the world.
Midian, the fourth, is very similar to the third, for it means strife: contention, and seems to indicate the development of evil, for whereas with Medan discernment is linked with strife, here in the case of Midian it is contention, not discernment, that is the companion of strife. The discernment that will first recognize the old Adamic nature in these children, will give place to the necessity of recognizing that there must inevitably be also contention, for the godly, as always, will contend for righteousness, while these who in heart will be rebels, will contend against the restraints of godliness.
The number of his place on the list continues to confirm what seems to be the prophetic lesson connected with the meaning of his name, for four is the number of earth and testing. The Millennium, like every other age, will be one that will test and reveal the true state of men’s hearts.
The spiritual significance of the fifth, Ishbak, meaning he will leave: he will leave alone is more difficult to decipher, for the problem is to determine the identity of the one who will leave, or leave alone. If we apply it to millennial Israel, then the question is, What will the nation leave or leave alone? and there is no obvious answer, so that we seem to be required to apply it to God, and since five is the Biblical number of responsibility, then it may be that, as in every other age, He will leave the inhabitants of the millennial earth to fulfill their responsibility to accept or reject salvation in preparation for the eternal state. I offer this only as a suggestion, however, realizing that it may be very far from the right interpretation.
Shuah, the sixth, means a pit: depression (in the ground). There are many Scriptural references to the pit as the place to which the ungodly go at the end of their earthly lives, e.g., Ps 143:7 “... hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.” Since six is the number of man, weakness, sin, and incompleteness, Shuah’s being sixth in the line may be designed to teach us that without the new birth the men of the millennial age, like those of every other, will go down to the pit, to endure eternal torment.
It may seem strange that there is good connected with only the first name, and evil with all the others. We might have expected perhaps that there would be a greater development of good. The sad truth, however, is that only that first generation going from the Tribulation into the Millennium will consist entirely of men and women who will have been saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thereafter the number of the unconverted will increase, for the children born to those first converts will be born sinners, as are men in every age, and unbelievable as it seems, many of them will reject the salvation needed by all who would escape hell and enter heaven at the end of earthly life. During the Millennium obedience will be compelled on pain of death, and many will therefore yield a feigned obedience during that age, but when it ends they will “go down into the pit” to suffer the eternal torment of all who reject Christ as Savior.
25:3. “And Jokshan begat Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim.”
It is significant that Scripture records the offspring of only two of the sons, Jokshan and Midian, and that those two should be they whose names mean their snare and strife: contention. It is very likely that the others also had children, but in omitting it from the divine record, God would teach us spiritual truth. The omission of Zimran’s children would teach us perhaps that the peculiar joy experienced by that first redeemed generation entering the Millennium will not be reproduced. Coming, as they will, out of the Tribulation, only they will be able to appreciate fully the blessings of the Millennium, for only they will have had the experiences of the Tribulation as a standard of comparison. Succeeding generations born in the Millennium, and having nothing by which to make a comparison may possibly confirm by an increasing contempt of its blessings, that even in the Millennium familiarity will still breed contempt.
A practical lesson we may learn from this is that the initial joy of salvation may be quickly lost. The further we move from the moment of conversion, the less vivid becomes the misery of our former state, until eventually we may become complacent, and take spiritual blessings for granted. It was for a good reason that God commanded the Israelites, in the midst of Canaan’s blessing, to declare at the annual offering of firstfruits, “a Syrian ready to perish was my father” (De 26:5). The redeemed should never forget “the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” (Isa 51:1).
The names of Medan’s children are also omitted. The discernment that will first accompany the strife arising from the conflict between faith and unbelief in the Millennium will perhaps give place simply to contention. Discernment will not be reproduced, but contention (the meaning of Midian) will.
There is a practical lesson also in this. The grace that should bring spiritual discernment to bear upon the conflict that must always exist between faith and unbelief may fail to reproduce in our lives. The result will be that instead of a gracious response that discerns the old nature as the true source of wrong done to us, we may take offense or seek revenge, and thus engender strife. This applies not only to the wrong, real or imagined, done to us by fellow believers, but also by unbelievers. The type is fulfilled all too readily in experience. Medan is barren while Midian multiplies.
Ishbak’s descendants are not recorded either. When man is “left alone” he will be the same in the Millennium as in any other age - spiritually barren. Unless we permit the Holy Spirit to have control of our lives there will be similar spiritual barrenness. We will be like those whom God “leaves alone.”
Shuah depression or pit is likewise childless, at least as far as the Biblical record is concerned. Two thoughts connect themselves with this. As has been discussed in previous studies, a man’s children represent the perpetuation of his own life. For those who “go down into the pit” there is no perpetuation of life.
A second thought connected with the fact that Shuah had no recorded descendants may be that in the Millennium, life, rather than death, will be emphasized, for in that age death will be a rare thing, coming only on those whose rebellion becomes overt. Death, which Shuah would seem to represent, will be unfruitful during those years when the Lord of life will be reigning over the earth.
Of the two whose descendants are recorded, Jokshan is listed first. There is warning in this fruitfulness of him whose name means their snare. The snare represents subtle entrapment, and Scripture abounds with warning against this danger. In 1 Tim 6:9 for example, an inordinate desire for riches is said to be a snare, as is also self-indulgence, see Lk 21:34. This man who seems to represent the first generation that will be born in the Millennium, begets two sons, Sheba and Dedan. Sheba means he who is coming: seven: oath, and Dedan means their love: their moving: their proceeding.
While there is nothing in any of these meanings that points clearly to evil, yet a closer examination of them seems to indicate that they tend more to imply evil than good. The thought of evil begins with Jokshan himself, since he seems to represent the first generation in the Millennium that will require a new spiritual birth. (The generation brought into the Millennium out of the Tribulation will have already had the experience of being born again). And as has been noted, the very meaning of his name is indicative of evil. As to the first meaning of his son’s name he who is coming, we may rule out any application here to the Lord Jesus Christ, for in the Millennium He will have already come. But during those thousand years Satan will be imprisoned in the bottomless pit, and then released for “a little season” (Re 20:3). It may be that just as in this age we who are saved anticipate the coming of Christ, so in the Millennium, those who are unsaved, will anticipate the coming of Satan from his long imprisonment, to lead them in the last great rebellion against Christ (Re 20:8), “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations ... to gather them together to battle.”
The obedience that will be compelled while Christ reigns, will quickly be abandoned once the Millennium ends, and the true state of the human heart is disclosed. It will be revealed that without a new birth, man, even in the Millennium, is an incorrigible rebel against God.
The second meaning of Sheba’s name seven, the number of perfection or completeness, may represent therefore the completeness of God’s testimony to man’s inherent evil and his need of a new birth.
I regret that I am unable to understand the significance of the third meaning oath.
Dedan their love: their moving: their proceeding may be intended to teach perhaps, that though the succeeding generations born in the Millennium will produce an ever increasing number of rebels who will yield only outward obedience to Christ’s rule, there will also be those who will receive Him into their hearts as Savior, and yield Him a willing obedience. I am unable to discern the spiritual significance of the second and third meanings of Dedan’s name, but it seems clear that the first meaning their love points to what results from being born again, “We love Him, because he first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19).
Sheba has no recorded posterity. There is no perpetuation of his life, and in this we may learn the lesson that there is no perpetuation of the unbeliever’s life, eternal death being his only expectation.
In the perpetuation of Dedan’s life in three sons, however, we may read the assurance that the spiritual man’s life will be perpetuated eternally in what the number three represents, i.e., resurrection.
Dedan’s sons were Asshurim steps, Letushim sharpened ones: hammered ones, and Leummim peoples (as massed together). While their number points to the resurrection character of his life, the meanings of their names, however, seem to teach that the tendency, even in the Millennium, will be for each succeeding generation to demonstrate that the path of the unredeemed man is one marked by disobedience and hardening.
In connection with steps, the meaning of Assurim’s name, there are two possible symbolic lessons. First, the term steps is used frequently to represent the course of a man’s life, e.g., Ps 37:23, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” But steps are also used in the sense of ascent, and in this connection, speak frequently of pride. Ex 20:26 “Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that they nakedness be not discovered thereon” is the symbolic warning against pride on the part of those who would approach God.
Were it not for the meanings of Letushim and Leummim, it would be difficult to determine whether the good or the bad meaning of Asshurim should be taken, but since evil is more easily seen in the meanings of their names, it seems that Asshurim represents spiritual pride rather than an obedient walk. Pride, it seems, will begin to display itself early in the Millennium. Spiritual pride is an evil that tends to reassert itself in the hearts of believers in all ages, and there is great need to guard against it. In 1 Tim 3:6 there is the warning that someone newly come to the faith is not to be recognized as an elder, just because of this very danger, “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.”
Letushim, meaning sharpened ones: hammered ones, seems to speak of that hardening of the heart against God which so quickly follows in the wake of pride. Even in the Millennium there will be those, who by pride and hardening of the heart against God, will make themselves the objects of His judgment.
Leummim peoples (as massed together), is very clearly representative of evil, for one of the first Scripture references to people massed together is in Ge 11:6 where we have the description of people massed together in defiance of God as they prepared to build the tower of Babel. And the last Scripture reference to the massing of people together is also in an evil connection. It describes their gathering together under Satan as he leads them in the final great revolt against God, “and he (Satan) shall go out to deceive the nations ... to gather them together to battle ... and there came fire down from God out of heaven and devoured them” (Re 20:8-9).
25:4. “And the sons of Midian, Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida, and Edaah. All these were the children of Keturah.”
Since five is the number of responsibility, Midian’s five sons may serve to remind us that even in the Millennium man will be responsible to choose whether he will accept God’s gift of eternal life, and even the redeemed will be responsible to choose good and reject evil.
The meanings of these names continue to indicate the natural tendency of the human heart. Midian’s firstborn was Ephah, which means darkness. This needs little comment, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Jn 3:19). Man will be the same in the Millennium as he was when Christ announced this truth. The practical lesson for today is that even in the midst of spiritual blessings there remains the natural inclination towards evil which the believer must constantly resist.
The second was Epher which means dustiness. In him is emphasized the truth that the ways of the unregenerate man lead down to death, for in scripture dust and death are closely connected, e.g., Ps 22:15, “Thou hast brought me into the dust of death.” In the Millennium, as in every other age, man’s ways will tend towards death.
The third was Hanoch, meaning dedicated, and it is difficult to determine whether he represents good or evil. His being the third son would speak of resurrection, but there is the resurrection of death as well as the resurrection of life, “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth ... they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (Jn 5:28-29). The meaning of his name could imply a dedication either to good or to evil.
The fourth was Abida, which means father of knowledge, and again it is difficult to know whether it should be taken in a good or bad sense. The fact of his being the fourth, the number of earth and testing, may point to its being a mere earthly knowledge rather than a spiritual. It may be that as the Millennium draws to a close the conditions of the earth today will be duplicated. As mere earthly knowledge tends now to supplant spiritual knowledge, so may it be, perhaps, in that coming age. The believer does well to remember what is written concerning earthly knowledge, “Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Co 1:20).
The fifth son was Eldaah God has known. God foreknew the fall of Adam, and the failure of Israel, as He knew also the reception that would be given His Son when He came into the world. Nothing takes God by surprise. He knows that even millennial blessings will not change man’s heart. This raises again the question so often asked, Why, then, have a Millennium at all?
There are at least two reasons, (1) the Millennium will be the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, and (2) it will be the final proof of man’s utter wickedness, for it will settle for ever beyond doubt that man is a fallen, ruined rebel who hates God, no matter whether God is executing judgment or dispensing blessing. It will confirm the truth of the Lord’s declaration, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3). The new birth will be as necessary for the men of the millennial age as for all other ages.
“All these were the children of Keturah.” The redeemed who stand first on the millennial earth will still be in natural bodies, and therefore able to produce only those who also need to be redeemed, for
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh” Jn 3:6, and “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” 1 Cor 15:50.
25:5. “And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.”
In regard to Christ it is written, “All things that the Father hath are mine’ (Jn 16:15). Only Isaac was worthy to receive Abraham’s vast wealth, and only Christ is worthy to be God’s Heir. One of the miracles of grace is that we whom He has redeemed are also counted worthy to be joint-heirs with Him, for we are assured that we are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Ro 8:17).
25:6. “And unto the sons of the concubines which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.”
This enrichment of the sons of the concubines speaks of millennial blessing, but in their being sent away from Isaac, we are being taught another truth. Since the east speaks of sin and departure from God, this dismissal of the other sons may be meant to remind us that in the Millennium there will be distance between Christ and the nations dwelling on the earth. Scripture indicates that He and His Bride the Church will reign over the earth from the heavenly Jerusalem, which will be poised over the earth, while a literal descendant of David will rule from the earthly Jerusalem. Though the millennial earth will be greatly blessed, it will nonetheless be a place of sin, and therefore a place separated from God. It will not be until there are a new heavens and a new earth that the words of Rev 21:2-3 will be fulfilled, “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.”
For a full discussion of whether Christ will sit literally on the throne in the earthly Jerusalem during the Millennium, the reader is referred to Dr. Dwight Pentecost’s excelled book Things to Come, published by Dunham.
It is significant that here Isaac only is described as being Abraham’s son, while Ishmael and these sons of Keturah are spoken of a though they weren’t his sons, though, in fact, they were. Only he who comes from Sarah is recognized as a son. Sarah always speaks of grace, and since Abraham represents faith, the lesson being taught is that only what comes from the union of faith and grace is acceptable to God. As has been noted in previous studies, the wife represents the expression of a man’s spiritual life. Sarah therefore represents, not only the principle of grace, but, as Abraham’s wife, she represents also the expression of his spiritual life. And that marriage produced Isaac who is a type of Christ. Paul, writing in Gal 4:19 said, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.” God’s ultimate purpose is that every believer be conformed to Christ’s image, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Ro 8:29).
Only faith in union with grace can produce that which is Christlike in our lives, and what the believer produces apart from grace will be rejected, as were these sons of Abraham borne by women other than Sarah.
Eternity will echo the willing acknowledgement of the redeemed, “All of grace!”
In Abraham’s sending these other sons away from Isaac, God is teaching us that they represent everything in the believer’s life which God must reject. We produce much that may seem perhaps to be the fruit of faith and grace, but which is, in fact, only the fruit of the old nature, and all such work is worthless.
As he sent them away Abraham gave them gifts, and from this we may learn that the fruit of nature’s work impoverishes faith, and robs Christ of what is rightly His. Every gift given those sons of the concubines diminished Abraham’s wealth, and therefore diminished also what Isaac would inherit. As we minister to the flesh we rob ourselves, and, what is worse, we rob Christ.
That these other sons represent the working of nature is emphasized also not only in their being sent away from Isaac, but in their being sent away “eastward, unto the east country.” The east in Scripture is always connected with sin and departure from God. The works of fallen, ruined, corrupt nature can’t dwell with Christ. They must be sent away, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps 103:12). As God has removed our transgressions to the “east” so are we to dismiss from our lives everything that is displeasing to Him.
They were sent away “while he (Abraham) yet lived.” It is not at some future time that the workings of the old nature are to be “sent away.” They are to be dismissed now, this very moment. The time to dismiss sin is the moment it presents itself as a thought, before it has become a word or a deed.
25:7. “And these are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, a hundred three score and fifteen years.”
The factors of 175 are 5 x 5 x 7, the lesson of Abraham’s age being that his life was a testimony to the perfection (7) with which he had fulfilled his responsibility (5) both to God and to man. Since he represents faith, the lesson is that every man of faith is responsible to display the same perfect fulfillment of responsibility.
25:8. “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.”
The end of Abraham’s life presents a beautiful picture of what should be the ideal end of every believer’s life. All the other sons had been sent away, and he and Isaac were left alone together. His eyes saw only Isaac, his ears heard only Isaac’s voice, he spoke only to Isaac. There was no one else before him except this best-loved son. The end of Abraham’s long full life found him ready to pass from time into eternity ready to enjoy unbroken communion with the One of Whom Isaac is but a type.
The believer who has “sent away” everyone except Christ is nearer to heaven than anyone else on earth. His school days are ended, he is ready to exchange the discipline of earth for the eternal enjoyment of Christ in heaven. Abraham’s giving up his spirit speaks of a willing surrender, a gladness to be leaving earth, rather than a compelled reluctant departure. So is it with everyone who has learned the all-sufficiency of Christ.
“... and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years.” This also speaks of a fight fought and won, a course finished well, and a faith kept (2 Tim 4:7). He is a happy man who knows these things to be true of his own life. He too can say with Paul, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim 4:6-8).
”... and was gathered to his people.” Who were Abraham’s people? Surely not the Chaldean kindred from whom he had been commanded to separate himself in 12:1. Can they be other than Adam, Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah - all the men of faith who had lived before him? The believer will also be “gathered to his people,” that vast multitude which constitutes the family of faith.
25:9. “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.”
He passes away, but his life continues in Isaac. Faith, once personified in Abraham, is now to be personified in his son. This may explain why Ishmael is found again beside Isaac. Just as Isaac represents the new man, so does Ishmael represent the old, and the truth being demonstrated in their being brought together as a result of Abraham’s death, and of Isaac’s taking his place, is that the old nature is present with us as long as we are here on earth.
Faith didn’t pass from the earth when Abraham died: it continued, but was represented by a different man, Isaac, and it is significant that the change occurred after Abraham had sent away all who might have been rivals to Isaac. It is when we have “sent away” everything that might be a rival to Christ that the world will see faith represented by a different man.
Beautiful spiritual order is presented in Abraham’s dismissal of his other sons, and then of his own death, leaving only Isaac, who is a type of Christ. It is God’s desire that each passing day should find us “sending away” everything that would vie with Christ for a place in our lives. Then as we see only Christ, the world will also see, not us, but Him living in us. The presence of Ishmael, however, is a warning that the “old man” may be seen rather than Christ. While we are in the body the old nature also remains, but as Abraham while he lived, had sent Ishmael away, so are we also to “send away” that which would manifest the presence of the old nature.
For the spiritual significance of the burial place, see the notes on chapter 23.
25:10. “The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.”
Since the spiritual significance of that burial place has already been discussed in our study of chapter 23, the reader is referred to those notes, it being deemed unnecessary to repeat them here.
Abraham, representative of the principle of faith; and Sarah, of the principle of grace, remain together in burial as they had been in life. For the OT believers, as for those of this age of grace, what men call death, was simply the process which returned the body to the dust of earth to await the resurrection of life, their souls going to paradise to await that glorious rising that will bring forth, not the old natural body of clay, but a new body, immortal, glorious, powerful, spiritual, “fashioned like unto His glorious body” (Php 3:21).
25:11. “And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahai-roi.”
Keeping in mind that the prophetic aspect of this section has to do with the restoration and blessing of Israel in the Millennium, we find the answer to the question, Why, since Abraham represents faith, do we have the record of his death? The answer is that Israel’s faith anticipates a millennial kingdom, just as ours anticipates a spiritual kingdom. For us, faith will pass away, being replaced by fulfillment when we enter heaven; and for Israel faith will give place to fulfillment as they enter the Millennium, those earthly blessings being followed by eternal blessings in the new heaven and new earth. It is significant that the one who represents Israel in the enjoyment of those millennial blessings is Isaac, whose name means he shall laugh. Israel’s tears will be replaced by laughter in the Millennium. God’s blessing Isaac is but a type of the blessings He will shower upon converted Israel in a soon-coming day.
Returning to the practical spiritual import of the section, however, we learn another lesson. If we have been correct in viewing Abraham’s replacement by Isaac as symbolic of spiritual growth, then certainly God’s blessing Isaac declares that blessing always attends spiritual growth, and the reason isn’t difficult to understand. Spiritual growth is the result of obedience, and God always blesses the obedient believer.
Lahai-roi means unto the living one seeing me. It is frequently called Beer-Lahai-roi, which means the well of the living one seeing me. In Scripture the well is one of the symbols of the written Word, and Isaac’s dwelling by this well Lahai-roi reminds us that we will be blessed only as we dwell by the well of the Word. It must be the center of our lives, governing thoughts as well as words and deeds. The Word is to be our guide for living, because He Who has written it is the One Who lives and sees us, and He is the One Who sees not just our deeds: He is the One Who also reads our thoughts.
Since Isaac’s name means he shall laugh, and laughter is almost invariably connected with joy and happiness, the lesson we may learn from Isaac’s dwelling by this well is that he who dwells by the well of the Word is a happy man.
25:12. “Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid, bare unto Abraham.”
As there will be the twelve tribes of Israel in the Millennium, so here we have them represented by the twelve sons, of Ishmael, who, as a firstborn, represents the natural man rather than the spiritual. God is showing us here in symbol, that the descendants of that first generation which will pass into the Millennium out of the Tribulation, will, like all men, require a second birth to fit them for the eternal state that will follow the Millennium. In regard to these sons of Ishmael, it is their maternal, rather than their paternal origin that is emphasized. They sprang from Hagar, the representative of law, and she was an Egyptian, which speaks of the world, and she was a handmaid, which speaks of an inferior place. As with Keturah’s sons, who represent a deteriorating spiritual condition in the Millennium, so here in Ishmael’s sons we have that same truth reiterated
The state of the human race today confirms that since Adam, man’s path has been steadily downward and away from God, and the end of the Millennium will reveal that even in that age of blessing, men will follow the same path, for the end of the Millennium will find multitudes eager to follow Satan in his final desperate attempt to overcome God.
25:13. “And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam,”
25:14. “And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa,”
25:15. “Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Dedemah:”
It isn’t in the names themselves, but in their meanings that we find depicted the character of men in the Millennium, and while some of the meanings may be difficult to interpret, the general picture is clear: everything points to deterioration even in the Millennium.
Nebajoth, the firstborn, means prophetesses, and the very fact of his being a firstborn prepares us to expect evil rather than good, for the firstborn represents what man is by natural birth.
The meaning is feminine, which immediately places the stamp of weakness upon it. Inasmuch as Israel will be God’s prophet to the millennial nations, this first son of Ishmael indicates that that testimony will be marked by weakness rather than vigor as the age progresses. It was the same in the past. As a result of Israel’s disobedience, the nations came to see God as a God of wrath and judgment rather than what He really is - a God of love Who delights to bless, but Who cannot bless disobedience.
The second son is Kedar, meaning darkness, a meaning requiring little comment. The light that will accompany the first redeemed generation into the Millennium, will shine less brightly as each succeeding generation swells the ranks of those who will be in spiritual darkness, and who will choose to remain in that darkness in spite of the fact that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God.
The third son is Adbeel, which means chastened of God. This also speaks of evil, for only disobedience requires chastisement. But chastening speaks of a Father’s love, “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth....” (Heb 12:6). God’s love for sinners in the Millennium will be no less than in any other age. By chastening He will seek to bring them to repentance.
The fourth is Mibsam meaning fragrant, which might possibly be taken to connote good were it not for the fact that Jericho, the city which God cursed, had the same meaning. That cursed city represents everything, which to the natural man is fragrant, but which to the nostrils of God is a stench. It may be the same in the Millennium. There will be perhaps much that will be fragrant to man, but a stench to God.
The fifth is Mishma which means a hearing (a report - of what is heard). Since five is the number of responsibility, the thought may be that in the Millennium men will be just as responsible as in any other age to hear the voice of God, and to yield obedience. Other Scriptures indicate that in many cases that obedience will be feigned, compelled rather than freely given.
The sixth is Dumah meaning silence. Added to the fact that six is the number of evil, is also the fact that in Scripture, silence is very frequently connected with sin and death, e.g., “The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence” (Ps 115:17). Dumah therefore may indicate an ever increasing measure of sin and departure from God in the Millennium.
The seventh is Massa which means a prophecy: a burden (as something undertaken to carry through): enduring. The perfection or completeness which seven represents, may be of evil, however, rather than good, and in the present context may point to the evil that will come to full fruition at the end of the Millennium.
The eighth is Hadar, meaning honor, but since eight is the Biblical number of a new beginning, the message here may be that those in the Millennium who have “a new beginning,” i.e., who trust Christ as Savior, will, like believers in every age, be honored by God.
The ninth is Tema, meaning southerner, but since the south is the Biblical direction connected with faith, and the factors of nine are 3 x 3 (number of resurrection), the lesson may be that while the Millennium will produce many who will be rebels against God, it will also produce many who will walk by faith because of having been raised through faith out of spiritual death.
The tenth is Jetur, meaning he will arrange: he will encircle. Since ten is the number of God in government, the lesson here may be that the God Who arranges all things for good to those who love Him, and Who keeps them within the circle of His protecting care, will be equally faithful toward His own in the Millennium, particularly as it ends, and Satan is released from the abyss for “a little season” to resume his malignant activity before being cast for ever into the lake of fire.
The eleventh is Naphish, meaning refreshing. He may perhaps speak of the spiritual refreshment that will be the portion of the millennial age believer in addition to the material blessings that will be enjoyed by believer and unbeliever alike during that era of phenomenal abundance and earthly peace.
Since eleven is a prime number - and the meaning of such numbers is obtained by removing one the number of God, and then dealing with the remainder either as a whole number, or according to its factors - we have one, the number of God; and ten, the number of God in government, the spiritual lesson seeming to be that all who are obedient to that government are refreshed or blessed.
The twelfth son Kedemah is clearly indicative of evil, for his name means eastward, the direction that is Biblically synonymous with sin and departure from God. When the Millennium ends, and Satan is released from the abyss for a little season, it will be revealed that in spite of a millennium of unprecedented blessing, man will still be what he has always been, an incorrigible rebel against God, needing to be born again to save him from hell and fit him to inherit eternal blessing.
25:16. “These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations.”
This proliferation of Ishmael in his twelve sons fulfilled not only the promise to Hagar in Ge 16:10, but also the promise to Abraham in Ge 13:16, “And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth,” and the promise in 17:20, “As for Ishmael ... twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.” The dust, as a symbol, indicates the earthly character of literal Israel - they are an earthly people who are to inherit earthly blessings. The promise to Abraham in Ge 15:5, however, is, “Tell the stars, if thou be able to number them ... so shall thy seed be,” and the reference is to Abraham’s spiritual posterity as represented by Isaac, i.e., Jews and Gentiles who trust the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. They are a spiritual people who are to inherit spiritual blessings.
25:17. “And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died: and was gathered unto his people.”
It is instructive to note that after the burial of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael are not seen together again, and after the brief mention of his descendants, there follows immediately the announcement of his death. Isaac appears to represent the development of the faith that began with Abraham, and since maturing faith permits less and less of the activity of the old nature, which Ishmael represents, the fact that after Abraham’s death, Isaac and Ishmael are not found together again, is the symbolic demonstration of this truth. The old nature has no place with mature spirituality.
I regret being unable to determine the significance of Ishmael’s age, for 137 can’t be factorized. The method that seems to apply to such numbers is to remove 1 (the number of God), and factorize the remainder, but the method doesn’t work here, for we then come to 17 (another prime number), which treated in the same way, leaves us with 2 as the only factor, after having removed 1 twice.
The place of his burial isn’t mentioned, and it is difficult to determine the identity of the people to whom he was gathered. It may be that they were Egyptians, since his mother was an Egyptian, as had been also his wife. Since Egypt represents the world, and since Ishmael himself represents the old nature, we may conclude perhaps that here we have a picture of the death of the unregenerate man. Further confirmation of this seems to lie in the fact that his wife’s name is not recorded, nor is there a record of anything she ever did. These are ominous omissions since the wife represents the expression of a man’s spiritual life. Symbolically at least the lack of either name or activity relative to her who represents the expression of his spiritual life, declares that Ishmael had no spiritual life, nor does the flesh which he so clearly represents.
25:18. “And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria: and he died in the presence of all his brethren.”
This verse is simply a broad general statement relative to Ishmael and his descendants, and it is to be noted that “he died in the presence of all his brethren” ought to be “he abode in, etc.”
These descendants of Ishmael occupied a vast territory stretching all the way from the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula to the north-western tip of the Sinai peninsula, but significantly, they had no possession in Canaan. Canaan represents the portion of faith, and unbelief has no title to be there.
The southern boundary point was Havilah which means anguish (travail pain). In this we are being reminded that those who enter the Millennium will do so out of the travail anguish of the great Tribulation, and since the south is the Biblical direction of faith, there is the additional lesson that those who enter will be those who became believers during that terrible preceding era. Since the blessings of the Millennium are but a picture of our eternal spiritual blessings, their entering into them by way of the Tribulation travail reminds us that we too will enter into the enjoyment of our eternal blessings by way of earthly travail.
The other boundary was Shur which means beheld: rampart (as a point of observation). Since it was the western boundary, and the west speaks of approach to God, the lesson may be that in the Millennium, as in all ages, believers will be the objects of God’s watchful care. As that care will have preserved them through the Tribulation, so will it keep them in the Millennium, in spite of what would appear to be increasing apostasy. The same watchful care keeps us, and will bring us safely to heaven in spite of all our unworthiness.
Shur is further described as being before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria. The main route from Egypt to Assyria ran through Shur, so that the statement is literally “between Egypt and Assyria.” Egypt of course represents the world of business and pleasure living in independence of God; and Assyria, meaning a step, may represent the malignant power and hatred of Satan, since Assyria is consistently presented in Scripture as the great enemy of Israel, and therefore of God and all who belong to Him. We dwell between the power of Satan, and of a godless world portrayed by Egypt, but God watches over us there, and will bring us safely to heaven.
25:19. “And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham begat Isaac.”
Like the flesh which he represents, Ishmael’s history is given first. “Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual” (1 Co 15:46). The practical lesson of Ishmael’s death being recorded before the presentation of Isaac’s generations, is clear. There can be no development of the spiritual until there has been first the death of the natural.
In connection with Ishmael the emphasis in verse 12 was more upon Hagar’s being his mother than on Abraham’s being his father; but in regard to Isaac there is double emphasis placed upon the fact that Abraham was his father. God would stress even in the type that the spiritual man represented by Isaac, comes only from Abraham (faith).
25:20. “And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan-aram, the sister to Laban the Syrian.”
Since Rebekah meaning tying, represents the expression of Isaac’s spiritual life, his marriage to her represents the moment of his conversion. It is significant that none of these things are recorded in connection with Ishmael. In the record of his generations there is no mention of his marriage. He had a wife of course, but in omitting any mention of her, God is declaring that this representative of the natural man did not possess what the godly wife represents: spiritual life.
Forty is the number of testing, and Isaac’s being forty years old when he married Rebekah would teach us that conversion takes place only when we learn that, as tested by God’s Word, we lack what God requires of all who would hope to stand in heaven. We need what the godly wife represents: spiritual life.
For a discussion of the significance of the other people and places mentioned in this verse, the reader is referred to the notes on chapter twenty-four.
25:21. “And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.”
Rebekah’s literal barrenness speaks of Isaac’s spiritual barrenness, and his recourse is the same as is available to us as we become conscious of a similar spiritual state: he prayed. So often we come to the throne of grace to seek only temporal blessings, when what we need, and what God would give abundantly, is spiritual fruitfulness. Much unanswered prayer is because “... ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (Jas 4:2-3). Some of the books purporting to give instruction about prayer would have done more good had they never been published, for they state or imply that God will give us anything we ask, including perfect health and unlimited wealth. This erroneous teaching is the result of failing to realize that what God has promised to Israel, and what He has promised to the Church, are two different things. Israel has been promised literal blessings, while the Church has been promised spiritual enrichment. God has not promised to give believers of this present age perfect health or limitless wealth. He has “blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (things) in Christ” (Eph 1:3), but the many references in the NT to the literal poverty and sickness of the saints should dispel any idea that we are to expect perfect health and riches before we get to heaven.
It isn’t that we shouldn’t pray to be healed if we are sick, or for money if our present supply seems insufficient, but our prayer should be presented with the same willingness to accept God’s will as was displayed by the Lord when He concluded His petition with the words of submission “... nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Mt 26:39). This readiness to accept God’s “no” just as willingly as His “yes” is true faith, for it is the acknowledgement that he knows best what is good for us. Anything else is presumption.
We will deliver ourselves from disappointment and frustration when we learn to use the throne of grace to seek spiritual enrichment rather than temporal.
Isaac’s prayer was heard “and Rebekah his wife conceived.” He was to become fruitful. The spiritual counterpart will occur when we ask for spiritual blessings. We will become spiritually fruitful.”
25:22. “And the children struggled together within her; and she said,, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the Lord.”
The children in her womb were Esau, who represents the old man; and Jacob, who represents the new. This struggle of the two natures is the inevitable accompaniment of the development of spiritual fruitfulness.
”If it be so, why am I thus?” is literally, “If this is how it is with me, what does it mean?” She prayed, and God gave her enlightenment, and we are given enlightenment regarding this conflict through what Paul has written. After describing the warfare between the two natures within him, he concludes, “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind....” (Ro 7:22-23).
25:23. “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.”
Just as there were within Rebekah, who represents the expression of Isaac’s spiritual life, two sons, one representing the old nature; the other, the new, so are there within every believer two natures, the old and the new. As these two sons were to produce two different lines of people, so do the two natures within the believer produce two different kinds of works. The old produces only unrighteousness; the new, only righteousness. And as one was to be stronger than the other, so is it with the believer’s two natures. The old is weak: it has no power to resist evil; but the new is strong, for it is the life of Christ, and the possessor of that divine life has the assurance, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” (Php 4:13). Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian believers was that, “... He would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph 3:16). When a believer sins it is not because he is powerless to resist evil: it is because he has chosen to obey the impulse of the old nature.
”... and the elder shall serve the younger.” While this is a statement that was literally fulfilled, it is also symbolic of the superiority of the new nature represented in the younger son. As has been noted in previous studies, the firstborn represents the old nature and must therefore be set aside, and in making the elder subservient to the younger, God is emphasizing the truth that the old nature is to be kept in the place of subjection. It is not to be permitted to rule in the believer’s life.
25:24. “And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.”
The type will be fulfilled when Israel’s hour of deliverance comes, and a converted nation emerges from the Tribulation travail into the Millennium. “Twins” will be also in the “womb” of that nation, for the converted Israel which enters the Millennium will produce descendants, some of whom will become believers, and some of whom will remain in their natural earthy state.
25:25. “And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.”
Everything about Esau speaks of the natural man, and therefore of evil. To begin with, he was a firstborn, the significance of which has already been discussed. Second, he was red, and red is the color of sin, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa 1:18).
It is very significant that the red hair which covered Esau’s body is likened to a garment, for in Scripture the garment is the symbol of righteousness, either the “filthy rags” of our own self-righteousness, or the spotless robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers the believer. When Adam and Eve sinned, the first outward sign of their fallen state was that they were naked. The garment of the righteousness of untried innocence was gone.
It is to be noted too, that the hairy goat was the usual Sin offering, so it is clear that his being covered with red hair simply emphasizes what was connected with his being a firstborn: he is a type of the natural man who is a sinner, not only by practice, but by birth. And his name adds further confirmation, for Esau means shaggy: hairy: goat-like: his doings.
25:26. “And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.”
I regret that I don’t see the spiritual significance of the heel as clearly as I would wish, but it seems to be symbolic of power, and also of vulnerability. As indicative of power, the Lord, speaking of the treachery of Judas, quoted Ps 41:9 “He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me” (Jn 13:18), and then there are the frequent references to the victor putting his heel on the necks of his enemies. As to its being the symbol of vulnerability, there is the declaration of God in Ge 3:15 that the serpent would bruise the heel of the woman’s seed; and in Job 18:9 it is written that the gin shall take the wicked man by the heel.
These two seemingly contradictory meanings, however, are not incompatible, for it is in his use of power committed to him that man is most vulnerable. By misusing that power he renders himself vulnerable to divine condemnation. Jacob’s taking hold of Esau’s heel therefore, speaks of his having dominion over his elder brother.
The hand in Scripture is always the symbol of power and of work, but unlike the heel, there is no associated thought of weakness or vulnerability. It was Jacob’s hand that held Esau’s heel. Jacob would prevail, as will the spiritual man whom he represents.
His being the secondborn confirms that he is the representative of the new man, for there is first that which is earthy, then that which is spiritual (1 Co 15:46). His name means supplanter, and perhaps too much stress has been laid on the bad connotation. The means by which he sought to make himself his brother’s superior certainly were wrong, but it should not be forgotten that before they were even born God Himself had declared that Jacob would supplant (take the place of) Esau.
It is worth noting too, that Isaac’s age isn’t mentioned until Jacob has been born. Jacob represents the perpetuation of Isaac’s spiritual life, as Esau does his physical life. Six decades were past, and the seventh begun, before Isaac became fruitful. Six is the number of man, weakness, and sin, as seven is of perfection and completeness. The spiritual lesson isn’t difficult to read. It is only when we have put behind us everything that is of the earthy natural man, that there can be spiritual fruitfulness.
25:27. “And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.”
Evil continues to be emphasized in connection with Esau: he was a hunter, and there is never good connected with hunting in Scripture. The hunter is the antithesis of the shepherd, for the former destroys life, the latter preserves it. Abel and Abraham were both shepherds, and the Lord is the good Shepherd Who has given His life for the sheep. The first great rebel against God in the post-diluvian world was Nimrod, “a mighty hunter,” whose name means we will rebel, and who is a type of the Tribulation beast ruler. For a fuller discussion of Nimrod, the reader is referred to the notes on Genesis chapter 10.
The portrait of evil is further illuminated by his being “a man of the field.” He was a man of the world, for in Scripture, the world is represented by the field, the Lord, interpreting the parable of the tares, declaring, “The field is the world” (Mt 13:38). His being cunning has also an evil connotation, for the word is related to worldly wisdom, in regard to which Scripture has nothing good to say.
Jacob, on the other hand, was a plain or simple man dwelling in tents. The tent speaks of the pilgrim character of his life, and this is what might be expected of the one who represents the new man in Christ. Esau also dwelt in tents, but we shouldn’t miss the significance of the Bible’s omitting mention of it. The man typified by Esau is very far from being a pilgrim and a stranger on the earth.
25:28. “And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.”
This parental preference is instructive when we keep in mind that while Isaac represents the believer, it is the believer as a man of flesh and blood. Rebekah, however, represents the expression of the believer’s spiritual life, the new creature in Christ. Isaac loved Esau because the believer, as a man in the flesh, still loves what Esau portrays: the things of the flesh. Rebekah loved Jacob because she, as the representative of the expression of Isaac’s spiritual life, and therefore as representative also of the believer’s spiritual life, could love only what Jacob represented: the things of the Spirit. Isaac loved Esau because he did eat of his venison. Man in the flesh, even though a believer, yearns for what the venison represents, i.e., the things of the “field,” the world. It is only the spiritual part of the believer that hungers for what is of the Spirit.
25:29. “And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint.”
Jacob was boiling vegetables, and we may learn something from this. In Scripture, the preparation of literal food portrays the preparation of spiritual food, and where boiling is the cooking method, God is giving us a picture of one aspect of Bible study. The pot or vessel represents the believer; the water in the pot, the Word poured into the believer’s mind through reading, study and ministry; while the fire bubbling the water, represents the Holy Spirit “bubbling up” in the believer’s mind the Word already there. The food being boiled represents the particular part of Scripture being studied. Any part of Scripture can be my spiritual food, but only as I understand it through the Holy Spirit’s illumination, and in the context of what Scripture I already know. The Spirit will use for my instruction all of the Word I have taken into my mind, but He will not miraculously put into my mind what I have failed to read or listen to.
When the food being cooked is meat, it represents Christ, the emphasis being on His vicarious death and resurrection, whereas when the thing being cooked is meal, or, as here, vegetables, it still portrays Christ, but with the focus on his humanity. It is significant that Jacob was cooking vegetables (believed by many to have been lentils) rather than meat. Undoubtedly there was also meat in the pot, but it isn’t mentioned, and for a very good reason. Jacob at this stage of his life had not yet become Israel. In other words, though foreknown as one who would become a believer (represented by Israel), he was not yet a believer, for Jacob represents the believer as a physical entity rather than a spiritual. It is in his new name Israel that Jacob represents the believer as a spiritual entity. His boiling pottage therefore is the symbolic picture of what many moral, but unconverted people do: they read the Word simply as literature presenting moral precept, their study being purely academic rather than spiritual. They have no awareness of its spiritual content, because, as unbelievers, they lack the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit Who indwells only believers. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Co 2:14).
The unbeliever may study the Word, but for him it is a moral, academic exercise rather than a spiritual feeding on Christ. Esau also could eat this pottage. In fact he desired it. The natural man can appreciate the Bible as literature, and even as moral precept, but he cannot comprehend it as the presentation of a crucified and risen Savior, Whose death has made atonement for man’s sin. Cain brought a vegetable offering, but he would not bring a lamb.
Esau’s coming from the field, hungry and faint, is the picture of an all too evident truth: man always comes from the “field” (the world) in the same condition because the world can supply nothing to meet the need of the soul.
The implication is that his hunting that day had yielded nothing, so he was willing to eat Jacob’s pottage. It was better than nothing. Many a man disappointed with the world, will turn briefly to the Bible, looking in it for what it can’t give - the worldly satisfaction he seeks. When the job and money are gone; when sickness comes; when the marriage has failed; when the sons and daughters have gone wrong - then people will turn to the Bible, but they will be just as dissatisfied as was Esau with Jacob’s pottage. Only the spiritual man will find in the Bible what sustains him in time of trouble. The natural man will be disappointed, for the natural man can’t understand Scripture (1 Co 2:14). We don’t read that Esau ever again ate pottage. Many fulfill the type. They turn to the Bible for the wrong reason, and disappointed, turn away again.
Only he who realizes his need as a sinner, will find in the Bible the answer to his problem, for the Bible is not the solution for unemployment, sickness, divorce, drugs, alcohol, or anything else except sin. The sins mentioned must be seen as symptoms of a far worse condition. Man must see himself as a sinner on his way to hell, the only thing standing between him and that fearful place being the breath in his mouth. What a flimsy partition separating the soul from eternal torment!
25:30. “And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom (red).”
A sad story is told in this verse. Esau’s plea for Jacob’s pottage is a story repeated daily in Christendom. When men come to us from the world, spiritually hungry and faint, it is an incalculable tragedy when we have nothing to set before them except what Jacob’s pottage represents: mere academic knowledge of Scripture, or lifeless, chilling morality. Men need Christ.
”... therefore was his name called Edom,” which means red, and as has been noted already, red is the Biblical color of sin. The lesson therefore is that the sinner may acquire a head knowledge of Scripture, but unless he knows the Christ presented in Scripture he must remain condemned. In his extremity, Esau was willing to eat pottage, but what he craved was venison. In his extremity the sinner will turn to the Bible, but what he craves is something else. What he really wants is his job back, his money returned, his health restored, his marriage recovered, his children rescued from drugs, alcohol, sex, so that he can return again to his “hunting” in the “field” - to his occupation with the things of the world which pertain to death.
25:31. “And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.”
Much misunderstanding exists regarding Jacob’s acquisition of the birthright. He is almost invariably portrayed as a thief who stole it, but while there was much that was wrong in his life, he can’t be accused of having stolen the birthright. He bought it, and even Esau, at a later date, couldn’t say that Jacob had stolen it: he could only complain, “he took away my birthright” (27:36). The truth is that in spite of all his crookedness, Jacob had what Esau had not: a proper comprehension of the value of the birthright. Upon the father’s death the firstborn inherited a double portion of the father’s wealth, and became head over the family.
Here again, however, as so often in Scripture, the literal is but a type of the spiritual. The blessings guaranteed to the firstborn by the birthright are a picture of the blessings reserved for those who by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, make themselves heirs of eternal blessing.
Jacob had faith to believe the promise given to his mother, “The elder shall serve the younger,” but he made the mistake of failing to leave with God the outworking of that promise. We should learn from this to leave with God the means by which He will fulfill His promises to us. Only trouble results from our attempts to accomplish God’s purposes before His time.
Jacob’s words were, “Sell me ....” He bought the birthright, and the price he paid was the pottage. He gave up that which represents mere morality or academic knowledge of Scripture, and the lesson God would have us learn is that the same price must be paid by every man who would purchase the heavenly birthright.
Esau on the other hand took possession of what is pictured in the pottage, in exchange for the birthright. Multitudes make the same fatal mistake. Jacob that day received nothing tangible in exchange for the pottage, but by faith he looked to a future day when all the blessings of the birthright would be his. Such is the nature of faith. It is willing to give up earthly things, while as yet there is nothing but God’s promise of future enrichment. Faith trusts God to keep His promises.
Jacob didn’t steal Esau’s birthright. He had a better appreciation of its worth than did Esau, and he was willing to buy it. So is it with the man who becomes aware of the value of what the literal birthright represents. Only when a man learns that the salvation of his soul is worth more than the whole world, is he in a position to be saved. The fact that Esau valued it so little as to sell it for a mess of pottage, simply declares how wrong was his estimate of its value.
What influenced his thinking so as to produce that wrong estimate? He was looking only at the present, and forgetting the value that birthright would have on the day when his father would die, and all would be his. So is it with multitudes today. They see things only from the perspective of the present. Of what use is it to have eternal life? If viewed only from the perspective of earth, very little. It may, in fact, seem a liability rather than an asset. But what of the day when life is over, when the things of earth are gone, when all has to be evaluated in terms of eternity? How different it will be then! How precious will the then unobtainable be! What will it be to stand before God, when dollars, position, fame have no value, and it is discovered too late that folly has made an eternal pauper of one who could have been for ever a prince? when it is discovered that what seemed so worthless on earth is of inestimable value, its lack closing for ever the gate of heaven, and requiring the soul to pass for ever into a fearful eternity of torment?
Jacob’s being willing to buy what Esau valued so little, has also a national application, for it prefigures the experience of Jew and Gentile. The Gentiles have been willing to buy what the Jews valued so little.
The small price paid indicates, not that Jacob stole the birthright, but rather, Esau’s wrong estimate of its value. How little salvation costs us! We are asked to give up what is worthless in order to obtain what is priceless. In Isa 55:1 we are invited, “... he that hath no money, come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” We are asked to give up earth, but to obtain heaven. The relative worth is measured by the pottage and the birthright.
25:32. “And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?”
Esau wasn’t at the point of death. He was hungry, and to gratify that hunger he was willing to barter away that which was of infinitely greater worth than what he wanted at that moment. Such is the nature of unbelief. It is willing to give up heavenly things of eternal value in exchange for present gratification of fleshly appetite, refusing to believe God’s word concerning the future.
“What profit shall this birthright do to me?” None, apparently that day; but how different on the day when he should have inherited the blessing! Salvation may seem of little worth here on earth, when all it brings is tribulation, persecution, weariness, poverty, mockery, but how different in eternity! Those who have it will enter heaven; those without it, hell and the lake of fire.
25:33. “And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.”
The “firstborn,” must always relinquish the birthright to the “second,” the natural must give place to the spiritual. “Ye must be born again” (Jn 3:7). “He taketh away the first that he may establish the second” (Heb 10:9). The oath by which the transaction was sealed made it irrevocable. The birthright could never be taken away from Jacob, nor can eternal life ever be taken away from the man of faith.
Countless generations have branded Esau a fool. Could they but catch a glimpse of the misery that has been his for centuries, and that will continue eternally, they would realize how little they comprehend the full extent of his folly. Many of his critics, however, are guilty of the same folly. Every unbeliever is as great a fool. How important that pottage was that day when he came in from the field! How unimportant it was shown to be on that day when he discovered the magnitude of his folly! How little will be the value of earth’s gold and silver, applause and fame, the instant the unredeemed soul has passed from time into a lost eternity - for ever beyond hope of mercy.
25:34. “Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.”
Esau received what he had agreed upon in exchange for the birthright, and it seems incredible that he could have been guilty of such folly, yet multitudes are guilty of greater foolishness. He bartered away an earthly birthright for the momentary gratification of a bodily appetite. Hell is filled with those who have bartered away a heavenly birthright for an equally paltry price.
We find a very different Esau in Ge 27:34, “... he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father.” And again in v.36, “Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?” And again in v.38, “... Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept.” And again, “For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears” (Heb 12:17).