ISAAC HEIR OF ABRAHAM’S PROMISES
The heir concept has influenced the entire world. Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles regarded it as part of the spiritual election that included heirs by adoption. It has led to the misunderstanding that man had no choice in claiming the inheritance. It was simply handed to them. Yes, Isaac did step into his father’s footprints and managed with the powerful influence of his wife Rebekah. “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring’” (Ro. 9:7-8). Paul’s deduction did not alter cause and effect. Jacob’s descendants would harvest what their father Jacob sowed. Regarding Isaac, the father of Jacob, he maintained his father Abraham’s status quo. The events that followed were set in motion by his wife Rebekah and her sons Jacob and Essau.
Abraham never stopped giving the Lord a hand. He purchased the cave at Machpela for a burial place and he had his god-fearing servant swear that his son Isaac would not be allowed to return to Mesopotamia. Above all, Abraham instructed the servant as to what kind of a wife Isaac was to marry and how he was to obtain her (Gen. 23: 4-20; 24: 1-9). Romance in those days was somewhat out of grasp for us. Children were not allowed to pick mates, and those who did like Jacob, paid a hefty price. Marriages were arranged by the parents or some marriage-brokers. Of great interest to us should be the prayer of the servant who acted as the marriage-broker. “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. Let it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll also water your camels too’- let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master” (Gen.24: 12-14).
We are not told how many of the girls the servant had asked for a drink that day. Surely, Rebekah was not the only one that had come to draw water; but she was the only one who was kind to a stranger. And she was rewarded with gifts and a ring from a man whom she had never met and so was her family. Far more than that, she was willing to leave a comfortable home and marry some nomad. She was some brave young lady and showed a lot of faith. Rebekah had large shoes to fill. Fortunately, she also had good looks and Isaac’s eyes were filled with her beauty. We are told that he loved her on first sight and he married her. We are not told as to whether she loved him, except that “Isaac was comforted by Rebekah because he had lost his mother.” In other words, this little lady played mama to a husband twice her age. She had to step into the big shoes of Sarah her mother-in-law. Isaac, after all, “was mama’s boy.” One wonders if Sarah had approved of Rebekah, had she been alive. It is not likely, because Rebekah was just as strong willed as Sarah. As we shall see, she opposed her husband as to who was to carry on the family name and the Promises.
The Promises were not immediately apparent to Isaac. Rebekah was barren and Isaac spent much time in prayer. After twenty years, God answered his request with a double portion. It even drove Rebekah to the Lord, seeking an answer to the strange behavior of the twins in her womb. Instead of talking to Isaac, Elohim speaks to the expectant mother. Isaac the father is being left out. It was not exactly legal, but then who could question God, who is neither male nor female. Being indifferent to gender, God spoke to Rebekah rather than to Isaac saying: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger”(Gen. 25:23).
Rebekah was one of the astute women in Biblical history. Along with Eve, Sarah and Bathsheba, she managed to have others believe that she had Jehovah’s approval to turn Jacob into the legal heir of the Promises. Her manipulating appeared suspicious when Elohim mostly communicated with Isaac. She and not Isaac decided what was best for her sons and the means justified the end and Elohim gave his blessings. Rebekah set a precedent for a God to favor one person over another and that tendency is still present among Jews, Christians, Muslims and others. Jesus did not endorse such behavior. Both, Peter and Paul struggled with it and came to the conclusion that God had no pets. Rebekah did have a favored and she went to work in his behalf, regardless of the consequences.
Rebekah was convinced that Jacob was best suited to become the bearer of the Promises of that great nation to be. Was it necessary for Rebekah and Jacob to scheme and cheat in order to obtain the birthright and the blessing? In Rebekah’s mind there was no other way. Jacob and his mother took advantage of a good-hearted brother and a blind father. Jacob knew his brother’s weakness. It was when Esau was hungry that he teased him into relenting his birth- right for some bread, a stew and a drink with an oath. He apparently did not take serious until his dying father asked Esau to hunt for some game and prepare a meal so that he could receive Isaac’s blessing. Rebekah had made certain to listen in and disguised her favored to smell like Esau and prepare his kind of meal. With the help of a lie, the smell and the food Isaac was fooled in assuming he was blessing Esau his oldest son. When Esau returned with the proper food and announced that he was the first-born, Isaac trembled violently and asked, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him – and indeed he will be blessed!”
Esau was shocked as he listened to his father relate what Jacob and Rebekah had done. He begged, “Bless me – me too – my father!” The father answered, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.” Esau’s next statement sounded like an accusation: “father, he is as his name, very deceptive. He has swindled me out of my birthright and now he has also stolen my blessing!” All that a disappointed father could say to his favored son was, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?” I have also set a curse on those that curse him and a blessing on those that bless him. Esau kept on weeping and begging for some answer and Isaac offered a slight dimmer of hope: “Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s riches, away from the dew of heaven above. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.”
Esau himself will not serve Jacob or avenge himself. Rebekah will ship him off to her brother Laban. Down the corridor of history, Jacob would become the nation of Israel and his seed would have many scrimmages with Esau’s children, who too would prosper in spite of Isaac’s curse. God’s covenant with Noah blessed saint and sinner with the fullness of the earth. Each would be judged by cause and effect. During the Maccabees the Edomites were absorbed into Judaism. At the end an Edomite by the name of Herod with his followers would subdue what ever shall remain of Jacob’s descendants and defend them before Rome would end Israel as a nation. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark include the Herodians in the plot to trap and remove Jesus from the living (Mt. 22:16; Mk. 3:6; 12:13). It was Herod the Great that ordered the death of the infant boys without apprehending the baby Jesus (Mt. 2:23) and his grandson send Jesus back to Pilate and let him do the dirty work (Lk. 23:6-12). The Herods were skilled in having others carry out their convenient policies. What Jacob did to Esau, Herod did to the house of David.