The Promise Inherited by Isaac and Jacob


VERSES 1-5  “And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.
“And the Lord appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:
“Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;
“And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
“Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

Isaac’s experiences were in many respects like those of his father, and that is true with respect to his contact with Abimelech, king of the Philistines. Another famine developed in Canaan, and Isaac, like his father, moved to Gerar where food could be obtained. It was there that the Lord appeared to him with instructions not to go into Egypt, but to ‘sojourn’ where he was: and the Lord assured him of his presence and blessing.

On this occasion the Lord reiterated the promise he had made to Abraham concerning his seed and assured Isaac that now this promise belonged to him. The promise that Isaac’s seed would multiply as the ‘stars of heaven’ may be intended as a special reference to the fact that the faith seed of Abraham—of whom Isaac was a type—would be spiritual: partakers of the “heavenly calling.”—Heb. 3:1

VERSES 6-11  “And Isaac dwelt in Gerar:
“And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon.
“And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.
“And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her.
“And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us.
“And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”

Like Abraham, again, when Isaac went into the land of the Philistines he claimed that his wife, Rebekah, was his sister: and for the same reason; namely, his own protection. It probably reflects the general attitude of that day toward women; but in any event it discloses that Isaac was willing that his wife run certain risks rather than chance some greater harm coming to himself. Perhaps, however, he reasoned that if he was killed in order that Rebekah might be taken by another, she would suffer anyway.

Abimelech discovered that Rebekah was more to Isaac than a sister, and rebuked him for misrepresenting the facts, even as Abraham had previously been rebuked. Through his knowledge of Abraham, and witnessing the manner in which the providences of God had overshadowed him, this king of the Philistines was anxious that no harm come either to Isaac or Rebekah, so he charged all his people saying, ‘He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death’.

VERSES 12-16   “Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him.
“And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great:
“For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him.
“For all the wells which his father’s servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth.
“And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we.”

God blessed Isaac along material lines even as he had previously blessed Abraham. He became so prosperous in Gerar that the Philistines envied him. To avoid an open clash, Abimelech said to Isaac, ‘Go from us: for thou art much mightier than we’.

VERSES 17-25  “And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there.
“And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them.
“And Isaac’s servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water.
“And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac’s herdmen, saying, The water is ours: and he called the name of the well Esek; because they strove with him.
“And they digged another well, and strove for that also: and he called the name of it Sitnah.
“And he removed from thence, and digged another well; and for that they strove not: and he called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said, For now the Lord hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.
“And he went up from thence to Beersheba.
“And the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake.
“And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac’s servants digged a well.”

Isaac heeded the request of Abimelech, but apparently did not move a great distance, pitching his tent in the ‘valley of Gerar’. This seems to have been the same territory previously occupied by Abraham, for the account speaks of the wells dug by Abraham’s servants, filled by the Philistines, now being reopened by the servants of Isaac.

Then Isaac’s servants continued to dig wells, and they opened one which they called ‘springing water’. (Margin, ‘living water’) This was apparently an artesian well. They continued digging wells, and as each new one was opened, the herdsmen of Gerar strove with the servants of Isaac for possession of it. On account of this, one was called Esek, meaning ‘contention’, and another Sitnah, meaning ‘hatred’.

Finally they opened a well and the herdsmen did not contest its ownership, so Isaac named it Rehoboth, meaning ‘room’, for he said, ‘Now the Lord hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land’.

‘And he went up from thence to Beersheba. And the Lord appeared unto him the same night’. God was ever directing and overruling in the affairs of Isaac even as he had done previously in the experiences of Abraham. At appropriate times he spoke to him to reassure him of this, and also to confirm the covenant he had made concerning the ‘seed’. While this promise was passed on to Isaac, and later to Jacob, it was with the reminder, as here stated, that its fulfillment would be for Abraham’s sake and because Abraham had been his faithful servant and friend. Thus it is not Isaac’s seed, but the seed of Abraham, which is to bless all the families of the earth.

Having received the reaffirmation of the promise, Isaac built an altar in commemoration of the event, and had his servants dig yet another well. Water was probably at a premium in that section of the country and the ability to dig wells and obtain a supply was doubtless looked upon by Isaac and his servants as one of the evidences of God’s blessing upon them.

VERSES 26-33  “Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army.
“And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you?
“And they said, We saw certainly that the Lord was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee;
“That thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of the Lord.
“And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink.
“And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another: and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.
“And it came to pass the same day, that Isaac’s servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had digged, and said unto him, We have found water.
“And he called it Shebah: therefore the name of the city is Beersheba unto this day.”

This passage records another incident similar to an experience which Abraham had had with the Abimelech of his day; namely, the request of the Philistine king to enter into a covenant of peace. This heathen king must have been greatly impressed with the manner in which both Abraham and Isaac prospered, and believed that the God whom they worshiped doubtless had something to do with it, so he felt that his own safety and the safety of his people depended upon being on peaceful terms with them. Isaac had no aggressive intentions, and was glad to enter into a covenant of peace with Abimelech.

VERSES 33,34  “And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:
“Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.”

In these two verses we are given a sidelight on a serious domestic problem which arose in Isaac’s household. Esau, seemingly without the consent of his parents, married two wives, both of them of heathen families. Although briefly stated, we can imagine the turmoil that was created in the family, for the account says that they were ‘a grief of mind unto Isaac and Rebekah’.


VERSES 1-5  “And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I.
“And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death:
“Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison;
“And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.
“And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it.”

Many years had now passed since Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, yet there is no indication that their father, Isaac, had been advised of the transaction. It was natural, therefore, when he felt that he would soon die, that he should want to bestow his parental blessing upon his firstborn son, Esau. Being fond of venison, and knowing of Esau’s skill as a hunter, he thought it fitting to make the matter of bestowing his blessing a sort of banquet.

VERSES 6-17  “And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying,
“Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the Lord before my death.
“Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee.
“Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth:
“And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death.
“And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man:
“My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing.
“And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them.
“And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made savoury meat, such as his father loved.
“And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son:
“And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck:
“And she gave the savoury meat and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.”

Perhaps Jacob had confided in his mother, Rebekah, the fact that he had bought the birthright. Noting Esau’s unwillingness to explain the situation to his father, and his readiness to accept the blessing which went with the birthright, Rebekah decided to take matters into her own hands and see to it that the blessing was bestowed upon the son to whom it now, by right of purchase, properly belonged. She might also have been influenced in this decision by the information given to her by the Lord before the twins were born: namely, that the elder was to serve the younger. Certainly this would tend to give her confidence that the Lord would bless her efforts to have Isaac’s blessing bestowed upon Jacob.

Jacob hesitated to attempt the deception which appeared necessary in order to obtain the blessing, fearing that he would bring a curse upon himself instead. But his mother insisted, explaining that she would take the responsibility, and that if any curse resulted it would be upon her. So Jacob went ahead with the preparations as his mother directed.

VERSES 18-29  “And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son?
“And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me.
“And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the Lord thy God brought it to me.
“And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not.
“And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.
“And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands: so he blessed him.
“And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am.
“And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank.
“And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son.
“And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed:
“Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:
“Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.”

The preparations complete, Jacob entered into the presence of his father, and in response to a direct question by him, openly lied, declaring that he was Esau. The account is related in the Scriptures without comment as to the right or wrong of Jacob’s action.

As we have noted in tracing the experiences of both Abraham and Isaac, the standards of righteousness of that day were somewhat different from the manner in which they were later set forth in the Mosaic Law, and by Jesus and the apostles. Both Rebekah and Jacob may have reasoned that since the birthright had been legitimately purchased, any means used to assure a confirmation of the transfer was justifiable—that the end justified the means. In any event, it was God’s plan that Jacob should be the heir, and there is no indication in the Scriptures that he condemned the course either of them took in the matter.

Isaac phrased his blessing in keeping with the promise made to Abraham, saying to Jacob, ‘Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee’. Christ is the true inheritor of this blessing, and of him it is declared that “all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.”—Ps.72:11

VERSES 30-40  “And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting.
“And he also had made savoury meat, and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s venison, that thy soul may bless me.
“And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau.
“And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed.
“And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father.
“And he said, Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing.
“And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?
“And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son?
“And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept.
“And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above;
“And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.”

Naturally it was a shock to Isaac to discover that he had bestowed his blessing upon Jacob rather than Esau. Seemingly, however, once given it could not be recalled, so he was reconciled to let the matter stand. But Esau, we read, ‘cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father’. In Hebrews 12:16,17, we have a reference to this, with the explanation that Esau was a “profane person.” According to the Marginal Translation in this New Testament reference, Esau sought in vain for a way to change.

Asked by Esau if there were some sort of blessing that could be bestowed upon him, Isaac replied, ‘Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son?’ The thought is that the real blessing having gone to Jacob, there was nothing really worthwhile for Esau.

However, more in the nature of a prophecy than a blessing, Isaac told Esau that he would live by the sword, and that although he would have to serve Jacob, he would eventually become powerful and throw off his yoke. It is well to remember that the promises made to Abraham and passed on to Isaac and Jacob, embrace the development of a spiritual seed, and also the development of a natural seed. This prophecy by Isaac that Esau would throw off the yoke of Jacob pertains to the experiences of the natural seed. Esau became the head of the Edomites, and the record of II Kings 8:20-22 shows the fulfillment of Isaac’s ‘blessing’ pertaining to Esau’s servitude.

VERSES 41-46  “And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.
“And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee.
“Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran;
“And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother’s fury turn away;
“Until thy brother’s anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?
“And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?”

‘And Esau hated Jacob’. This is understandable, although he failed to realize his own wrongdoing in the sale of the birthright—a thing which revealed his lack of respect for the promises of God. This is probably the reason that the Apostle Paul speaks of him as a ‘profane person’. Nor did Esau realize the overruling providences of the Lord in the loss of his birthright. His only reaction was that of hatred—a hatred so intense that he purposed in his heart to kill Jacob when the appropriate time came.

In this respect we are reminded of the attitude of Cain over the fact that God showed his favor toward his brother, Abel. It is well for all the Lord’s people to look for the meaning of their experiences beyond what appears to be the immediate cause—to learn, if possible, what purpose the Lord is working out in connection therewith.

Rebekah learned of Esau’s intentions, and her motherly instinct directed measures for the safety of Jacob. Now we learn why the account of the trouble caused in the household by Esau’s heathen wives was recorded, for it helps to explain Rebekah’s decision—a decision quite in keeping with Isaac’s own wishes in the matter—that Jacob should not take a wife from the same source that Esau had taken his. It was God’s will that Jacob, even as his father, Isaac, should take a wife from among Abraham’s own people, and, in the Divine providence, this was brought about in a seemingly natural way.

Truly, ‘God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform’.
Click here to go to Part 15
Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |