Genesis 25: Death of Abraham, prophecy of Rivkah’s warring children and connections to Creation and the Flood

What is the connection between this account of the death of Abraham and the prophecy of warring children in the womb of Rivkah (Rebecca) and the accounts of Creation and of the Flood?

There are some fascinating Hebrew phrases in this chapter that help explain some of the segments that are a bit confounding in English. Genesis is called Bereshit in Hebrew, which means “In the beginning.”

We meet Abraham’s concubine, Keturah, who came into his life after Sarah’s death. She gave Abraham several sons. Her name means perfumed, she made perfume. She made things smell nice. It is also a reference to incense. The names of her sons have a meaning and sometimes a list of names actually tell a story in and of themselves. I don’t see a pattern in this list of names but they still tell us about the character of each son.

One of the sons is named Midian, which means strife or war. We read about the descendants of this man going to war against the children of Israel later on.

After this, we read in Gen. 25: 7-8 that “These are all the years of Abraham’s life that he lived, one hundred and seventy-five years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people.”What does it mean that he was “gathered to his people?” Does it simply mean that Abraham was buried in his grave alongside his wife Sarah?

Remember that this chapter was recorded many years later, by which time Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah had joined Abraham in that grave in the cave of Machpelah, near Mamre. Genesis centered around Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We don’t read as much about Isaac as we do about Abraham and Jacob but Isaac is still a crucial figure.

Abraham’s death occurred approximately 370 years after the flood. The Flood was still relatively recent history to them at this time. Isaac was 75 years old when Abraham died and was buried at Machpelah yet he did not live there. Isaac lived by Beer-lahai-roi, which is the well named by Hagar when she was fleeing from Sarah. Isaac was living closer to Ishmael than one might think. Isaac and Ishmael were living close enough to each other that they were able to bury Abraham in a united front. 

Then we read about the descendants of Ishmael. As we see by their names and Ishmael’s proximity to both Abraham and Isaac that Ishmael had not given up on God. Ishmael was not a pagan. Ishmael knew who God was. These sons of Ishmael were Abraham’s grandson’s.  Gen. 25:13 lists Ishmael’s sons: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael, and Kedar and Adbeel and Mibsam.

Nebaioth, means heights, someone who lives higher than the rest, or fullness.
Kedar means dark or dusky
Adbeel means chastened by Elohim

Ishmael was not Isaac’s enemy during his lifetime, although we read later that Ishmael’s descendants were at war with each other from time to time, but when we read in the Torah that the descendants of Isaac were at war with the descendants of Esau far more often than they were with the children of Ishmael.

In Gen. 25:21 that “Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren…” Rivka did not pray for children, Isaac did and she conceived and was carrying twins. Although most women give birth to children in great pain and lots of hard work, Rivkah’s struggle was unique among women. The prophesy that God loved Jacob and hated Esau came even before they were born or had done anything right or wrong.

In Hebrew, each number has a meaning. The number two shows up in Gen. 25 in the prophesy God gives to Rivkah about her twins.

The struggle that Rivkah was feeling in her womb was the two boys trying to crush one another and destroy each other. They weren’t just nudging each other for space. The only one who could explain this to her was God Himself. Once God speaks to a person, they become a prophet. When God answered her question, Rivkah became a prophetess. When Isaac asked God to make Rivkah’s womb fruitful, God answered the prayer but He did not speak to Isaac directly. Yet God did speak with Rivkah directly.

God told Rivkah in Gen. 25:23, “Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.” Remember the second day of creation when we read that the waters were “gathered together and they departed one another?” In Hebrew it says there were a gathering of nations in Rivkah’s womb, not just two nations. You might call it a world war gathering in Rivkah’s womb.

Elder is not just first born or older, it normally means stronger as well, but Rivkah is being told that the older will serve the younger, insignificant one. Rivkah’s prophesy is about something in the deep future.

Esau was red and hairy baby. The word red in Hebrew is Edom, which means he was named Edom even at birth, but his primary name was Esau. His hair was also rough.

Ya’akov came out next, grabbing onto Esau’s heel. That is the literal meaning of Ya’akov’s name. He had a firm grip on Esau’s heel, attacking it. There’s a prophesy in Genesis given to Eve about a man crushing a serpent’s head but the serpent bruises the heel.

Let’s turn to Hosea for a moment. Hosea 12:2-4 says, “The Lord …will punish Jacob according to his ways; He will repay him according to his deeds. In the womb he took his brother by the heel, And in his maturity he contended with God. Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; He wept and sought His favor. He found Him at Bethel and there He spoke with us.” Jacob had strength and God challenged Jacob. It would be easy to say that Esau was the bad one and Jacob was the good one but God says here that He will punish Jacob for grabbing Esau’s heel. Esau couldn’t fight back when Jacob had grabbed his heel.

We interpret Rivkah’s prophesy as meaning that Esau, since he was born first, would be destined to serve Jacob, but what if it’s the other way around. What would that look like? What would that mean? We’ll look at that in later chapters of Genesis. 

We read that Esau grew up to be a “cunning hunter.” The word “cunning” has sinister implications in English but that is not implied in the Hebrew at all. It simply means he was a highly skilled hunter.

We read in Gen 25:29-30, “When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; and Esau said to Jacob, ‘Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.’ Therefore his name was called Edom.”

Some people think that Esau was just being dramatic or exaggerating his distress but Scripture doesn’t say that. Esau had been looking for something to eat for a long time and he had found nothing. Esau’s failure to find game to eat at this particular time was God’s doing, I believe. Jacob was taking advantage of Esau’s distress in this conspiracy.


Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.

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