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Go to Bible: Genesis 25
“Abraham had taken another wife.” This would have been after Sarah died, but before Isaac married Rebekah.(top)
|Gen 25:2||- (top)|
|Gen 25:3||- (top)|
|Gen 25:4||- (top)|
|Gen 25:5||- (top)|
|Gen 25:6||- (top)|
|Gen 25:7||- (top)|
|Gen 25:8||- (top)|
“before Mamre.” The Hebrew culture was oriented to the East, not the North like the Western culture is. So for the cave of Machpelah to be “before Mamre,” it was east of Mamre.(top)
|Gen 25:10||- (top)|
|Gen 25:11||- (top)|
|Gen 25:12||- (top)|
|Gen 25:13||- (top)|
|Gen 25:14||- (top)|
|Gen 25:15||- (top)|
“12 rulers according to their tribal groups.” These 12 rulers fulfilled the prophecy given in Genesis 17:20.(top)
|Gen 25:17||- (top)|
“And he settled.” The text uses the word “he” to point to Ishmael, not specifically to his descendants. God made promises about Ishmael that He had to honor (cp. Gen. 17:20; 21:18). In fact, that explains part of why this section on Ishmael is in the Bible. If God would fulfill His promises about the lesser son, Ishmael, then He certainly will fulfill His promises of the Messiah, the Promised Seed. The point of telling us where the descendants of Ishmael settled is more than just a geographical fact, it is to assure us that when Abraham sent his other children away from Isaac that they really did settle down away from him and in that manner Isaac’s line to the Promised Seed was separated from theirs.
“east of Egypt.” The Hebrew reads, “before Egypt,” and if the word “before” is used in a specific context it can indicate anything the person is “before” (in front of), but when used standing alone it means “east;” the biblical custom was that people were oriented to the east just as in our Western world we are oriented to the north, and all our maps are made with north at the top. So for the people to settle “before Egypt” meant that they settled east of Egypt.
“And he lived in hostility.” The Hebrew phrase is brief and no doubt purposely ambiguous. The Hebrew text can mean to settle down and live in a place, but it is also used of raiding and thus being hostile to others, and it was a matter of convenience that most intertribal raiding was done to the tribes that were close by. This phrase is an amphibologia (double entendre), and both meanings—living near and living in hostility to—are true and no doubt intended. Actually, this is a fulfillment of the prophecy about Ishmael in Genesis 16:12: “He will be a wild donkey of a man. His hand will be against every man and every man’s hand will be against him. He will live in hostility to all of his brothers.” Like this verse, the last phrase in Genesis 16:12 can also mean he will live alongside of his brothers, but the wording of 16:12 makes the hostility more apparent.
Given the two different meanings of Genesis 25:18, we can see why different versions went with different translations. Thus, “they pitched camp alongside their various kindred” (NAB); and “he settled near all his kinsmen” (CJB); are in contrast to, “he lived in opposition to all his brothers” (HCSB); “they lived in hostility toward all their brothers” (NIV). We felt that since this was a partial fulfillment of the prophecy of Genesis 16:12, and because it was a general practice to raid the tribes close by, translating in a way that pointed out the hostility between the tribes was more important than pointing out that the tribes lived close to each other.(top)
|Gen 25:19||- (top)|
“the Aramean.” Older versions such as the KJV have “the Syrian.” Biblical Aram is in large part the area of Syria today, but it was called Aram.(top)
|Gen 25:21||- (top)|
“struggled mightily.” The Hebrew word is actually to crush or oppress, and it suggests a mighty struggle. Rebekah knew what was going on inside her was not normal so she sought Yahweh about it.
“If it is so, why am I this way.” The meaning of the Hebrew phrase in this context is uncertain. The literal is basically, “If so, why I this,” which is idiomatic and fleshes out to more like “If this is so, why am I this way? But what Rebekah meant by that idiomatic phrase in this context is debated. One suggestion is, “If it’s going to be like this, why go on living” (CJB). But we doubt that is her meaning. Another suggestion is, “If it is going to be like this, I’m not so sure I want to be pregnant” (NET). That translation seems to be a modern sentiment erroneously moved back into the biblical era. Pregnancy and having a child in that culture was so important to a woman (and these were her first children) that it is unlikely that she would have not wanted to be pregnant. To us, a much more likely meaning in the context is “Why is this happening to me” (HCSB; NIV; cp. ESV). It makes sense that Rebekah, after asking herself why this was happening to her, went and sought Yahweh for an answer. In seeking an answer from Yahweh, Rebekah is a good example to us. Too many people wonder what is going on in their life but never diligently ask the Lord for an answer.(top)
“will be divided.” This is a great example of how sometimes when we seek God for an answer, we really have to think and pray about the answer He gives. Although it may seem like God is saying that the two nations will be divided from Rebekah’s body when she gives birth, that is not the meaning of the text. The NRS gets the sense of what God is saying: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided.” This is an early prophecy of the future of Israel and the Arab tribes and how they will be divided and struggle with each other.
The two children were Jacob and Esau, and one of the two had to be greater, and the prophecy stated that the elder, who turned out to be Esau (who became the Edomite nation), would serve the younger, Jacob (who fathered the tribes of Israel). It was God’s choice to bring the Messiah through Jacob, although Esau and his descendants would have been blessed if they had obeyed Yahweh and stayed faithful to Him. Sadly, Rebekah did not believe that God could bring about His purposes in an honest manner (and she may have forgotten this prophecy), and worked with Jacob to deceive Isaac when he was blind so that Jacob could have his father’s blessing (Gen. 27:1-45). Her deceit cost her greatly because then her favorite son had to leave the country to escape Esau’s vengeance, and she died before seeing him again. Rebekah’s actions and consequences teach us that we need to remember what God said and trust it even when it does not look in the flesh as if God can bring His purposes to pass.(top)
|Gen 25:24||- (top)|
“reddish.” The Hebrew reader already gets a peek at what will become of Esau. The word “reddish” is admon, which is a pun with Edom, the nation he would father.
“Esau.” The name means “hairy.”(top)
“He was named Jacob.” For an overview of the chronology of Jacob, see commentary on Genesis 47:9.(top)
|Gen 25:27||- (top)|
“loved.” This is a good biblical example of when the word “love” is used in the cultural and idiomatic sense of “liked more,” or “preferred.” Both Isaac and Rebekah loved their children, but Isaac favored Easu while Rebekah favored Jacob.(top)
“exhausted and hungry.” The Hebrew word is ayep (#05889 עָיֵף), and it means exhausted, weary, but in this context it means both from effort and from hunger, which is why the versions are divided between “exhausted, weary” and “famished, hungry.” Like the NLT, we felt both those things were important to bring out in this verse so we added “hungry” in italics.(top)
“gulp down.” The Hebrew for “gulp down” is not any of the regular words for eat, such as appears in Genesis 25:34, but rather laat (#03938 לָעַט), which is to gulp down, swallow greedily, devour. It is used in later Hebrew of the way animals eat. “Gulp down” seems to catch the meaning and intensity very well (cp. CJB; NAB), especially in comparison to translations such as “let me eat,” or “feed me,” which don’t seem to properly catch the desperation that Esau was feeling, and that Jacob picked up on and thus asked such a high price for a meal.
“that red stuff, that red stuff.” Esau’s desperation is easily seen in the desperate and emphatic way he expresses himself, and also in his willingness to sell his birthright. The Hebrew for “that red stuff” is one word in the Hebrew text repeated two times with the same meaning, making this the figure of speech epizeuxis, repetition for emphasis. We might say the same kind of thing if we came home from work very hungry and said to a family member: “I’m starving; starving!”
“exhausted and hungry.” See commentary on Genesis 25:29.
“Edom.” “Edom” means “red.”(top)
“First.” The Hebrew reads “today,” but Jacob means right now, before you eat. Most versions render this as “first.” The Shocken Bible renders it “here and now.”(top)
|Gen 25:32||- (top)|
|Gen 25:33||- (top)|
“ate and drank and rose up and went off.” The Hebrew verbs, all joined by “and,” portrays a quick and “businesslike” succession of events. Jacob and Esau were rivals, which is why Jacob demanded such a high price for some lentil stew when under ordinary family circumstances we would think Jacob would have seen Esau coming in tired and hungry and gladly offered to feed him and be kind to him. There was no friendly family chat at this meal.(top)