The Story Of Isaac
This is the story of Abraham’s son Isaac. Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebecca, the daughter of Bethuel (an Aramean from Mesopotamia) and sister of Laban.
Genesis 25:19-20 (GNT)
When Isaac was forty years old, God selected Rebekah to be his wife; and we have every reason to believe that they were both devoted to the Lord and to each other. The record indicates that Rebekah was the more aggressive of the two when it came to family matters, but perhaps that’s just the kind of wife Isaac needed. Whatever mistakes Isaac may have made as a husband and father, this much is true: As a young man, he willingly put himself on the altar to obey his father and to please the Lord.
A Disappointed Home
Isaac pleaded with the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children. The LORD answered Isaac’s prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins.
Genesis 25:21 (NLT)
Not much information is given about Isaac. Most of the things related in Scripture about him were in connection with him being the promised heir of Abraham. But this instance does show that Isaac had at least learned something from his father. He didn’t go in to Rebekah’s handmaid in an attempt to father children as Abraham had done. Instead they turned to God in prayer and were rewarded with twins.
We also have to remember that the choice of Rebekah to be Isaac’s wife was a miraculous answer to prayer (Genesis 24). Isaac was the miraculous seed, and Rebekah was a miraculous provision from God. Everything pointed to God giving them children, but they remained childless for 20 years. This must have tried their faith.
The entire Book of Genesis emphasizes the sovereignty of God and the wisdom of His “delays.” Abraham and Sarah had to wait twenty-five years for Isaac to be born; Jacob had to labor fourteen years to obtain his two wives; and Joseph had to wait over twenty years before he was reconciled to his brothers. Our times are in His hands (Ps. 31:15), and His timing is never wrong.
Like Abraham, Isaac was a man of prayer; so he interceded with the Lord on behalf of his barren wife. Isaac had every right to ask God for children because of the covenant promises the Lord had made to his father and mother, promises Isaac had heard repeated in the family circle and that he believed.
If Rebekah remained barren, how could Abraham’s seed multiply as the dust of the earth and the stars of the heavens?
How could Abraham’s seed become a blessing to the whole world?
It has well been said that the purpose of prayer is not to get our will done in heaven but to get God’s will done on earth. Even though every Jewish couple wanted children, Isaac wasn’t praying selfishly. He was concerned about God’s plan for fulfilling His covenant and blessing the whole world through the promised Messiah.
True prayer means being concerned about God’s will, not our own wants, and claiming God’s promises in the Word. The Lord answered Isaac’s prayer and enabled Rebekah to conceive.
But the two children struggled with each other in her womb. So she went to ask the LORD about it. “Why is this happening to me?” she asked.
And the LORD told her, “The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son.”
Genesis 25:22-23 (NLT)
One problem soon led to another, because Rebekah’s pregnancy was a difficult one: The babies in her womb were struggling with each other. The Hebrew word means, “to crush or oppress,” suggesting that the fetal movements were not normal. Since Rebekah wondered if the Lord was trying to say something to her, she went to inquire. Isaac was fortunate to have a wife who not only knew how to pray but who also wanted to understand God’s will for herself and her children.
In salvation history, the conception and birth of children is a divinely ordained event that has significant consequences. This was true of the birth of Isaac (chaps. 18, 21), the twelve sons of Jacob (29:30-30:24), Moses (Ex. 1), Samuel (1 Sam. 1-2), David (Ruth 4:17-22), and our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 4:4-5). Conception, birth, and death are divine appointments, not human accidents, a part of God’s wise and loving plan for His own people (Ps. 116:15; 139:13-16).
Imagine Rebekah’s surprise when she learned that the two children would struggle with each other all their lives! Each child would produce a nation, and these two nations (Edom and Israel) would compete, but the younger would master the older. Just as God had chosen Isaac, the second-born, and not Ishmael, the firstborn, so He chooses Jacob, the second-born, and not Esau, the firstborn. That the younger son should rule the elder was contrary to human tradition and logic, but the sovereign God made the choice (Rom. 9:10-12); and God never makes a mistake.
When it was time for Rebekah to give birth, she saw that she was carrying twins. The first came out red—his entire body like a hairy blanket—so they named him Esau. His brother followed with his hand clutching Esau’s heel, so they named him Jacob. Isaac was 60 years old when Rebekah gave birth to the twins.
When the boys grew up, they could not have been more different. Esau became a skillful hunter and preferred to be outdoors. Jacob, on the other hand, grew up to be a contemplative man, content to stay at home. 28 Esau was Isaac’s favorite because he was fond of good meat, but Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite.
Genesis 25:24-28 (VOICE)
The twin boys not only looked different but they also were different in personality. Esau was a robust outdoorsman, who was a successful hunter, while Jacob was a “home-boy.” You would think that Isaac would have favored Jacob, since both of them enjoyed domestic pursuits, but Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite. Rebekah was a hands-on mother who knew what was going on in the home and could engineer ways to get what she thought was best.
It’s unfortunate when homes are divided because parents and children put their own personal desires ahead of the will of God. Isaac enjoyed eating the tasty game that Esau brought home, a fact that would be important in later family history. Isaac, the quiet man, fulfilled his dreams in Esau, the courageous man, and apparently ignored the fact that his elder son was also a worldly man.
Did Isaac know that Esau had forfeited his birthright?
The record doesn’t tell us. But he did know that God had chosen the younger son over the elder son.
The fact that God had already determined to give the covenant blessings to Jacob didn’t absolve anybody in the family from their obligations to the Lord. They were all responsible for their actions, because divine sovereignty doesn’t destroy human responsibility. In fact, knowing that we’re the chosen of God means we have a greater responsibility to do His will.