Old Testament Lesson 09 (Genesis 24–27)
February 20–26

INTRODUCTION

The Time of These Events
— Isaac was born approximately 1900 BC.
— Isaac was forty years of age when he married Rebekah.
— Jacob and Esau were born twenty years later, or about 1840 BC.
— Jacob’s flight to Padan-aram, or Haran, likely occurred about 1800 BC.
— The twelve sons would have been born between 1800 BC. and 1780 BC.

In the line of Adam’s royal generations Abraham was the twentieth, Isaac the twenty-first, and Jacob the twenty-second.

The Place of These Events

● Isaac spent his whole life in an area of approximately 100 miles in diameter. Look at the bible maps in our LDS scriptures. On the northern edge of this circle would be Jerusalem, where Abraham took his son. Most of the circle would be in that part of southern Israel known as the Negev. Isaac lived mainly in three areas of the Negev: Beer-lahai-roi, Gerar, and Beersheba.

—Gerar is southwest of Jerusalem
—Beersheba is southeast of Gerar and 35 miles due west of the south end of the Dead Sea.
—Beersheba is 50 miles south of Jerusalem and in Old Testament times marked the southern border of the Judean kingdom.

● Isaac, a herdsman, and his large household found sufficient pasture and subsistence in the Negev. His tribe and flocks went where water was to be found, and like his father, Isaac dug many wells. Isaac was a peaceful man, according to the record, choosing to move on and dig new wells rather than fight for the ones he had already dug. The Lord prospered him exceedingly.

● Jacob traveled much farther, going to Haran in the northern regions of the Euphrates River. While fleeing to Padan-aram (Haran), Jacob had a remarkable vision at Bethel, where his grandfather, Abraham, had built an altar many years before. Eleven miles north of Jerusalem, Bethel later became the religious center of the Northern Kingdom. Jacob later went down into Egypt where his son Joseph preserved him in his old age.

Inheritance and Birthright

The scriptures in this section of the Bible often interchange these terms, making it hard to discern exactly what was being discussed. We would benefit from understanding the differences between them.

Inheritance: All male sons inherit an equal portion of their father’s wealth. But the oldest son receives two portions so that he can care for his mother and sisters (until they marry) and any widows or orphans that may exist among the family. This is true whether a son is righteous or not. Daughters inherit through their husband’s families only.

Birthright: This has reference to the right to preside as a priesthood “patriarch” to the family. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “It appears that anciently under the Patriarchal Order certain special blessings, rights, powers, and privileges—collectively called the birthright—passed from the father to his firstborn son. (Gen. 43:33). In later ages special blessings and prerogatives have been poured out upon all the worthy descendants of some who gained special blessings and birthrights anciently. (3 Ne. 20:25–27). Justification for this system, in large part, lies in the pre-existent preparation and training of those born in the lines destined to inherit preferential endowments.”1

The Rules of Primogeniture

To understand the stories of Jacob and Esau and then the stories of the twelve tribes of Israel, we must know something about how the birthright was granted to new generations in ancient Israel. The rules for this procedure are called the rules of primogeniture:
— The oldest son of each wife in turn has birthright before all others.
— Thereafter, the order of birth prevails, according to mother.
— Natural-born children inherit before children of a wife’s handmaiden.
— Children of handmaidens are considered children of the owning wife.

Birthright — The Requirement of Righteousness

● Being the firstborn is not enough to receive Abraham’s birthright. In determining the heir to the covenant, the Lord chose:

— Isaac over his older brother Ishmael, and Jacob over his older brother Esau (Galatians 4:22–23).
— Joseph over his older brother Reuben (1 Chronicles 5:1–2).
— Ephraim over his older brother Manasseh (Genesis 48:17–20).

● For Abraham’s family righteousness is also required for birthright:

— Marrying outside the pure blood of the patriarchs disqualifies all children of such wives from birthright, though not from inheritance.
— The right of patriarchal presidency is granted only on condition of the keeping of all these requirements.

ISAAC — THE COVENANT CONTINUES

Rebekah—Finding a Wife for Isaac

Genesis 24:1–8   Abraham sent his servant to Haran to find a covenant-qualifying wife for Isaac. Abraham was concerned about finding a righteous wife for his son. She was not to come from among the Canaanites but from his extended family.

— The Joseph Smith Translation says the servant put his hand under the hand rather than the thigh of Abraham (vv. 2, 8; JST vv. 3–4). The gesture was a token of the covenant between the two men—similar to our shaking hands.

● Abraham promised God’s protection and direction to his servant (v. 7).

Genesis 24:12–14   Abraham’s servant was trustworthy, loyal, prayerful, and faithful. Faced with a tremendously challenging task, he turned to the Lord for help. Even after a long journey, he wouldn’t eat until he had finished his errand for Abraham. Rather than stay for a 10–day celebration, he wanted to take Rebekah and return directly to Abraham.

Genesis 24:15–20   The servant met Rebekah at the well.

— The King James Bible says Rebekah was very beautiful, but the JST says she was the most beautiful woman the servant had ever seen (v. 16).
— Rebekah was also a hard worker and was quick to serve (v. 19). Considering the capacity of a thirsty camel, it took considerable effort for Rebekah to draw water by hand for ten camels.

Genesis 24:24–27   Rebekah identified herself as being of Abraham’s kin. The servant rejoiced.

Genesis 24:49–51   How the servant knew she was the chosen wife for Isaac.

Genesis 24:58–59   Her family agreed. Rebekah also agreed to return and marry Isaac. She said simply, “I will go.”

Genesis 24:60   The prophetic blessing pronounced by Rebekah’s family—“be thou the mother of thousands of millions” (billions).

Genesis 24:61–67   Isaac and Rebekah were married. Given her great faith and other wonderful qualities, it is little wonder that “he loved her.”

Jacob and Esau Are Born

Genesis 25:1–4, 11–18   Other families from Abraham are listed. Notice that there are Twelve Tribes of Ishmael from which the Arabs descend (v. 16).

Genesis 25:5–10   Abraham died. “Gathered to his people” shows that they believed in life after death (v. 5).

Genesis 25:19–21   Rebekah “was barren.” This simple statement is more poignant when one realizes that Isaac and Rebekah went childless for 20 years—and being childless was considered a great curse in that culture (vv. 20, 26).

Genesis 25:22–23   Rebekah received a revelation concerning her sons—and which one of them will be the covenant child. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “May I now take our common ancestor, Rebekah, as a pattern for what her daughters in the Church today can do? .  . . . When Rebekah was troubled and needed divine guidance she herself took the matter up with the Lord, and he spoke to her in reply. The Lord gives revelation to women who pray to him in faith.”2

Genesis 25:24–28   Esau and Jacob, the heirs of Isaac, are born. Jacob was a “plain man” (vv. 27–28; JST Genesis 25:22). The Hebrew word used there means “whole, complete, or perfect.” Rebekah favored Jacob. Esau was a “cunning hunter,” and Isaac “loved” him—meaning he “favored” or “preferred” him.

Covenant Promises Rejected by Esau

Genesis 25:29–34   Esau sold his birthright (not his inheritance). Edom means “red” (v. 30). The Edomites played a significant role as antagonists to the Israelites. They inhabited the territory around Mount Seir between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea (Genesis 36). Esau’s action shows more scorn than hunger (v. 32). Jacob would almost certainly have fed Esau freely if his life were in jeopardy. The point of this account is primarily to show how little Esau valued his birthright.

Genesis 26:34–35   Esau also married two Canaanite women, breaking the covenant. The problem was not necessarily one of nationality but of faith. Please note the following examples which show that it is mostly about righteousness, not race:

—The three faithful virgins who were sacrificed in Abraham’s youth were Hittites.
—Abraham married Hagar, an Egyptian, who was faithful and received revelation.
—Joseph married Asenath, the daughter of Potipherah the priest of On in Egypt, who was the mother of Ephraim and Manasseh.

The Covenant Promises Are Renewed with Isaac

Genesis 26:1–5, 24–25   The Lord reaffirmed the covenant with Isaac.

Genesis 26:29   Isaac was blessed because of his willingness to obey his righteous father.

Genesis 26:6–33   We do not know many details of Isaac’s life, but we do know that he lived peaceably among his Philistine neighbors, not contending with them for the water that was necessary to sustain life. Even those neighbors recognized that the Lord was with Isaac.

THE BIRTHRIGHT CONTINUES THROUGH JACOB

Jacob Receives the Birthright from Isaac

Genesis 27:1–13   Rebekah intervened to insure Jacob got the birthright blessing.

Genesis. 25:22–24   Rebekah knew by personal revelation that Jacob was to be the son of the covenant. Jacob reluctantly gave in to his mother’s wishes after she told him that she would take the responsibility for it (v. 24). Rebekah and Jacob deliberately deceived Isaac and Jacob explicitly lied to his father. They believed it was necessary because Isaac favored Esau.

Genesis 27:33   Once Isaac learned of the deception, he could have revoked the blessing and given it to Esau. Instead, he told Esau, “Yea, and he shall be blessed.”

Genesis 28:3–4   Later, when Jacob was preparing to leave for Padan-aram to escape Esau’s wrath, Isaac clearly gave him the blessing of Abraham.

Genesis 27:34–46   Jacob’s blessing on Esau. “Esau was also blessed—with the bounties of the earth, and with the potential to cast off the yoke of oppression; but like most of us he valued what he had lost after it was gone and rued the day he had traded the birthright off to Jacob. He bitterly resolved to get revenge by fratricide when he saw the blessing of transmittal of the birthright actually confirmed upon the head of him to whom he had bartered the right to it. The alert and resourceful Rebekah averted a double tragedy (loss of both sons) by proposing to Isaac that they send Jacob away to find a proper wife in her home land. Thus she would remove him from harm proposed by Esau until feelings could cool. The proposition that he be sent for a proper wife apparently was approved immediately by Isaac, for doubtless he saw that it was true, as Rebekah said, that their life’s mission would be frustrated if Jacob married as Esau had.”3

Genesis 28:1–5   Isaac blessed Jacob with the birthright blessings of Abraham.

Genesis 28:6–9   Esau, to make amends, married a half-cousin, a daughter of Ishmael, a son of Abraham by his wife Hagar. But it was too late to preserve his birthright.

Notes:

1.  Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 87.
2.  In Conference Report, Tahiti Area Conference 1976, 16.
3.  Rasmussen, Introduction to the Old Testament, 2 vols. [1972], 1:47.

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