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Genesis 25:19-26

Context
Jacob and Esau

25:19 This is the account of Isaac, 1  the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac. 25:20 When Isaac was forty years old, he married Rebekah, 2  the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean. 3 

25:21 Isaac prayed to 4  the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 25:22 But the children struggled 5  inside her, and she said, “If it is going to be like this, I’m not so sure I want to be pregnant!” 6  So she asked the Lord, 7  25:23 and the Lord said to her,

“Two nations 8  are in your womb,

and two peoples will be separated from within you.

One people will be stronger than the other,

and the older will serve the younger.”

25:24 When the time came for Rebekah to give birth, 9  there were 10  twins in her womb. 25:25 The first came out reddish 11  all over, 12  like a hairy 13  garment, so they named him Esau. 14  25:26 When his brother came out with 15  his hand clutching Esau’s heel, they named him Jacob. 16  Isaac was sixty years old 17  when they were born.

1 sn This is the account of Isaac. What follows for several chapters is not the account of Isaac, except briefly, but the account of Jacob and Esau. The next chapters tell what became of Isaac and his family.

2 tn Heb “And Isaac was the son of forty years when he took Rebekah.”

3 sn Some valuable information is provided here. We learn here that Isaac married thirty-five years before Abraham died, that Rebekah was barren for twenty years, and that Abraham would have lived to see Jacob and Esau begin to grow up. The death of Abraham was recorded in the first part of the chapter as a “tidying up” of one generation before beginning the account of the next.

4 tn The Hebrew verb עָתַר (’atar), translated “prayed [to]” here, appears in the story of God’s judgment on Egypt in which Moses asked the Lord to remove the plagues. The cognate word in Arabic means “to slaughter for sacrifice,” and the word is used in Zeph 3:10 to describe worshipers who bring offerings. Perhaps some ritual accompanied Isaac’s prayer here.

5 tn The Hebrew word used here suggests a violent struggle that was out of the ordinary.

6 tn Heb “If [it is] so, why [am] I this [way]?” Rebekah wanted to know what was happening to her, but the question itself reflects a growing despair over the struggle of the unborn children.

7 sn Asked the Lord. In other passages (e.g., 1 Sam 9:9) this expression refers to inquiring of a prophet, but no details are provided here.

8 sn By metonymy the two children in her womb are described as two nations of which the two children, Jacob and Esau, would become the fathers. The language suggests there would be a struggle between these nations, with one being stronger than the other. The oracle reveals that all of Jacob’s scheming was unnecessary in the final analysis. He would have become the dominant nation without using deception to steal his brother’s blessing.

9 tn Heb “And her days were filled to give birth.”

10 tn Heb “look!” By the use of the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”), the narrator invites the audience to view the scene as if they were actually present at the birth.

11 sn Reddish. The Hebrew word translated “reddish” is אַדְמוֹנִי (’admoni), which forms a wordplay on the Edomites, Esau’s descendants. The writer sees in Esau’s appearance at birth a sign of what was to come. After all, the reader has already been made aware of the “nations” that were being born.

12 tn Heb “all of him.”

13 sn Hairy. Here is another wordplay involving the descendants of Esau. The Hebrew word translated “hairy” is שֵׂעָר (sear); the Edomites will later live in Mount Seir, perhaps named for its wooded nature.

14 tn Heb “And they called his name Esau.” The name “Esau” (עֵשָׂו, ’esav) is not etymologically related to שֵׂעָר (sear), but it draws on some of the sounds.

15 tn The disjunctive clause describes an important circumstance accompanying the birth. Whereas Esau was passive at birth, Jacob was active.

16 tn Heb “And he called his name Jacob.” Some ancient witnesses read “they called his name Jacob” (see v. 25). In either case the subject is indefinite.

sn The name Jacob is a play on the Hebrew word for “heel” (עָקֵב, ’aqev). The name (since it is a verb) probably means something like “may he protect,” that is, as a rearguard, dogging the heels. It did not have a negative connotation until Esau redefined it. This name was probably chosen because of the immediate association with the incident of grabbing the heel. After receiving such an oracle, the parents would have preserved in memory almost every detail of the unusual births.

17 tn Heb “the son of sixty years.”



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