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.
25:27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skilled 18 hunter, a man of the open fields, but Jacob was an even-tempered man, living in tents. 19 25:28 Isaac loved Esau because he had a taste for fresh game, 20 but Rebekah loved 21 Jacob.
25:29 Now Jacob cooked some stew, 22 and when Esau came in from the open fields, he was famished. 25:30 So Esau said to Jacob, “Feed 23 me some of the red stuff – yes, this red stuff – because I’m starving!” (That is why he was also called 24 Edom.) 25
25:31 But Jacob replied, “First 26 sell me your birthright.” 25:32 “Look,” said Esau, “I’m about to die! What use is the birthright to me?” 27 25:33 But Jacob said, “Swear an oath to me now.” 28 So Esau 29 swore an oath to him and sold his birthright 30 to Jacob.
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
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.
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 (se’ar); 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 (se’ar), 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.
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.”
18 tn Heb “knowing.”
19 tn The disjunctive clause juxtaposes Jacob with Esau and draws attention to the striking contrasts. In contrast to Esau, a man of the field, Jacob was civilized, as the phrase “living in tents” signifies. Whereas Esau was a skillful hunter, Jacob was calm and even-tempered (תָּם, tam), which normally has the idea of “blameless.”
20 tn Heb “the taste of game was in his mouth.” The word for “game,” “venison” is here the same Hebrew word as “hunter” in the last verse. Here it is a metonymy, referring to that which the hunter kills.
21 tn The disjunctive clause juxtaposes Rebekah with Jacob and draws attention to the contrast. The verb here is a participle, drawing attention to Rebekah’s continuing, enduring love for her son.
22 sn Jacob cooked some stew. There are some significant words and wordplays in this story that help clarify the points of the story. The verb “cook” is זִיד (zid), which sounds like the word for “hunter” (צַיִד, tsayid). This is deliberate, for the hunter becomes the hunted in this story. The word זִיד means “to cook, to boil,” but by the sound play with צַיִד it comes to mean “set a trap by cooking.” The usage of the word shows that it can also have the connotation of acting presumptuously (as in boiling over). This too may be a comment on the scene. For further discussion of the rhetorical devices in the Jacob narratives, see J. P. Fokkelman, Narrative Art in Genesis (SSN).
23 tn The rare term לָעַט (la’at), translated “feed,” is used in later Hebrew for feeding animals (see Jastrow, 714). If this nuance was attached to the word in the biblical period, then it may depict Esau in a negative light, comparing him to a hungry animal. Famished Esau comes in from the hunt, only to enter the trap. He can only point at the red stew and ask Jacob to feed him.
24 tn The verb has no expressed subject and so is given a passive translation.
25 sn Esau’s descendants would eventually be called Edom. Edom was the place where they lived, so-named probably because of the reddish nature of the hills. The writer can use the word “red” to describe the stew that Esau gasped for to convey the nature of Esau and his descendants. They were a lusty, passionate, and profane people who lived for the moment. Again, the wordplay is meant to capture the “omen in the nomen.”
26 tn Heb “today.”
27 tn Heb “And what is this to me, a birthright?”
28 tn Heb “Swear to me today.”
29 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Esau) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
30 sn And sold his birthright. There is evidence from Hurrian culture that rights of inheritance were occasionally sold or transferred. Here Esau is portrayed as a profane person who would at the moment rather have a meal than the right to inherit. He will soon forget this trade and seek his father’s blessing in spite of it.
31 sn The style here is typical of Hebrew narrative; after the tension is resolved with the dialogue, the working out of it is recorded in a rapid sequence of verbs (“gave”; “ate”; “drank”; “got up”; “went out”). See also Gen 3:1-7 for another example.
32 sn So Esau despised his birthright. This clause, which concludes the episode, is a summary statement which reveals the underlying significance of Esau’s actions. “To despise” means to treat something as worthless or with contempt. Esau’s willingness to sell his birthright was evidence that he considered it to be unimportant.