Old Testament Reading Guide -February 13-19, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Genesis 25:19-34            Jacob and Esau

While we won’t be discussing it here, the first part of Chapter 25 of Genesis tells us that Abraham got married again after Sarah died.  His second wife’s name was Keturah and she bore to Abraham six more sons.  When Abraham died (at the age of 175 years) he left all that he had to Isaac.  (Abraham had distributed gifts while he lived to the sons of Keturah.)

So, Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah but, alas, she was found to be “barren”.  What does Isaac do about this?  He had to do something to make sure he had children otherwise what happens to the promise the LORD had made?
[He prays “to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren”. (v. 25:21 NIV)]

What is the difference here between Abraham/Sarah, and Isaac/Rebekah?
[The LORD had promised Abraham that he would have a son by Sarah, but the LORD’s timing is woefully slow for us.  We, like Abraham, want things to happen now; we, like Abraham, cannot wait for the LORD.  So Sarah takes matters into her own hands and tells Abraham to get himself a child from her servant Hagar.  That is Sarah’s solution to the problem.  We saw how that worked out.  Isaac’s solution was a much better one: he prayed to the LORD to provide him with a son.]

What was the result of Isaac’s prayer for a son?
[Rebekah conceived of twins: Esau and Jacob.]

Something troubles Rebekah while she is pregnant.  What is it?
[The twins in her womb begin to fight.  I think Rebekah was afraid she would miscarry of her baby.]

What does Rebekah do and what does she find out?
[Rebekah prays to the LORD and the first thing she finds out is that she is going to have twins – boys.  The next thing is a prophecy: “… the older will serve the younger.” (v. 25:23b NIV)  We have to respect both Isaac and Rebekah because it seems that their first recourse to a problem (certainly at this point) is to go the LORD in prayer.  Unhappily, as we shall see, that tendency does not continue.]

Since, as we have seen, names which are given in the Old Testament are meaningful, what is the significance of the names of Esau and Jacob?
[Esau may mean “hairy”; “… and his whole body was like a hairy garment”. (v. 25:25 NIV)  Esau and his descendents will also become known as Edom (a perennial enemy of the Jews [Israel] which may mean “red”: “The first to come out was red.” (v. 25:25 NIV)  Esau was ruddy and hairy; this will play an important role later in Esau’s life.  “His brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel…” (v. 25:26 NIV)  So Jacob actually means “he grasps the heel” [from the footnotes of the NIV], which, because of what happens later, came to mean “deceiver”.]

We know that Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born to him; how old was Isaac when his sons were born to him?
[Isaac was sixty years old when Esau and Jacob were born.)]

Now the trouble begins.  It will be important to remember the promise that the LORD made to Rebekah regarding her sons: i.e., “… and the older will serve the younger” (v. 25:23b NIV).  Why, do you suppose, Isaac loves Esau over Jacob?
[I believe that Isaac loves Esau as is first-born son.  To him belongs the inheritance (Isaac’s).  The thing is we don’t know if Isaac was ever aware of the prophecy that Rebekah had received from the LORD regarding Jacob – that he would inherit as a first-born son should.  Esau was the outdoorsman and he became an experienced hunter and Isaac “…had a taste for wild game…” (v. 25:28 NIV)]

“… but Rebekah loved Jacob.” (v. 25:28b NIV)  Why would Rebekah prefer Jacob over Esau?
[In truth, the Scripture does not tell us why Rebekah preferred Jacob, but perhaps her maternal instinct to protect the younger and less-favored son kicked in.  Perhaps she remembered the prophecy of the Lord.  Actually, I doubt she remembered the prophecy regarding her younger son given what happens next.]

Phase One

The next scene is phase one of Jacob’s plan to usurp Esau’s favor with Isaac (through deception).  What is significant about the stew?  (This is a minor detail but it proves of some importance in verse 25:30.)  What does Esau say about himself which sounds rather exaggerated?  What is the cost of that exaggeration?
[The significant thing about the stew is that Esau describes it as being “red”.  In verse 25:30 “That is why he [Esau] is also called Edom.”  Esau claims to be famished unto death.  “Look, I am about to die. … What good is the birthright to me?” (v. 25:32 NIV)  So Jacob requires Esau to surrender his birthright (as the first-born) for a bowl of (red) stew.  In the NIV Study Bible notes p. 46: “25:33 Swear to me first.  A verbal oath was all that was required to make the transaction legal and forever binding.”  Times certainly have changed: today such a notion would be laughable.]

Verse 25:34b sums up Esau’s attitude: “So Esau despised his birthright.”

Genesis 26:1-6 and 12-33       Isaac and Abimelech

In the first six verses of Chapter 26 we learn that Isaac went to see Abimelech of Philistia.  Many of the events of Isaac’s encounter with Abimelech are similar to those of his father Abraham’s dealings with another king of the same name (though unlikely the same man).  Verse two tells us that the LORD appeared to Isaac.  While the bible doesn’t tell us how that appearing happened, I think it was by means of a dream (for that was usually how the LORD met with people in those days).  What are the LORD’s instructions to Isaac?
[The LORD tells Isaac to remain in Gerar and not to go to Egypt.  Further, the LORD promises to increase Isaac’s blessings and then re-confirms the covenant or oath the LORD made to Abraham about his many offspring and that he would give them all the land of Canaan.]

While we can see several similarities between Abraham’s journey among the Philistines and Isaac’s, what is a striking difference?
[Abraham created a ruckus when first he entered the land of the Philistines by telling Sarah to admit that she was Abraham’s sister and not his wife.   Abimelech (I) bribed Abraham to leave his land so that the LORD would not destroy his people.  Isaac, on the other hand, was greatly blessed by the Lord and his flocks and herds multiplied thus making him very rich among the Philistines.  While they drove (and bribed) Abraham to leave, this Abimelech (II) commanded Isaac to leave because he was getting too powerful.  Isaac was not bribed.]

Isaac then digs a couple of wells over which the Philistines dispute.  He abandons them and finally digs a well where there is no dispute.  What does he call this well?  What does it mean?
[“He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it.  He named it Rehoboth, saying, ‘Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.’” (v. 26:22 NIV)  As indicated in the notes in the NIV, Rehoboth means “room”.]

We continue with the parallels in Abraham’s and Isaac’s lives.  Abraham makes a treaty with Abimelech (I) at Beersheba (“can mean ‘well of the oath’ or ‘well of seven’” NIV footnotes).  Isaac makes a treaty with Abimelech (II) also at Beersheba.

Genesis 27:1-29                    Jacob and Esau (Phase Two)

We have already seen that it is God’s plan that Jacob receive Isaac’s inheritance. (Gen. 25:23)  Since it appears that God cannot be trusted to keep his word, what do Jacob and Rebekah plan to secure the blessing to Jacob?
[They devise a scheme to deceive the blind Isaac by substituting Jacob for Esau.  Jacob lies to his father (who is on his deathbed!) telling Isaac that he is actually Esau.  Rebekah is complicit in this deception for she told Jacob exactly what he needed to do to get the blessing.  So Isaac blesses Jacob thinking he is Esau.  Keep in mind that the firstborn received a double potion of the inheritance.]

Did you ever wonder how things might have unfolded had everyone believed that God could be trusted to perform what he promised?

Genesis 27:30-45         Esau’s Portion

Esau had been sent on an errand to kill and prepare wild game for a meal for his father.  While he is gone Jacob pulls off his great caper.  Unawares, Esau returns with a hot meal (wild game) and presents it to Isaac who now is suspicious of having been tricked.  Isaac now knows that he has been deceived but he cannot withdraw his blessing from Jacob so Esau has to settle for second best.  What is Esau’s response to these events?
[“Isn’t he rightly named Jacob (deceiver)?  He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright (which Esau actually sold), and now he’s taken my blessing!” {v. 27:36 NIV}

What kind of blessing can Isaac give to Esau?
[None, really.  “Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above.  You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother.  But when you grow restless you will throw his yoke from off your neck.” (v. 27:39-40 NIV)]
What are Esau’s plans for Jacob?
[Very naturally, Esau holds a grudge against Jacob and plans to kill him once their father dies.

What is Rebekah’s advice to Jacob?
[She tells Jacob to go to her brother Laban until Esau’s passion subsides.  Jacob will learn he holds no candle to Laban when it comes to deception.]

Genesis 27:46-28:4                    Rebekah and Isaac’s Marital Plans for Jacob

What is Rebekah’s worry about Jacob’s bride?
[“If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from the Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.” (v. 27:46 NIV)

What is Isaac’s advice?
[“Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel.  Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother.” (v. 28:2 NIV)]

Genesis 29:1-20                        Jacob Meets His Match

Who is one of the first people that Jacob meets in Paddan Aram?  What is the connection?
[Jacob meets Rachel who happens to be his cousin – daughter of his mother’s brother (Laban).  It was love at first sight.]

How was Jacob received by Laban?
[He was embraced with: “You are my own flesh and blood.” (v. 29:14 NIV)]

Now the education begins.  What bargain does Laban make with Jacob for wages?
[Jacob agrees to work for Laban for seven (!) years to win the hand of Rachel.]

Genesis 29:21-35                   Jacob and Leah and Rachel

What goes wrong?
[Laban tricks Jacob.  Jacob had agreed to work for Laban for seven (!) years for the hand of Rachel. Jacob thought he was working for Rachel, but Laban married off his elder daughter Leah to Jacob instead.]

What is the irony of this event?
[Jacob calls Laban a “deceiver”; the very name he was given at birth.  He was tricked by someone who was better at it (deceiving) than he.]

What was Laban’s excuse for the “sleight of hand” played against Jacob?
[“It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one.”  (v. 29:27 NIV)]

What is the next bargain Jacob makes?
[Jacob agrees again to work another seven (!) years, this time for Rachel.]

What is the “bridal week” referred to in verse 27?
[It is a seven year period.]

What happened to Leah as a result of Jacob’s dealings with Laban?
[Jacob preferred Rachel to Leah.  “He loved Rachel more than Leah.” (v. 29:30 NIV)]

How did the LORD come to Leah’s rescue?
[“When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” (v. 29:31 NIV)]

How many times had Leah given birth during this time?  What were the names of her children?

[Leah gave birth four times: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.  Reuben is the firstborn who loses his status as firstborn for what amounts to rebellion (or usurpation); Levi will be ancestor of both Moses and Aaron; and Judah is the ancestor of both David and Jesus.]

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