Torah Portion for week 6: Genesis 25:19 – 28:9
At the end of the previous Torah portion, Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac (Gen 25:5) and died (Gen 25:8). To remove any uncertainties regarding the identity of Abraham’s physical and spiritual successor, the text states, “After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son” (Gen 25:11). As is the case in the earlier genealogies in Genesis, the genealogy of the not-chosen son is given first, followed by the genealogy of the chosen son. Thus we have Ishmael’s genealogy in Genesis 25:12-18, followed immediately by the generations of Isaac in verse 19, where this week’s Torah portion begins.
It is interesting to note that Isaac’s wife Rebekah, like Sarah before her, is barren (Gen 25:21). Israel’s birth as a nation from barren wombs makes a strong theological statement: Israel’s story is the tale of God’s ability to bring hope from despair, light from darkness, life from death. It should come as no surprise to those who have carefully followed Israel’s sacred history that Israel’s promised Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isa 7:14).
Isaac prays to the LORD on behalf of his barren wife, and Rebekah conceives twins. According to Genesis 25:22, the boys kick and shove one another inside Rebekah’s womb. When Rebekah seeks the LORD for answers, he tells her plainly: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger” (Gen 25:23). This is far more than a family feud. Rather, this struggle is clearly the unfolding of the ongoing battle between the serpent’s seed and the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15, and it anticipates a time when the younger (Jacob and his children) will inherit the promises of Abraham.
What is more, it is important to realize that the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 casts its theological shadow on the whole of this week’s Torah portion. Given God’s promises to Rebekah, we are not surprised that Jacob gets the birthright when Esau exchanges it for a bowl of beans (Gen 25:34). And though the Torah doesn’t teach that the end justifies the means, Jacob’s deception of Isaac in chapter 27 lands him one of the most important blessings in all of Scripture. Speaking to Jacob, Isaac says, “Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers and may your mother’s sons bow down to you” (Gen 27:29).
Please note that the promises of this passage far exceed the Jacob we find in Genesis. Nowhere in the Torah do we find nations bowing down to Jacob. And it is Jacob, rather than Esau, who calls his brother “lord” (Gen 33:8). Again, this passage finds its origin in Genesis 3:15, and its fullness only in the Messianic King, Jacob’s greatest descendant. Several Messianic prophecies describe the Messiah’s rule over Israel and the nations in ways that echo Isaac’s blessing to Jacob; two of these are worth citing. In Genesis 49:8, 10 we read, “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. . . . The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”
The second prophecy is found in Psalm 72, a passage that not only describes the Messiah’s rule using several key words found in Isaac’s blessing, but also alludes to the defeat of the serpent in Genesis 3. In Psalm 72:9 we read, “May . . . his enemies lick the dust,” a clear allusion to Genesis 3:14; and in verse 11 it says, “May all kings fall down (or bow down) before him, all nations serve him!” Wow! May we see the fullness of these promises to Jacob come to fruition soon and in our day. Even so, come, Lord Yeshua!