At the start of today’s reading, we see Ishmael’s descendants covered quickly. As I pointed out yesterday, Ishmael is the father of the Arab nations.
You will notice that Ishmael had twelve children, which correspond to twelve tribes. You may already know that the nation of Israel had twelve tribes as well. We shall see in future readings that these are the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob (Isaac’s son) whose name was changed to Israel later in life.
Ishmael is covered only briefly because the Bible is not a history of the world, but a history of the people of God. The chosen men of God descend through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so these are the men on which Scripture focuses. It is through the people of God that God has always intended to bless the world.
In Romans 9, Paul uses Esau and Jacob as an example of God’s sovereign choice. God chose to pass the lineage on through Jacob even before he and his older twin brother were born.
This proved to be a wise choice. I’m sure that all God’s choices are based on foreknowledge, so it is no surprise (Acts 2:23; Rom. 8:29; 1 Pet. 1:2). For all of the deception Jacob practiced in his life, he always stood by God. Esau, on the other hand, threw away his inheritance for a bowl of soup because he was hungry. He has since been used as an example by Scripture of one who "despised his birthright" (Gen. 25:34; Heb. 12:16).
Esau’s birthright was the right as the firstborn to inherit his father’s land and possessions. His younger brother would have to make his way in the world, but Esau had a first right to everything his father possessed.
So we have been granted a birthright as the younger brothers and sisters of Jesus, the Firstborn (Rom. 8:29). It is clear that God expects us to honor and guard that birthright. We must not throw it away or risk it for our own desires (Heb. 12:15-16).
Isaac Doesn’t Go to Egypt
The beginning of chapter 26 may seem like a small matter, but it is not. Egypt represents human strength in Scripture versus relying on God’s strength (Is. 30:2-3; 31:1-3). Here we have our first example of someone being told not to go to Egypt for safety.
Sometimes it is okay to use the help of men. Even Jesus went to Egypt for safety from Herod (Matt. 2:13). It is important, however, that we seek God before making decisions to rely on the strength of men (2 Chr. 16:7,12).
Woe to the rebellious children … who proceed to Egypt without consulting me. (Is. 30:1-2, NASB)
Miscellaneous Genesis 26 Items
- You will notice in 26:6-11 that Isaac follows in his father Abraham’s footsteps and puts his wife at risk to save his neck. Once again, the mercy of God intervenes, and Isaac’s wife is returned to him.
- In chapter 26, there is much discussion about wells. It is likely that the origins of names of places in Canaan land are being given.
- After Abimelech, in fear, drives Isaac away, he comes back to him. Why? It is because Abimelech sees the blessing of God upon Isaac. Proverbs 16:7 says, "When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him."
- I left LORD capitalized in the Prov. 16:7 quote because I don’t want you to forget the meaning of a capitalized LORD or GOD in the old covenant writings (end of Gen. 16-20 commentary.
Genesis 27: Blessings and Curses
Genesis 27 is where God brings his prophecy concerning Jacob to pass. What Jacob does is deceptive, but God used it to accomplish his will.
What is of primary note in this chapter is the matter of blessings and curses. It is impossible to miss how real these were to Isaac and his family.
They are real to God as well, who teaches us that life and death are in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21). Many "word of faith" teachers have taken this to a foolish extreme, but we must not throw out the baby with the bathwater. It would be good for us to learn how to bless.
Esau may have hated his brother Jacob (not without reason), but he was nonetheless moved by Jacob’s righteousness in the matter of his wives. In the same way our lives will influence even those who hate us if we will choose the ways of God.
The story of Jacob’s dream, of the pillow of stone that he named Bethel, and the oil that he poured upon it are so rich in allegorical meaning that we cannot cover it here. It is well worth further study. "Bethel" means "house of God," and it applies both to the church and to Christ himself (Jn. 1:51). Oil, in Scripture, always represents the Holy Spirit.
In Genesis 19, we saw that Abraham gave a tenth of his riches to Melchizedek. Here, in Genesis 28, Jacob promises to give a tenth of all God provides back to God. Have you ever considered how Jacob would do that? Where would Jacob bestow a tithe?
I don’t have a certain answer, but Proverbs 19:17 says that those who have pity on the poor lend to the Lord.
It is good to ask that question today, when rich men running extravagant organizations ask for money to be given to the Lord. Why would giving to the Lord have anything to do with giving to those rich ministries? It is the poor whom the Lord has concern over.
Please don’t misunderstand. Giving to churches can be a good thing if the money is spent wisely, if the needy are helped, and if the Gospel is preached as a result. Nonetheless, Christianity in America hardly needs one more building and one more set of professional ministers (cf. Acts 20:33-35).
Finally, despite how many professionals disagree with me, tithing is not a new covenant principle. This should not be taken to mean that we cannot have full-time shepherds and teachers (1 Cor. 9).