It is perhaps not surprising that the story of Isaac and Rebekah echoes that of Abraham and Sarah. The lesson quarterly notes that both couples struggled with childlessness, both had to deal with disputes over wells, both went to a foreign land during a time of famine, both Abraham and Isaac lied about their marriages, and both families experienced rivalry between siblings. At the same time, both “laid claim to the covenant promises that had been made by God.”
- In what ways do our families of origin predispose us to certain patterns of life? Are there such things as “generational sins” which families struggle with?
- Abraham would not allow Isaac to take a Canaanite wife. Some have suggested that this means that marriage should only take place between those with similar religious views. Others suggest it signifies a need to marry within the same cultural group. Still others (and this would be less popular!) might interpret this to mean that one should marry within the extended family.
- Are any of these three rules that must be followed or merely guidelines?
- Are there “heroes of faith” who did marry outside their faith, culture, or family?
- As a result of her husband’s prayers (Gen 25:21), Rebekah conceives and gives birth to twins: Esau and Jacob. Apparently, each parent had a favorite son. Isaac, “loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob” (Gen 25:28).
- We tend to fault Isaac and Rebekah for their favoritism. However, is it possible not to have a favorite child? Is it wrong? Did God have a favorite too? Does God select some to bless and not others?
- In Old Testament times, a firstborn son received at least a double share of his father’s property when his father died (see Deut 21:15-17). Apparently, this was the “birthright” that Esau sold to Jacob for some bread and lentil stew (Gen 25:29-34). This act also carried religious connotations, for the covenant promises that God Isaac had inherited from Abraham were apparently also associated with this birthright (see Hebrews 12:16).
- Esau gave up something extremely valuable for the sake of food. Jacob, the scheming opportunist, took advantage of his brother’s weakness. Who was worse? Does it even matter? When have we done something similar?
- One of the greatest (of many!) deceptions in the story of Jacob and Esau is that of “stealing” Isaac’s blessing. In the Hebrew, the terms for birthright, blessing, and Rebekah are similar. There is a sort of tragic humor in the account. Esau sells his birthright (bekorah) to Jacob and now loses his blessing (berakah) at the hand of Rebekah (Gen 27:36)!
From our cultural perspective, Isaac’s blessing of Jacob over Esau could have been undone. He could have simply called them both in and corrected his mistake. In the biblical world, however, words of blessing and cursing were recognized as having power. Once spoken, words could not be “taken back.”
- The concept of “blessing” our children is foreign to most of us. We pray for our children, but few of us have been a part of a ceremony when a parent lays hands on their child and pronounces a blessing. Why have we ignored this very biblical practice? If we haven’t blessed our children in this way, shouldn’t we?
- Is it true that words, once spoken, can not be retracted? Is it true that words have tremendous power–power to “create” good and evil in our lives and the lives of those around us? If this is so, how should we respond?