Sermon: “Two Peoples Divided” (Genesis 25:19–34)
In the second half of Genesis 25, we turn the page from the life of Abraham to the lives of Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob. These new generations will deal with many of the same problems that Abraham faced. Indeed, the narratives of Genesis deliberately portray the many similarities between Abraham, his children, his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren. At the close of Abraham’s life, we have seen God fulfill only part of his promises to Abraham. The rest of the Genesis—and the rest of the Bible—will detail God’s work to fulfill all his promises to Abraham.
For as many ways as these new generations follow in the footsteps of Abraham, they also take their own paths. They lead their own lives, making their own choices for their own reasons. We must recognize the generational continuity in Abraham’s offspring after him, and yet we must study each of these figures on their own. Right from the beginning of the “generations of Isaac” (Gen. 25:19), the narratives put forward not only Isaac and Rebekah (the second generation), but Esau and Jacob (the third generation). Therefore, while we considered Abraham extensively on his own, the Scriptures now want us to evaluate and learn from Isaac and Rebekah in the light of their children, especially Jacob.
In these opening introductions to the generations after Abraham, we find a critical, basic distinction: heavenly-mindedness versus earthly-mindedness. Ever since God put enmity between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the serpent (Gen. 3:15), we have seen this enmity divide brothers (e.g., Gen. 4:1–26; 21:8–21) and even nations (e.g., Gen. 10–11; 25:5–18). This basic struggle comes once again to the forefront in the sharp distinction between Esau and Jacob—that is, between brothers who will become the fathers of two nations (Gen. 25:23). Although our Lord Jesus was not speaking about this passage, he articulated the main lesson we should glean from Genesis 25:19–34 in his Sermon on the Mount: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).