Toldot – “Generations”

Moses compiled eleven genealogies in the book of Genesis. The parasha for this Shabbat is entitled Toldot, translated generations, histories or descendants. This Parasha covers the 9th of these genealogies or toldot, which is the account of the generations of Isaac.

Isaac’s wife Rebecca, like Sarah before her, had trouble conceiving. Isaac had learned from Abraham the painful mistake of trying to “help the Lord” in what happened with Sarah and Hagar and Ishmael. Isaac was determined not to repeat that mistake. So rather than take matters into his own hands, he did what all of us should do – He sought counsel from the Lord. Verse 21 says that Isaac prayed to Adonai on behalf of Rebecca. Sarah and Abraham had waited 25 years for Isaac. Rebecca and Isaac would wait 20 years.

Waiting on the Lord is an act of faith; not faith in an outcome that we dictate to God, but rather complete trust in God to guide in the right way, at the right time, according to His Will, and that it will end up working out for our good and His glory.

After 20 years of marriage, Rebecca became pregnant. Her pregnancy was especially painful, and the Lord told her it was due to her carrying twins in her womb, representing two nations.

And as Rabbi Paul would later attest, “Before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose in election might stand, Rebecca was told that the older would serve the younger.” God appointed Jacob, the younger, to inherit the Covenant promise before the boys were even born. This reminds us that God is Sovereign, and He chooses as He wills. In His omniscience, Adonai foresaw that Esau would prove uninterested in spiritual things.

Rebecca gave birth to the twins: a red-haired boy named Esau, and Jacob who followed, clutching his brother’s heel. Esau became a hunter, while Jacob was one who enjoyed staying close to his father’s camp and assisted his mother with various tasks.

One day, Esau came home from the field hungry, and pleaded with Jacob to give him some of the stew he was cooking. Jacob agreed to Esau’s request in exchange for his birthright – and Esau agreed.

Jacob didn’t have to bargain for the birthright. God had already promised it to him. How often do we attempt to manipulate people and circumstances to get what we want, instead of wisely trusting God to work things out in His time and in His way? When we do this, we treat things of great spiritual value in profane or crafty ways, and it usually ends badly.

Chapter 26 tells us that there was a famine in Canaan, and Isaac intended to escape the famine by traveling through Philistia to Egypt. But Adonai told him to remain in Philistia, so he settled in Gerar. God also informed Isaac that He would visit upon him all the blessings He had promised to Abraham.

Even though Isaac was heir to the land God swore to Abraham, it didn’t mean that life in the land would be without trouble or challenge. As there was a famine in Abraham’s time, so too was there a famine in Isaac’s day.

Gerar was the same place where his father Abraham deceived Abimelech, and almost compromised his wife. This chapter tells a similar story, similar both in the way Abraham and Isaac acted, and the way God acted. It’s interesting to note that the term Abimelech was a title, not a personal name. So this is why Abraham and Isaac each dealt with a king named Abimelech.

The Philistine king discovered that Rebecca was Isaac’s wife, and though he reprimanded Isaac, he issued a decree that no one harm them. While in Philistia, Isaac sowed crops, and enjoyed a supernaturally large harvest. Isaac became increasingly wealthy, and the Philistines became increasingly resentful of his wealth. Abimelech finally asked him to leave, and Isaac complied, moving away from the city and settling in the Gerar Valley.

Chapter 26 concludes by informing us that Esau when he was forty years of age, married two Hittite women, and it sorely displeased his parents.

In chapter 27 Isaac, now advanced in age and nearly blind, summoned Esau and told him that he wanted to convey the patriarchal blessing on him, but that first he should go to the field and hunt some game for him to eat. Rebecca heard this conversation and advised Jacob to disguise himself as Esau and trick his father into blessing him instead. Rebecca prepared meat and gave it to Jacob to bring to his father.

She also took hairy goatskins and put it on Jacob’s smooth arms and neck. Jacob approached his father and presented himself as Esau, and Isaac at the meal Rebecca had prepared.

Isaac blessed Jacob with the “dew of the heaven and the fat of the earth,” and granted him mastery over his brother. No sooner had the blessing been conferred when Esau arrived from the field, only to be told by his father – who now understood what had transpired – that the blessing was already given to his younger brother. Esau was furious and pleaded with his father, but Isaac had no blessing to confer on him; only a prophecy that he would dwell “away from the fatness of the earth” and live by his sword.

Esau was determined to kill Jacob, but Rebecca, who found out about his plans, asked Isaac to send Jacob to Haran to find a wife. Isaac did so, and blessed Jacob again before he departed. Isaac sent Jacob to his brother-in-law Laban’s home, to marry one of his daughters.

What none of them knew was that Jacob would be gone for many years, and Rebecca would never see her son again. Meanwhile, wanting to please his parents despite what had happened, Esau married again, this time a daughter of Ishmael rather than another Hittite. And this is where this portion of the Parasha’s scripture ends.

Let me close with a few thoughts. Men, we should learn from Isaac’s example and pray for our wives and our children. Adonai has given us the awesome responsibility of being the priests and prophets for our families. It is our responsibility to stand in the gap and intercede on our family’s behalf. Is your house in order? Are you carrying out your priestly duties and asking God to forgive not only your sins but the sins of your family members? Are you interceding on their behalf? I know before writing this Parasha I wasn’t doing a good job with regularity.

But the good news for me and whomever else here that this applies to is that if we are ready to make a commitment to Adonai to step up and embrace the biblical role of a husband and father Yeshua is ready to strengthen and embolden us to be successful.

I’ve never really understood the actions of either brother. Jacob deceived Isaac into giving him a blessing that God already said was his, and Esau wanted to kill his brother over an inheritance that he had given away years before in exchange for a bowl of stew.

Jacob should have patiently allowed God to work out this problem. God would certainly have overruled the situation with or without Isaac’s cooperation.

However, Jacob’s sin was not a sin of greed or blackmail, but rather a lack of faith. His presumption was in thinking that God needed his help in order to fulfill His word. Rebecca, too, thought God needed her help, and look what it cost her! We, too, are guilty of this impatience.

We take God at his Word, but frequently we will not wait for His time. The result is that we bring unexpected trouble upon others and ourselves. The question for us is

whether we are willing to learn from the pain that Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Rebecca suffered?

Let’s leave all of the timing and positioning to God, because He has a far bigger picture of any given situation than any one of us ever could. God is God and does not require our help. The term ‘God’ implies perfection in all things. He is infinitely perfect in His will and ways, and also in His timing. Rather than think we can “help” God out, we should surrender the things that cause us anxiety to Him and re-double our focus on reading and meditating on His Word. The Three-In-One God of Israel has promised to keep in perfect peace – shalom shalom those whose minds are steadfast (Isaiah 26:3).

No matter what happens in your life, if you love God and are among those “called according to His purpose,” He is going to work your situation out for your ultimate good and for His Glory. But let’s learn to wait on His timing.