Toledot – “Generations”

This week’s Torah portion is entitled Toledot, meaning “Generations.” Sibling rivalry began with Cain and Abel. It was evident with Isaac and Ishmael, and now with Esau and Jacob. And we see God’s sovereignty at work through the lives of His chosen people.

Chapter 25 focuses on Issac and his family. He was forty years old when he married Rebekah, who experienced infertility like her mother-in-law Sarah. So Isaac prayed, and after 20 years Rebekah became pregnant. This pregnancy was not merely by human effort, but the fulfillment of God’s covenant to bless and increase Abraham’s descendants.

As Rebekah’s pregnancy advanced, the twins struggled within her. She appealed to Adonai, who told her she was carrying two rival nations, one of which would be stronger than the other, and the older son would serve the younger. At birth the struggle continued, as Jacob clung to Esau’s heel.

The twins were very different in appearance, Esau very red and hairy, and Jacob smooth-skinned. As they grew older, they also grew apart. Esau became a skillful hunter, Jacob a peaceful man, preferring to live in tents. Esau, because of his hunting skills and cooking of beef dishes, was Isaac’s favorite. But Rebekah favored Jacob.

One day, Esau, returning exhausted and extremely hungry from a hunt, offered to trade his birthright to Jacob for some lentil soup and bread. In that moment, Esau considered his birthright to be of little value. This should caution us (as Hebrews 12 says) never to make the mistake of allowing our physical satisfaction to take precedence over our relationship with God.

In chapter 26 Isaac moved his family to Gerar in Philistia because of a great famine. Adonai appeared to him there, instructing him not to go to Egypt, and re-confirming the covenant He had made with Abraham: to be with him, to give him all the land of Canaan, innumerable descendants, and to make him a blessing to the world. What Adonai promised to Abraham, now extends to Isaac and his descendants.

While in Gerar, Isaac lied about his wife being his sister, as Abraham had done, because he feared for his life. But King Abimelech became aware of the lie and was angry; because if one of his men had slept with Rebekah, his entire kingdom would have been guilty before God. Abimelech warned everyone: “Whoever touches this man or his wife will be killed!” Isaac and Rebekah were thus protected by God.

Adonai caused Isaac to become very powerful and wealthy. His land was vast, and his flocks and herds multiplied, as did his family. He was envied by the Philistines, who constantly stopped up his wells with dirt. Eventually, Abimelech became fearful, and asked him to leave the region because he’d become too powerful. So, Isaac left the city of Gerar, camped for a short time in the adjacent valley, and later moved to Beersheba. There, Adonai appeared to him again, re-affirming His covenant. Isaac built an altar to Adonai and worshiped. Meanwhile, Esau continued to displease both God and his parents, by marrying two Hittite women. His descendants, the Edomites, later brought bitterness and affliction to Israel.

Chapter 27 describes a now very old and blind Isaac. Intending to give his older son Esau the patriarchal blessing before he dies, Isaac instructs Esau to hunt wild game, and prepare a tasty meal for him; after which he will bless him before Adonai. Rebekah overhears the conversation, and immediately informs Jacob, devising a scheme to deceive Isaac. She has Jacob bring two young goats from the flock, and prepares Isaac’s favorite meal. She instructs Jacob to take the meal to his father, but clad in Esau’s clothing, and his father would eat and bless him instead of Esau.

The plan seemed to have worked. Isaac gave Jacob the blessing of the first born. Furious to learn of the deception, Esau planned to murder his brother as soon as their father died. He believed Jacob had deprived him of a double inheritance. Learning of Esau’s intent, Rebekah advised Jacob to flee to her brother Laban’s home in Haran, and to stay there until Esau’s anger subsided. This would also prevent Jacob from choosing a Hittite wife. It’s interesting that Jacob would live for a time where his grandfather Abraham had sojourned.

In chapter 28, before sending Jacob away, Isaac warns Jacob not to marry any Canaanite woman, but to find a wife from among his uncle’s daughters. He blesses Jacob and prays that Adonai will continue the covenant blessings to him, with countless descendants, and many nations. The Abrahamic Covenant, once passed to Isaac, now continues through Jacob. That covenant included the land! This covenant is Israel’s destiny, and no man, government, or nation can change that fact!

In conclusion, Adonai was advancing His covenant purposes through Abraham, Isaac, and now Jacob. His plans were accomplished through the adversities in Jacob’s life. True spiritual growth and progress usually develop through  times of adversity and struggle. Adonai put a desire for the birthright in Jacob’s heart, Yes, he deceived his father, yet he loved the things of God, and was chosen to carry on the covenant. Esau’s mentality was characterized by poor choices and poor judgment. He didn’t value his spiritual birthright, trading it away for a meal, and marrying foreign women. What a stark contrast between the two!

If you think about it, we’re no different. Sometimes we’re dishonest, selfish, and seek physical pleasure rather than spiritual growth. When this happens, we become vulnerable to sin, and defiant of God’s word. But make no mistake, our choices determine our future. Let us make good and wise choices by studying God’s word, serving one another in love, and praying for one another constantly. Remember, Adonai chose us for His purpose – before all time, through the New Covenant. And in this New Covenant, we are blessed through Messiah Yeshua, in this life and in the World-To-Come.