NIB GENESIS 25:19-34, JACOB AND ESAU

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, Feb 6 2012 8:42 PM

http://www.logos.com/product/8803/new-interpreters-bible

Another example for this wonderful resource. Please consider this wonderful resource, now that it is at a very a very reasonable pre pub price.

-dan

 

GENESIS 25:19-34, JACOB AND ESAU 

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COMMENTARY

These verses introduce in almost snapshot fashion the leading figures of the chapters to follow: Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau. Events associated with the birth of Jacob and Esau (vv. 21-26) and their early life (vv. 27-34), while presented in brief and episodic fashion, set the stage well for the conflicted family relationships that ensue. The oracle in v. 23 specifies that national issues are at stake (Edomite and Israelite relationships), but the text grounds those realities in the experiences of individuals. The two principals shape history both before and after birth, with not a little help from their parents.

 25:19-26. The story begins with genealogical notes, wherein Abraham’s relationship to Isaac is stated twice (the NIV is probably correct in seeing v. 1a as a summary statement of the chapters that follow, cf. 37:2a). Verses 19b-20 recapitulate earlier material (cf. 24:67), though Isaac’s age is new information and Rebekah’s family roots are described in greater detail.

The story of Rebekah/Isaac parallels that of Sarah/Abraham. Isaac and Rebekah are identified with some precision (cf. 11:27-32). Like Sarah, Rebekah is barren (cf. also 30:1-2), though that does not become a major motif in this story. Isaac, like Abraham, is old when he becomes a father (sixty years). Unlike Abraham, Isaac prays concerning the barrenness of Rebekah, and God, the narrator testifies, responds to (more precisely, is  

 

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moved to answer) his prayer so that she conceives.

Rebekah’s prayer soon follows Isaac’s prayer. God responds differently to the two prayers, however. In the first, God enables conception; hence, one might speak of an “answer.” The second involves a more complicated issue. The pregnancy is difficult for Rebekah; the story dictates that the (fraternal) twins’ subsequent relationship has its roots in genetic rather than environmental factors. To suggest, however, that genetics equals destiny goes beyond the text, especially given the parental favoritism. She brings her lament to God in prayer (the language suggests a trip to a sanctuary), wondering whether life is worth all this suffering (the NRSV and the NIV differ on whether this has become a life-and-death matter for her; cf. 27:46).

God responds directly (an inner voice?) to her with an oracle. The oracle responds to an already existing situation; it does not start from “scratch.” God explains to her the reason for the painful pregnancy (twins) and interprets this as a sign of the future relationship between them and their descendants (v. 23); the struggle itself does not result from divine action. More specifically, the narrative moves beyond laws of primogeniture; either the older (Esau) will be the weaker of the two and will serve the younger (Jacob), or, more likely, the older will be the stronger but will serve the weaker and younger. If the latter, there would be a play on the word for “strength.” Either Esau is stronger physically—he wins the battle in the womb—and Jacob is stronger in other ways, or the one shall be stronger initially (Esau) but not finally (2 Sam 8:13-14). God is not described as an agent in these developments, which underscores the importance of human activity.

This oracle (consonant with Isaac’s later blessings on the sons, 27:29, 40; cf. also 49:8), as well as the plays on words, reflects later conflict between the two “nations” (i.e., peoples) of Israel and Edom and the hegemony of the former over the latter (see 2 Sam 8:13-14). They help to ground (perhaps even justify) that later reality in these ancient family events. At the same time, the move from present oracle to future reality was not necessary or inevitable. This oracle will inform Rebekah’s subsequent relationships to her sons in significant ways (see 25:28; 27:5-15, 42-46; 28:7).

When the twin boys are born, the narrator portrays them with features of their subsequent relationship: Esau, physical features; Jacob, action (this is reversed to some degree in v. 29). The Hebrew word for “red” (ynwmda )admônî, [or “ruddy”]; see 1 Sam 16:12) is a play on Edom, linked to the “red stuff” at v. 30 (see 36:1). The word for “hairy” (r[c Ze (Ar) is a play on Seir, the region where the Edomites lived, and is linked to the deception in 27:23. Why he is named Esau is uncertain. The meaning of Jacob (bq[y ya (aqob), also uncertain, plays on the word for “heel,” bq[ ((Aqeb), “grasp the heel,” or, less likely, the verb (Aqab (“he supplants, deceives”; see Esau’s interpretation in 27:36; Hos. 12:4). The name Jacob is associated with a feature of his birth and implies a uterine struggle to be born first, a struggle that Esau wins.

25:27-34.  The following two vignettes not only illustrate this birth relationship between the two brothers, but establish specific grounds for later conflict. The first (vv. 27-28) speaks to issues of life-style and intrafamilial relationships, the second (vv. 29-34) to economics and personal values.

The author describes the young men by referring to ways of life that often stood in tension: Esau with those who are at home in the wild, on the move with animals, and Jacob with those who live a more settled, pastoral way of life. The writer characterizes Jacob with the word !t (tAm), which both the NRSV and the NIV translate as “quiet” or mild-mannered; it normally means “innocent, upright” (see Job 1–2), which seems appropriate, at least at this point in his life. The writer juxtaposes the twins’ different interests and temperaments with the love of the parents (cf. 37:4), a realistic note, common among parents. Isaac’s love of Esau involves his ability to provide food (see Rebekah’s use of this knowledge in 27:7, 14), but also remains independent of the oracle, of which Isaac was unaware. The author offers no specific reason to explain Rebekah’s love for Jacob, but we may suppose it relates to what she knows about Jacob from the oracle.

How the second vignette is related to the oracle presents somewhat of a problem: Neither man was aware of the oracle or of the promise. Jacob does not act directly on the basis of the oracle, but Rebekah’s favoritism may have helped to shape the way he acts toward his brother. His “cooking” (an ambiguous word) scene may even 

 

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be contrived on the basis of his knowledge of Esau’s habits.

The birthright—namely, the conferral of rights and privileges on the eldest son (normally)—entails a leadership position in the family and establishes claims regarding inheritance, indeed a double share of it—no small matter in view of 25:5 (see Deut 21:15-17). This story (and ancient Near Eastern parallels) indicates that such rights could be forfeited by the one born into such a privileged position. Esau and Jacob relate to the birthright in different ways. Esau comes across as callous and uncaring, easily outwitted regarding what might “naturally” be his, desiring more a satisfied present than a secure future (though his reference to death may not be as hyperbolic as is usually thought). He sells or barters his birthright for Jacob’s lentil stew (i.e., “red stuff,” another play on his identity); that Esau initially identifies the “red stuff” as blood stew seems possible, but too uncertain to guide interpretation. Five verbs depict the moment: ate, drank, rose, departed, and despised. The last verb specifies the narrator’s judgment that more is at stake than a lapse in judgment. Although not justifying Jacob’s actions, that final verb demonstrates that Esau bears responsibility for what happens here. At the same time, Esau continues to live, in the light of the oracle that he, like Jacob, will become a people or nation (v. 23).

The author, on the other hand, presents Jacob as a clever and opportunistic individual, who knows what he wants. He takes advantage of a brother in need (of which Esau is later rightfully critical, 27:36) and his hospitality to his brother contrasts with both Abraham and Lot (chaps. 18–19). He carefully covers the legal bases when the opening for advancement presents itself, having Esau swear an inviolable oath in the urgency of the moment regarding the transfer of the birthright.

REFLECTIONS

1.  The story and Jacob and Esau begins with a struggle, which sets the stage for a complex and difficult journey for everyone within this conflicted family. At the same time, the texts witness to a God at work in and through this situation. The problems and possibilities created by the interaction between God and this family constitute the essence of the story of Jacob and Esau.

We should not cast struggle and conflict in totally negative terms. Hence, for God to subvert the law of primogeniture for the sake of the divine purposes opens the situation up to conflict; those who hold on for dear life to the way things are will not give up easily, not least because they have law and custom on their side. At the same time, we may have difficulty in discerning when and how change (and hence often conflict) stands in service of God’s purposes. The furtherance of God’s mission in the world would be one basic criterion.

2. We are not told what sort of divine action Rebekah’s conception was thought to entail. “Barrenness” means childlessness, but not necessarily infertility. We do not know the degree to which physiological or psychological factors, or some combination, faced these parents. They had been childless for twenty years. Rebekah’s conception witnesses to God’s work as Creator, enabling new life to emerge.

3. The role of prayer on the part of both Isaac and Rebekah continues an emphasis of chap. 24, and demonstrates its importance in the lives of these figures; they obviously believe God would be concerned about such matters and had resources to do something about them (see 18:22-33). Prayer occurs prominently in Genesis as an unself-conscious practice of nearly every major figure, attesting to the personal nature of their relationship with God.165

4. God’s oracle to Rebekah achieves a profound effect; it sets into motion a certain direction 

 

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for the future. This oracle recognizes that what happens in one generation (especially a word from God) may have a profound influence on those that follow, particularly with respect to certain formative periods in Israel’s (or any people’s) life. Later Israel understood the ancestral period to be such a time.

One might claim that the future of the two boys has been predetermined by this divine word. Yet, it shortly becomes clear that Rebekah does not understand that the oracle absolutely determines her sons’ futures. What she does or says assumes that she thinks she can shape that future. She enters into their lives in decisive, at times manipulative, fashion, acting in ways that she thinks will contribute toward the future of which God has spoken (the narrator passes no judgment on her activity). The oft-suggested idea that just by pursuing such activities one seeks to take the divine promises into one’s own hands constitutes a docetic view of the way in which God works in the world. God chooses to work in and through human activity in pursuing the divine purposes.

The future about which God speaks is not set in concrete. This is true of divine announcements about the future generally, particularly in prophetic material (see 2 Kgs 20:1-7; Jonah 3).166  These utterances express the future as God sees it (or would like to see it). God’s knowledge of future human behaviors is not absolute (evident in other texts; see 22:12). Moreover, the divine will can be frustrated by human behaviors (e.g., sin); though God’s way into the future cannot, finally, be stymied.

Why would God speak directly to Rebekah about such matters? God takes sharp risks in being misunderstood. Giving Rebekah (or any human being) such information will tend to predispose her to act in certain ways toward her sons. Although she could have ignored God’s word or actively worked against it, she chooses to tilt toward Jacob. God knows such behavior is likely, of course. The narrator has already reported Rebekah’s preference (25:28), where she is said to love Jacob, and she doubtless knows that this runs counter to Isaac’s “love.” So God apparently gives Rebekah this information because God wants her to speak and act in such a way that this oracle will have a greater likelihood of coming to pass! The oracle expresses the future that God desires, and he hereby enlists Rebekah to work with God toward that end. That God chooses Rebekah rather than Isaac seems remarkable, given this patriarchal society; it suggests that God has more confidence in Rebekah than in Isaac. The reader might ask: Is this fair? Not according to any known human standard. At this point we are smack up against the mysteries of the divine election of Jacob (or Abraham or Israel . . . ).

5.  The narrator depicts the situation in such a way as to demonstrate that the inversion of priorities in the oracle does not derive from the boys’ behaviors. The decision occurred pre-birth. Both act in ignorance of the oracle. The writer portrays both Jacob and Esau in such a way that disinterested readers would probably disagree on who acted the most reprehensibly. Both are guilty of violating basic family relationships, and any effort to excuse either one cuts against the grain of the text. Jacob takes egregious advantage of another person in need and sets the stage for major family conflict. Esau comes off as the dullard, careless with family interests and despising of the birthright. We do not know why God would choose either one to carry out his purposes. From another angle, inasmuch as God typically chooses weak instruments, then both Esau and Jacob would qualify! It would be precarious to talk about God’s choosing the weak to shame the strong on the basis of this passage (unless strength is defined in a very narrow way).

The narrator probably “sets up” the reader with this text. The temptation for later Israel (and all who consider themselves to be God’s elect) would certainly be to side with Jacob against Esau, to somehow justify his behaviors or even to suggest that whatever he did to obtain the birthright was appropriate to or congruent with God’s choice. At one level, such 

 

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thinking is ethically dangerous, for it suggests that the elect are free to act as they please, without regard for the consequences. At another level, such thinking is theologically wrong-headed, for personal behaviors did not ground God’s choice to have the elder serve the younger.

Moreover, to note with Brueggemann, the pottage and the birthright ought not to be interpreted “as a contrast of spiritual and material . . . the birthright is fully as historical and material as is the pottage. It concerns security, prosperity, fertility and land.”167

6.  The reader must also use care in discussing primogeniture and the reversal of the rights of the firstborn. To be sure, the oracle overturns traditional customs and understandings and opens the future to possibilities not inherent in existing structures and institutions. But it is just as true that one can idolize the reversal of the traditional for its own sake. Even more, one can be tempted to understand election in terms comparable to primogeniture! Election, too, can be used as a vehicle to exclude others and exalt one’s rights and privileges. Against such an understanding the prophets will speak very sharply (Amos 3:2; 9:7).

7.  Family conflicts have far-reaching consequences, extending into personal, political, economic, and religious spheres. The conflict within this family will become more and more sharply evident as the narrative moves on. What will this mean for the future of God’s people? Are seeds being sown in these dim recesses of history that will one day reap bitter fruit for the descendants of this family? What the people of God do with the conflicts with which they are inevitably presented will make a difference. And, amid all of this intrafamilial difficulty, what will become of the promises of God? Will they transpire as God intends? Neither the oracles nor the promises of God give a precise shape to the future. God will be faithful, that will never be in doubt; but what the recipients of the promise do and say along the way will make a difference regarding the shape of fulfillment.

Posts 1511
Josh | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 6 2012 9:04 PM

Look I know you want this set to go over to 100% but you are getting a bit ridiculous. Stop flooding the forums. How many posts have you posted on this??

Posts 5285
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 7 2012 4:33 PM

I am not planing on stoping till it hits 100%,  I do try to post 2-3 a week to expose people to it. I apologize if this is annoying you but I do try to always label them clearly so if someone has no interest in seeing a sample of the text they don't have to look at it. Again I am not trying to annoy anyone just give people a look at this work. If I hear from Logos directly (here or by email) I will cease promoting this work.

-Dan

Posts 953
David Carter | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 7 2012 5:10 PM

Dan Francis:

I am not planing on stoping till it hits 100%,  I do try to post 2-3 a week to expose people to it. I apologize if this is annoying you but I do try to always label them clearly so if someone has no interest in seeing a sample of the text they don't have to look at it. Again I am not trying to annoy anyone just give people a look at this work. If I hear from Logos directly (here or by email) I will cease promoting this work.

-Dan

Please continue to exercise your first amendment right Yes Hopefully this resource will make it to the finishing post one day

 

Posts 7198
DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 7 2012 5:16 PM

Alright Dan, you talked me into it.  Can you use your other software's files, convert them into .docx format and send me the files so I can build a NIB PB out of it? Stick out tongue

I really like the resource, but still a bit pricey for me.  I used to be a full time minister, but not any more.  I'm only part time now.  As someone posted on another thread, I'm kind of like the "mechanic/partisan preacher" or something like that.  I think it was John Piper that said that.  I work during the week and preach on Sundays.  So buying NIB is out of the question, at least for now.

Anyway, good quotes, I have compiled them as reference.  And don't worry, I don't think Joshua is trying to be mean, and like you said you have separated them by title to make the distinction.  Some get annoyed (perhaps) others (like me) don't.  Keep posting them, maybe by the time it reaches 100% I'll have the whole set compiled and ready to build it on my PB file...Wink

Blessings!

DAL 

Posts 249
Giovanni Baggio | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 7 2012 5:30 PM

Dan Francis:

I am not planing on stoping till it hits 100%,  I do try to post 2-3 a week to expose people to it. I apologize if this is annoying you but I do try to always label them clearly so if someone has no interest in seeing a sample of the text they don't have to look at it. Again I am not trying to annoy anyone just give people a look at this work. If I hear from"Logos directly" (here or by email) I will cease promoting this work.

-Dan

Dan I am "Logos Directly" please feel free to disregard the comments from the dude who's an Elvis wanna be LOL what a weird pic.  I got 3 questions for Mr. Elvis wanna be version JG.  What are you gonna do when you know who? or how are you gonna deal with the man of steel? or how are you gonna react to Mr. Dan's attack? or how are you gonna cope with his new post? If you don't like the post ignore it but i guess you just can't help yourself can you? Anyway must I remind Mr. Elvis of his various post complaining about the BECNT? Alrighty then Mr "i can write whatever i want but others can't." If you don't like it switch the channel.

Bona sera testa di....

Giovanni

Posts 1511
Josh | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 7 2012 9:19 PM

Giovanni Baggio:

Dan I am "Logos Directly" please feel free to disregard the comments from the dude who's an Elvis wanna be LOL what a weird pic.  I got 3 questions for Mr. Elvis wanna be version JG.  What are you gonna do when you know who? or how are you gonna deal with the man of steel? or how are you gonna react to Mr. Dan's attack? or how are you gonna cope with his new post? If you don't like the post ignore it but i guess you just can't help yourself can you? Anyway must I remind Mr. Elvis of his various post complaining about the BECNT? Alrighty then Mr "i can write whatever i want but others can't." If you don't like it switch the channel.

Bona sera testa di....

Giovanni

I'm fine with my pic and my sideburns! Big Smile Thanks for making fun of me though.

I certainly do not mind people posting to promote a resource. You are correct I have done so myself. What is particularly distracting here is that Dan has posted many many many many many times. Each in new threads. I recognize his desire and I respect it. I just don't believe he is being respectful to others here. It is an unwritten forum rule that you don't post multiple times over and over and over again on the same topic.

 

Posts 15805
Forum MVP
Keep Smiling 4 Jesus :) | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 7 2012 10:22 PM

Joshua G:
It is an unwritten forum rule that you don't post multiple times over and over and over again on the same topic.

Concur; trying to piece together a discussion over many threads is challenging.  One thread for => New Interpreter's Bible (12 vols.) with two to three updates weekly with various samples is preferable to many NIB threads.

One idea is creating a new thread: New Interpreter's Bible (12 Vols.) - Pre-Publication Examples that has links to other NIB example threads, including verse references, which is updated as desired with more NIB examples until pre-publication status changes to "under development"  Periodically could update thread with pre-publication progress status (also would return thread to Recent list).

When reading forum, users have option to skip thread or click on time of latest post to jump to end, or click page #

Keep Smiling Smile

Posts 6585
Forum MVP
Lynden Williams | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Feb 16 2012 10:38 AM

No mobile viewing. Crying

All Religious Education in Logos Bible Software. Logos Youtube Channel

Posts 124
GeoPappas | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Feb 16 2012 3:58 PM

Dan Francis:
The following quote comes from the commentary above: "God’s knowledge of future human behaviors is not absolute..."

Maybe I'm misunderstanding what they are saying, but I would never be able to purchase a commentary written by someone that believes that.

YHWH was and is and will always be.  He is the alpha (aleph) and the omega (tav).  He is all-knowing, all-powerful, eternal, infinite, and omnipresent.

Posts 1145
William | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Feb 16 2012 10:51 PM

GeoPappas:

but I would never be able to purchase a commentary written by someone that believes that.

YHWH was and is and will always be.

 

And.....

GeoPappas:
He is the alpha (aleph) and the omega (tav).  He is all-knowing, all-powerful, eternal, infinite, and omnipresent.

 

Just a yes or no answer.....here please.....

Is the second quote adding to the knowledge of the previous quote?

 

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