Genesis 25:23
And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
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(23) And the Lord said unto her.—Not by the mouth of Abraham, nor in a dream, but directly, as He spake of old to Adam and Eve. We read of no appearance, as in Genesis 17:1, nor must we invent one. The manner in which Jehovah thus spake has not been revealed, and it is enough for us to know that Jehovah did speak of old to men. The answer is in the form of poverty:—

“Two nations are in thy womb;

And two peoples from thy bowels shall be separated;

And people shall be mightier than people;

And the great shall serve the small.”

The second line shows that even in their earliest childhood her sons would be unlike in character and unfriendly in disposition; upon this follows their development into hostile nations, and the prediction that the son who started with the advantages of the birthright, the stronger physical nature, and superior strength in men and arms (Genesis 32:6), would, nevertheless, finally hold the inferior position. There can be no doubt that the secondary cause of the vaster development of Jacob was his being placed by Joseph in the fruitful Delta, where the Israelites were constantly joined by a stream of Semitic immigrants, whose movement towards Egypt is a perfectly authenticated fact of the history of those times. (See Genesis 12:15.)

Genesis 25:23. Two nations are in thy womb — The fathers of two nations, namely, of the Edomites and Israelites; two manner of people, which should not only greatly differ from each other in religion, laws, manners, but should contend with each other, and the issue of the contest should be, that the elder should serve the younger, which was fulfilled in the subjection of the Edomites, for many ages, to the house of David.

25:19-26 Isaac seems not to have been much tried, but to have spent his days in quietness. Jacob and Esau were prayed for; their parents, after being long childless, obtained them by prayer. The fulfilment of God's promise is always sure, yet it is often slow. The faith of believers is tried, their patience exercised, and mercies long waited for are more welcome when they come. Isaac and Rebekah kept in view the promise of all nations being blessed in their posterity, therefore were not only desirous of children, but anxious concerning every thing which seemed to mark their future character. In all our doubts we should inquire of the Lord by prayer. In many of our conflicts with sin and temptation, we may adopt Rebekah's words, If it be so, why am I thus? If a child of God, why so careless or carnal? If not a child of God, why so afraid of, or so burdened with sin? - LIII. Birth of Esau and Jacob

20. פדן padān, Paddan, "plowed field;" related: "cut, plow."

25. עשׂי ‛êśâv, 'Esaw, "hairy, or made."

26. יעקב ya‛ăqôb, Ja'aqob, "he shall take the heel."

27. תם tām, "perfect, peaceful, plain." The epithet refers to disposition, and contrasts the comparatively civilized character of Jacob with the rude temper of Esau.

30. אדים 'ědôm, Edom, "red."

The ninth document here begins with the usual phrase, and continues to the end of the thirty-fifth chapter. It contains the history of the second of the three patriarchs, or rather, indeed, as the opening phrase intimates, of the generations of Isaac; that is, of his son Jacob. Isaac himself makes little figure in the sacred history. Born when his mother was ninety, and his father a hundred years of age, he is of a sedate, contemplative, and yielding disposition. Consenting to be laid on the altar as a sacrifice to God, he had the stamp of submission early and deeply impressed on his soul. His life corresponds with these antecedents. Hence, in the spiritual aspect of his character he was the man of patience, of acquiescence, of susceptibility, of obedience. His qualities were those of the son, as Abraham's were those of the father. He carried out, but did not initiate; he followed, but did not lead; he continued, but did not commence. Accordingly, the docile and patient side of the saintly character is now to be presented to our view.

Genesis 25:19-26

The birth of Esau and Jacob. "The son of forty years." Hence, we learn that Isaac was married the third year after his mother's death, when Abraham was in his hundred and fortieth year. "Bethuel the Aramaean." As Bethuel was a descendant of Arpakshad, not of Aram, he is here designated, not by his descent, but by his adopted country Aram. By descent he was a Kasdi or Kaldee. Sarah was barren for at least thirty years; Rebekah for nineteen years. This drew forth the prayer of Isaac in regard to his wife. The heir of promise was to be a child of prayer, and accordingly when the prayer ascended the fruit of the womb was given. Rebekah had unwonted sensations connected with her pregnancy. She said to herself, "If it be so," if I have conceived seed, "why am I thus," why this strange struggle within me? In the artlessness of her faith she goes to the Lord for an explanation. We are not informed in what way she consulted God, or how he replied. The expression, "she went to inquire of the Lord," implies that there was some place of worship and communion with God by prayer. We are not to suppose that she went to Abraham, or any other prophet, if such were then at hand, when we have no intimation of this in the text. Her communication with the Lord seems to have been direct. This passage conveys to us the intimation that there was now a fixed mode and perhaps place of inquiring at the Lord. The Lord answers the mother of the promised seed. Two children are in her womb, the parents of two nations, differing in their dispositions and destinies. The one is to be stronger than the other. The order of nature is to be reversed in them; for the older will serve the younger. Their struggles in the womb are a prelude to their future history.

21. Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife—Though tried in a similar way to his father, he did not follow the same crooked policy. Twenty years he continued unblessed with offspring, whose seed was to be "as the stars" [Ge 26:4]. But in answer to their mutual prayers (1Pe 3:7), Rebekah was divinely informed that she was to be the mother of twins, who should be the progenitors of two independent nations; that the descendants of the younger should be the more powerful and subdue those of the other (Ro 9:12; 2Ch 21:8). The Lord spoke, either by inward inspiration, in a dream or vision; or by the ministry of an angel or prophet.

Two nations, i.e. the roots, heads, or parents of two distinct nations, one opposite to the other; the one blessed, the other cursed, namely, the Israelites and Edomites.

Shall be separated; not only separated from thee, but one separated or greatly differing from the other in their frame of body, temper of mind, course of life, profession and practice of religion.

The elder, or, the greater, namely Esau, who was, as older, so of a stronger constitution of body, and of greater power and dignity in the world than Jacob; and Esau’s posterity were great princes for a long time, when Jacob’s seed were strangers in Canaan, slaves in Egypt, and poor afflicted wanderers in the wilderness. But, saith he, Esau and his shall not always be stronger and mightier than Jacob and his posterity, the tables shall be turned, and the children of Israel shall be uppermost and subdue the Edomites, which was literally accomplished in David’s time, 2 Samuel 8:14; and afterwards, 2 Chronicles 25:11,12; and after that by the Maccabees; but much more eminently in a spiritual sense under the gospel, when one of Jacob’s children, even Jesus Christ, shall obtain the dominion, and shall rule the Edomites no less than other heathen nations with his iron rod, and make them serviceable one way or other to his glory, and to the felicity of his true Israel.

And the Lord said unto her,.... Either by one or other of the above persons she acquainted with this affair, and entreated to seek the Lord for her; or by an impulse upon her own mind:

two nations are in thy womb; or two persons, from whom two nations will spring, the Edomites and Israelites, the one from Esau, the other from Jacob:

and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; different in their bodies, complexions, manner of life, religion, as well as place of abode:

and the one people shall be stronger than the other people: the Edomites, the posterity of Esau, were a very potent people, and had a succession of dukes and kings, before the Israelites, the posterity of Jacob, made any figure in the world, and while they were slaves in Egypt, see Genesis 36:1; though in later times the Israelites became the stronger:

and the elder, or "greater":

shall serve the younger, or "lesser": the offspring of Esau, the eldest, should become tributary to the posterity of Jacob, the younger; which was verified in the times of David, when the Edomites were subdued by him, 2 Samuel 8:14; and still more in the times of Hyrcanus, when the Edomites or Idumeans became one people with the Jews, and embraced their religion (e), rather than to be dispossessed of their country; and will have a further accomplishment in the latter day, when the prophecies in Obadiah 1:18 shall be fulfilled. Of the use which the Apostle Paul makes of this passage; see Gill on Romans 9:11, Romans 9:12.

(e) Joseph. Antiqu. l. 13. c. 9. sect. 1.

And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
23. And the Lord said] How the Divine answer was granted, whether by priest or soothsayer, by dream or by vision, we are not told. It is in the form of a rhythmic oracle, in four stichoi, or lines. The oracle proclaims, that (1) there are two children who shall be two nations; (2) from the first there shall be separation and discord between the two; (3) one shall overmaster the other; (4) the younger shall be the lord of the elder. The historic rivalry between Israel and Edom is thus prefigured.

separated … bowels] The English is ambiguous, as in Galatians 1:15, “the good pleasure of God who separated me even from my mother’s womb.” The meaning is, “even from birth” the destinies of the two men and of their descendants will be divergent: cf. Genesis 13:11, “and they separated themselves the one from the other.”

the elder shall serve the younger] The subjugation of the Edomites by the Israelites took place in the days of David, 2 Samuel 8:14. The same event is predicted by Jacob in Genesis 27:40, where the additional prediction is made, that the subjugation will be only temporary. Israel, whose settlement in Palestine was later than that of the Edomites in the country of Seir, was regarded as the younger of the brother peoples. Edom was already a monarchy before Israel had settled down. But, occupying a richer country, Israel attained a higher civilization, and became a more powerful nation. For the hostility of Israel and Edom, see the prophet Obadiah. For St Paul’s use of the present passage, see Romans 9:10-12.

Verse 23. - And the Lord said unto her, - in a dream (Havernick), a form of revelation peculiar to primitive times (Genesis 15:1; Genesis 20:6; Genesis 28:12; Genesis 37:5; 90:5; 91:1; 96:2; cf. Job 4:13; Job 33:15); but whether communicated directly to herself, or spoken through the medium of a prophet, the Divine response to her interrogation assumed an antistrophic and poetical form, in which she was informed that her unborn sons were to be the founders of two mighty nations, who, "unequal in power, should be divided rivalry and antagonism from their youth" - Two nations are in thy womb (i.e. the ancestors and founders of two nations, vie., the Israelites and Idumeans), and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; - literally, and two peoples from thy bowels (or womb) are separated, i.e. proceeding from thy womb, they shall be divided from and against each other - and the one people shall be stronger than the other people (literally, and people shall be stronger than people, i.e. the one shall prevail over the other); and the elder shall serve the younger - i.e. the descendants of the elder shall be subject to those of the younger. Vide inspired comments on this oracle in Malachi 1:2, 3 and Romans 9:12-33. Genesis 25:23When Rebekah conceived, the children struggled together in her womb. In this she saw an evil omen, that the pregnancy so long desired and entreated of Jehovah would bring misfortune, and that the fruit of her womb might not after all secure the blessing of the divine promise; so that in intense excitement she cried out, "If it be so, wherefore am I?" i.e., why am I alive? cf. Genesis 27:46. But she sought counsel from God: she went to inquire of Jehovah. Where and how she looked for a divine revelation in the matter, is not recorded, and therefore cannot be determined with certainty. Some suppose that it was by prayer and sacrifice at a place dedicated to Jehovah. Others imagine that she applied to a prophet - to Abraham, Melchizedek, or Shem (Luther); a frequent custom in Israel afterwards (1 Samuel 9:9), but not probable in the patriarchal age. The divine answer, couched in the form of a prophetic oracle, assured her that she carried two nations in her womb, one stronger than the other; and that the greater (elder or first-born) should serve the less (younger). הפּרד ממּעיך: "proceeding from thy womb, are separated."
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