Genesis 25:26
And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was three score years old when she bore them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(26) His hand took hold on Esau’s heel.—Usually there is a considerable interval—an hour or more—between the birth of twins; but here Jacob appeared without delay, following immediately upon his brother. This is expressed by the metaphorical phrase that his hand had hold on Esau’s heel—that is, there was absolutely no interval between them. Though very rare, yet similar cases have been chronicled from time to time.

His name was called Jacob.—The name signifies one who follows at another’s heels. It was Esau who first put upon it a bad meaning (Genesis 27:36), and this bad sense has been riveted to it by Jacob’s own unworthy conduct. It is constantly so used even in the Bible. Thus in Hosea 12:3—a passage quoted in defence of a literal explanation of the metaphor in this verse by those who are acquainted only with the English Version—the Hebrew has, he Jacobed, literally, heeled—that is, overreached, got the better by cunning of—his brother in the womb. This is the very meaning put upon the name by Esau, and in Jeremiah 9:4 and elsewhere; but it is not well rendered by our word supplant, which contains a different metaphor, the planta being the sole of the foot; whereas to be at a person’s heel is to be his determined pursuer, and one who on overtaking throws him down.

Genesis 25:26. His hand took hold on Esau’s heel — This signified, 1st, Jacob’s pursuit of the birthright and blessing; from the first he reached forth to have caught hold of it, and if possible to have prevented his brother. 2d, His prevailing for it at last: that, in process of time, he should gain his point. This passage is referred to, Hosea 12:3, and from hence he had his name, Jacob, which means, He took him by the heel, or he supplanted.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?The twins are born in due time. The difference is manifest in the outward appearance. The first is red and hairy. These qualities indicate a passionate and precocious nature. He is called "Esau the hairy," or "the made up," the prematurely developed. His brother is like other children. An act takes place in the very birth foreshadowing their future history. The second has a hold of his brother's heel, as if he would trip him up from his very birth. Hence, he is called "Jacob the wrestler," who takes hold by the heel.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). 1837 Jacob, i.e. supplanter, or one that taketh hold of or trippeth up his brother’s heels. See Genesis 27:36.

Isaac was threescore years old. Thus God exercised his faith and patience twenty years, by comparing this with Genesis 25:20, ere he gave him the promised blessing. And after that came his brother out,.... Out of his mother's womb, either by his own strength, or by the help of the midwife:

and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; to pluck him back and get out first; and this was not casual, but was so ordered in Providence, and had a meaning and mystery in it:

and his name was called Jacob; by his parents and others, and that for the above reason, because he took his brother by the heel, which his name has the signification of, and Esau has respect to in Genesis 27:36,

and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them; and so it was twenty years after he had been married to her; so long was his faith tried and exercised about the promised seed that was to spring from him.

And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
26. had hold … heel] As if, from the first, desirous to pull his brother, back, and get in front of him. See the reference to this passage in Hosea 12:3. The character of the man was thus prefigured at birth. The idea of overreaching, or outwitting, by cunning and strategy, inspired the early Israelite with admiration and amusement rather than with repulsion.

Jacob] That is, One that takes by the heel or supplants. The Heb. for “heel” is ‘âḳêb, and the name “Jacob” was popularly regarded as having been derived from the same root, with the meaning of “one who seeks to trip up or supplant”; compare the use of the word; “supplant” in Jeremiah 9:4. It appears as a place name = Y’ḳb’r, in Palestine, on the list of Thothmes III (c. 1450 b.c.), and as a personal name, Ya’ḳub-ilu, in a Babylonian tablet of Hammurabi’s period (c. 2100 b.c.).

threescore years old] See note on Genesis 25:20 (P).

SPECIAL NOTE ON Genesis 25:26

On the nameJacob.”

The popular Israelite derivation of the name “Jacob” from the Heb. word ‘âḳêb, “a heel,” like so many other popular derivations, is simply based upon the resemblance in the sound of the proper name to a word in common use.

“It is another question,” says Driver, “whether this explanation expresses the actual meaning of the name. It has been supposed, for instance, that Jacob is really an elliptical form of Jaḳob’çl: in this case El, ‘God,’ would be the subject of the verb (like Ishmâ’çl, ‘God heareth,’ Isrâ’el, ‘God persisteth,’ Yeraḥme’çl, ‘God is compassionate’), and the word might be explained from the Arab., ‘God follows,’ or … ‘God rewards.’ In fact there is now evidence that the name is much older than the date at which, according to the Biblical narrative, Jacob must have lived. Mr Pinches has found on contract tables of the age of Khammurabi (c. 2300 b.c.) the personal name Ya‘ḳub-ilu (analogous to Yashup-ilu, Yarbi-ilu, Yamlik-ilu, Yakbar-ilu, etc., of the same age); and, according to Hommel (AHT. 203), the contracted form Yaḳubu occurs likewise. Further, in the lists of 118 places in Palestine conquered by Thothmes III (b.c. 1503–1449, Sayce and Petrie), which are inscribed on the pylons of the temple at Karnak, there occur (Nos. 78 and 102) the names Y-ša-p-’a-rḁ and Y-‘-ḳ-b-’â-rḁ. These names (the Egyp. r standing, as is well known, also for l) can be only יספאל Joseph-’çl and יעקבאל Jaḳob-’çl; and we learn consequently that places bearing these names (cf. for the form the place-names Jezre’çl, Jabne’çl, Joshua 15:11 [= Jabneh, 2 Chronicles 26:6]; Yiphtaḥ’çl, Joshua 19:14; Joshua 19:27; Yeḳabze’çl, Nehemiah 11:25; Yirpe’çl, Joshua 18:27) existed in Palestine, apparently in the central part, in the 15th cent. b.c. What connexion, if any, exists between these names and those of the patriarchs, may never perhaps be ascertained; but their existence at such a date in Palestine is remarkable. These facts, however, make it not improbable that (as had indeed been supposed even before their discovery) names of the type of Jacob, Joseph, Jephthah, etc., are elliptical forms of a more original Jaḳob’çl, Joseph’çl, etc. But, however that may be, to the Hebrews, as we know them, the idea which Jacob suggested, and in which it was supposed to have originated, was that of supplanter.” Driver in Art. Jacob in Hastings’ Dict. of the Bible, ii. 526.Verse 26. - And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel. The inf. constr, standing for the finite verb (Ewald's 'Hebrews Synt.,' 304). Not simply followed close upon the heels of Esau (Kalisch), but seized Esau's heel, as if he would trip him up (Keil, Murphy). It has been contended (De Wette, Schumann, Knobel) that such an act was impossible, a work on obstetrics by Busch maintaining that an hour commonly intervenes between the birth of twins; but practitioners of eminence who have been consulted declare the act to be distinctly possible, and indeed it is well known that "a multitude of surprising phenomena are connected with births" (Havernick), some of which are not greatly dissimilar to that which is here recorded. Delitzsch interprets the language as meaning only that the hand of Jacob reached out in the direction of his brother's heel, as if to grasp it; but Hosea 12:3 explicitly asserts that he had his brother's heel by the hand while yet in his mother's womb. And his name was called - literally, and he (i.e. one) called his name; καὶ ἐκάλεσε τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ (LXX.); id circo appellavit eum (Vulgate; cf. Genesis 16:14; Genesis 27:36) - Jacob. Not "Successor," like the Latin secundus, from sequor (Knobel, Kalisch); but "Heel-catcher" (Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Keil, Lange, Murphy), hence Supplanter (cf. Genesis 37:36). And Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them. Literally, in the bearing of them, the inf. constr, taking the case of its verb (vide Gesenius, § 133) - when she (the mother) bare them; ὄτε ἔτεκεν αὐτοὺς Ῥεβέκκα (LXX.); quum nati sunt parvuli (Vulgate); though, as Rebekah's name does not occur in the immediate context, and ילד is applied to the father (Genesis 4:18; Genesis 10:8, 13) as well as to the mother, the clause may be rendered when he (Isaac) begat them (Kalisch, Afford).

CHAPTER 25:27-34 According to the plan of Genesis, the history (tholedoth) of Isaac commences with the birth of his sons. But to give it the character of completeness in itself, Isaac's birth and marriage are mentioned again in Genesis 25:19, Genesis 25:20, as well as his age at the time of his marriage. The name given to the country of Rebekah (Genesis 25:20) and the abode of Laban in Genesis 28:2, Genesis 28:6-7; Genesis 31:18; Genesis 33:18; Genesis 35:9, Genesis 35:26; Genesis 46:15, viz., Padan-Aram, or more concisely Padan (Genesis 48:7), "the flat, or flat land of Aram," for which Hosea uses "the field of Aram" (Hosea 12:12), is not a peculiar expression employed by the Elohist, or in the so-called foundation-work, for Aram Naharaim, Mesopotamia (Genesis 24:10), but a more exact description of one particular district of Mesopotamia, viz., of the large plain, surrounded by mountains, in which the town of Haran was situated. The name was apparently transferred to the town itself afterwards. The history of Isaac consists of two stages: (1) the period of his active life, from his marriage and the birth of his sons till the departure of Jacob for Mesopotamia (Genesis 25:20-28:9); and (2) the time of his suffering endurance in the growing infirmity of age, when the events of Jacob's life form the leading feature of the still further expanded history of salvation (Genesis 28:10-35:29). This suffering condition, which lasted more than 40 years, reflected in a certain way the historical position which Isaac held in the patriarchal triad, as a passive rather than active link between Abraham and Jacob; and even in the active period of his life many of the events of Abraham's history were repeated in a modified form.

The name Jehovah prevails in the historical development of the tholedoth of Isaac, in the same manner as in that of Terah; although, on closer examination of the two, we find, first, that in this portion of Genesis the references to God are less frequent than in the earlier one; and secondly, that instead of the name Jehovah occurring more frequently than Elohim, the name Elohim predominates in this second stage of the history. The first difference arises from the fact, that the historical matter furnishes less occasion for the introduction of the name of God, just because the revelations of God are more rare, since the appearances of Jehovah to Isaac and Jacob together are not so numerous as those to Abraham alone. The second may be explained partly from the fact, that Isaac and Jacob did not perpetually stand in such close and living faith in Jehovah as Abraham, and partly also from the fact, that the previous revelations of God gave rise to other titles for the covenant God, such as "God of Abraham," "God of my father," etc., which could be used in the place of the name Jehovah (cf. Genesis 26:24; Genesis 31:5, Genesis 31:42; Genesis 35:1, Genesis 35:3, and the remarks on Genesis 35:9).

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