Genesis 25-26 • In the Footsteps of Isaac


Since Isaac was the son of a famous father (Abraham) and the father of a famous son (Jacob), we sometimes seem to “lose” Isaac in the overall picture. Although he lived longer than any of the other patriarchs, his life seems less exciting and often treated as just a transition between the larger-than-life personalities of Abraham and Jacob. But what he did go through serves as an extremely relevant example to all believers today. What are we to do when inheriting a great spiritual heritage? How are we to pass this along to the next generation? But perhaps even more importantly Isaac serves as an example of a believer struggling in all the same ways we find ourselves struggling.

Read verses 25:1-11

Q: Although Abraham married again and produced another six sons and at least 10 grandsons and great-grandsons, why is it that none of them have the status given to Isaac?

A: Isaac is the heir of all things, an allusion to another characteristic in which he typifies Christ.

in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.

— Hebrews 1:2

Q: How does Abraham’s death reveal what faith can do for someone?

  1. He died in peace. (Gen. 15:15)
  2. He died “full” or satisfied.
  3. He died in faith.

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

—Hebrews 11:13

Q: What kind of legacy did Abraham leave Isaac?

  1. He left Isaac a personal, godly example (Gen. 18:19). In other words, how to live spiritually.
  2. He left Isaac the tent and altar. (Gen. 26:25) In other words, how to live physically.
  3. He left Isaac the promises of God. (Gen. 26:2-5)

In other words, how to live according to faith.

Point: As a father Isaac inherited a distinguished home where spiritual blessings meant far more than material wealth.

Read verses 25:12-23

Q: What is revealed here about Ishmael’s character?

A: He was determined to live not according to the example of his father Abraham but according to his own will and desire as indicated in v.18 that “he settled in defiance of all his relatives”.

Point: And so the historic struggle between the cousin nations of the Middle East begins. It’s worth noting that one of the deceptions of the Quran is to reverse the places of Isaac and Ishmael, claiming Ishmael was the son of promise Abraham was about to sacrifice instead of Isaac. In so doing they maintain the lie that they’re entitled to everything in place of Israel.

Q: Why might it be significant that Scripture mentions Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob and Esau were born?

A: Because it mentions in v.20 that Isaac and Rebekah were married when he was 40, that means they lived the first 20 years of their married life knowing God’s covenant promise without bearing any children. They appear to have undergone their own test of faith in this matter just as Abram and Sarai did before them.

Q: What would people living at that time have found very odd about God’s revelation about the twins about to be born?

A: It went directly contrary to the established custom by declaring “the older shall serve the younger”. The first and oldest was always considered the rightful heir of the father.

Q: What is the greater message contained in God’s response?

A: They had waited 20 years before seeing God’s promise fulfilled by Rebekah’s pregnancy. That promise to both Abraham and Isaac wasn’t just for children, but that their children would become entire nations of countless people. By designating “two nations are in your womb”, God is also saying, “I’m fulfilling everything just like I said I would.”

Q: What greater theological process is at work in God’s elevation of Jacob over Esau?

A: It’s clear evidence of God’s election. (See Rom. 9) God’s choice was not based on either of their deeds for they were unborn and had not done anything yet. It’s an example of God’s plan and calling for our life which goes back to even before we are born.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

— Ephesians 2:8-10

Point: In many respects one might say Isaac’s was a “disappointed” home in that things weren’t going to unfold in the way many of its members desired. Isaac’s heritage did not excuse him from being tested and ruled by God as an individual according to God’s desire.

Read verses 25:24-34

Q: What are some of the characteristics of Esau which will also represent the character of those descended from him?

  1. Esau is named for his appearance. (“Esau” literally means “hairy”.) Later he will be nicknamed for his actions. (“Edom” means “red”.)
  2. Esau is a man of the world, full of vigor and adventure.
  3. Having little appreciation for spiritual things, Esau would rather feed his body than enjoy the promises of God.
  4. Esau despised his spiritual privileges as the firstborn.
  5. Esau chose the flesh instead of the Spirit. He is described in Heb. 12:16 as “immoral” and “godless”: “that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.”
  6. We never read of Esau having either a tent or an alter. In other words, he appears to reject the legacy of both Isaac and Abraham.
  7. At the end of Gen. 26 we see that Esau loved worldly women.
  8. Esau was a worldly success and a spiritual failure.
  9. Others?

Q: What are some of the characteristics of Jacob which also represent the character of those descended from him?

  1. Jacob is named for his action’s. (“Jacob” means “heel-gripper.”) This name characterizes him as a supplanter, schemer, deceiver.
  2. Jacob preferred to stay at home.
  3. Jacob’s scheming shows his doubt that God would fulfill His promise on God’s terms and instead seeks to fulfill them on his own.
  4. Jacob will eventually wrestle with God and come to terms with Him. (Gen. 32)
  5. Jacob will eventually embrace the character and heritage of Isaac and Abraham.
  6. Others?

Point: Ultimately Isaac’s was a divided home not just because of the difference between the two brothers, but the differences between Isaac and Rebekah themselves in how they saw their children.

Read verses 26:1-6

Q: What does Isaac begin to do which always turns out to be a big mistake?

A: He starts toward Egypt.

Point: Going down to Egypt is an Old Testament way of expressing when someone backslides into their old life.

Q: So where does Isaac go instead? What might this indicate about him?

A: Isaac listens to the Lord and does not go all the way to Egypt but instead settles in Gerar, a city which is on the borderline with Egypt.

Point: At this point Isaac might typify the many “borderline” Christians we see today.

Point: Like Abraham his father before him, Isaac faced the same temptations. Every generation will be tested individually but they’re still responsible for learning the right less from the previous generation and passing along the right example to the next.

Read verses 26:7-11

Q: Why does this all sound so familiar?

A: It’s the same thing Abraham did not just in Egypt (Gen. 12:10-20) but a second time in this very same place of Gerar. (Gen. 20:1-5)

Observation: “Abimelech” is not actually a proper name but the title of whoever was king at the time. So it’s not the same person before which both Abraham and Isaac appeared, but whoever was the reigning king at the time who held that title.

Q: So what do you suppose this all means?

A: At the very least it means that Isaac repeated his father’s sin. This would result in the same bad outcomes as Abraham before him, the loss of credibility, loss of testimony, and drawing a public rebuke from a heathen king.

Point: People living “on the border” or in the wrong place entirely to begin with often come to live out of fear instead of by faith.

Read verses 26:12-22

Q: What do the names of these wells mean?

  1. Esek” (v.20) means “contention”.
  2. Sitnah” (v.21) means “enmity” or “strife”.
  3. Rehoboth” (v.22) means “wide places”.

Q: What well-known event in Jesus’ life takes place at Isaac’s wells?

A: This is where Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. (John 4:1-14)

Q: So because of Jesus’ discussion with the woman about the Living Water, what do we know to be the greater spiritual teaching behind these wells of water?

A: They’re symbolic of the divine resources of God for our spiritual life.

Q: How might we relate our present condition to Isaac’s problem of his enemies stealing or stopping up his father’s wells?

A: It could also be seen from a spiritual point of view that the spiritual wells of our father have been taken captive by the world and we need to get them back in the forms of prayer, the Bible, the family altar, the church, etc. It’s a picture of spiritual warfare.

Point: Isaac not only re-opened them but again called them by the same names Abraham used. (v.18) before he proceeded to dig new wells to meet his present day’s needs. We have to go back all the way to the beginning and re-establish the basics before building something anew.

Read verses 26:23-35

Q: So what does “Beersheba” mean?

A: It means “the well of the oath”.

Q: What is significant about Beersheba geographically in relation to Gerar from which he’s leaving?

A: Gerar was on the borderline with Egypt in the land of the Philistines; Beersheba is located in Canaan proper. In other words, Isaac went as far towards Egypt as he could without actually going there and experienced trials and hardship until he returned to the land of promise from which he was never supposed to leave in the first place.

Point: As Isaac moved towards Egypt and away from Canaan, a symbol of God’s Word and promises, Isaac experienced conflict; but when he returned to God’s Word and ways in the character of his father Abraham as symbolized by Beersheha, God met him and gave him peace. Perhaps even more importantly, his credibility and testimony to those around him was restored.

Overall Application