What Does Genesis 25:23 Mean?

The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger."

Genesis 25:23(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

Abraham lived to the ripe old age of 175 and was buried alongside his wife, Sarah, in the cave he purchased from Machpelah. Although he had many other children by his second wife, Keturah, and all were well provided for materially, Abraham made sure they were all sent far away from the land that God had promised to His Seed, through Isaac - his unique son of promise.

Isaac had been blessed to be united in marriage to his kinswoman, Rebekah... but for twenty years, she had been unable to conceive a child and Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife. Isaac had been witness to his father's faith in God, and Abraham had told his son all that the Lord had promised to do through him. However, faith is not transferable, nor is one imputed with faith at birth.

Isaac had to believe God's promise for himself. Isaac had to develop his own personal relationship with the Lord and learn to trust in Him with all his heart. And in God's time and in His own way the Lord answered Isaac's prayer of faith, opened his wife's barren womb and Rebekah conceived twins. However, Rebekah's pregnancy was very difficult, because we read that the children struggled together within her.

In this passage we see God also testing Isaac's wife, to see if she will believe His promises and trust His Word. Rebekah also had to come to her own, personal relationship with the Lord and so she cried out to Him to discover why her confinement was so problematic. Just as the faith of the father cannot be transferred to the son, so the faith of the husband cannot be accredited to the wife.

All those who, like Abraham, are to be declared righteous by the Lord must believe in their heart, by faith. They are to continue in faith, even when going through difficult trials and tests. And so Rebekah was told by the Lord, "Two nations are in your womb and two peoples will be separated from your body. One people shall be stronger than the other - and the older shall serve the younger."

In this single verse of Scripture, Rebekah is given a lot of information about her pregnancy and God's plan for her children. Not only did Rebekah discover that she was to have male twins, but both were to become the patriarchal heads of two great nations - Israel and Edom. However, unlike the custom of the day, when the elder son would inherit the leadership role in the family, it would be the younger who was to be preeminent.

The natural order for man is that the oldest son becomes the head of the family, but throughout Scripture, we often see the Lord rejecting man's natural order and customs, and in the messianic line we read of men like Seth, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David - none of whom were first-born sons. Indeed, the hostility between the descendants of Jacob and Esau is still very evident today.

Even before they were born, Isaac and Rebekah KNEW that she was carrying twin boys, and that their younger son was to be greater than his older sibling. Isaac and Rebekah were clearly told that the younger son, Jacob would receive the inheritance and not Esau, who was older. The second-born twin was to be the one through whom God's promised Seed - the Lord Jesus Christ, was to be born, for the LORD said to her, "the older shall serve the younger."

People have tried to understand why God would favour the younger son over the older one, before the twins were ever born. While Esau's fleshly character and carnal lusts become clear as he grows into manhood, we also find Jacob's disposition to be a highly questionable, for he had fleshly traits and proved himself to be a systematic deceiver at heart.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, explained that God's choice of Jacob had nothing to do with his performance or character. God's choice did not rest on Jacob's superior merit, nor did it result from any lack of merit in Esau. Jacob was chosen before any character traits were formed. God's choice of His servants is never by merit but by grace. It was by God's merciful grace and sovereign authority that He chose Jacob and rejected Esau.

In Malachi, we read some astonishing words that mystify many people: "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated." However, it is more appropriate to understand that Jacob was accepted by God and Esau was not. Jacob was chosen by the Lord, to be the one through whom the promised Seed would be born, while his brother was rejected for this office. 

It was not that God hated Esau as opposed to loving him, nor does it indicate that one brother is saved and the other is not. Indeed, Esau was abundantly blessed by the Lord. God in His sovereign will, chose Jacob to be the patriarch, through whom would be born the Promised SEED, that would bless all the families of the earth. Malachi was the last prophetic voice to confirm that it was through Jacob, and not Esau, that the Saviour would come.

One of the most important lessons taught in this verse is that God is no respecter of persons. His choice is not based on one's character but through faith in Christ. He does not choose to use us in the forwarding of His plans because of our own personal merit, performance, or parentage.

God makes His choices through His own divine wisdom, His sovereign authority, His great goodness, and amazing grace. It is not for us to question why God chooses to use a particular man or ministry in a certain way while rejecting another. We may not understand why God does certain things, allows certain things to happen, or chooses to use certain people while rejecting others. But we do know that God's way is always the best.

May we learn to trust God's Word and to seek His face as we journey through life. May we come to the Lord in prayer with every problem and difficulty we face and be ready to listen to His voice and be led by His Spirit. May we be willing to allow God to use us in whatever way HE chooses and may we always acknowledge that He is sovereign over all our lives and be used by Him in whatever way He chooses.

My Prayer

Loving Heavenly Father, how blessed we are to have a God that cares about every detail of our lives, and to know that you will use us to accomplish Your will and purposes if we will simply trust in Your Word. Thank You for using the beautiful story of Isaac and Rebekah to demonstrate the importance of trusting Your Word, putting faith in action through prayer and praise, and reminding us that it is not due to our own merit, character, or accomplishments that we have been saved, but by Your goodness and grace. Help me to trust You in all things and pray about everything that impacts my life. Give me the grace to carry out Your will for my life, and to fit into Your sovereign plans and purposes for Your greater praise and glory. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.

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