Genesis 2:7, 1:26-27

Genesis 25:1-34        – The Bible Teaching Commentary

The Importance of Making Right Decisions

Paul J. Bucknell

Overview| Abraham (Genesis 25:1-11) | Ishmael (Genesis 25:12-18) | Esau & Jacob 25:19-34 | Questions 3:7-13

The Importance of Making Right Decisions

Overview (Genesis 25:1-34)


1:1-2:3 Prologue
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1).
2:4-4:26 The generations of Heaven and Earth
This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven. (Genesis 2:4).
5:1-6:8 The generations of Adam
This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. (Genesis 5:1).
6:9-9:29 The generations of Noah
These are the records of the generations of Noah... (Genesis 6:9).
10:1-11:19 The generations of the sons of Noah
Now these are the records of the generations of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah; and sons were born to them after the flood. (Genesis 10:1).
11:10-26 The generations of Shem
These are the records of the generations of Shem ....(Genesis 11:10).
11:27-25:11 The generations of Terah
Now these are the records of the generations of Terah. .... (Genesis 11:27).
25:12-18 The generations of Ishmael
Now these are the records of the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maid, bore to Abraham; (Genesis 25:12).
25:19-35:29 The generations of Isaac
Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: ... (Genesis 25:19).
36:1-37:1 The generations of Esau
Now these are the records of the generations of Esau (that is, Edom). (Genesis 36:1).
37:2-50:26 The generations of Jacob
These are the records of the generations of Jacob. Joseph, ... (Genesis 37:2).


Our decisions are always important. Decisions leave a great impact on our lives. The problem is we minimize some of our decisions and do not carefully think about them in light of life’s priorities. Decisions to go to bed early or choosing to eat noodles for dinner might seem trivial, but they are ways that we live our lives before God. Once we value all our decisions, then we can begin to evaluate and prioritize them in light of what God wants us to do. We are trying to capture God’s will for our lives, and we do it through our decisions.

In this section we will examine decisions of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and Esau. We will notice how what seemed to be an insignificant decision actually had great impact on each one of their lives.

Overview of Genesis 25

After the prologue where we find the true beginning of all things, we discover ten genealogical records each introduced by the same Hebrew word meaning generation, account or record (Hebrew-toledot)–see Genesis 25:12, 19. Genesis 25 captures parts of three of the ten genealogies comprising Genesis.

  • Terah: End of section 6
  • Ishmael: Whole section 7
  • Isaac: Start of section 8

There are some interesting observations to be made regarding each of these sections. Why for example, does Abraham not qualify for a section of genealogy? Or why is Ishmael’s record so short even though he had many more sons than Isaac?

These sections provide the outline for this chapter. We will learn both how their decisions impacted their lives as well as see how God’s divine will will interact with our human decisions. Remember the Book of Genesis is careful to show through these series of genealogies the way God's promises are being fulfilled and godly line is being passed down (see chart on next page).

Abraham (Terah’s record) (Genesis 25:1-11)

What are some decisions that Abraham made in this section? What impact did it have on those around him? How did they relate to the promises that God made to Abraham?

Abraham’s wife Sarah died earlier than Abraham (see Genesis 23). He then chose to wed Keturah (lit. Concubine-no inheritance). Abraham's sons chart - diagramFrom this marriage there were a number of children including a name that we

  • Abraham
  • Hagar
  • Keturah
  • Sarah
  • Ishmael
  • Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, Shuah
  • Isaac

Abraham’s sons will again and again see later in the scriptures–Midian (Genesis 37:28; Exodus 2:16; Numbers 22:4; 25:14; 31:2-3; Judges 6:2).

What did Abraham do with these sons through Keturah. He chose to do the same thing he did earlier with Ishmael. He sent them away. But perhaps he learned from the mistake with Ishmael who was sent out without nothing. Ishmael seemed bitter to the end (though he did attend his dad’s funeral). He gave them a substantial gift to go with them as they moved to the east.

"But God said to Abraham, "Do not be distressed because of the lad (Ishmael) and your maid (Hagar); whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named. "And of the son of the maid I will make a nation also, because he is your descendant."" (Genesis 21:12-13).

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The Lord did not have to tell Abraham what he should do with his sons from Keturah as he did with Hagar. Abraham now had confidence that God’s promise would be through Isaac as promised. From the world it did not make sense to give all the inheritance to just one son when he had so many others especially with a promise that he would have many descendants. This promise of God helped Abraham properly shape his priorities. He made the choices that the world would not understand. We will read later that many of these other sons would later become opponents to God’s special plan through Isaac and his descendants such as Midian. These many tribes would later become part of the larger Arabic people. Closely follow the chart below how God protected His godly seed. (Click for enlargement).

Two lines mankind

Ishmael’s record (Genesis 25:12-18)

It was only fitting that a summary of Ishmael’s life should be presented here at the end of Abraham’s life. Ishmael’s important decision was also shown here. What was it? This is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 1:27-33. Three points here.

(a) God’s Promise

Ishmael’s record was preserved to show how God fulfilled His promise that he would lead over twelve nations, "And as for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. Hagar-IshmaelHe shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation." (Genesis 17:20). This is recorded here in Genesis 25:13-15 or in 1 Chronicles 1:29-31. Count them!

"These are their genealogies: the first-born of Ishmael was Nebaioth, then Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah; these were the sons of Ishmael" (1 Chron 1:29-31).

(b) Existence of the Ishmael’s records

Ishmael actually had a genealogical record of his own. This is amazing when we think about the several thousand years being discussed in Genesis. Even Abraham did not receive his own records but was described under his father.1 Again, this seems to be because God had promised he would make Ishmael a great nation.

This is even more amazing having thought about how Ishmael came about. Ishmael was, unfortunately, born from a lack of faith. He gained his blessing by being attached to Abraham. God made him a significant part of the history of mankind. Perhaps, it is also because of the important role these tribes (maybe also Keturah’s sons together) would have in the history of God’s people. These regions now are largely Muslims and even to this day oppose God’s people.

(c) Briefness of Ishmael’s records

Although Ishmael had twelve sons like Jacob, something was different. We note this first from the brevity of these records. These seven verses are nothing compared to Isaac’s record with ten chapters or Jacob’s with 13 chapters.

This is a sign of judgment. In the history of man, he was significant but not in the annals of God. In Psalm 1:6, the psalmist says, "For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish." Ishmael might have gained a lot during his time on earth, but he had no eternal inheritance. He could not take it with him. He perished, but the godly seed endured on.

Notice the significant closing words describing Ishmael, "He settled in defiance of all his relative" (Genesis 25:18). There was a great hostility lodged in his heart. This was a key decision displaying his obstinacy.2

Questions for reflection

  1. How did Ishmael become great? Please summarize his past experiences.

  2. Even though Ishmael had many blessings, he did not choose to closely seek God.

Isaac’s Genealogy (Genesis 25:19-34)

Genesis 25:19 starts like the other genealogical records throughout Genesis. It begins with the traditional, "Now these are the records of the generations of …" In this case, it continues with Isaac. Interestingly, it first describes his wife Rebekah’s ancestry.

Rebekah’s ancestry

Abraham sought to preserve the wholesome devotion to God by isolating his family from the surrounding Canaanite culture. The mention of Rebekah being from Syria doesn’t seem consistent with this until we remember Abraham’s directions to his servant when he went looking for a bride for Isaac.

"I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but you shall go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac" (Genesis 24:3-4).

Notice in Genesis 24:10 that he went to Nahor in Mesoptamia. "Now these are the records of the generations of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran; and Haran became the father of Lot" (Genesis 11:27). He found a bride from the godly seed who recognized God as creator. She was from the same place and family of his grandfather Terah.

Isaac’s sons

The first thing we note is that the sons of Isaac are obtained through prayer. Rebekah herself was barren. Isaac was forty when married (Genesis 25:20) and sixty when they had children (Genesis 25:26). How difficult it must have been for her! Twenty years without children! There was so much pressure (even if unspoken) from Abraham (now 160!), from God’s evident plan, self-fulfillment and the society.

God did answer Isaac’s prayer for Rebekah. This is interesting especially in light of all of his father’s struggles to have a son.

Isaac seems a bit spiritually unresponsive here and elsewhere.To better communicate The passage seems to infer that he spent twenty years ignoring seeking God for a child. When he does pray, the child comes.

"And Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived" (Genesis 25:21).

Isaac seems to typify our spoiled modern generation where since he has so many things that he likes, he does not spend much time thinking about God. However, God was patient and through the sensitivity of his wife, Isaac finally sought God.

Reflective questions:
  1. Why did God wait for Isaac’s prayer before He granted them children? God could have given them children earlier on without the prayer. For that matter, Isaac could have prayed earlier on.

  2. Do we respect the Lord’s desire to participate in the birth process or has secular ‘family planning’ issues wholly shaped our understandings and decisions? What is normal?

Significance of Twins (Esau & Jacob)

We might be surprised by what happens next. Notice the way Isaac and Rebekah related God to their lives and how God related to them. Induce a problemHe did this above in 25:21 too when they faced a crisis. God provoked them (in this case Rebekah) to call upon the Lord for wisdom.

  • God induced a problem.

  • So God could communicate to open hearts.

She felt the struggle within her. The battle was so intense she actually inquired of the Lord. It is interesting to note that the Lord actually spoke to her. We do not know if this was through a prophet or dream that God spoke, but speak He did.

"And the LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples shall be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger"" (Genesis 25:23).

The birth and the passing of time proved the prophecy to be correct. Let’s first think what God was stating in verse 23. Each child would become a nation (that is very significant). Imagine if God said this of one of your children let alone two! Then in these few words it is stated that one will be stronger (Esau stronger than Jacob) but the older (Esau again) would serve the younger (Jacob). Esau, the red hairy hunter was firstborn and stronger than the heel-grabber stay-around-home Jacob.

When Jesus rebuked Nicodemus for not understanding what it means to be born again in John 3, many of us wonder what Old Testament teaching Jesus referred to. Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things?" (John 3:9-10). Nicodemus knew the Old Testament so well, but still "answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?" It seems to me that this born twice teaching is signified by God often preferring the second born over the firstborn.

There are other powerful teachings that come from Genesis 25:22-34. Let’s look at two of them.

(1) We first see how Jacob snuck (not stole) Esau’s birthright. A very interesting story is recorded in Genesis 25:27-34. We will observe God’s hand in our lives in a general way.

(2) The first is regarding the prophecy in Genesis 22-23. How does man’s will interact with God’s will? Esau and Jacob made their life choices but was it all predetermined?

(1) Being responsible for our decisions (Gen 25:27-34)

Man seems to have a perpetual battle over how God is involved in man’s life. We can understand this if it is from those who do not understand the scriptures, but when it comes from those who do know God’s Word, we should take caution. Our lives shaped by GodAll through the scriptures God claims to have authority over the factors of our lives. Free will does not mean that we choose everything about our lives. Many significant decisions about our lives were made before we even got here! These decisions would significantly impact our lives, even perhaps more than any that are made on earth.

Esau and Jacob both were greatly blessed by God to become nations. This was foreordained. God decided on this. It was only through the prophecy that we know this (and we know God wanted us to know this by speaking to Rebekah and having it recorded in the scriptures).

The key question with Esau and Jacob, and in fact with all of us, is what do we choose to do with the blessings that God has given to us? This is the part that we often forget. God has greatly blessed us with life and good things. How do we respond to Him? Thankful? Obedient? Or do we make life decisions that suit our own desires without much thought of Him?

That Esau was strong and Jacob weak was God’s decision. God made them. It was fine for Esau to be a hunter and Jacob to manage tents at home with the herds. But what happened when Esau was hungry? What decision did he make that revealed his heart?

"And when Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; and Esau said to Jacob, "Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished." Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, "First sell me your birthright." And Esau said, "Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?" And Jacob said, "First swear to me"; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright." (Genesis 25:29-34).

We see that he did not care about his spiritual rights. God had him first born but he rejected this special responsibility. What was more important to him? The entertainment of the thought that he could have some of that good-smelling stew seemed much more important to him at that moment. Notice the clincher statement in 25:34, "Thus Esau despised his birthright." The New Testament summarizes this event with its own words.

"See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal" (Hebrews 12:15-16).

We need to examine each of our lives that we would not be defiled by a chief desire to please ourselves. Esau had a much better start than Jacob, but he left God out of his life. This is seen in the way he went against his parents and married local women and bringing the idolatrous customs into their home (Genesis 26:34-35). Later he added to his father’s grief by marrying another Canaanite woman, "So Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan displeased his father Isaac; and Esau went to Ishmael, and married, besides the wives that he had" (Genesis 28:8-9).

A perspective on our lives

Each of us is placed in a certain context including: our families, culture, status, physical features, weaknesses, skills set and personalities. God does not judge us on these matters. We must refuse to treat God as unfair because He has assigned us different positions in life. Instead we should be thankful for what we do have.

Instead we should ask, "What have we done with the multitude of blessings that He has given us?" "Have we thanked Him from the bottom of our hearts?" "Have we seized our opportunity to use what we possess to please Him?"

Reflective questions

  1. Why is it that people do not want to obey God and make proper choices? How do we see this in Esau’s life?

  2. What are you seeking for in life? A life that conforms to God’s good plan or just making a life that pleases you?

  3. Are you content with the way God made and placed you in this world? Have you thought about why He made you your unique self?

(2) Election of God’s People (Genesis 25:22-23)

The teaching of election bothers some (God choosing who and how He would bless). This is, however, a clear Biblical teaching not only pointed out here but in many places in the scriptures. This is a question not very unlike the one above when we think about God’s part in our lives. God is involved. The key is to strategize how we live within the context with which He appointed us.

There are different reasons for this unwillingness to consider God’s sovereign hand in our lives. Part of it is simply that people are taught by others that it is not right. It is more than this, though. People innately do not like how God can interfere with anyone’s life. Perhaps this intrudes in the modern day concept of freedom, "I can do anything I want." They do not like the idea that they are boxed into God’s plan as if they should not be. We will first look in more detail at what the scripture teaches from this prophecy and then reflect on it a bit.

Jacob and Esau were both greatly blessed. Each was to become a nation. Each was blessed by God. Do we complain when we see that God blessed people so that they would become the leader of a nation? God was working in both their lives. This was a given.

A selection, a choice

Much is said about this in other parts of the scripture.

"I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How hast Thou loved us?" "Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?" declares the LORD. "Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation, and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness."" (Malachi 1:2, 3).

It might help us to remember that God in a sense blessed Esau more. He gave more advantage to Esau to get ahead. But through his earthly decisions, it was obvious that he did not desire the things of God. He got lost in what he could do on his own as a strong wealthy man. We can understand full well why God summarizes Esau’s life by saying that He did not love Esau. Esau never chose to use what God had given him to please God. This kind of secular living is typified by Esau and given as a portrait of the flesh.

"But there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, "THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER." Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED." What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, " I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy" (Romans 9:10-16).

We need to clearly recognize that God holds it as His own prerogative to choose. "In order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand" (Romans 9:11). There is a shaping of our lives just as there is a womb that contains and provides for the pre-born child. Paul is aware of the charge of this predetermination being ‘unjust’ (25:14). He strongly replies, "May it never be!"

Our biggest problem with election seems to be that we think God has to be gracious. God instead states, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion" (Romans 9:15). Judgment is what He does need to give to each of us. That is fair and that is what we deserve. The fallen angels only have judgment to face. God, however, goes out of His way in His love to reach out.

He does not have to save anyone. Whenever He extends our life by a day or brings the sun to shine on us, that is more than we deserve. The same is true about spiritual blessings such as salvation. This is totally undeserved. We dare not command God about by saying He should save this or that one. These are things that God does.

Many things are predetermined. Our family and home are chosen for us. Our existence is chosen for us. But it is within this context we need to see the responsibility of our own decisions.

Most important, however, is what we can choose. What do we do with the lives that God has given to you? Both Esau and Jacob inherited a great spiritual and physical inheritance. We have all received from God’s good hand. The question is, are we acting like Esau who despised his inheritance or Jacob who, though in wrongful manner sought it, did desire the best things that God would give him?

Reflection questions
  1. If you think God is committing injustice by exercising His compassion on some rather than all, then you should repent. You are dead wrong. God cannot be unjust.

  2. If you experience God’s mercy, then you should be overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness. Are you? Why or why not?

One life …. One path …. An earthly one or a spiritual one?



The Genesis Index

Genesis Introduction:  Introduction to Genesis |  Outline and Genealogies  |  Genesis' Chronologies (5 & 11) |   Unified Themes of Genesis
Genesis 1-2:3:   The Worship of the Creator |  The Meaning of Creation  |  Creation Lessons on God.  |  God and the World's Religions
Genesis 2:4-17:    Preparation for Man (Genesis 2:4-6) |  Creation of Man (Gen. 2:7, 1:26-27) |  Purpose for Man (Genesis 2:8-17)
Genesis 2:18-25: The Foundations of Marriage
Genesis 3:1-13: The Fall of Man | Temptation (Genesis 3:1-6) | The Fall (Genesis 3:7-13) | Questions 3:1-6 | Questions 3:7-13
Genesis 5-9: Genesis Flood | Genesis 05 Genealogical Chart
Genesis 10-11: Noah's Sons| Questions | History Genesis 10:6-11 | Tower of Babel Genesis 11:1-9 | Questions | Culture Genesis 11
Genesis 12-22:   The Call: Genesis 12.1The Promises: Genesis 12.2-3  |  The Means: Genesis 15The Testing: Genesis 22
Genesis 12-16: Introduction |   Place Detour: Genesis 12:10-20; 20 |  Person Detour: Genesis 12:13-14Procedure Detour: Genesis 16-17
Genesis 14:1-24: Three Steps to Spiritual Growth | #1 Observe | #2 Utlilitize | #3 Secure
Genesis 18-19: Cultural Woes of Sodom | Appearing to Abraham | Visit to Sodom | Debate of Homosexuality and Sodom
Genesis 21-26: Isaac's Model for Godly Marriages
Genesis 27-36: Genesis 27-36 Jacob's Life of Faith
Genesis 25-37: Influence of Sin | God and Man's Sin | Understanding Man's Sin Nature | Understanding Jacob's Sins
Genesis 37-50: Joseph’s Dillusonment | Genesis 42-47:12: The Big Picture | Conclusion | The Reason

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