Fathers of the Bible: Isaac, father who played favorites

Isaac was the favored and long promised son of Abraham and his wife, Sarah. The name Isaac means laughter.

“Isaac is one of the few cases in the Bible in which God selected a name for a child and announced it before he was born.”  {All the Men of the Bible}

Two nations battled in Rebekah’s womb

He marries Rebekah, but like his parents they wait to have children. 

“When his mother Sarah died, Isaac was a man of thirty-six, and was deeply grieved over the death of his mother. Comfort was his when he took Rebekah as his wife to help fill the vacant place in his heart. To the credit of Isaac it must be said that he was the only one of the patriarchs who had but one wife.”  {All the Men of the Bible}

“Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.”  {Genesis 25:21}

Jacob is very different from his twin, Esau

Imagine their delight when her condition was revealed.  Then to realize two babies were inside her and the turmoil which insued.  Rebekah had questions.  We can only guess how Isaac comforted her and listened as she shared her heart.

The babies jostled within her and when she inquired the Lord said “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”  {Genesis 25:23}

She gave birth to Esau {meaning hairy} and Jacob {supplanter}.

“The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents.”   {Genesis 25:27}

Isaac loved Esau, while Rebekah loved Jacob

Even while growing up the brothers were very different.

“Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.   {Genesis 25:28}

Isaac was a father who played favorites. Both he and Rebekah pitted themselves against one another and their sons against one another in their favoritism.

Years later, Rebekah helped her favorite son, Jacob, deceive her husband for a blessing

“When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. 35 They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.”  {Genesis 26:34}

By the time it comes to bestow the blessing, Isaac is old and blind.  Rebekah and Jacob trick him into the blessing.  {Genesis 27}

“May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”   {Genesis 27:29}

Isaac blesses Jacob

“Then in the matter of Esau and the blessing, Isaac surely rebelled against the Lord’s purpose.” {All the Men of the Bible}

Esau is very upset to learn his blessing has been usurped and begs for a blessing. {Genesis 27:30-39}

We can put ourselves in Esau’s shoes.  How do we feel when promised something and it is given to another? Esau was hurt and angry. His father did provide another blessing, just not the one he wanted.

“Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above.  You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother.  But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.”  {Genesis 27: 40}

Rebekah never saw her favorite son again

Isaac and Rebekah realize it’s important to send Jacob away for his own protection.  Imagine sending a child away in order to keep him safe, not knowing if you’ll see or hear from him again.

Rebekah sends Jacob away until his brother’s wrath has subsided.  {Genesis 27: 41-46}   Before he goes, Isaac bestows another blessing and sent him to Rebekah’s brother in Paddan Aram.  {Genesis 28:1-5}

Jacob is sent to his mother’s homeplace.  While Esau stays and continues to marry women his parents don’t approve of.  He even marries his step-uncle’s daughter.

Isaac was blind in his old age

“Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; 9 so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.”  {Genesis 28:8-9}

Jacob on the other hand, marries the two daughters of his uncle.  He has his own family issues, as he begins a family and in lessons learned from his parents, shows favoritism to his wives and children.

After 20 years working for his uncle Laban, Jacob returned home. He reconciled with his twin brother Esau, then he and Esau buried their father, Isaac, in Hebron after he died at the age of 180.  {Genesis 35:28-29}

“Among the commendable features of his character, mention can be made of Isaac’s submission (Gen. 22:6, 9); meditation (Gen. 24:63); instinctive trust in God (Gen. 22:7, 8); deep devotion (Gen. 24:67; 25:21); peaceableness (Gen. 26:20-22); prayerfulness (Gen. 26:25); faith (Heb. 11:16, 17). “The fear of Isaac” (Gen. 31:42, 53), means the God tremblingly adored by the patriarch.”  {All the Men of the Bible}

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