Parashat Toldot / פרשת תולדות
“Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac…”
Torah Portion: Genesis 25:19-28:9
Haftarah: Malachi 1:1-2:7
B’rit Chadash/New Covenant: Romans 9:6-31
The traditional blessing pronounced before reading the Torah is as follows:
Bar’khoo et Adonai ham’vo’rakh
Ba’rookh Adonai ham’vo’rakh lay’o’lahm vah-edBless Adonai, who is to be blessed.
Blessed is Adonai, who is to be blessed, forever and ever.)
Ba’rookh ah’ta Adonai,
El’o’hay’noo me’lekh ha’olam,
a’sher ba’khar ba’noo mee’kol hah’ah’meem v’nah’tahn lah’noo et torah’tow.
Ba’rookh ah’ta Adonai, no’tayn ha’torah.
Blessed are you Lord, our God, King of the Universe who chose us from all the peoples and gave to us His Torah. Blessed are You, Lord, giver of the Torah.
Genesis 25 The Sovereignty of Almighty God
“Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; two peoples will be separated from your body, And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.” (vs. 19-23)
v. 21 Why Was Rebekah Barren? We will find several similarities between Abraham and Isaac in this week’s portion. Here we find that Rebekah, Isaac’s God-appointed wife was unable to conceive a child, just as Abraham’s wife, Sarah was also barren until Adonai opened her womb.
In the ancient world, childbearing was extremely important. For Isaac and Rebekah, however, it was of paramount importance. A child represented the Divine covenant and promise, without which, Abraham’s lineage, promises, and all that he had proclaimed of his God would come to an end!
Isaac prayed to the LORD, and Rebekah conceived!
Why would Adonai allow both Sarah and Rebekah to be afflicted with barrenness?
The Hebrew sages suggested that the reason God had allowed these great Matriarchs to be barren when they both had the God-ordained task of bringing forth children to carry the Covenant, was to emphasize that children were a gift of grace from the LORD, for His purposes, and to teach men to turn to Him in prayer.
rä·tsats’ —to crush, oppress, to crush each other
v. 22 Rebekah was finally with child, but all was not well. She was in distress over a physical sensation from two children “struggling” in her womb. The Hebrew word in usage here, ratsats, literally means to crush and oppress and is used in the Scriptures to describe very forceful, physical encounters.
v. 23 Rebekah went to inquire of (lit. seek) the LORD. The LORD answered, telling her she was carrying two children, from whom two nations—two people groups would be established.
Between the lines we can read enmity pre-ordained between the two, as Adonai pronounced the birth order will not be observed. The coveted inheritance of the firstborn will go to the younger—with the oldest becoming subservient.
Note: Verse 23 will be fulfilled by King David: “He put garrisons in Edom. In all Edom he put garrisons, and all the Edomites became servants to David. And the LORD helped David wherever he went” (II Samuel 8:14).
Only in an idyllic world could this come about peaceably. Yet, this has been ordained by the Almighty.Why? From the BEGINNING, we have seen the mighty Hand of God at work—very deliberately. In creating, He brought order from chaos, dispelled darkness with light, and has been weaving a redemptive tapestry through the lives of men who choose to “walk with Him” in that light. He is sovereign. It’s His-Story…
“…I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it. ‘Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded, Who are far from righteousness. ‘I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; And My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion, And My glory for Israel.’” Isaiah 46:9-13
vs. 26-34 The Birth of Jacob and Esau
“When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. Afterward, his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob, and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents.”
עֵשָׂו ā·säv’ —hairy
v. 25 The firstborn son, Esau, was so named because in Hebrew his name, Esav, means hairy.
יַעֲקֹב yah·ak·ōve’ —heel-holder or supplanter
v. 26 The second child to be born, whom God fore-ordained to inherit the covenant blessings is named Jacob. In Hebrew, Yacov means heel-holder or supplanter. His name will be changed to Israel when he is older after a night of wrestling with God, but that’s for a later parashah.
Meet Esau and Jacob, and Discover Their Distinct Character Traits
v. 27 ESAU: “Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field…”
In western culture, the phrase “skillful hunter” is immediately considered a positive distinction, however, as Hebrew commentaries note, this places Esau in the company of evil men such as Nimrod, renown for his prowess at killing.
v. 27 JACOB: “…but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents.”
In contrast, Jacob was a peaceful man. The Hebrew text reveals the word tam, rendered here as peaceful, actually means: perfect, sound, wholesome, complete, morally innocent, having integrity, one who is morally and ethically pure.
We are also told that Jacob lived in tents. This may hold a surprise for the reader as well. Tent in biblical Hebrew is ohel, and although it can be an ordinary tent, it can also be rendered, “the sacred tent of Jehovah (the Tabernacle).”
Now we are beginning to see what Adonai saw in these two brothers when He spoke to Rebekah and instructed her that it would be the second child through whom His promise would be passed on.
Jacob and Esau have widely divergent natures:
- Esau represents carnal-minded man. His desires are of the flesh and his earthly appetites rule his life.
- Jacob represents a man of integrity (surprising, with a name that means supplanter!) and moral purity—a man God can use in His grand redemption epic.
Esau Sells His Birthright
“…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 (lit. red). But Jacob said, ‘First sell me your birthright.’ Esau said, ‘Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?’ … Thus Esau despised his birthright.” (vs. 30,31,34)
The first time I read this account, I thought Jacob must be a scoundrel to take advantage of his brother who is starving to cheat him out of his birthright!
עָיֵף ä·yāf’ —faint, exhausted, weary
Esau was Not Starving After careful study, the picture came into clearer focus. First, if we simply look a little more critically at the text, we see that Esau, coming in from the field was not “starving!” The word rendered famished in our text is the Hebrew word, ayeph, which means weary or exhausted, not hungry or starving! Curious that the translators didn’t render it accurately…
Remember also, Esau was a “skillful hunter”—he killed the animals of the field for food. He came in weary from the field and saw his brother’s lentil stew, and simply desired it. (It likely smelled good!)
Hebrew commentaries propose Jacob tested his brother with the outrageous offer to trade him lentil stew for his birthright as he suspected Esau did not value it, nor the things of God, expecting Esau’s heart would be revealed in this exchange.
When Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?”he showed himself to be a man of uncontrolled appetite, “…whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” Philippians 3:19
Esau also showed with absolute clarity that the Divine spiritual and physical heritage of his grandfather Abraham were worth less than a bowl of lentil stew to him. The text says that he “despised his birthright,” meaning literally he showed utter contempt [for God’s promises.]
“Like a true sensualist, this fickle and impulsive hunter readily sacrifices to the gratification of the moment that which to a man of nobler build would be of transcendent worth.” Chief Rabbi Dr. J.H. Hertz, PENTATEUCH AND HAFTORAHS, SONCINO PRESS, 1936
As believers in Messiah, this story has a very relevant message for us.
- We have two natures that struggle within us, much like Jacob and Esau.
- We have our flesh—the sin nature, which is hostile to the Law of God, not even able to subject itself to His rule, therefore destined to death (Romans 8:6,7)
- We have the Spirit—which response to the Holy Spirit of Adonai, and His righteousness, establishing the Law (Romans 3)
- They are at enmity with each other
- If we choose to sow to the flesh, to pursue the carnal, rather than the Spirit, we will only reap destruction, corruption, and decay (Galatians 6:8)
- If sow, however to the Spirit, we will reap eternal life (Galatians 6:8)
We, like Esau make choices that have far-reaching consequences. Do we serve our momentary appetites, compromising or even “despising” the birthright we have as born-again believers—priests in the Kingdom of our God, or do we delight to carry His Name with honor? Paul addresses our struggle repeatedly through his letters and gives us the remedy:
“For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:22-25
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” Galatians 5:16,17
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-25
Genesis 26 Isaac and the Philistines
“Now there was a famine in the land, besides the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. So Isaac went to Gerar, to Abimelech king of the Philistines. The LORD appeared to him and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and will give your descendants all these lands, and by your descendants, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws. So Isaac lived in Gerar. When the men of the place asked about his wife, he said, ‘She is my sister…’”
Another Profound Parallel!
“She is my sister”—Isaac finds himself in the exact same circumstance as his father, Abraham, right after God blesses him, and reconfirms the covenant, and he repeats the exact same mistake born of fear!
We wonder how Isaac could be so fearful after Adonai had actually spoken to him—why can’t he just trust Him for protection? Yet are we any different? I suggest not—Abraham and Isaac are exhibiting fear “such as is common to man.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
Not surprisingly, Abimilech finds out Rebekah is not Isaac’s sister before he or anyone of the Philistines has violated her. (God’s sovereign Hand behind the scenes, saving Isaac and Rebekah from themselves!)
“Isaac farmed in the land of the Philistines, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. And the LORDblessed him, and the man became rich and continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy; for he had possessions of flocks and herds and a great household so that the Philistines envied him.” vs.12-14
Not unlike Israel today, when the Children of Abraham sow in their covenant Land, it blooms and blossoms almost miraculously! Also not unlike today, as the Land that lay fallow for centuries became fertile under the hand of the returning exiles from the four corners of the earth, it has become bitterly contested.
Our text records that the Philistines envied Isaac, and so Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are too powerful for us.” (v. 16)
So Isaac left and journeyed with his large flocks and herds. He found that all of Abrahams’ wells had been destroyed by the Philistines, so he dug them again. But each time one would produce water, the herdsmen of the Philistines would quarrel with his herdsman and claim the well, and he would have to move on and dig another well.
When he reached what is today known as Be’er Sheva in the Negev, the LORD appeared to him.
“‘I am the God of your father Abraham; Do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you, and multiply your descendants, For the sake of My servant Abraham.’ So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there; there Isaac’s servants dug a well.” (vs. 24, 25)
Then Abimelech came to him saying, “‘We see plainly that the LORD has been with you; so we said, ‘Let there now be an oath between us, even between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you, that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the LORD.’” (vs. 28, 29)
The favor of the LORD was apparent upon Isaac. Not just in his riches—which would impress the pagan king—but in his humility. He certainly could have fought for the land, or the wells rather than moving on. He was wealthy and powerful, and the wells were Abraham’s—by all rights, his. However, the purposes of God through our Patriarchs was to make known this holy, righteous God that was entirely other than the savage gods of the heathen nations.
When Abimelech departed in peace, Isaac’s servants dug a successful well. The text tells us that it was called Shibah: “therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.” (v. 33)
This chapter ends with Esau marrying two Hittite women. The text notes that they brought grief to both Isaac and Rebekah. (vs. 34, 35)
Who were the Philistines? They are descendants of Mizraim, Noah’s grandson by his son Ham. They were a seafaring people; their name, Pelesheth, or Pelishti, is mentioned in the annals of Egypt’s Ramses III, and they settled in Canaan in the area of Gaza.
Genesis 27 The Blessing of Jacob
“Now it came about when Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see, that he called his older son Esau and said to him, ‘My son.’ And he said to him, ‘Here I am.’ Isaac said, ‘Behold now, I am old and I do not know the day of my death. Now then, please take your gear, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me; and prepare a savory dish for me such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die.’ Rebekah was listening…” (vs. 1-5)
Rebekah overhears this exchange between Isaac and Esau. Their plans would circumvent the express Word of the LORD concerning which son is to receive the blessing! (cf. Genesis 25:23) This would have far-reaching implications!
The text does not tell us why she couldn’t simply reason with her husband, or if she had ever told him of the prophecy. Perhaps she had and he didn’t believe her, his love for Esau blinding him to the truth. We just don’t know.
What we do know is that Esau has carelessly traded away his birthright, but doesn’t say a thing. He is ready to receive the blessing under false pretenses, and Rebekah is desperate to see that Isaac blesses the child the LORD intends for His purposes. So she springs into action!
This is where things get hairy. (Pun intended!) Rebekah quickly hatches a plan to trick Isaac into blessing Jacob instead of Esau. Does the end ever justify the means? It’s difficult to imagine that Adonai would sanction the subterfuge that follows.
While Esau is hunting wild game, Rebekah “commands” Jacob to bring two goats from their flock for her to prepare for him to take to his father, Isaac. Further, she says she will cover his hands and the back of his neck with the skin of a young goat, so that Jacob will feel hairy like Esau to Isaac, who is quite blind. When Jacob expresses reluctance, fearing that he will appear as a deceiver in his father’s sight and be cursed rather than blessed, Rebekah says,“Your curse be on me, my son, only obey my voice.” (v. 13)
So Jacob went through the entire charade and received the blessing intended for him by Adonai from his father, Isaac:
“See, the smell of my son Is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed;
Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, And of the fatness of the earth, And an abundance of grain and new wine; May peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you; Be master of your brothers, And may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, And blessed be those who bless you.” (vs. 27-29)
This is the Divine covenant bestowed on Abraham. It has now been passed to Jacob, as Adonai intended. (Although in a bit of an unorthodox manner to our sensibilities!)
Almost immediately after Jacob left, Esau came in from hunting. He prepared the meal for his father and asked for his blessing.
“Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.” (v. 31)
Isaac is confused, “Who are you?”
Esau answers, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.” (v. 32)
Isaac begins trembling violently, realizing he has irrevocably given Esau’s blessing to Isaac. Our text says that Esau wailed exceedingly and cried out bitterly, begging his father to bless him, as well.
Isaac said, “Your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing.” (v. 35)
Esau asked Isaac, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” So Esau lifted his voice and wept.” (v. 38)
So Isaac blessed Esau: “‘Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling, and away from the dew of heaven from above. ‘By your sword, you shall live, And your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless, that you will break his yoke from your neck’” (vs. 39, 40)
The opposite of Jacob’s blessing; Esau will live in waste places, not fertile. He will live by the sword. Esau’s descendants were the Edomites. They settled in the inhospitable, barren mountains east of the Dead Sea, south of the Moabites.
Esau determined to kill Jacob just as soon as their father died and the days of mourning had passed, so bitter was his resentment over the blessing. Rebekah found out and demanded that Jacob flee to Haran (in Mesopotamia) to her brother Laban until Esau’s anger subsided.
Rebekah then spoke to Isaac and said that the Hittite women Esau had married are making life unbearable for her, and if Jacob takes a pagan wife her life will not be worth living. This obviously gave rise to Isaac unwittingly sending Jacob away as Rebekah had wanted.
Genesis 28 Jacob Sent with a Blessing to the Land of His Fathers
“So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and charged him, and said to him, ‘You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and from there take to yourself a wife from the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.
May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you,
that you may become a company of peoples.
May He also give you the blessing of Abraham,
to you and to your descendants with you,
that you may possess the land of your sojournings,
which God gave to Abraham.’” (vs. 1-4)
It would seem Isaac finally got with the program. Before sending Jacob off to Laban, Rebekah’s brother, he spontaneously confers a powerful blessing upon him, in the Name of God Almighty, El Shaddai.
This is the second time the Name El Shaddai has been used in the Scriptures. The first was when Abram was 99 years old and the LORD appeared to him, telling him to walk before Him and be blameless. (Genesis 17:1)
ESAU CONTINUES TO WALK IN DARKNESS When Esau saw that Jacob had received another blessing and had been charged not to take a wife from the daughters of Canaan (like he had), and that Jacob had obeyed his parents, Esau went to Ishmael and took his daughter for a wife. He thought this would gain his father’s favor as Ishmael was the son of Abraham.
SOW TO THE FLESH, REAP DESTRUCTION Not surprisingly, Esau continues to operate in the carnal. He doesn’t have eyes to see or spiritual discernment to understand what is happening in his world. He will continue to act and react on base instinct as he doesn’t call on the LORD. And his descendants, the Edomites will be known as a cruel and fierce race, hungering for battle, and oft cursed by Adonai as in our Haftarah:
“Though Edom says, ‘We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins’; thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the LORD is indignant forever.’” (Malachi 1:4)
Getting it Right
When I was growing up my Dad always had a chore for me, then I could play. Chores were important to him. He wanted things done just so. If it was dusting it was every surface area on every piece of furniture. If vacuuming, get into every corner and no under -the-rug stuff. Pulling weeds, don’t miss a one. I think you get the idea.
So ingrained was this principle in me, that I, of course, had to pass it along to my two sons. “Don’t do a job unless you are going to do it right,” I would always say. If they were washing the car I had to check the job out before they were allowed to escape and play. Repeat performances with the bucket of soapy water and hose often had to be made until it was done… “right.” And don’t bring up the dreaded weeds… “Anything but weeds, Dad.” Need I go into that parental exercise? On one occasion my youngest son became so frustrated that he set the patch of weeds on fire, but just so they could be eliminated quickly. Needless to say that didn’t turn out so well, especially when the fence unintentionally became part of the burn project. Everything had to be done correctly, or it was just wrong. (By the way, the one son had set the fire is today a wildland firefighter. Go figure.)
Now, this may well be a principle carried a bit too far. But today they’re both men who carry on in the fine tradition of their father, however, thankfully, with sane modification.
Now we come to Malachi and see that he had some stern words from Adonai regarding the same issue. God’s issue, however, was genuinely important, of religious significance, and far more relevant to the lives of His people.
Here we have God’s charge against Israel. Some 100 years had passed since the return from the Babylonian exile of Judah, the Southern Kingdom at the time. Both the city of Jerusalem and the Temple had been rebuilt. In this passage, Adonai equates Israel – now representing both Northern and Southern kingdom’s – and the Temple worship in Jerusalem to Esau. He sees in the Israel of that present day what He saw in the Esau of old. Esau was a man who forsook his birthright and cared little for the lifestyle standards that would have pleased his earthly father. This is now a fault God lays against Israel.
So what was the issue at hand with Israel? It was Temple worship NOT being done exactly as God would have it done. As you read the Haftarah text, Malachi 1:1-2:7, you see the Jewish people showed nothing less than a disdainful attitude toward their rebuilt Temple and the God established procedures for worship that were to take place on the inside. Now that really was important.
The consequences of not doing it exactly as the Lord God of Israel wanted it done were such that the blessings given to Israel were to be changed into a curse. The Israelite nation took lightly all that God had given them and had gotten so used to their lax and unsanctified way of doing God’s business that when confronted by Malachi they couldn’t understand what they were doing wrong. Does this sound a bit like the Church today?
How long has it been since you have considered l Peter 2:9?
“But you are a chosen race, A royal PRIESTHOOD, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
Here it says that not just “some” of us are priests as the Levites were among the other eleven tribes. No, every single Christian is a priest. We are, “…a royal priesthood…” Romans 12:1 says that we have a, “spiritual service of worship” to perform. This is genuinely important for you, and guess what that service is. It is to present your bodies—yes, yours, not some dead animals—as a living sacrifice. That’s 24/7 service and is of great religious significance. Not just part of the time but 24 hours a day, every day of the week, you and I are royal priests giving up our bodies to whatever service our Maker calls us to. And do you think He doesn’t care if it’s done right? Remember God’s words through Malachi?
James says, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (v. 1:22) I think Malachi was speaking to a crowd that had allowed themselves to be deluded. They didn’t understand what the problem was with the way they were doing things. But their inconsistent performance—not doing it the right way—not only, “corrupted the covenant of Levi,” but “caused many to stumble.” (Malachi 1:8)
I wonder if it isn’t time for each of us to reexamine our lives as it relates to the 24/7 priestly service we are to be rendering to to our Lord Yeshua. Let’s not just be hearers of the word. Let’s be doers, doing it right every time. Now that is the stuff that is really relevant to the lives of a people belonging to our divine Master.
B’rit Chadashah Toldot
Will the Clay Question the Potter?
Romans the ninth chapter is both heart-rending and awe-inspiring. In it is seen the heart of the Apostle Paul for his Jewish brethren. He says that he would part with his own salvation if it meant that they would be saved. Also revealed is the hand of God as He deals sovereignly in the affairs of man, we likened to clay and He to a Potter.
Volumes have been written in just this chapter of the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament).
So very much has been said. The controversy over these truths has not been settled as far as a mutuality in agreement among men is concerned. And I’m sure this matter will only be put to rest when the Lord Himself instructs us after His coming for the saints.
It is therefore not my intent to add more written material to the controversy, only to state the obvious and let you draw your own conclusions. Let’s see what is said as we zero in on the one individual whose story winds through this week’s Torah, Haftarah, and B’rit Chadashah portions. Esau is the subject at hand.
In the Torah section, Genesis 25:19 through chapter 28, we see Esau at odds with those around him. His mother favors his younger brother, actively seeking to secure for that younger brother a birth right that historically speaking should have belonged to Esau. Neither his mother nor his father are pleased with him over his choice of wives (26:34-35); even though the text does contrast Isaac’s love for Esau against Rebekah’s love for Jacob (25:28). Speaking of Esau’s two wives the text says, “…and they brought grief to Isaac and Rebekah” (26:35). And then there is his younger brother. Jacob first gets Esau to sell him his birth right for a meal and then steals what might have been left of that birth right for him through trickery with, guess what, more food.
I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau
In the Haftarah section, Malachi 1:1-2:7, God uses His dealings with Esau as an example to describe His determinate will as it relates to His choosing the nation Israel to love. He simply states, “‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ declares the Lord. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau…’” Here, hate is best understood not as an emotion felt by God, but rather as God giving Jacob the primary position of blessing, it is characterized as love. To Esau is given the secondary position of a lesser inheritance, and service to his younger brother, that position being characterized as hate.
Now in the B’rit Chadashah, Paul quotes God’s statement as it is recorded in the Malachi passage. We should understand that it does not characterize an emotion God feels toward each of these brothers. Rather this is a position He has chosen to put them in, even before they were born. Paul uses this to illustrate God’s determinate will, in how He chooses to deal with the nation of Israel. Consider David’s thoughts on God’s hand in our lives, even before our conception, “Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them” (Psalms 139:16). In some way—I’ll let you decide how—God has already determined and has recorded the history of our lives, even before we were born.
In this same chapter, Paul goes on to say that it was God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart, not Pharaoh who hardened his own. Why these illustrations? Perhaps to explain how it is that God can choose of his own will NOT to save ALL Israel, but instead to set Israel aside for a time so as to include the Gentiles in His plan. (Romans 11:11,19-20; Genesis 12:3,17:5)
We are after all just clay in His mighty, but caring hands. Does He not have the ability and the right to mold us in any way He sees fit? Does He not make us in the womb and order our days ahead? (Psalm 139:13-16) Do we have any right to say to this Potter, “Why did you make me like this?” (Romans 9:20) Can we dare question an Almighty God as to what He determines to do in and with our lives? Esau could not. He was used by God as God saw fit. And we may say, why? How can God be “fair” or “just” in doing in this man’s life what He did? And all I can say is who are we to question…Him…at all?
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens by the span,
And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure,
And weighed the mountains in a balance
And the hills in a pair of scales?
Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD,
Or as His counselor has informed Him?
With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding?
And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge
And informed Him of the way of understanding?
Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;
Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.
Even Lebanon is not enough to burn,
Nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
All the nations are as nothing before Him,
They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.