Although we've had two Thursdays off for the holidays we should remember that as the author of Chronicles began his book, he traced the genealogy of Abraham down to Noah and his sons. Then, as their descendants dispersed throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, we saw that the lineage of Noah's son Shem came directly to Abraham.
Before we discuss Abraham's descendants, it would benefit us to briefly review his life before children. Abraham was the son of TEH-rakh, living in Ur of the Chaldeans. On today's maps, that would put him in Iran, close to the intersection of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, about 175 miles northwest of the Persian Gulf.
This was an idol-worshipping family:
Josh. 24:2 Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods.
The Lord called Abraham out of that land. And not because Abraham deserved it. As you read through the book of Genesis, you can see that Abraham had many failings. He was disobedient, lied when it served his own purposes, and often walked by sight instead of faith. But God was calling Abraham just because He chose Abraham.
God promised this man,
Gen. 12:2-3 "...I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
The problem, as Abraham saw it, was that by the time he was ?? years old, he still hadn't had any children. How was God going to make him a great nation if he died without children?
Well, as we see here, Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. How did this happen, when he was so old and childless? Genesis 16 tells us the history of his first son...
Gen. 16:1-5 Now Sarai, Abram's wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, "Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her." And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram's wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight. And Sarai said to Abram, "May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the LORD judge between you and me."
This son was born, and named Ishmael. Abraham was 86 years old (Gen. 16:16).
Thirteen years later, God again spoke to Abraham, saying of Sarah his wife...
Gen. 17:16-21 "I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her." Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, "Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" And Abraham said to God, "Oh that Ishmael might live before You!" But God said, "No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year."
Four chapters later, we read...
Gen. 21:1-5 Then the LORD took note of Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had promised. So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
Because of the very different circumstances of these two births, there is a glaring contrast drawn between these two men. Isaac is called a child of promise (Gal. 4:28), while Ishmael is used as an example of the outcome of the Law, a child of the bondwoman (Gal. 4:30).
For the next three verses, the Chronicler lists the genealogy of Ishmael. God told Abraham that although Ishmael was not the son of promise, he too would be the patriarch of many peoples.
Gen. 17:20 "...He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation."
This was fulfilled in Genesis 25, but something else about his descendants was noted as well:
Gen. 25:18 They settled from Havilah to Shur which is east of Egypt as one goes toward Assyria; he settled in defiance of all his relatives.
Ishmael's people would continue this conflict with the Israelites down through history. Today, the people of the Muslim faith claim direct descendancy from Ishmael, even asserting that it was Ishmael, rather than Isaac, who was the son of promise, and who Abraham was willing to sacrifice on Mount Moriah in Genesis 22. The Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha commemorates this fictional event.
One thing that is often forgotten is that Abraham had other children besides Ishmael and Isaac. You see, after Sarah died, Abraham married again (Gen. 25:1). The woman's name was Ket-oo-RAW, and she bore him six sons.
One of these sons was Midian, who became the father of the Midianites.
- The slave traders who sold Joseph in Egypt were Midianites (Gen. 37:36).
- In the days of Gideon, the Midianites would raid the Israelites' harvest (Judg. 6:3-4).
- It was the Midianites who hired Balaam to curse the Israelites (Num. 22:7)
- Immediately after this, it was the Midianites who tempted the Israelites with their women and false gods (Num. 25). As a result,
Num. 25:16-18 ...The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Be hostile to the Midianites and strike them; for they have been hostile to you with their tricks, with which they have deceived you..."
And so it is not every son of Abraham that is promised a blessing, but only the line of Abraham through Isaac, which will become even narrower in a moment...
Isaac had two sons, Esau and Israel. The account is given in Genesis 25...
Gen. 25:21-26 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; 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." 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.
Jacob and Esau were twins - not identical, but fraternal, which is to say born simultaneously, but with very different appearances. They were also quite different in personality.
Gen. 25:27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents.
Esau was a man of immediacy, who cared more about satisfying his flesh than pleasing God. One day, Esau came home so hungry that he could eat a horse.
Gen. 25:29-34 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." 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.
What is the birthright? It is the right of the firstborn son to have precedence over his brothers. The one with the birthright became the family authority upon the death of the father. He was also given a double portion of the inheritance and was the priest of the family.
Esau despised his birthright. He cared more about filling his stomach than becoming the priest of the family. The writer of Hebrews warns us to see to it...
Heb. 12:16-17 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
Later, Jacob also received their father Isaac's blessing, although it was through deception and trickery (Gen. 27).
What is the blessing? It is a verbal conveyance of God's covenant promises. Whereas the birthright imparted material benefits from the father, the blessing imparted spiritual benefits from the Lord.
Isaac blessed his son (although he thought it was Esau) in this way:
Gen. 27:29 "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."
In spite of all Jacob's failings, God had reaffirmed the promise which He had given to Abraham and Isaac. The Lord later changed Jacob's name to Israel.
The rest of chapter one lists the descendants of Esau. Because Esau was also called Edom, he is the patriarch of the Edomites (Gen. 36:8-9). Verses 43 through 54 list the kings and chiefs of the Edomites.
Although the Edomites were descendants of Abraham and Isaac, they were not children of the promise. God's Law forbade the mistreatment of the Edomites (Deut. 23:7), but because of their treatment of the Jews, they are ultimately destined for destruction in the last days (Isa. 34:5-6; Jer. 49; Joel 3:19; Amos 1:11; Mal. 1:4).
As we pick up next Thursday, we will speed up quite a bit, covering chapters two through nine as the Chronicler details the sons of Jacob, whom we know as the twelve tribes of Israel.