Children: Esau, Jacob and Election
We're studying in Romans 9 so turn with me there and we'll start at verse 5 just to remind ourselves of a little bit of the context. We started by getting into this last week. I began by pointing out how Romans is a book about the righteousness of God. The response might be from Jews at the time and Paul is answering this as though there were an objector who presented this question: "How can you say God is righteous and faithful if God seems to have left the Jews behind and he's shifting to a plan for the church?"
The answer is that God is only temporarily setting aside His plan for Israel. It is not a permanent setting aside but God still has a plan for the Jewish people, still has a plan for Israel and this will come to completion at some future point in history. Paul is going to point out the fact that within Israel there is a distinction between those who are merely ethnic Jews, those who are merely physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and those who are both physical Jews as well as regenerate Jews. The regenerate Jews are believers in the Messiah. In the Old Testament the term Ha-Mashiach means anointed one and is translated as Messiah. In Greek it's translated as christos from the Greek word chrio, which means anointed one. So when we say Jesus Christ in Hebrew that's Yeshua Ha-Mashiach. Yeshua is the Hebrew for Jesus. It's the same name as Joshua. Ha-Mashiach is the Messiah, so Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, and iesous christos in the Greek, is saying the same thing: Jesus, the Messiah.
We looked at Romans 9:5 where Paul says, "Whose are the fathers and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen." According to the flesh here means according to physical human descent. Paul uses flesh many times to describe the seat of the sin nature which is in the physical human body, the genetic structure, the genetic coding of the human race according to Adam's genetic sin. But in other cases the word flesh simply talks about our physical, mortal body and that's what it's talking about here. So Christ according to the flesh was Jewish. He was in that line of descent.
Then Paul gets to the heart of his focus in verse 6: "But it is not as though the word of God has failed [taken no effect] For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel." It's not that God has been ignored or that His plan has been rejected or nullified. This is Paul's first explanation of the principle. So last time I showed you a circle that represented all of ethnic Israel. Ethnic Israel refers to those who have physical descent through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
If you have a descent from Abraham alone, then you may not be Jewish. Abraham had a son, Ishmael, through Hagar the Egyptian slave girl. That's not the line of the seed. So if you're a descendant from Ishmael (Ishmaelites in the Old Testament) then you're not part of the seed. They kind of blended in with the various Arab tribes and so the Ishmaelites and many of the Edomites have all been absorbed into the various Arab groups now. They are descendants of Abraham and some of Abraham and Isaac but they're not descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That's what defines an Israelite by the flesh. He has to be descended through all three patriarchs.
But that's not enough to get into heaven. See in the 1st century, toward the end of the second temple period, the emphasis of the Pharisees who were the biblicists of the day, if you would was that was all you needed to get the heaven. They were the conservatives. They weren't accurate in their interpretation of Scripture. They'd become excessively legalistic. They had the basic assumption that if you were a physical descendant of Abraham that gave you special spiritual status before God. As long as you were a Jew, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, you would get into heaven. They taught basically that all Jews are saved on the basis of Abraham.
Because there were different groups who emphasized different things and they weren't a "one size fits all" theology, they might add that you had to have personal righteousness. That's why they emphasized the overt ritual so much. As Jesus continually pointed out, it was all on the surface. He called them whitewashed sepulchers, in other words, they're beautiful like a whitewashed tomb. In Israel you go to the graveyards and you have the above-ground sepulchers made out of that white Jerusalem limestone, and they looked so white and clean. But inside, it's just corruption; it's just dead men's bones. That's the point of the imagery that Jesus uses when he says they're just like whitewashed sepulchers. They're very clean on the outside and filthy on the inside. There's no internal regeneration of cleansing by the Holy Spirit so they're spiritually dead on the inside even though they look good on the outside.
Their emphasis was on works but the works produced by someone who's spiritually dead are dead works. They have no value whatsoever. It may be moral or ethical righteousness but it has no value before God. It's relative righteousness. It doesn't measure up to God's standards. Some Pharisees also excluded completely Gentiles from salvation. In fact, even the idea of taking the gospel to the Gentiles was such that in Acts 22:21 which we haven't gotten to in our Acts study, when Paul returns to Jerusalem and begins to tell them what God is doing, they are outraged. He's speaking to the crowd because they're gathered around him. They've heard these rumors that Paul is telling the Jews around the empire where he goes that they don't have to obey the Law of Moses and they don't have to show respect for their traditions or any of these other things so when Paul gets to the point where he says God told him to take the gospel to the Gentiles, they just exploded in a riot. What set them off was taking the gospel to the Gentiles.
They had this exclusionary viewpoint when it comes to God's blessing upon them. They really believed that just being a Jew was all that was needed to order to have merit before God. But as Peter points out to Cornelius in Acts 10:34-35 God is no respecter of persons. This was not something that the Pharisees had come to understand. So there's a distinction. Just because you were Jewish didn't mean you got into heaven. The blessing of God meant that God was choosing Abraham and his descendants through whom He would provide revelation. In terms of the Scriptures, they would be custodians to preserve it and to pass it on and it was through the line of the seed that God's promised Messiah would come. It didn't guarantee them salvation but it guaranteed that they would be through whom salvation would come.
So Paul says in Romans 9:6 "But it is not as though the word of God has failed [taken no effect] for they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel." Remember Israel got his name when he's contending with God and perseveres in the wrestling match with God at Peniel. The Angel of the Lord ends up slapping him on the hip and makes him a partial cripple for a while. He's given a new name, Israel, which means one who contends or perseveres with God. So Paul is saying here they're not all Israel. That is, they're not all contenders of God who are from the one who contended with God, the alternate name for Jacob.
Then he says in verse 7, "Nor are they all children…" When you read this I can understand why some people would get confused in the English. When you read "For they are not all Israel who are Israel nor are they all children," you find a number of commentators as if verse 7 is a further explanation of what it means that they are not Israel who are of Israel. That's not what's going on here. His initial statement here is to explain this distinction: that there are some who are ethnic Israel, some who are Israel and regenerate which are the true Israel of God.
Now he's going to go in and take some time to explain first of all the significance of being ethnic Israel and why that's important. The reason that's important is because of the Abrahamic covenant and that everlasting promise God made to Abraham. That's the first thing. The second thing he doesn't get into until he starts getting into chapter 10 but he's going to deal with the aspect of those who are true Israel of Israel. What's coming up in the next few verses is just defining who ethnic Israel is. Defining a true physical ethnic Jew and why that's important.
So he says in verse 7, "Nor are they all children…" He adds something, an ascending argumentation. He starts with one principle. They're not all Israel who are Israel. Then he goes on to something that explains that further but that is stated in addition to that, "Neither are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants." We have to carefully understand this. What does he mean by children? If you look at these verses in your Bible, you ought to circle the word "children" as you go through these verses. Verse 7 says "Nor are they all children because they're the seed of Abraham but in Isaac your seed shall be called." Verse 8 leads to an explanation, "That is, it is not the children of flesh who are children of God." Circle those two children's.
What does he mean by that? He goes on: "But the children of the promise are regarded as descendants [the seed]." So you have about four important terms. What does he mean by just the statement "children" alone in verse 7? What does this concept of the "seed" in verse 7 and at the end of verse 8 mean? Verse 9 says, "For this is the word of promise. At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son." So we have the children of the promise equal the children of the seed and the promise of the seed when you connect the dots at the end of verse 8 and the beginning of verse 9.
In 9:7 when Paul says, "Nor are they all children…" he defines that simply as being of the seed of Abraham. So he talks about a broad concept. All of the seed of Abraham refers to all of his physical descendants. The descendants through Ishmael, the descendants through the sons of Keturah, the Midianites and others, and the descendants of Isaac which is the line of the seed. So he's saying that you're not considered a child, and here he's really referring to a child of the promise, which is the full term he uses in the verse. But you're not really talking about a child of the promise just because you're a physical descendant of Abraham because he quotes from Genesis 21:12 in verse 7, "In Isaac your seed shall be called" so it's very specific from Genesis 21:12 that the line of the seed goes from Abraham through Isaac.
So you have this distinction here. There are non-children who are physical descendants and the children of the promise who are the physical descendants through Isaac. In verse 8 he says: "That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants." Now we have two other terms coming up here, children of the flesh and they are not the children of God. Now as we read this at our first glance, it appears that the children of God would be a term related to how it's used in some other places where it's related to those who are saved, regenerate, but that doesn't fit the context because he's not talking about saved versus unsaved. He's talking about identifying the true physical line of Abraham. What is the line of the seed?
So you have the children of the flesh are equivalent to the non-seed descendants of Abraham. Okay? So the children of the flesh are the children that come through his humanity with Ishmael or Keturah's children. Remember Abraham had two wives. Sarah first and when she died he married Keturah and had other sons and daughters with Keturah. Hagar was not a wife. She's a concubine. There was a legal distinction between a wife and a concubine. Abraham is not a polygamist. He may be a fool. He may have listened to his wife when he shouldn't have. He may have created a huge problem by doing so but he wasn't a polygamist. Sometimes in the polygamy argument people say that the patriarchs of the Bible were polygamous and God allowed it. Jacob was the only patriarch that had multiple wives and that was due to the carnality of Laban and his own complicity. It wasn't a good thing. Even though there were some in the Old Testament who had multiple wives it's never portrayed as a positive thing. It's always portrayed as a reflection of the influence of pagan culture.
So we have the children of the flesh. This refers to the physical descendants of Abraham, through Ishmael and the children of Keturah or later Esau's children. Then who are the children of the promise? This goes back to the doctrine I taught in the past called the doctrine of the barren woman. There were six barren women in Scripture. The first three are the ones we're concerned with here and that's Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel. Those three were all barren. It's not because of any sort of divine discipline or punishment but it's to demonstrate the power of God to bring life where there was death. The birth of the Jewish people was a miracle. God regenerated the physical womb of Sarah and Rebekah and Rachel in order to give birth to their children. It was God who made it possible for them to have children so they are called children of God because of that supernatural miracle that was a part of their birth.
So those who are the children of the flesh are just the physical descendants, not the line of the seed. These are not the children of God, because the children of God refers to those who are the result of a divine miracle. Then he says: "But the children of the promise are counted as the seed." The children of the promise is a specific term that relates to the Abrahamic promise in Genesis 18:10 and 14 where God specified that a son would be born to Sarah, that the seed He had promised Abraham would come through Abraham and Sarah. It would not come through a surrogate through his servant back in Genesis 15 and not through Hagar but would come through Abraham and Sarah. The children of God, therefore, is not a term for regeneration but for those born through divine intervention through the barren mothers.
Then this is further clarified in the next verse, Romans 9:9 where Paul says, "For this is the word of promise. At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son." This is from Genesis 18:10 and 14. So that's the promise. The children of the promise are Isaac, first of all, and then Jacob when Rebekah gives birth to the twins, Esau and Jacob. Jacob is the one designated to be the one who will carry the line of the seed because the elder, Esau, would serve the younger, which is Jacob. We'll get into that in this study. So we see this in several different passages.
So what I want to do now is take us back to Genesis to pick up this thread and see how all of this sort of fits together. Turn with me to Genesis chapter 12. Again this is one of those passages where you should be writing references in your margins so when we go from verse to verse we are taken to the next verse to follow along. If you are talking to someone and you have your Bible you can go to all the passages. In Genesis 12:1 God makes a shift in the way He has worked with the human race. Up to this point he's worked through all the human race. There's no significant racial distinction. All are Gentiles but now God is going to call out one particular human being and it is through him that there's going to be a special blessing for the entire human race. He makes certain promises to him and this is not a covenant in Genesis 12 but it's a summary of the covenant that will come and it's God's initial promise to Abraham.
Abraham at this time is known simply as Abram and he lives in Ur of the Chaldees. God comes to him. Abram is already a believer. He already understands the gospel of God. God is not just coming to him and saying that if you do this you'll be saved. He's already justified. Now God is giving him a special blessing because of Abraham's love for God and spiritual maturity and God's own sovereign choice. It's not something Abraham has earned. It's that God has chosen him out of His sovereignty and omniscience. In Genesis 12:1 God says: "Go forth from your country, and from your relatives, and from your father's house to the land which I will show you." This land is a key component of the promise.
"I will make you a great nation…" That indicates the descendants, the seeds. "I will bless you and make your name great." God promises personal blessing to Abraham and that he will become famous and his name will be known and he says as a command, "And you shall be a blessing." Verse 3 is the key verse, "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 shall be blessed." That's the core of the Abrahamic covenant: a promise of land, a promise of seed [descendants], and a promise to be a worldwide blessing.
The land part is reaffirmed in verse 7: "The Lord appeared to Abraham and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." By this time Abraham and Sarah have moved to Shechem near the oak tree of Mora and that where God appears to him to tell him He will give this land to his descendants. Abraham builds an altar to the Lord at that particular point. Then he moves on down further south into the land. Later on we see he leaves to go to Egypt during a time of famine and then he returns and there's a conflict between Lot's cattlemen and Abraham's cattlemen. The Lord separates them and then in verse 14 the Lord appears to Abram in 13:14: "The Lord said to Abram after Lot had separated from him, "Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants [seed in the Hebrew] forever. All through Genesis we're tracing the seed. That's why you have the genealogies. You're tracing the seed of the woman from Genesis 3:15 down through the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 and all this is so that when the Messiah comes His lineage can be traced all the way back from one generation to the next to Adam. This is what Luke does in his genealogy in Luke 4.
So we see the covenant for the land reiterated in Genesis 13:15-17. Now let's skip over to Genesis 15. This is the key covenant passage. God comes in and says not to be afraid in verse one. He assures him that He's his shield, and an exceedingly great reward and Abraham is puzzled and asks if the heir should come through his servant, Eliezer of Damascus. See, this is his first operation in the flesh and there's a contrast here. He's saying he's going to do God's work his way, in the power of the flesh using his own ability without relying upon God. Abraham's first option is to do it through Eliezer, his servant. But God says to him in verse 4: "This man will not be your heir, but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir." Then God reiterates that his descendants, his seed will be like the stars of the heavens. At the end of verse 5, "If you are able to count them, so shall your descendants be."
Then in verse 9 through the end of the chapter is where we have the actual covenant cutting ceremony itself. After all this conversation with God, which must have been pretty intense, it's time for Abraham to take a little nap. So after he goes out and gathers up the animals for the sacrifice and kills them and then splits them in two, he's really tired. That's a lot of work. If any of you have ever been hunting and you've shot a deer or a wild pig or anything like that, to eviscerate, clean the animals and then to split them in two is a lot of work so Abraham needs a little nap. God causes him to go to sleep. Then God alone passes between the two halves of the sacrifice. That's what's so important. Normally if you're going to cut a covenant with someone and it's an extremely significant contract and you want to bind both parties to the contract then in those days you would split the sacrifice and both parties signing the contract would walk between the sacrifices. But God puts Abraham to sleep and God alone passes between the halves of the sacrifices, showing that this is a unilateral, one-sided covenant. God is binding Himself to the covenant regardless of what Abraham does. It's a one-sided covenant and it's an eternal covenant.
Usually we use terms like conditional and unconditional but there were conditions attached to every covenant but it doesn't have to do with the ultimate fulfillment. To enjoy the blessings of the land, the Jews had to be obedient. That was a condition. But if they were disobedient, it didn't negate the Abrahamic covenant. Better terms we use are eternal or permanent versus temporary. That's what the writer of Hebrews emphasizes when he talks about the new covenant. He says that the old covenant was temporary and designed to be temporary. That's the Mosaic covenant, and that's why the new covenant is called the new covenant because it indicates the old covenant wasn't supposed to be permanent. So this is really a better Biblical category for understanding these covenants. Permanent versus temporary and the only temporary covenant in Scripture was the Mosaic covenant.
So God cuts the covenant with Abraham in chapter 15. In chapter 16 we get "operation flesh, paragraph 2". This is when Sarah thinks she has a better idea and she suggests that Abraham take her servant as a substitute and that through Hagar he will have a child. Some years have gone by and she's getting impatient. She wants to have a surrogate pregnancy through Hagar. Ten years have gone by since the previous revelation from God so Abraham goes into Hagar and she conceives and gives birth to a son, Ishmael.
If you take the time to look at Galatians 4:21 to 31, Paul develops this as a picture of Abraham in terms of the works of the flesh. There Paul is now adding a layer of interpretation to it in terms of Abraham trying to complete God's plan on the basis of his own works and not waiting upon the miraculous grace of God to supply a son as God had promised. So this is a work of the flesh and according to Galatians 4:21-31 we now add a layer of meaning to "the flesh". Not just according to the physical descent but also the idea of human works. That doesn't sit well with the Pharisaical inclination of the Jews because what Paul is now saying is that physical descent from Abraham isn't good enough, and it didn't apply to Ishmael at all. That was a mistake and a sin on the part of Abraham because he wasn't trusting in God.
So we come to chapter 17. Another thirteen years go by. That's a long time. You think about when West Houston Bible Church started, about nine years ago. I moved back not quite eight years ago. We haven't come close to 13 years. In chapter 17 we have the sign of the covenant given which is circumcision. Abraham is 99 years old. Ishmael is 13 and this is when Abraham and Ishmael are circumcised, a sign of the covenant which God has established with them.
In Genesis 17:19 God announces to Abraham and Sarah that Sarah will bear a son and they are to call his name Isaac. God says: "I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him." This is an eternal covenant that won't ever be abrogated and with his seed after him. So this is what Paul is talking about in Romans 9 when he says that the children of the promise are counted as the seed. The children of the promise refers to Isaac and that line. It will go from Isaac and then to Jacob. So this is God's sovereign choice as He takes them through their blessing.
Galatians 3:14 says that this blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ. Abraham was called so that all the nations would be blessed in him. This flew in the face of rabbinic theology in the Second Temple period. They thought they were excluding the Gentiles completely. They looked down on the Gentiles but Paul says the blessing might come upon the Gentiles that we "Might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." A couple of verses later in Galatians 4 Paul says, "For this is to say that the law which was 430 years later [after the Abrahamic covenant] cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ. So the Mosaic covenant cannot nullify the eternal covenant of Abraham.
Now let's go back to Romans 9:10. We're going to be moving around from Romans to these Old Testament passages. So Romans 9:8-9 focuses on the promise of the seed through Isaac and not through Ishmael. Then in verse 10 we read, "And not only this but there was Rebekah who, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac…" Isaac is Yitsak in the Hebrew which means laughter and Sarah hears this and laughs to herself saying, "I'm an old woman. There's no way." But God found a way. So now we have the word of promise continuing through Rebekah and not only this but when Rebekah conceived she has twins.
Verse 10 continues: "For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice [election] would stand, not of works but of Him who calls." There are two things we need to recognize here. Number one, this is not talking about the individuals, Jacob and Esau. It's not focusing on them as individuals. It's focusing on them as nations. We'll see that in a minute when we go back to Genesis. The second thing we need to know is that Paul makes it a point by saying that the children haven't been born yet, nor have they done any good or evil.
There are two ways people can handle this. One is by trying to argue that at some level of prescience, God is choosing them because of foreknowledge. When Paul adds this idea that they haven't done evil yet, he's precluding the idea that somehow this is based on anything they do or might do. It's based on God's choice. God's choice is not random. God's choice is not arbitrary just because we're not told what God's choice is it doesn't mean that it's without basis or reason. It doesn't have anything to do with their personal salvation or their individual salvation. It has to do with God's oversight of history and how He is working out His plan of salvation through the descendants of Abraham. So the issue here has nothing to do with salvation but it has to do with the purpose of God in His redemption plan for mankind and it's according to His election or His choice.
God has the right to raise up nations and to bring down nations, to raise up leaders and to bring down leaders, and to choose different people for different functions or purposes. This isn't a violation of their volition at all. It certainly doesn't violate their volition in terms of salvation, as I pointed out last time. I believe that both Ishmael and Esau were believers. The evidence is real shoddy that they weren't. In both cases God promises to richly bless both Ishmael and Esau, and they were richly blessed by God. This promise that the older shall serve the younger never worked itself out in the lives of the two individuals, Esau and Jacob. It didn't work out that way at all because the older is Esau and Esau personally never served Jacob.
In fact it was Jacob, when he returns from his extended stay in the north in Haran where he is working for his father-in-law, Laban, who is afraid because Esau was breathing threats of murder when he left. He's afraid Esau still wants to kill him. God has so richly blessed Esau while Jacob is gone that Esau doesn't care what Jacob has. Esau is very happy. He's thrilled to see Jacob when he returns. He treats him with much grace and it is Jacob who bows at the feet of Esau and it is Jacob who is concerned that maybe Esau will harm him. If anyone is serving anybody, it's Jacob who is serving Esau. He puts himself in that role of subservience when he returns home and returns to the land.
The reason I'm pointing this out is that this shows that it's not talking about the persons or the individuals and this is often distorted and abused within Calvinist theology. In verse 13 it says in the NKJ version, "Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated." This is a verse that has caused great confusion to a lot of people. "God hated somebody. How can God hate Esau?" See, this is part of the problem that we as westerners often have. It's a problem of western civilization being different from a Jewish Middle Eastern culture. It's also a language issue because we don't understand the metaphors and the imagery that is often used in Hebrew. So if we read this as an English speaker, we might read this as one person who is loved and the other person as one who is despised.
That's not how the Hebrew idioms work. It's not how the people spoke. I'm going to give you an example of this. In Genesis 29:30 and 31, after working for fourteen years Jacob finally gets the love of his life, Rachel. He marries Rachel and we're told that he loved Rachel more than Leah. That's what hate means. To be loved less than someone else. Look at the context. It says when the Lord says that Leah was "unloved"—in the Hebrew it's hate. See Jacob didn't hate Leah. He didn't love her as much as he loved Rachel. That's how the idiom works. If someone is not loved as much in that language, then they're hated. That's the language. It doesn't mean they're despised or found to be obnoxious or any of those things, it simply means they're not loved as much. It's an idiom for expressing acceptance and approval above someone else. So someone gets an A+, the next person gets an A. That would be in their language that the one getting the A+ is loved, the one getting the A is hated. Okay? So this shows from the text that how this concept of hate and love works.
Now let's turn back to Genesis. We're going to look at two passages in the Old Testament. We have to understand these stories. It's so important for people to read through their Bibles and know the stories and understand these episodes. Just get the main characters down. Genesis 25:22 is talking about when Rebekah becomes pregnant. Verse 20, "Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife." All of that data you read you just want to snore your way through the genealogy but God is telling us that He can trace the line from Adam to Jesus and prove that this is My Messiah. All of these little details are put into the text for that reason.
In verse 21, "Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren, and the Lord answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived." See once again you've got to have a miracle, a divine intervention for Rebekah to get pregnant. Verse 22, "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." She's saying, "Lord, I'm having this rough pregnancy and these two babies in here are fighting with each all the time. I've got a wrestling match going on in my stomach." She wants to know what is wrong. In verse 23 we read that the Lord said to her: "Two nations are in your womb." Right there we know that the Divine pronouncement for these two people is not focusing on the individuals. It says: "Two nations are in your womb. Two peoples shall be separated from your body. One people shall be stronger than the others; and the older [Esau] shall serve the younger [Jacob}." So this is what happened.
Now a lot of people get the idea that Esau was just a bad, bad guy because of one negative episode that occurs in Genesis 27. This is when Esau who's a hunter and an outdoorsman and he goes out to hunt and camp. He would have been a great advocate of the 2nd Amendment! Jacob is more of a mama's boy. He's a deceiver, a manipulator. He's always got to figure out his own angle in order to get what's coming to him. See, from the very beginning, God promised that the older would serve the younger. Jacob wants to be the one to make that happen. He's not going to trust God. He's got the "operation flesh" going on, just like Abraham did so rather than letting God handle the things in terms of the inheritance he follows the advice of his mother.
His mother decides that while Esau is out hunting they were going to disguise Jacob, put on a lambskin and goat skin over him. Then when Isaac, who can't see very well anymore feels him, Jacob will be hairy like Esau and Rebekah says she'll fix his favorite food and Jacob can take it into him. Then when he does that, he is to ask him for the blessing to get the inheritance. So Jacob goes through all of that. He gets the blessing from Isaac.
As soon as this finished, Esau comes in. He's been out and killed a game animal. He makes dinner for his father and brings it in. Now he asks his
father to bless him. In verse 32, "Let my father arise and eat of his son's game, that you may bless me." Isaac asks who he is and Esau tells him he's his firstborn son, Esau. Isaac is agitated and wants to know who just came in and brought him food. "I gave him the blessing," he says. This was an irreversible thing in their culture. So Esau cried out with a loud voice and calls out for a blessing. He gets a blessing but not the double blessing of the firstborn.
There's an earlier episode where Esau's come in from the field and he sold his birthright for just a mess of red lentil stew. He treats his birthright as if it's not significant, not important. As a result of this he becomes a picture of someone who treats his inheritance and birthright in a cavalier or disrespectful manner. There's a warning because of that in Hebrews 12. It says, "Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God." That doesn't mean you lose your salvation. It means you're not operating on the basis of God's grace and depending upon Him. It goes on to say, "Lest any root of bitterness spring up and cause trouble." Now this is what happens when Esau realizes how he's been tricked, that he's given up his birthright for a mess of pottage or the lentil soup.
Then he becomes very angry and bitter toward Jacob in Genesis 27:41. "So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing whereby his father had blessed him and Esau said that the days of mourning for my father are at hand [his father was going to die soon], then I will kill my brother, Jacob. This is the bitterness in his heart. This has an impact on others. How does it have an impact on others? Well, Rebekah is fearful for Jacob and she makes a plan for him to flee to her brother Laban in Haran and that's what he does.
For the next twenty years he's going to be working for Laban before he can return home. By then his mother's died, his father's died, and it has had a terrible impact because of this sin of Esau's. Verse 16: "Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau." It's not saying Esau is a fornicator. It's giving examples, fornicator, immoral person, or a profane person, which is someone who treats the grace of God with disrespect. Esau is the example of someone who treated the grace of God with disrespect who for one morsel of food, the bowl of lentil stew, sold his birthright.
Verse 17: "For you know that afterwards when he wanted to inherit the blessing he was rejected for he found no place for repentance though he sought it diligently with tears." In other words he repented and there was emotion along with it but it was too late. There were consequences to his bad choice and to his sin so he reaped the consequences of that. But none of this indicates that he wasn't a believer or wasn't blessed by God, because he certainly was blessed by God in many ways over the coming years.
So when we look at Romans 9 Paul is developing this argument that the line of the seed goes from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob. Then we have this statement of "Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated." That comes from Malachi 1:2. When was Malachi written? It's the last book of the Old Testament to be written. It's written after the return of the Jews to the land. They come back in the post-exilic period because it's after the exile. The exile began in 586 B.C. with the destruction of the first temple, the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the Jews are removed from the land. Not every single one of them but most of them.
There were actually three deportations by Nebuchadnezzar, in 605, 596, and 586 B.C. And then at the end of the exile they're returned by Cyrus in 538 B.C. The first return was under Zerubabel to build the temple. There's just only about a handful, 40,000 who returned at this particular time. They began to rebuild the temple. It's much smaller than what they had under Solomon. Finally they completed it in about 515. This is the time f Haggai and Zachariah. These are called the post-exilic prophets. They're the last three prophets in the Old Testament. They're real easy to remember. The last three are after the exile.
Now turn to Malachi. It's one of those places easy to find because it's at the end of the Old Testament. The pages are white because you haven't been there very much. Malachi, chapter 1. It starts off, "The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi." This is a time when God is sending a rebuke to the nation because of their assimilation to paganism. All through this time period of the various Persian Kings, the current one Artaxeres is about the time of the third return under Nehemiah, Malachi is trying to straighten them up because they've been compromising and assimilating with the pagans and they need to stand firm. So the date is roughly around 440 to 450 B.C.
God says: "I have loved you says the Lord. But you say how have you loved us?" There's a whole series of rhetorical questions in this book. This one sort of reminds me of a line I heard in a movie where the Jews are asking why God doesn't choose somebody else. This is often expressed by a lot of Jews today. You know, they've suffered so much so they want God to go choose someone else. That's what's expressed here. They've gone through all these horrors in their history, so how could God say He loves us. Is this love? They want God to love someone else.
They're asking God in what way He has loved them. God's response is, "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." The point that God is making in this verse is that he brought judgment on Esau and the descendants of Esau who lived in the southern part of Judah. God brought judgment upon them. As a result, the Edomites became eventually sort of absorbed into Judea. Remember Herod was the greatest of the Edomites. The Edomites basically became subservient to the Jews in the Old Testament.
God is pointing out in these verses how he's brought judgment on Edom but he's restored the Jews to the land after their judgment. In verse 4 he says, "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 they will call them the wicked territory and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever. Your eyes will see this and you will say, The Lord be magnified beyond the border of Israel." So the point that God is making here is that this is historical evidence that He is the one who chose Jacob and that even though there are times of discipline and there have been times of hardship, still God has been faithful to this covenant and his promises to Jacob and even when he took them out of the land the first time, he's going to bring them back into the land and Paul is using this as an analogy of what's going on in his time, the 1st century.
He's saying that even though God is bringing discipline again upon the Jews He is not going to forget his covenant and He will once again restore them to a place of blessing. This is a great illustration of the principle of God's faithfulness to His promise to salvation. If God were to have forgotten the Jews and have made a promise to Abraham and reneged on it, then how would we ever have the doctrine of eternal security? But because God is faithful to His promises even though we may go through periods of disobedience and we may ignore Him completely, God is always faithful to that promise and He will fulfill the promise to us to bring us to salvation, just as He will never completely turn back on his promise to Israel and He will eventually fulfill that.
Now next time we'll come back and look at the next important objection that comes up. He's going to deal with this by going to Moses and the Exodus and He's going to deal with the key passage in verse 17 where the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up to demonstrate my power to you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth. So then He has mercy on whom He desires and He hardens whom He desires." This is used by Calvinists to show that God just raises up those who will be saved and condemns to perdition those whom He rejects. And this is how they use this to confirm their doctrine of election and predestination. We'll continue to see that this has nothing to do with individual salvation or justification but once again has to do with God's faithfulness to His promises to Israel and it has to do with His corporate blessing to Israel and nothing whatsoever to do with individual selection for salvation. We'll get to that next time.