“Unit 6: Day 4, Genesis 25–27,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 6: Day 4,” Old Testament Study Guide
Before Abraham died, he bestowed all he had upon Isaac. Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, gave birth to twin sons named Esau and Jacob. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, and Isaac later bestowed the birthright blessing—which included the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant—upon Jacob.
Genesis 25:1–18 tells about Abraham’s final years on earth, his death, and the death of Abraham and Hagar’s son, Ishmael. Before Abraham died, he married a woman named Keturah, who bore him six sons. Keturah is referred to in the scriptures as a concubine (see 1 Chronicles 1:32). The word concubine is used to describe women in the Old Testament who, in the time and culture in which they lived, were legally married to a man but had a lower social status. This lower status could mean that they and their children would not receive the same kind of inheritances as those of wives of higher status and their children.
Read Genesis 25:5–6, looking for what Abraham gave his sons before he died.
Isaac received more than Abraham’s other children because of Isaac’s birthright. A son who held the birthright inherited not only his father’s lands and possessions, but also his father’s position as the patriarch and spiritual leader of the family (see Bible Dictionary, “Birthright”). The son was then responsible to use these resources to provide for the family’s needs. The “birthright was passed from father to son, who was often, but not always, the eldest son. Righteousness was a more important factor than being the firstborn” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 85). The birthright Isaac received from Abraham also included all the blessings and responsibilities of the Abrahamic covenant.
Think of your favorite treat. If someone offered you one small bite now or all that you could eat after waiting an hour, which would you choose? Why?
As you study the choices of someone who traded a valuable possession for something of far less but immediate value, look for principles that can guide you in similar situations.
Read Genesis 25:20–21, looking for how the Lord blessed Isaac and his wife, Rebekah. As you read it may be helpful to know that the word entreat means to plead, such as in prayer, and barren means unable to conceive children.
After Rebekah became pregnant, she felt a struggle within her womb that caused her concern. Read Genesis 25:22–23, looking for what Rebekah did when she felt this struggle.
The Lord gave Rebekah important insights about the two children she would bear. The phrase “the elder shall serve the younger” in Genesis 25:23 indicates the younger child would eventually inherit the birthright instead of the firstborn.
Read Genesis 25:24–28, looking for the names and characteristics of the two children born to Rebekah and Isaac. You may want to mark what you find. (Note that in Genesis 25:27, footnote b, the Hebrew meaning of plain here means “whole, complete, perfect, simple, plain.” Similar words were used to describe Noah [see Genesis 6:9] and Abraham [see Genesis 17:1] and help us understand more clearly the type of man Jacob was.)
Remember that Esau may have naturally inherited the birthright because he was the firstborn. Read Genesis 25:29–31, looking for what Jacob asked of Esau in exchange for some pottage. It may be helpful to know that saying Jacob “sod [boiled] pottage” (Genesis 25:29) means he made stew or soup.
What do you think you would have done if you were in Esau’s position? Read Genesis 25:32–34, looking for what Esau chose to do.
You may want to mark the phrase “Esau despised his birthright” in Genesis 25:34. This indicates that Esau treated his birthright as though it had very little meaning or value.
Genesis 26 tells us that the Lord guided Isaac and blessed him both spiritually and temporally. By highlighting Isaac’s blessing, this chapter can help us understand what Esau lost when he sold his birthright to Jacob.
Read Genesis 26:2–5, 12–14, looking for ways the Lord blessed Isaac.
“Under the patriarchal order, the right or inheritance of the firstborn is known as birthright. This generally included a land inheritance as well as the authority to preside. …
“… Lineage alone does not guarantee the blessings … , but the opportunities are offered to the firstborn of the selected lineage. There are several instances in the scriptures of the one who was the firstborn losing his birthright because of unrighteousness and his office being given to another; such is the case with Esau (Gen. 25:24–34; 27)” (Bible Dictionary, “Birthright”).
Esau lost blessings not only because of his choice to sell his birthright, but also because of other poor choices he made. Read Genesis 26:34–35, looking for additional choices Esau made that deprived him of blessings.
Notice that Genesis 26:34 states that Esau married daughters of Hittites. Hittites were people who did not believe in God and worshipped idols instead. Isaac and Rebekah were saddened because Esau’s choices in marriage hindered him, his wives, and his children from receiving the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant—including the covenant of eternal marriage that is required for us to receive eternal life and become like our Father in Heaven.
How was Esau’s choice to marry Hittite women similar to the choice he made to sell his birthright?
Ponder what Esau lost because he focused on temporary and worldly pleasures. (If he had remained faithful, Esau may have inherited the birthright blessing.) Complete the following principle based on what we can learn from Esau’s choices and their consequences: If we value temporary or worldly pleasures more than we value eternal blessings, then .
Because of the covenants we have made as members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we too have been promised blessings if we remain faithful.
- Complete the following in your scripture study journal:
List some temporary or worldly pleasures that you might be tempted to value more than eternal blessings.
Choose one item from your list, and explain how seeking after that thing could cause you to lose blessings.
Although Esau had lost his birthright through his unfaithfulness, his father, Isaac, still had the responsibility to bestow the birthright blessing on one of his sons. In Genesis 27:1–33 we learn that Isaac intended to give the birthright blessing to Esau. Remember that Rebekah had previously learned by revelation that Jacob was to receive the birthright (see Genesis 25:23). Rebekah instructed Jacob to approach Isaac, who was physically blind, and present himself as though he were Esau so that Jacob could receive the birthright blessing. Jacob reluctantly carried out this plan and received the blessing.
After Isaac learned that he had unknowingly bestowed the birthright blessing on Jacob, he could have revoked the blessing and cursed Jacob instead, but he did not.
Read Genesis 27:33, looking for what Isaac said after he realized that he had bestowed the birthright blessing on Jacob instead of Esau.
Isaac’s words declaring that Jacob “shall be blessed” (Genesis 27:33) indicate that the Lord’s will had been accomplished, and the birthright blessing had been given to the person the Lord intended. Because the Spirit of the Lord was directing him, Isaac knew that he had given the blessing to the right son. From this account we learn that the Lord is able to accomplish His will in spite of the weaknesses of His servants.
Ponder how this truth relates to circumstances in the Church in our day. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency taught:
“There have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.
“I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes. …
“This is the way it has always been and will be until the perfect day when Christ Himself reigns personally upon the earth.
“It is unfortunate that some have stumbled because of mistakes made by men. But in spite of this, the eternal truth of the restored gospel found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not tarnished, diminished, or destroyed.
“… This is the Church of Jesus Christ. God will not allow His Church to drift from its appointed course or fail to fulfill its divine destiny” (“Come, Join with Us,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 22–23).
- Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: Why do you think it is important to know that the Lord is able to accomplish His will in spite of the weaknesses of His servants?
Study Genesis 27:34–38, looking for words or phrases that indicate how Esau felt after he learned the birthright blessings had been given to Jacob instead of him.
Based on Esau’s response to losing his blessings, complete the following principle: Placing worldly or immediate desires above eternal priorities will eventually lead to .
Like Esau, we may not immediately experience sorrow and regret for our poor choices and sins. However, any poor choices you make can be overcome through faith in Jesus Christ and repentance. Remember that “if you have sinned, the sooner you repent, the sooner you begin to make your way back and find the peace and joy that come with forgiveness” (For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 28).
Genesis 27:39–46 explains that Esau did receive a blessing from Isaac. However, in his anger over losing the birthright blessing, Esau decided to kill Jacob. Rebekah directed Jacob to travel to Haran, where he could be safe from Esau.
- The following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles can help you remember some of the principles you have learned during your study of Genesis 25–27. In your scripture study journal, explain how this statement can encourage you to make righteous choices. Write this statement on a piece of paper, and put it in a place where you will see it often.
“Think of the long view of life, not just what’s going to happen today or tomorrow. Don’t give up what you most want in life for something you think you want now” (“Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer,” Ensign, May 1997, 54).
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Genesis 25–27 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: