Parasha Toldot (Generations)
Genesis 25:19–28:9; Malachi 1:1–2:7; Luke 3:1–18
“And these are the generations [toldot] of Yitzchak [Isaac], Avraham’s [Abraham] son: Avraham begat Yitzchak.” (Genesis 25:19)
In our last Parasha (Torah portion), the son of Sarah and Abraham, Yitzchak (Isaac), carried on the legacy of his parents’ faith and obedience to Adonai. After his mother died, Abraham sent his servant to bring home a wife for Yitzchak from among Abraham’s kinsmen.
At the well where the women of the town would soon appear, the servant prayed for God’s help in locating the perfect wife for Yitzchak. Just then, Rivkah (Rebecca) arrived at the well to provide water for him and his camels. Yitzchak was 40 when he married her.
Prayers Bring Blessings
“Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer [atar], and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.” (Genesis 25:21)
In this week’s Parasha, we discover that Rivkah is barren; in fact, according to Jewish tradition, she was born without a womb. She is one of seven women in the Torah who have difficulty conceiving but finally come to bear children by the grace of God, in this case, in answer to her husband’s prayer.
It is traditionally believed that he prayed for 19 years. Moreover, it is also believed that he prayed in unity with Rivkah.
Just because we pray once and do not receive an answer does not mean we should not continue praying! God wants us to bring our requests to Him in the unity of faith.
The Hebrew expression used in Genesis 25:21 for prayer (atar עָתַר), which can also mean to dig, is related to the Hebrew word for pitchfork (eter). The Talmud (Jewish Oral Law) explains the connection: “As a pitchfork turns the sheaves of grain from one position to another, so does the prayer of the righteous turn the dispensations of the Holy One, blessed be He, from the attribute of anger to the attribute of mercy.”
Yitzchak’s prayer penetrated the foundation of heaven, and just as grain is turned over with a pitchfork, so too was God’s judgment of barrenness upon Rivkah “turned over” and reversed by God’s mercy because of prayer.
Of course, the Bible makes it clear that we are to be fruitful and multiply; however, though seed is sown, it is God who opens the womb.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3–5)
Sarah, Abraham’s wife, came up with her own solution for her barrenness—she suggested a surrogate mother—Hagar. In her own efforts, she received Ishmael. Hannah, another barren woman, went to the Temple and cried out to the Lord for a child and she received the prophet Samuel.
Rikvah did neither. Instead, she turned to her husband who was her spiritual covering to entreat the Lord on her behalf, and God answered Isaac’s prayers for the miraculous gift of new life. Rivkah found herself pregnant with not just one child—but twins—a double portion!
Birthrights Bring Blessings
“And the boys grew; and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents.” (Genesis 25:27)
The twin boys grew up with distinctive character traits, which are reflected in their names. Yaacov (Jacob’s Hebrew name) is related to the word eikev means the heel of the foot. He was so named because he grabbed his brother’s heel at birth. This shows Jacob’s tenacity to win the birthright and carry forward the spiritual blessings that God promised to his father Abraham.
Esau, however, was named Esav, from the Semitic root, seir, meaning thick-haired. He was also nicknamed Adom, the Hebrew word for red, since he was born “red and hairy.” Adom is also related to dam (blood) which conveys Esau’s love of hunting and thirst for blood.
While Jacob had a quiet, seemingly spiritual-minded nature, Esau’s had a carnal one, as shown in the way he so easily trades something of eternal spiritual value (his birthright) for something that satisfies his physical hunger (a bowl of lentils). To him, they were equal.
“’Look, I am about to die [of hunger],’ Esau said. ‘What good is the birthright to me?’” (Genesis 27:32)
Birthrights come with responsibilities as well as blessings, and Jacob receives great blessings bestowed upon him by his father Isaac, coupled with leadership of the nations.
“May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness—an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you.” (Genesis 27:28–29)
Esau, however, receives curses:
“Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother.” (Genesis 27:39–40)
Through all the drama and even trickery, it is Jacob who received his father’s firstborn blessing; for it was pre-ordained according to God’s will who said, “Jacob have I loved; but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9:13)
The Descendants of Curses Bring More of the Same
Just as Cain’s jealousy turned into a murderous plot to kill his brother, Abel, Esau plotted to kill Jacob, but without success.
This struggle between the brothers did not suddenly appear. Even in Rivkah’s womb, the boys jostled with each other. Rivkah sought wisdom from the Lord, who revealed to her a truth that continues to this day:
“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23)
Rabbis over the centuries have compared the jealous, hate-filled character of Esau to the perpetual struggle between the descendants of both brothers.
Jacob’s descendants were birthed out of obedience to his father Isaac who told him not to marry a Canaanite woman, and he did not.
Esau, on the other hand, married two Canaanite women. One of Esau’s Canaanite offspring was Amalek who became an archenemy of pre-state Israel by attacking Moses and the Israelites while in the wilderness (Exodus 17). They also invaded Israel during the time of the Judges:
“Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country.” (Judges 6:3)
Many try to link the genealogy of Esau and the Amalekites to the modern enemies of Israel. While this might be accurate to some degree, the truth is that the spirit of Esau and the Amalekites to destroy the heirs of blessing has remained alive among many nations.
We saw this hatred in modern pre-state Israel in the expulsion of Jews from England, the tortures of the Spanish Inquisition, and the genocide of six million Jews in the Holocaust.
We saw its vibrancy continue as surrounding nations invaded the newly-formed modern Israel in 1948, again in 1967, and most recently with terrorist groups that vow to claim the land “from the river to the sea” for their own birthright.
While half of the Jewish population has been wiped out in recent decades and specific plans to remove us from the land circulate today, ultimately the Lord will uphold His vows to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants:
“I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you [Jacob] and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and … all peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.” (Genesis 28:13–14)
Those who attack God’s everlasting plans through Jacob are, in fact, placing curses over their own land.
Isaac prayed over Jacob, “May those who curse you be cursed” (Genesis 27:29), and God assures us through the Prophet Ezekiel that this continues to be true.
“Because you have had an ancient hatred, and have shed the blood of the children of Israel by the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, when their iniquity came to an end, therefore, as I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you; since you have not hated blood, therefore blood shall pursue you.’” (Ezekiel 35:5–6)
The focus of this Parasha is not really curses, but blessings.
The Hebrew word for blessed (baruch) is significant in this Parasha: out of 106 verses, baruch appears 34 times!
This word, baruch, comes from brachah (blessing), but with a small change in vowel, it becomes breicha—a wellspring of water or even a pool.
Today we see that God has kept His promise to turn the barren places of this land into wellsprings and pools of water:
“I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.” (Isaiah 41:18)
Inheriting the Blessing
During the saga of Jacob and Esau, a famine came over the Land. While Abraham went down to Egypt for food at times of famine, the Lord instructed Isaac to stay.
“The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live.’” (Genesis 26:2)
Like Abraham, Isaac obeyed the Lord and, indeed, was blessed by God for it.
“Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore unto Abraham thy father.” (Genesis 26:3)
This shows us the wisdom of seeking the Lord for solutions to our problems and not necessarily repeating what our father before us did, or what seems the logical answer. God may ask us to stay in a situation when everything is telling us to get out—fast!
If God is instructing us to stay, then even in a famine we can “bloom where we are planted.”
As the jealous and hateful spirit of Esau rises up in Jerusalem and Israel at large, there is a temptation to think we here in Israel should escape and “go down to Egypt” or perhaps to the US or Canada.
But if the Spirit of God tells us to stay, then we can know that He will protect us and establish the oath He swore unto our forefathers to give us this Land.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8)
Yeshua Brings the Ultimate Blessing to the Promised Land
“Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.” (Genesis 26:18)
Isaac likely suffered trauma from being tied up by his father and almost sacrificed, as God tested Abraham’s faith. But in this Parasha, we see that Isaac is a man of Godly character with Godly vision who continues to carry on his father’s business by re-digging the wells Abraham had dug on his way to Beer Sheva.
Why are these wells significant? They were vital sources of water in a harsh, dry desert land. But here we see that these life-giving water holes had been intentionally filled with dirt. This can only be interpreted as a barbaric act, done to discourage and even endanger life, in order to prevent Isaac from accessing his father’s wells.
We see similar discouragement from lack of water when the children of Israel camped in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt. When they finally came to a well, they sang praises to Adonai:
“From there they went to Beer, which is the well where the LORD said to Moses, ‘Gather the people together, and I will give them water.’ Then Israel sang this song: ‘Spring up, O well! …’” (Numbers 21:16–18)
Abraham had purposefully named these wells after God, to remind people that He is the source of all life. It is with joy today that we draw from deep wells of living water.
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3)
When Yeshua ministered to the Samaritan woman at a well, He made the bold claim of being the Jewish Messiah. There, He proclaimed Himself to be the source of living waters that leads to eternal life.
“But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
The ultimate heirs of blessing are the heirs of the promised Messiah, Yeshua HaMashiach, who became the final sacrifice for all who trust and believe that He is that promise.
This salvation is a free gift that 99% of Jewish People do not yet know about because no one has explained to them how the Hebrew Scriptures reveal Yeshua as their promised Messiah.
Nevertheless, the Bible promises that in these last days, as the Times of the Gentiles come to a close, all of Israel will be saved.
“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all of Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:25–26)