Isaac, Part 2 (The Covenant & the Cross #54)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 25:20-21 which reads: “And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian. And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.”

Allow me to share with you some further commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible by Dr. R.C. Sproul:

The next generation after Abraham also had to learn that the seed of promise is a gift of God’s grace, and sovereignly chosen by Him. Both Isaac’s wife and offspring were secured through prayer.

Today’s quote about the Bible is from C. S. Lewis. He said: “We must sometimes get away from the Authorized Version [of the Bible], if for no other reason, simply because it is so beautiful and so solemn. Beauty exalts, but beauty also lulls. Early associations endear, but they also confuse. Through that beautiful solemnity, the transporting or horrifying realities of which the Book tells may come to us blunted and disarmed, and we may only sigh with tranquil veneration when we ought to be burning with shame, or struck dumb with terror, or carried out of ourselves by ravishing hopes and adorations.”

Our topic for today is titled “Isaac” (Part 2) from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

As Yogi Berra is supposed to have remarked, “it was deja vu all over again.” Or, we could say, like father, like son. In his dealings with Abimelech, the Philistine king, Isaac attempted the same deception that Abraham had used twice with Sarah. The results were similar. Although Abimelech accepted Isaac’s word that Rebekah was his sister, Isaac was discovered behaving toward his wife in a manner appropriate only for married couples. Abimelech was irate, but he recognized that God was with isaac, so he invited him to stay in the land under his protection.

The three incidents of deception involving the wives of Abraham and Isaac have striking similarities, and some scholars argue that they all are variations of one story. The settings are dissimilar, however, and the resolution differs drastically in each.

We might make a correlation to Henry VIII (8th) and five of his six wives: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. A quick glance shows several parallels: These wives had only two names among them (Anne and Catherine). The first two wives were rejected because they did not produce sons. Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves were divorced. Catherine Howard and Anne Boleyn were executed. All these similarities might suggest that Henry’s escapades really are different versions of the same story from different sources. Of course, we know from historical records that these events all happened and that Henry’s problem was even more complex than this summary suggests.

Later, Isaac and Rebekah had twins. There are several signs that Rebekah’s twins were significant. First, we learn that the mother was initially barren, a sign that almost always serves to emphasize the importance of the subsequent birth. Second, the pregnancy was an answer to Isaac’s prayer on behalf of his wife; after twenty years of marriage, she conceived. Third, the two fetuses struggled within the womb. What Rebekah felt was evidently far in excess of the normal movement for a fetus, for she specifically asked God what was happening. Notice the way her question was worded: “Why is this happening to me?” That is, if this pregnancy was of God, then why was it so hard? The answer was important and twofold: Rebekah was to have twins, and they both would father a nation; more significantly, the older would serve the younger. Fourth, this event seems to be reported out of chronological sequence. It is likely that the birth of the twins occurred after Isaac passed his wife off as his sister. As we read on, it soon becomes clear that most of this section under the name of Isaac is really about his son Jacob.


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