Parashah Toldot (Generations): Release the flow of Living Waters and blessing

Toldot (Generations) תּוֹלְדֹת

Genesis 25:19-28:9Malachi 1:1-2:7; Romans 9:1-13

Last week, Parasha Chayei Sarah (Life of Sarah) began with the death of Sarah at 127. For a burial place, Abraham purchased the Cave of Machpelah, despite being offered the land for free.

Parasha Toldot (Generations) begins with a description of the generations of Isaac, Abraham and Sarah’s son.

It’s interesting that Isaac wasn’t born until his mother and father’s names were changed from Sarai to Sarah and Abram to Abraham.  This change in their names was accomplished with the addition of the Hebrew letter hey, which is often used as an abbreviated form of the name of God.

And so, with the inclusion of the supernatural power and presence of God in his life, Abraham and Sarah finally saw the fulfillment of God’s promise of a son.

We’re no different than Abraham or Sarah.  By ourselves, we can do nothing (John 15:5).  But when God gets involved, nothing is impossible!!

But it wasn’t only Abraham and Sarah that had difficulty conceiving.  When Isaac (Yitzchak) took Rebecca (Rivkah) as his wife, he was 40 years old.

(Forty is a significant number in the Bible—Moses led the people for 40 years in the wilderness; it rained for 40 days and nights… the list goes on.)

But Rebecca was barren.

It is not coincidental that both Abraham’s wife and Isaac’s wife had difficulty conceiving, and this very fact displays the power of God in our lives.  Not only were their children conceived through His supernatural intervention, but they were set apart to fulfill a special destiny.

The Power of a Husband’s Prayer

“Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren.  The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebecca became pregnant.” (Genesis 25:21)

For Rebecca to finally conceive, her husband had to come to God in prayer. 

Considering the Middle Eastern cultural emphasis on the blessing of children and the terrible shame attached to barrenness, we can be quite certain that Rebecca would have been on her knees regularly praying fervently for God’s intervention when month after month after month went by with no pregnancy.

And yet God chose not to act until her husband, Isaac, got on board and entreated God on his wife’s behalf.

Of course, this is not to say that God won’t answer our petitions if we have no husband, or if our husbands fail to pray for us.  Not at all!

But this definitely encourages husbands to be faithful in their role as their wife’s spiritual and prayer covering.

Oftentimes, a wife is praying and praying for changes in her family, her marriage, her children, or even herself – but nothing seems to be happening. Could it be that God is waiting for the husband, as the cohen (priest) of the home to petition the heavens for an answer?

Destiny, Dysfunction and Sibling Rivalry

“And Isaac loved Esau because he did eat of his venison: but Rebecca loved Jacob.” (Genesis 25:28)

During her pregnancy, Rebecca experienced a violent struggle in her womb.  When she asked the Lord what was going on in there, He told her that two nations (goyim) and two peoples (amim) were in her womb.

God prophesied that even from the womb, there would be separation and mutual antagonism between brothers.  Talk about sibling rivalry!  

God also said that the elder one would serve the younger.  Esau was born first.  He was red (adom in Hebrew) and hairy all over, which seems to foreshadow his future love for hunting and the shedding of blood.

“Now the first came forth, red all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau.”  (Genesis 25:25)

The name Esau in Hebrew means “hairy” and is a word play on Seir, the region in which he and his descendants settled (Joshua 24:4).

Jacob (Ya’akov) was born grasping Esau’s heel (ekev), a foreshadowing, perhaps, of his desire to grasp his brother’s birthright.  The Hebrew word ekev means the heel of the foot but also means to follow.  This word also can have the connotation of deception.

Notice that the boy’s destinies were sealed in the womb even before birth!

Rebecca knew that second-born Jacob was God’s choice to inherit the birthright, even though that blessing usually goes to the firstborn.

Perhaps because Rebecca knew Jacob’s destiny, he became her favorite.  He was a bit of a mama’s boy – quiet, and a bit of a homebody – a boy so easy for a mother to love.  

Esau, however, was his father’s favorite.  He seemed to be the typical man’s man, and naturally, his dad enjoyed the venison Esau brought home after the hunt.

Later, we see that Jacob, who should have known better, perpetuated this family dysfunction by favoring Joseph, son of his beloved wife, Rachel, over the sons of Leah.  How often we see the sins of the fathers visited upon the children.

Favoritism causes problems in the family, and we should take heed not to play the game of favorites in our own families.

Despising the Birthright

“And these are the generations of Esau, the father of the Edomites in the hill-country of Seir.”  (Genesis 36:9)

One day, when Esau came in from the field, he found Jacob cooking a red (adom) lentil stew.  

Esau was so famished that when Jacob offered to trade some stew for Esau’s birthright, he agreed. This is also why Esau is nicknamed Edom (red) in Scripture.

Esau, like some people today, thought only of his immediate desire (he was hungry), rather than considering the future consequences of giving in to his appetite.

Jacob used no manipulation, trickery or deceit in obtaining this birthright.  His request did, however, reveal Esau’s fickle, fleshy, and immature character, which rendered him unqualified and undeserving.

We learn from this that we can’t allow our feelings and appetites to rule us.  Our emotions and physical needs must not become our masters.  Otherwise, just like Esau, those Christians who fail to control their appetites will likely not fulfill their desired destinies or inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21; see also Romans 8:6). 

Famine: No Match for the Blessing of God

“And there was a famine in the land…”  (Genesis 26:1)

In Genesis 26, when Isaac found himself in the midst of a famine, the Lord appeared to him and warned him not to go down to Egypt, but to stay put and keep trusting in His provision for him and his family.

How often are we tempted to give up and move on when we experience a ‘famine’ in our circumstances? But we should move only if God says to move and stay if He commands us to stay.

The Bible promises that God is well able to provide in a famine or drought when we continue to trust in Him:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is in the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7, 8)

Sometimes we need to stay, by God’s grace, in a difficult place and trust God.

In the book of Ruth, Naomi’s husband rode off with his family to Moab during a famine.  He and his sons died in Moab.

Contrast this with Boaz, who rode out the famine in the Promised Land. When Naomi returned to Israel, destitute and bitter, she and her Moabite daughter-in-law found their kinsman redeemer, Boaz, blessed and prospering!

In all decisions–whether to move ahead or to stay put–we need to hear God’s voice.  Do we believe that the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is leading and guiding us as we seek Him?

Sowing in Faith and Digging Wells

“Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him.”  (Genesis 26:12)

Isaac sowed in faith in the Land during a famine, and the Lord blessed him a hundred fold.  He became a man of great wealth and possessions, so much so that the Philistines envied him.

The Philistines strove with Isaac over the first well, saying ‘The water is ours.’

Isaac called the name of the first well Esek, which means strife or quarreling.  The related word, osek (same root word, different vowel) means oppression, exploitation, extortion; to oppress, subjugate, extort, exploit or mistreat.

There is nothing quite so effective as strife for putting a damper on our peace, joy, and the free flow of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) in our life.  Strife and corrupt communication grieves God’s Spirit (Ephesians 4:29-32).

Then, like now, anti-Semitism is in large measure, fueled by envy over the prosperity that many Jewish people enjoy because God has blessed them.

When the Philistines stopped up all the wells that Isaac’s father Abraham had dug, Isaac’s servants found another well.

The Philistines also fought for the second well, which was therefore, named ‘Sitnah’ (hatred).  This word is also related to ‘satan,’ the name for the enemy, adversary, and accuser.

Finally, after walking away from the well of ‘Sitnah’ also, another well was dug and this time, they found a place of shalom, for the Philistines did not strive with them at this well.  And so they called the place R’hovot.

This name, also a city in Israel, comes from the word Rachav, which means wide or broad space.

“For now the Lord has made a broad space for us, and we shall be fruitful in the Land.”  (Genesis 26:22)

Like Isaac, the Lord will make room for us so that we may be fruitful, but we mustn’t linger at the wells of Esek (strife) and Sitnah (hatred).

Strife and hatred are polluting influences and are two of Satan’s most effective agents at stopping the living water that should flow from our inner being.  

Surprising Turnaround

“We saw clearly that the Lord was with you: so we said, Let there be an oath between us and you, and let us make an agreement with you.”  (Genesis 26:28)

Once Isaac was walking in the supernatural blessing and favor of God in the midst of a famine, the Philistines came seeking him.

How did they see that the Lord was with Isaac?  They saw God’s supernatural provision and blessing on his life!

Isaac and his former enemies enjoyed a feast together, and they departed from him in peace (Genesis 26:31). 

Isaac was faithful to sow in the famine, and to walk away from strife and hatred.  In the end, he came to a place of peace and prosperity.

What a lesson for us!  We will reap a harvest of peace and blessing when we are faithful to sow in season and out of season, and to steer clear of strife and hatred. 

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