Genesis 25: The Hunger That Blinds Us
The earthly journey of Abraham comes to an end and he is gathered among his people. But before the story ends, we see the writer rushing through some very important events in his life such as his second marriage, his second wife Keturah, several children born to Abraham, the twelve tribes of Ishmael and then the life of Isaac, his wife, and his children, Esau and Jacob.
As we go deeper we find the parallel stories in this chapter, stories of the good and the bad, stories of success and failure. Even though both are the sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, there is a shadow of one being loved over the other, just like Esau and Jacob. The story repeats. The story of good and evil; the story of darkness and light continues.
Two nations were conceived from two sets of brothers – Ishmael and Isaac, and Esau and Jacob – in the mind of God even before the two nations came into existence on earth. Ishmael, the child from the servant girl, is equally important to the fulfillment of God’s plan just as Esau who was tricked by his brother to trade his birthright for a bowl of soup. Several places in the Scripture we will find references back to this one incident as human beings we fall for things that satisfy us in the moment instead of waiting for the things that will give us happiness forever. We go for the short term happiness instead of waiting for a long term blessing.
What is fascinating here is this hopelessly self-centered behavior of the elect and non-elect, the blessed and the cursed, the so-called chosen and not chosen. Jacob, the clever and conniving person succeeds while the free-spirited, hardworking Esau loses his inheritance and future.
One of the basic human needs is hunger. Survival of the fittest, you have heard, can blind us. When the body craves food, the rational process, spiritual insight, and emotional balance can all be lost. In the story of Esau and Jacob, we find this played out. Esau loses all of the future for a bowl of red soup. Jacob takes advantage of this inner blindness of Esau. Neither one is exempt from the implications of their behavior.
In the same way, we can ask what did Ishmael does wrong to be cast into the wilderness? As an innocent child of an unfortunate slave girl, Ishmael was simply collateral damage.
Where is God’s justice in all of this story, one might wonder? Why did God allow Ishmael to be lost in the wilderness and why did God allow Esau the older brother to lose his future? In each story of these brothers, we find their relentless prayer life. For Ishmael in his abandonment; Isaac in his search for God and in seeking a Godly woman in life; Rebekah for a healthy pregnancy; Esau in his fear and loss; Jacob in his search for truth. The good, the successful along with the unsuccessful in the sight of the world gives us a lesson in prayer. The success we envision may not be the success story that gets us into sacred stories. It is our perseverance in following God’s will that gives us a place in the Scriptures.
Complaints, crying, fear-mongering, anger, disappointments, and frustration are all prayer moments for Jacob, Esau, Isaac, and Ishmael just as much as they were true for Abraham, Sarah, Keturah, and Rebekah. Each person in this story had their share of dark emotions to go through. Each dark night of the soul for these patriarchs and matriarchs are the shining moments of God’s power through the darkest moments of life.
Solution #25: So for us, as we read this chapter of Genesis, it is a lot more than simply the events of birth and death of the patriarchs and matriarchs. It is the interwoven presence of God that gives character and depth to the experience and abiding presence of God in one’s life. Success and failure are sides of the one coin we all have to live with. We all have the potential to become Ishmael and Esau just as much as a chance to become Isaac and Jacob. Regardless of what happens to us, we need to remember calling upon God for help made them stay on course to become the characters of the Scripture for generations to come.