Genesis 25:19-34 – The Elder Shall Serve the Younger


Genesis 25:19-34


God announces to Rebekah that the twins in her womb–Jacob and Esau–will have differing futures in relation to the divine promise.


God responds to Rebekah’s troubled pregnancy with an announcement regarding the future relationship between the twins in her womb (25:23). Basically, the divine oracle specifies that the older of the twins (Esau) will serve the younger (and weaker!), namely, Jacob. Is this an instance of God choosing the weak to shame the strong (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-31)? Certainly the text does not seek to justify Jacob’s behaviors, yet God is able to work in and through them. God’s choices do generate conflict on the way to God’s desired future. The dysfunctionality in this family cannot simply be explained in social or psychological terms.

This oracle reflects later conflicts between the descendants of Esau (Edom) and Jacob (Israel). At the same time, the move from the oracle to future reality was not necessary or inevitable (see many prophetic texts; for example, 2 Kings 20:1-7). God’s oracle sets into motion a certain direction for the future, but does not absolutely predetermine that future. At least Rebekah so understands the oracle. What she does and says on behalf of Jacob assumes that her actions count in giving shape to that future. And God chooses to work in and through her actions in pursuing the divine purposes. The divine oracle expresses the kind of future that God desires and, through the oracle, God enlists Rebekah to work with God toward that end.