Isaac and Rebekah are mistake repeaters. They didn’t pay attention to the downfalls of the previous generation. They fell right into the same pitfalls as Abraham and Sarah, and so instead of spring boarding off the platform of faith Abraham and Sarah built for them, they had to start the course over.
Though Isaac and Rebekah make the same mistakes as Abraham and Sarah, their personalities are in fact different from their elders. Note– though we think shaping ourselves into people with ideals, hobbies, political beliefs, styles of worship, and theology that differ from our elders will save us from making their mistakes— Isaac and Rebekah show us that that just might not be true.
Isaac is a supporting actor, very different from his father. People tend to make decisions for him: his mom, his dad, his dad’s servant, his wife, his sons. Isaac is kinda pampered. He would not have been one to leave it all behind to follow a God he was unfamiliar with like his father did.
Isaac likes comfort. When Sarah dies, Rebekah comforts him. He loves Esau because Esau makes him yummy food. “Isaac loved Esau because he enjoyed eating the wild game Esau brought home, but Rebekah loved Jacob,” Genesis 25:27.
This love of feeling comfortable is detectable in a glaring omission in the book of Genesis— any mention of Isaac chastising Esau for giving away his birthright in exchange for a cup of lentils. Isaac, the miracle baby, the boy whose family is defined by his being favored above Ishmael, didn’t have anything to say about his eldest’s reproach for his inheritance. After all, we are told that Isaac inherited all of Abraham’s possessions, where his half brothers received only gifts at their fathers passing.
True to the pattern of people who have not experienced conflict—or those who refuse to experience conflict by ignoring it— comfort allows us a naiveté to the real consequences of disobedience and sin, as well as a neglect and mishandling of what is valuable.
Thus, Isaac repeats history in two ways. He makes grave mistakes that he had every bit of information needed to avoid. He gives Rebekah to Abimelech, just like Abraham did to Sarah. He also sends Jacob to Laban. Laban, who had tried to entrap Abraham’s servant through false hospitality (Genesis 24:28-61.) He sends Jacob to the place of which Abraham had said, “be careful never to send my son there.”
Isaac created opposition within his family when he betrayed Rebekah. Her response was to ally with Jacob.* She gained a lot of influence over the family by favoring the winning horse. God had told her while she was pregnant that Jacob would rule over Esau.
Isaac also reinforced opposition outside the family. Esau goes to live with Ishmael. Even the blessing Isaac gives Esau is meager— because Jacob took the blessing of which there is only one! Esau’s blessing is to live by his sword and serve his brother. Very similar to what was prophesied over Ishmael.
Isaac loses ground for the family. He sends Jacob into a trap that Abraham protected Isaac from. He sends Jacob to Laban. Laban keeps Jacob “captive” for fourteen years. Fourteen years that Jacob could have been journeying with the Lord, he was instead under the dictates of a deceitful man in the land of his family’s past rather than of the land of his family’s future.
Now, he did have help making this decision! Ever the eaves-dropper, Rebekah overhears Esau’s plan to kill Jacob. So in order to get Jacob out of dodge, she uses the dysfunctional family dynamic to manipulate Isaac. She complains about Esau’s foreign wives until Isaac agrees to send him to their relatives to find a wife. Isaac has Jacob go to Laban, something he should have known better than to do.
If in our faith, if in our family, if in our fellowships we protect our comfort we will find our legacy unprotected.
Individually and corporately, protecting comfort will produce a passivity that tolerates division, invites spiritual opposition, and yields to our natural inclination to go backward. We return to Laban and the false hospitality of the world. Or worse! We send our kids back to our old family curses and iniquity. We get the next generation stuck for “fourteen years” before they can move forward into God’s plan for them.
“Be careful to never…” When we are comfortable, grow up sheltered, or just are inexperienced with conflict, we end up without urgency. We lose track of what “careful” and “never” mean. We forget the saying “a little leaven.” Even just a little.
Think back to passover. God commands- “keep your shoes on during the meal!” Urgency! We have to have an urgency about obeying God.
The greatest temptation to sin is not intrapersonal but interpersonal.
*More on Rebekah’s brand of unforgiveness in the previous post about Sarah, called “This is your fault! Genesis 16:5” It is part 2/10 in The Proverbs 31 Family series.