Hebrews – Chapter Eleven XXIV

by Ed Urzi

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” (Hebrews 11:20).

While Hebrews 11:20 is one of the shortest verses in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Biblical account behind this passage offers several fascinating character studies. Therefore, we will take an extended look at these Biblical personalities in order to learn from their examples. But before we begin this mini-series, it’s important to understand that the account of Isaac, Jacob, and Esau referenced above is one that is filled with a great deal of family drama.

As we read about the things that take place within the lives of these individuals, we will see examples where…

  • One family member lies to another family member.
  • Two family members form an alliance to plot against a third family member.
  • One person successfully executes an elaborate plan conceived by a second family member to deceive a third family member.
  • One member of the family makes plans to murder another family member.

The motivating force behind these behaviors is not difficult to explain. As we’ll see, each family member wanted to have his or her own way without any input, guidance, or direction from God. No one within this family drama sought to pray, talk about their concerns, or ask an important question: “Am I really acting the way God would have me to act in this situation?” Therefore, it is important to pay close attention to their examples so we can identify and avoid similar mistakes.

Nevertheless, this may lead us to question how this account found its way into the Hebrews 11 “Faith Hall Of Fame.” We can address that question with a passage from the Biblical book of 1 Corinthians: “…all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition…” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Thus, the account of Isaac, Jacob, and Esau here in Hebrews 11 offers a dual benefit: it teaches us to replicate the element of faith that is present within their example while also teaching us what not to do.

Our look at this passage begins in Genesis chapter twenty-five, where we are told that Isaac’s wife Rebekah had become pregnant with twin boys. During her pregnancy, God told Rebekah that her first-born child would eventually serve the child who was born later (Genesis 25:21-23). When the time of their birth arrived, Rebekah’s first child was born with so much hair on his body that his parents named him Esau (a word that literally meant “hairy”).

The second child quickly followed his brother by grasping on to Esau’s foot during his birth. That second child was named “Jacob” (or “heel-catcher”), a name that is associated with a fast-talking, deceptive type of person. These children would later go on to become the other two players in this family drama.