(Calvin, Genesis 2. part 3)

see that her barrenness continued, not for three or four, but for twenty 
years, in order that her very despair of offspring might give greater 
lustre to the sudden granting of the blessing. But nothing seems less 
accordant with reason, than that the propagation of the Church should be 
thus small and slow. Abraham, in his extreme old age, received (as it 
seems) a slender solace for his long privation of offspring, in having 
all his hope centred in one individual. Isaac also, already advanced in 
years, and bordering on old age, was not yet a father. Where, then, was 
the seed which should equal the stars of heaven in number? Who would not 
suppose that God was dealing deceitfully in leaving those houses empty 
and solitary, which, according to his own word, ought to be replenished 
with teeming population? But that which is recorded in the psalm must be 
accomplished in reference to the Church, that "he maketh her who had 
been barren to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of many children." 
(Psalm 113: 9.) For this small and contemptible origin, these slow and 
feeble advances, render more illustrious that increase, which afterwards 
follows, beyond all hope and expectation, to teach us that the Church 
was produced and increased by divine power and grace, and not by merely 
natural means. It is indeed possible, that God designed to correct or 
moderate any excess of attachment in Isaac. But this is to be observed 
as the chief reason for God's conduct, that as the holy seed was given 
from heaven, it must not be produced according to the common order of 
nature, to the end, that we learn that the Church did not originate in 
the industry of man, but flowed from the grace of God alone. 
  21. "And Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife." Some translate the 
passage, "Isaac entreated the Lord in the presence of his wife;" and 
understand this to have been done, that she also might add her prayers, 
and they might jointly supplicate God. But the version here given is 
more simple. Moreover, this resort to prayer testifies that Isaac knew 
that he was deprived of children, because God had not blessed him. He 
also knew that fruitfulness was a special gift of God. For although the 
favour of obtaining offspring was widely diffused over the whole human 
race, when God uttered the words "increase and multiply;" yet to show 
that men are not born fortuitously, he distributes this power of 
production in various degrees. Isaac, therefore, acknowledges, that the 
blessing, which was not at man's disposal, must be sought for by prayer 
from God. It now truly appears, that he was endued with no ordinary 
constancy of faith. Forasmuch as the covenant of God was known to him, 
he earnestly (if ever any did) desired seed. It, therefore, had not now, 
for the first time, entered into his mind to pray, seeing that for more 
than twenty years he had been disappointed of his hope. Hence, although 
Moses, only in a single word, says that he had obtained offspring by his 
prayers to God; yet reason dictates that these prayers had continued 
through many years. The patience of the holy man is herein conspicuous, 
that while he seems in vain to pour forth his wishes into the air, he 
still does not remit the ardour of his devotion. And as Isaac teaches 
us, by his example, to persevere in prayer; so God also shows that he 
never turns a deaf ear to the wishes of his faithful people, although he 
may long defer the answer. 
  22. "And the children struggled together." Here a new temptation 
suddenly arises, namely, that the infants struggle together in their 
mother's womb. This conflict occasions the mother such grief that she 
wishes for death. And no wonder; for she thinks that it would be a 
hundred times better for her to die, than that she have within her the 
horrible prodigy of twin-brothers, shut up in her womb, carrying on 
intestine war. They, therefore, are mistaken, who attribute this 
complaint to female impatience, since it was not so much extorted by 
pain or torture, as by abhorrence of the prodigy. For she doubtless 
perceived that this conflict did not arise from natural causes, but was 
a prodigy portending some dreadful and tragic end. She also necessarily 
felt some fear of the divine anger stealing over her: as it is usual 
with the faithful not to confine their thoughts to the evil immediately 
present with them, but to trace it to its cause; and hence they tremble 
through the apprehension of divine judgment. But though in the beginning 
she was more grievously disturbed than she ought to have been, and, 
breaking out into murmurings, preserved neither moderation nor temper; 
yet she soon afterwards receives a remedy and solace to her grief. We 
are thus taught by her example to take care that we do not give 
excessive indulgence to sorrow in affairs of perplexity, nor inflame our 
minds by inwardly cherishing secret causes of distress. It is, indeed, 
difficult to restrain the first emotions of our minds; but before they 
become ungovernable, we must bridle them, and bring them into 
subjection. And chiefly we must pray to the Lord for moderation; as 
Moses here relates that Rebekah went to ask counsel from the Lord; 
because, indeed, she perceived that nothing would be more effectual in 
tranquilizing her mind, than to aim at obedience to the will of God, 
under the conviction that she was directed by him. For although the 
response given might be adverse, or, at least, not such as she would 
desire, she yet hoped for some alleviation from a gracious God, with 
which she might be satisfied. A question here arises respecting the way 
in which Rebekah asked counsel of God. It is the commonly received 
opinion that she inquired of some prophet what was the nature of this 
prodigy: and Moses seems to intimate that she had gone to some place to 
hear the oracle. But since that conjecture has no probability, I rather 
incline to a different interpretation; namely, that she, having sought 
retirement, prayed more earnestly that she might receive a revelation 
from heaven. For, at that time, what prophets, except her husband and 
her father-in-law, would she have found in the world, still less in that 
neighbourhood? Moreover, I perceive that God then commonly made known 
his will by oracles. Once more, if we consider the magnitude of the 
affair, it was more fitting that the secret should be revealed by the 
mouth of God, than manifested by the testimony of man. In our times a 
different method prevails. For God does not, at this day, reveal things 
future by such miracles; and the teaching of the Law, the Prophets, and 
the Gospel, which comprises the perfection of wisdom, is abundantly 
sufficient for the regulation of our course of life. 
  23. "Two nations." In the first place, God answers that the contention 
between the twin-brothers had reference to something far beyond their 
own persons; for in this way he shows that there would be discord 
between their posterities. When he says, "there are two nations," the 
expression is emphatical; for since they were brothers and twins, and 
therefore of one blood, the mother did not suppose that they would be so 
far disjoined as to become the heads of distinct nations; yet God 
declares that dissension should take place between those who were by 
nature joined together. Secondly, he describes their different 
conditions, namely, that victory would belong to one of these nations, 
forasmuch as this was the cause of the contest, that they could not be 
equal, but one was chosen and the other rejected. For since the 
reprobate give way reluctantly, it follows of necessity that the 
children of God have to undergo many troubles and contests on account of 
their adoption. Thirdly, the Lord affirms that the order of nature being 
inverted, the younger, who was inferior, should be the victor. 
  We must now see what this victory implies. They who restrict it to 
earthly riches and wealth coldly trifle. Undoubtedly by this oracle 
Isaac and Rebekah were taught that the covenant of salvation would not 
be common to the two people, but would be reserved only for the 
posterity of Jacob. In the beginning, the promise was apparently 
general, as comprehending the whole seed: now, it is restricted to one 
part of the seed. This is the reason of the conflict, that God divides 
the seed of Jacob (of which the condition appeared to be one and the 
same) in such a manner that he adopts one part and rejects the other: 
that one part obtains the name and privilege of the Church, the rest are 
reckoned strangers; with one part resides the blessing of which the 
other is deprived; as it afterwards actually occurred: for we know that 
the Idumaeans were cut off from the body of the Church; but the covenant 
of grace was deposited in the family of Jacob. If we seek the cause of 
this distinction, it will not be found in nature; for the origin of both 
nations was the same. It will not be found in merit; because the heads 
of both nations were yet enclosed in their mother's womb when the 
contention began. Moreover God, in order to humble the pride of the 
flesh, determined to take away from men all occasion of confidence and 
of boasting. He might have brought forth Jacob first from the womb; but 
he made the other the firstborn, who, at length, was to become the 
inferior. Why does he thus, designedly, invert the order appointed by 
himself, except to teach us that, without regard to dignity, Jacob, who 
was to be the heir of the promised benediction, was gratuitously 
elected? The sum of the whole, then, is, that the preference which God 
gave to Jacob over his brother Esau, by making him the father of the 
Church, was not granted as a reward for his merits, neither was obtained 
by his own industry, but proceeded from the mere grace of God himself. 
But when an entire people is the subject of discourse, reference is made 
not to the secret election, which is confirmed to few, but the common 
adoption, which spreads as widely as the external preaching of the word. 
Since this subject, thus briefly stated, may be somewhat obscure, the 
readers may recall to memory what I have said above in expounding the 
seventeenth chapter, namely, that God embraced, by the grace of his 
adoption, all the sons of Abraham, because he made a covenant with all; 
and that it was not in vain that he appointed the promise of salvation 
to be offered promiscuously to all, and to be attested by the sign of 
circumcision in their flesh; but that there was a special chosen seed 
from the whole people, and these should at length be accounted the 
legitimate sons of Abraham, who by the secret counsel of God are 
ordained unto salvation. Faith, indeed, is that which distinguishes the 
spiritual from the carnal seed; but the question now under consideration 
is the principle on which the distinction is made, not the symbol or 
mark by which it is attested. God, therefore, chose the whole seed of 
Jacob without exception, as the Scripture in many places testifies; 
because he has conferred on all alike the same testimonies of his grace, 
namely, in the word and sacraments. But another and peculiar election 
has always flourished, which comprehended a certain definite number of 
men, in order that, in the common destruction, God might save those whom 
he would. 
  A question is here suggested for our consideration. Whereas Moses here 
treats of the former kind of election, Paul turns his words to the 
latter. For while he attempts to prove, that not all who are Jews by 
natural descent are heirs of life; and not all who are descended from 
Jacob according to the flesh are to be accounted true Israelites; but 
that God chooses whom he will, according to his own good pleasure, he 
adduces this testimony, "the elder shall serve the younger." (Rom. 9: 7, 
8, 12.) They who endeavour to extinguish the doctrine of gratuitous 
election, desire to persuade their readers that the words of Paul also 
are to be understood only of external vocation; but his whole discourse 
is manifestly repugnant to their interpretation; and they prove 
themselves to be not only infatuated, but impudent in their attempt to 
bring darkness or smoke over this light which shines so clearly. They 
allege that the dignity of Esau is transferred to his younger brother, 
lest he should glory in the flesh; inasmuch as a new promise is here 
given to the latter. I confess there is some force in what they say; but 
I contend that they omit the principal point in the case, by explaining 
the difference here stated, of the external vocation. But unless they 
intend to make the covenant of God of none effect, they must concede 
that Esau and Jacob were alike partakers of the external calling; whence 
it appears, that they to whom a common vocation had been granted, were 
separated by the secret counsel of God. The nature and object of Paul's 
argument is well known. For when the Jews, inflated with the title of 
the Church, rejected the Gospel, the faith of the simple was shaken, by 
the consideration that it was improbable that Christ, and the salvation 
promised through him, could possibly be rejected by an elect people, a 
holy nation, and the genuine sons of God. Here, therefore, Paul contends 
that not all who descend from Jacob, according to the flesh, are true 
Israelites, because God, of his own good pleasure, may choose whom he 
will, as heirs of eternal salvation. Who does not see that Paul descends 
from a general to a particular adoption, in order to teach us, that not 
all who occupy a place in the Church are to be accounted as true members 
of the Church? It is certain that he openly excludes from the rank of 
children those to whom (he elsewhere says) "pertaineth the adoption;" 
whence it is assuredly gathered, that in proof of this position, he 
adduces the testimony of Moses, who declares that God chose certain from 
among the sons of Abraham to himself, in whom he might render the grace 
of adoption firm and efficacious. How, therefore, shall we reconcile 
Paul with Moses? I answer, although the Lord separates the whole seed of 
Jacob from the race of Esau, it was done with a view to the Church, 
which was included in the posterity of Jacob. And, doubtless, the 
general election of the people had reference to this end, that God might 
have a Church separated from the rest of the world. What absurdity, 
then, is there in supposing that Paul applies to special election the 
words of Moses, by which it is predicted that the Church shall spring 
from the seed of Jacob? And an instance in point was exhibited in the 
condition of the heads themselves of these two nations. For Jacob was 
not only called by the external voice of the Lord, but, while his 
brother was passed by, he was chosen an heir of life. That good pleasure 
of God, which Moses commends in the person of Jacob alone, Paul properly 
extends further: and lest any one should suppose, that after the two 
nations had been rendered distinct by this oracle, the election should 
pertain indiscriminately to all the sons of Jacob, Paul brings, on the 
opposite side, another oracle, "I will have mercy on whom I will have 
mercy;" where we see a certain number severed from the promiscuous race 
of Jacob's sons, in the salvation of whom the special election of God 
might triumph. Whence it appears that Paul wisely considered the counsel 
of God, which was, in truth, that he had transferred the honour of 
primogeniture from the elder to the younger, in order that he might 
choose to himself a Church, according to his own will, out of the seed 
of Jacob; not on account of the merits of men, but as a matter of meres 
grace. And although God designed that the means by which the Church was 
to be collected should be common to the whole people, yet the end which 
Paul had in view is chiefly to be regarded; namely, that there might 
always be a body of men in the world which should call upon God with a 
pure faith, and should be kept even to the end. Let it therefore remain 
as a settled point of doctrine, that among men some perish, some obtain 
salvation; but the cause of this depends on the secret will of God. For 
whence does it arise that they who are born of Abraham are not all 
possessed of the same privilege? The disparity of condition certainly 
cannot be ascribed either to the virtue of the one, or to the vice of 
the other, seeing they were not yet born. Since the common feeling of 
mankind rejects this doctrine, there have been found, in all ages, acute 
men, who have fiercely disputed against the election of God. It is not 
my present purpose to refute or to weaken their calumnies: let it 
suffice us to hold fast what we gather from Paul's interpretation; that 
whereas the whole human race deserves the same destruction, and is bound 
under the same sentence of condemnation, some are delivered by 
gratuitous mercy, others are justly left in their own destruction: and 
that those whom God has chosen are not preferred to others, because God 
foresaw they *would* be holy, but in order that they *might* be holy. 
But if the first origin of holiness is the election of God, we seek in 
vain for that difference in men, which rests solely in the will of God. 
If any one desires a mystical interpretation of the subject, we may give 
the following: whereas many hypocrites, who are for a time enclosed in 
the womb of the Church, pride themselves upon an empty title, and, with 
insolent boastings, exult over the true sons of God; internal conflicts 
will hence arise, which will grievously torment the mother herself. 
  24. "And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled." Moses shows 
that the intestine strife in her womb continued to the time of bringing 
forth; for it was not by mere accident that Jacob seized his brother by 
the heel and attempted to get out before him. The Lord testified by this 
sign that the effect of his election does not immediately appear; but 
rather that the intervening path was strewed with troubles and 
conflicts. Therefore Esau's name was allotted to him on account of his 
asperity; which even from earliest infancy assumed a manly form; but the 
name Jacob signifies that this giant, vainly striving in his boasted 
strength, had still been vanquished. 
  27. "And the boys grew." Moses now briefly describes the manners of 
them both. He does not, indeed, commend Jacob on account of those rare 
and excellent qualities, which are especially worthy of praise and of 
remembrance, but only says that he was simple. The word "tam", although 
generally taken for upright and sincere, is here put antithetically. 
After the sacred writer has stated that Esau was robust, and addicted to 
hunting, he places on the opposite side the mild disposition of Jacob, 
who loved the quiet of home so much, that he might seem to be indolent; 
just as the Greeks call those persons "oikositous", who, dwelling at 
home, give no evidence of their industry. In short, the comparison 
implies that Moses praises Esau on account of his vigour, but speaks of 
Jacob as being addicted to domestic leisure; and that he describes the 
disposition of the former as giving promise that he would be a 
courageous man, while the disposition of the latter had nothing worthy 
of commendation. Seeing that, by a decree of heaven, the honour of 
primogeniture would be transferred to Jacob, why did God suffer him to 
lie down in his tent, and to slumber among ashes; unless it be, that he 
sometimes intends his election to be concealed for a time, lest men 
should attribute something to their own preparatory acts? 
  28. "And Isaac loved Esau." That God might more clearly show his own 
election to be sufficiently firm, to need no assistance elsewhere, and 
even powerful enough to overcome any obstacle whatever, he permitted 
Esau to be so preferred to his brother, in the affection and good 
opinion of his father, that Jacob appeared in the light of a rejected 
person. Since, therefore, Moses clearly demonstrates, by so many 
circumstances, that the adoption of Jacob was founded on the sole good 
pleasure of God, it is an intolerable presumption to suppose it to 
depend upon the will of man; or to ascribe it, in part, to means, (as 
they are called,) and to human preparations. But how was it possible for 
the father, who was not ignorant of the oracle, to be thus predisposed 
in favour of the firstborn, whom he knew to be divinely rejected?. It 
would rather have been the part of piety and of modesty to subdue his 
own private affection, that he might yield obedience to God. The 
firstborn prefers a natural claim to the chief place in the parent's 
affection; but the father was not at liberty to exalt him above his 
brother, who had been placed in subjection by the oracle of God. That 
also is still more shameful and more unworthy of the holy patriarch, 
which Moses adds; namely, that he had been induced to give this 
preference to Esau, by the taste of his venison. Was he so enslaved to 
the indulgence of the palate, that, forgetting the oracle, he despised 
the grace of God in Jacob, while he preposterously set his affection on 
him whom God had rejected? Let the Jews now go and glory in the flesh; 
since Isaac, preferring food to the inheritance destined for his son, 
would pervert (as far as he had the power) the gratuitous covenant of 
God! For there is no room here for excuse; since with a blind, or, at 
least, a most inconsiderate love to his firstborn, he undervalued the 
younger. It is uncertain whether the mother was chargeable with a fault 
of the opposite kind. For we commonly find the affections of parents so 
divided, that if the wife sees any one of the sons preferred by her 
husband, she inclines, by a contrary spirit of emulation, more towards 
another. Rebekah loved her son Jacob more than Esau. If, in so doing, 
she was obeying the oracle, she acted rightly; but it is possible that 
her love was ill regulated. And on this point the corruption of nature 
too much betrays itself. There is no bond of mutual concord more sacred 
than that of marriage: children form still further links of connection; 
and yet they often prove the occasion of dissension. But since we soon 
after see Rebekah chiefly in earnest respecting the blessing of God, the 
conjecture is probable, that she had been induced, by divine authority, 
to prefer the younger to the firstborn. Meanwhile, the foolish affection 
of the father only the more fully illustrates the grace of the divine 
  29. "And Jacob sod pottage." This narration differs little from the 
sport of children. Jacob is cooking pottage; his brother returns from 
hunting weary and famishing, and barters his birthright for food. What 
kind of bargain, I pray, was this? Jacob ought of his own accord to have 
satisfied the hunger of his brother. When being asked, he refuses to do 
so: who would not condemn him for his inhumanity? In compelling Esau to 
surrender his right of primogeniture, he seems to make an illicit and 
frivolous compact. God, however, put the disposition of Esau to the 
proof in a matter of small moment; and still farther, designed to 
present an instance of Jacob's piety, or, (to speak more properly,) he 
brought to light what lay hid in both. Many indeed are mistaken in 
suspending the cause of Jacob's election on the fact, that God foresaw 
some worthiness in him; and in thinking that Esau was reprobated, 
because his future impiety had rendered him unworthy of the divine 
adoption before he was born. Paul, however, having declared election to 
be gratuitous, denies that the distinction is to be looked for in the 
persons of men; and, indeed, first assumes it as an axiom, that since 
mankind is ruined from its origin, and devoted to destruction, whosoever 
are saved are in no other way freed from destruction than by the mere 
grace of God. And, therefore, that some are preferred to others, is not 
on account of their own merits; but seeing that all are alike unworthy 
of grace, they are saved whom God, of his own good pleasure, has chosen. 
He then ascends still higher, and reasons thus: "Since God is the 
Creator of the world, he is, by his own right, in such a sense, the 
arbiter of life and death, that he cannot be called to account; but his 
own will is (so to speak) the cause of causes." And yet Paul does not, 
by thus reasoning, impute tyranny to God, as the sophists triflingly 
allege in speaking of his absolute power. But whereas He dwells in 
inaccessible light, and his judgments are deeper than the lowest abyss, 
Paul prudently enjoins acquiescence in God's sole purpose; lest, if men 
seek to be too inquisitive, this immense chaos should absorb all their 
senses. It is therefore foolishly inferred by some, from this place, 
that whereas God chose one of the two brothers, and passed by the other, 
the merits of both had been foreseen. For it was necessary that God 
should have decreed that Jacob should differ from Esau, otherwise he 
would not have been unlike his brother. And we must always remember the 
doctrine of Paul, that no one excels another by means of his own 
industry or virtue, but by the grace of God alone. Although, however, 
both the brothers were by nature equal, yet Moses represents to us, in 
the person of Esau, as in a mirror, what kind of men all the reprobate 
are, who, being left to their own disposition, are not governed by the 
spirit of God. While, in the person of Jacob, he shows that the grace of 
adoption is not idle in the elect, because the Lord effectually attests 
it by his vocation. Whence then does it arise that Esau sets his 
birthright to sale, but from this cause, that he, being deprived of the 
Spirit of God, relishes only the things of the earth? And whence does it 
happen that his brother Jacob, denying himself his own food, patiently 
endures hunger, except that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he 
raises himself above the world and aspires to a heavenly life? Hence, 
let us learn, that they to whom God does not vouchsafe the grace of his 
Spirit, are carnal and brutal; and are so addicted to this fading life, 
that they think not of the spiritual kingdom of God; but them whom God 
has undertaken to govern, are not so far entangled in the snares of the 
flesh as to prevent them from being intent upon their high vocation. 
Whence it follows, that all the reprobate remain immersed in the 
corruptions of the flesh; but that the elect are renewed by the Holy 
Spirit, that they may be the workmanship of God, created unto good 
works. If any one should raise the objection, that part of the blame may 
be ascribed to God, because he does not correct the stupor and the 
depraved desires inherent in the reprobate, the solution is ready, that 
God is exonerated by the testimony of their own conscience, which 
compels them to condemn themselves. Wherefore, nothing remains but that 
all flesh should keep silence before God, and that the whole world, 
confessing itself to be obnoxious to his judgment, should rather be 
humbled than proudly contend. 
  30. "Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage." Although Esau 
declares in these words that he by no means desires delicacies, but is 
content with food of any kind, (seeing that he contemptuously designates 
the pottage from its colour only, without regard to its taste,) we may 
yet lawfully conjecture that the affair was viewed in a serious light by 
his parents; for his own name had not been given him on account of any 
ludicrous matter. In desiring and asking food he commits nothing worthy 
of reprehension; but when he says, "Behold I am at the point to die, and 
what profit shall this birthright do to me?" he betrays a profane desire 
entirely addicted to the earth and to the flesh. It is not, indeed, to 
be doubted that he spake sincerely, when he declared that he was 
impelled by a sense of the approach of death. For they are under a 
misapprehension who understand him to use the words, "Behold I die," as 
if he meant merely to say, that his life would not be long, because, by 
hunting daily among wild beasts, his life was in constant danger. 
Therefore, in order to escape immediate death, he exchanges his 
birthright for food; notwithstanding, he grievously sins in so doing, 
because he regards his birthright as of no value, unless it may be made 
profitable in the present life. For, hence it happens, that he barters a 
spiritual for an earthly and fading good. On this account the Apostle 
calls him a "profane person," (Heb. 12: 16,) as one who settles in the 
present life, and will not aspire higher. But it would have been his 
true wisdom rather to undergo a thousand deaths than to renounce his 
birthright; which, so far from being confined within the narrow limits 
of one age alone, was capable of transmitting the perpetuity of a 
heavenly life to his posterity also. Now, let each of us look well to 
himself; for since the disposition of us all is earthly, if we follow 
nature as our leader, we shall easily renounce the celestial 
inheritance. Therefore, we should frequently recall to mind the 
Apostle's exhortation, "Let us not be profane persons as Esau was." 
  33. "And Jacob said, Swear to me." Jacob did not act cruelly towards 
his brother, for he took nothing from him, but only desired a 
confirmation of that right which had been divinely granted to him; and 
he does this with a pious intention, that he may hereby the more fully 
establish the certainty of his own election. Meanwhile the infatuation 
of Esau is to be observed, who, in the name and presence of God, does 
not hesitate to set his birthright to sale. Although he had before 
rushed inconsiderately upon the food under the maddening impulse of 
hunger; now, at least, when an oath is exacted from him, some sense of 
religion should have stolen over him to correct his brutal cupidity. But 
he is so addicted to gluttony that he makes God himself a witness of his 
  34. "Then Jacob gave." Although, at first sight, this statement seems 
to be cold and superfluous, it is nevertheless of great weight. For, in 
the first place, Moses commends the piety of holy Jacob, who in aspiring 
to a heavenly life, was able to bridle the appetite for food. Certainly 
he was not a log of wood; in preparing the food for the satisfying of 
his hunger, he would the more sharpen his appetite. Wherefore he must of 
necessity do violence to himself in order to bear his hunger. But he 
would never have been able in this manner to subdue his flesh, unless a 
spiritual desire of a better life had flourished within him. On the 
other side, the remarkable indifference of his brother Esau is 
emphatically described in few words, "he did eat and drink, and rose up 
and went his way." For what reason are these four things stated? Truly, 
that we may know what is declared immediately after, that he accounted 
the incomparable benefit of which he was deprived as nothing. The 
complaint of the Lacedemonian captive is celebrated by the historians. 
The army, which had long sustained a siege, surrendered to the enemy for 
want of water. After they had drunk out of the river, O comrades, (he 
exclaimed,) for what a little pleasure have we lost an incomparable 
good! He, miserable man, having quenched his thirst, returned to his 
senses, and mourned over his lost liberty. But Esau having satisfied his 
appetite, did not consider that he had sacrificed a blessing far more 
valuable than a hundred lives, to purchase a repast which would be ended 
in half an hour. Thus are all profane persons accustomed to act: 
alienated from the celestial life, they do not perceive that they have 
lost anything, till God thunders upon them out of heaven. As long as 
they enjoy their carnal wishes, they cast the anger of God behind them; 
and hence it happens that they go stupidly forward to their own 
destruction. Wherefore let us learn, if, at any time, we, being deceived 
by the allurements of the world, swerve from the right way, quickly to 
rouse ourselves from our slumber. 
Chapter XXVI. 
1 And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was 
in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the 
Philistines unto Gerar. 
2 And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; 
dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: 
3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; 
for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I 
will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; 
4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will 
give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the 
nations of the earth be blessed; 
5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my 
commandments, my statutes, and my laws. 
6 And Isaac dwelt in Gerar: 
7 And the men of the place asked [him] of his wife; and he said, She 
[is] my sister: for he feared to say, [She is] my wife; lest, [said he], 
the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she [was] fair 
to look upon. 
8 And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that 
Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, 
behold, Isaac [was] sporting with Rebekah his wife. 
9 And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she [is] thy 
wife: and how saidst thou, She [is] my sister? And Isaac said unto him, 
Because I said, Lest I die for her. 
10 And Abimelech said, What [is] this thou hast done unto us? one of the 
people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have 
brought guiltiness upon us. 
11 And Abimelech charged all [his] people, saying, He that toucheth this 
man or his wife shall surely be put to death. 
12 Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an 
hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him. 
13 And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became 
very great: 
14 For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great 
store of servants: and the Philistines envied him. 
15 For all the wells which his father's servants had digged in the days 
of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them 
with earth. 
16 And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier 
than we. 
17 And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of 
Gerar, and dwelt there. 
18 And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in 
the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them 
after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after the names by 
which his father had called them. 
19 And Isaac's servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of 
springing water. 
20 And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac's herdmen, saying, The 
water [is] ours: and he called the name of the well Esek; because they 
strove with him. 
21 And they digged another well, and strove for that also: and he called 
the name of it Sitnah. 
22 And he removed from thence, and digged another well; and for that 
they strove not: and he called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said, For 
now the LORD hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the 
23 And he went up from thence to Beersheba. 
24 And the LORD appeared unto him the same night, and said, I [am] the 
God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I [am] with thee, and will 
bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham's sake. 
25 And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD, 
and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac's servants digged a well. 
26 Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his 
friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his 
27 And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, 
and have sent me away from you? 
28 And they said, We saw certainly that the LORD was with thee: and we 
said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, [even] betwixt us and thee, 
and let us make a covenant with thee; 
29 That thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we 
have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: 
thou [art] now the blessed of the LORD. 
30 And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink. 
31 And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another: 
and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace. 

(continued in part 4...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: cvgn2-03.txt