The Generations [of Isaac]
Genesis 25:19−28:9
Translation from The Torah: A Modern Commentary (CCAR Press)

Toldot25:19] This is the line of Isaac son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac. 20] Isaac was 40 years old when he took as his wife Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean. 21] Isaac pleaded with the Eternal on behalf of his wife, for she was childless, and the Eternal acceded to his entreaty, so his wife Rebekah became pregnant.

22] The children pressed against each other inside her. She thought: “If this is so, why do I exist?” So she went to inquire of the Eternal. 23] The Eternal One said to her:

Two peoples are in your belly;

two nations shall branch off from each other [as they emerge] from your womb.

One people shall prevail over the other;

the elder shall serve the younger.

24] When the time came for her to give birth, lo—she had twins in her belly! 25] The first came out reddish all over, as though covered with a hairy mantle, so they named him Esau; 26] his brother, following, came out holding Esau’s heel, so they named him Jacob. Isaac was 60 years old when they were born. 27] When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors; but Jacob was a homespun man, keeping to the tents. 28] Isaac favored Esau, because he [Esau] put game in his mouth, but Rebekah favored Jacob.

29] [One day,] when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the [hunting] field. He was famished, 30] and he said to Jacob, “I’m famished; let me gulp down some of that red stuff!” (That is why he was named Edom.) 31] Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright here and now.” 32] And Esau said, “Here I am going to die; what good is the birthright to me?” 33] But Jacob said, “Confirm it to me by oath here and now.” So he swore it to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34] Jacob then gave Esau bread and lentil stew. He ate, drank, got up, and left. Thus did Esau disdain his birthright.

26:1] There was a famine in the land, apart from the earlier famine that had occurred in the time of Abraham; Isaac therefore traveled to Abimelech king of the Philistines, to Gerar. 2] The Eternal then appeared to him, saying, “Do not go down to Egypt; reside in the land that I will point out to you. 3] Stay in this land and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants will I give all these lands, fulfilling the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. 4] I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, giving your descendants all these lands; and through your seed all the peoples of the earth shall be blessed— 5] because Abraham hearkened to My voice and kept My charge, My commands, My statutes, and My laws.” 6] Isaac [therefore] settled in Gerar. 7] And when the people of that place asked about his wife, he answered, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say: “My wife,” [thinking,] “Lest the local people kill me on account of Rebekah, since she is so good-looking.”

8] As his days there stretched out, Abimelech king of the Philistines happened [one day] to look out of a window and he saw—Isaac fondling his wife Rebekah! 9] So Abimelech summoned Isaac and said, “Look—she must be your wife; why then did you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “I spoke that way for fear of dying on her account.” 10] But Abimelech said, “What is this that you have done to us? One of the people nearly lay with your wife; you would have brought [suffering] upon us for our guilt!” 11] The king thereupon instructed all the people: Anyone who touches this man or his wife will be put to death!

12] In that area Isaac sowed seed, and in that year he received a hundredfold, for the Eternal blessed him. 13] The man grew rich, and he went on growing all the richer until he was exceedingly rich. 14] He had herds of sheep and herds of cattle, and a large body of servants, so that the Philistines envied him, 15] and the Philistines stopped up all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, filling them with rubble. 16] Abimelech now said to Isaac, “Leave us; you have become much too numerous for us.” 17] So Isaac went away from there, encamping in the wadi of Gerar. There he settled.

18] Isaac then turned to digging anew the water-wells they had dug in the time of his father Abraham—which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham’s death—and he gave them the same names as his father had given them. 19] And when Isaac’s servants dug in the wadi, they discovered there a well of living waters, 20] and the shepherds of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s shepherds, saying, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Wrangle, for they had wrangled with him. 21] They then dug another well, but they quarreled over this one, too, so he named it Animosity. 22] He then moved from there and dug another well, and over this one they did not quarrel, so he named it Rehoboth, meaning: Now the Eternal has granted us ample room and will make us fruitful in the land. 23] And from there he went up to Beersheba.

24] That very night the Eternal appeared to him, saying, “I am the God of your father Abraham; have no fear, for I am with you! I will bless you and make your descendants numerous for the sake of My servant Abraham.” 25] So there he built an altar and called upon the Name of the Eternal; there he pitched his tent and there Isaac’s servants dug out a well.

26] Abimelech now went to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath his confidant, and Pichol, commander of his troops. 27] Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, when you hate me and drove me away from your midst?” 28] They replied, “We see clearly now that the Eternal has been with you, so we thought: Pray let there be a sworn treaty between us—between you and us; we will make a compact with you. 29] Would you ill-treat us, seeing that we never did you an injury and did only good to you and sent you away in peace? You are now the blessed of the Eternal!” 30] So he made them a [covenantal] feast; they ate and drank.

31] When they got up in the morning they made a vow, each to the other; then Isaac sent them away and they parted from him in harmony. 32] That same day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug, saying to him, “We have found water!” 33] So he called it Shiba, which is why the town is called Beersheba to this day.

34] When Esau was 40 years old he took to wife Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite and Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. 35] They were a bitterness of spirit to Isaac and Rebekah.

27:1] When Isaac had grown old and his eyesight had dimmed, he called his elder son Esau, saying to him, “My son!” “Here I am,” he answered. 2] “Look now,” said he. “I have grown old, [and] for all I know I may die any day. 3] So pick up your weapons—your quiver and your bow—and go out to the countryside and hunt me some game. 4] Then you can make me tasty dishes such as I like and bring [them] to me and I will eat, so that I can give you my heartfelt blessing before I die.”

5] As Isaac was speaking to his son Esau, Rebekah was listening; and when Esau went to the countryside to hunt for some game to bring [him], 6] Rebekah said this to her son Jacob, “Look—I heard your father speaking to your brother Esau, saying, 7] ‘Bring me game and make me tasty dishes, that I may eat—and [then] bless you before the Eternal before my death.’

8] “Now, son, listen to me, to what I am instructing you: 9] Go to the flock and bring me two tender kids, and I will make them into tasty dishes for your father, such as he likes. 10] You will bring them to your father and he will eat, so that he may bless you before his death.” 11] But Jacob said to his mother Rebekah, “Look—my brother Esau is a hairy man and I am a smooth-skinned man; 12] should my father feel me I will seem to him like a cheat, and I will bring a curse on myself, not a blessing!”

13] His mother then said to him, “Any curse that you get will be on me, son—just listen to me and go get [them] for me!” 14] So he went and got them and brought [them] to his mother, and his mother made tasty dishes, such as his father liked.

15] Rebekah now took the finest of her elder son Esau’s garments that she had in the house, and dressed up her younger son Jacob. 16] The skins of the kids she wrapped on his hands and over the smooth part of his neck, 17] and she put the tasty food and the bread that she had made into her son Jacob’s hand.

18] Going then to his father, he said, “Father!” and he replied: “Here I am; which son of mine are you?”

19] Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your first-born; I have done as you told me; pray get up and sit and eat of my game so that you can give me your heartfelt blessing.” 20] Isaac then said to his son: “How is it that you were able to find [game] so quickly, my son?” And he replied, “The Eternal your God made it happen for me.” 21] “Pray come near me,” said Isaac to Jacob, “so that I can feel you, son. Are you really my son Esau, or are you not?”

22] Jacob approached his father Isaac, who felt him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau!” 23] He did not recognize him, however, because his hands were hairy, like the hands of his brother Esau—and as he was [preparing to] bless him, 24] he said, “Are you really my son Esau?” “I am,” he answered. 25] He said, “Bring [it] near me and I will eat of my son’s game, so that I can give you my heartfelt blessing.” He brought [it] to him and he ate; he brought him wine and he drank. 26] His father Isaac then said to him, “Pray come near and kiss me, son.”

27] As he came near and kissed him, [Isaac] smelled the scent of his clothes and blessed him, saying:

“See, my son’s scent is like the scent of a field

blessed by the Eternal.

28] God give you of heaven’s dew,

of earth’s bounty;

abundant grain and new wine.

29] Let peoples serve you,

nations bow down to you.

Be a ruler to your brothers,

and let your mother’s sons bow down to you.

May those who curse you be cursed;

may those who bless you be blessed.”

30] Just as Isaac finished blessing Jacob, at the very moment that Jacob was in the act of leaving his father Isaac’s presence, his brother Esau came in from his hunt. 31] He too made tasty dishes that he brought to his father and he said to his father, “Let my father get ready to eat of his son’s game, so that you can give me your heartfelt blessing.” 32] But his father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” So he replied, “I am your son, your first-born, Esau!” 33] Isaac now began to shudder—a shuddering exceedingly great—and he said, “Who then hunted game and brought [it] to me and I ate of it all before you came? I blessed him—and blessed he will remain!”

34] When Esau heard his father’s words, he broke into an exceedingly loud and bitter howl and said to his father, “Bless me! Me too, Father!” 35] But he said, “Your brother came with deceit and took away your blessing!”

36] He replied, “Is he not named Jacob? Twice now he has cheated me—he took my birthright and now, look, he has taken my blessing!” And he added, “Did you not reserve a blessing for me?” 37] Isaac responded by saying to Esau, “Look—I have appointed him your master, and given him all his kin to be his servants, and have supported him with grain and new wine; come, now, what am I to do, my son?”

38] “Do you have but one blessing, Father?” said Esau to his father. “Bless me! Me too, Father!” And Esau cried out and wept. 39] His father Isaac then responded and said to him:

“Lo, among the fat places of the earth shall your dwelling be,

and with heaven’s dew from above.

40] By your sword shall you live,

your brother shall you serve.

But when you move away,

You shall break his yoke off your neck.”

41] Esau now bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had conferred upon him, and Esau formed this resolve: “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” 42] When Rebekah was told her elder son Esau’s words, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Look—your brother Esau is plotting to avenge himself by killing you. 43] Now, son, listen to me: get going and flee to my brother Laban in Haran. 44] You can stay there a while until your brother’s rage cools down; 45] when your brother’s anger turns away from you and he forgets what you did to him, I will send to bring you back from there—why should I be bereft of the two of you in a single day?”

46] So Rebekah said to Isaac, “I abhor my life because of the daughters of the Hittites; if Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of the Hittites—like these from among the daughters of the land—what would my life be worth?” 28:1] Isaac then summoned Jacob and blessed him and gave him this instruction: “Do not take a wife from among the daughters of Canaan. 2] Get ready, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father, and take yourself a wife from among the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother. 3] And may God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful and numerous, so that you become a host of peoples, 4] and give you the blessing of Abraham—you along with your descendants—to possess the land in which you have sojourned, that God gave to Abraham!” 5] Thus did Isaac send Jacob away; he went to Paddan-aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, brother of Rebekah, mother of Jacob and Esau.

6] When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram, there to take a wife for himself, blessing him and instructing him: Do not take a wife from among the daughters of Canaan, 7] and that Jacob had heeded his father and mother and gone to Paddan-aram, 8] Esau understood that his father Isaac looked with disfavor at the daughters of Canaan, 9] so he went to Ishmael and took as his wife Mahalath daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, sister of Nebaioth, adding her to his [other] wives.


Translation from The Torah: A Modern Commentary, copyright (c) 2016 by CCAR Press. All rights reserved. Translation of Exodus; Leviticus; Numbers; Deuteronomy from NJPS © 1962, 1985, 1999; CJPS © 2006. Used and adapted by CCAR Press with permission from The Jewish Publication Society and the University of Nebraska Press. No part of this translation may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, distributed, or be transmitted without express written permission from the Central Conference of American Rabbis. For permission, please contact CCAR Press.