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Dicussion board post from my Genesis college class/"...and the elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23)

“…and the elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23)


         The birth of Jacob and Esau has brought many speculations and thoughts which has motivated many books and theological debates over the millenniums.  The words spoken to their mother before they were born is most interesting and seems to have amazing irony in its theme.  The most controversial statement within this prophecy given to Rebekah is “and the elder shall serve the younger”.  I will bring my conclusion to this prophecy and what I feel it means through my research.

Genesis 25:22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the Lord.

23 And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.


          Author John J. Davis comments: “This was contrary to ancient Near Eastern custom, but the elective purposes of God transcend custom.  Esau became the progenitor of the Edomites, Jacob of the Israelites.  They were brothers, but they became bitter enemies.”(Davis P. 232)   The descendants of Esau would not really ever serve the nation Israel but for short periods of time, but in reality, became enemies of Israel despising one another.  Jacob and Esau’s personality traits differed so much from the other; God was going to use the one that would best glorify him. 


 “The twins grow up as very different people. The description of Esau as a hunter and man of the field fits with the description of his appearance at birth, but that of Jacob as a quiet man, dwelling in tents, contradicts the first description of him. Given what follows immediately, one senses an irony in this description, although it may indicate the other dimension of Jacob's personality, which also stays with him, namely, the desire for a calm existence that remains his strong arm through all his struggles.” (Elazar P. 294)


        When one looks at the outcomes of the “two nations” from Genesis 25:23, one can study to find that Edom was destroyed by the hand of God.  Even King David would defeat Edom as in 1 Chronicles 18:12-13 and would make them his servants only to find them revolt against him as you read in 1 Chronicles 21:8.  Edom was always the enemy of Israel and God prophesied against them throughout the times of the Old Testament and brought wrath upon them.  How is it that this prophecy “and the elder shall serve the younger” be fulfilled only for a short time and then be broken a short while later by the Edomites uprisings against Israel?  These two nations were never totally serving one another but for short periods of times.  Even Israel went into captivity and served the “gentiles”.  Can it be that these “two nations” that God is referring to in Genesis 25:23 be the gentiles and the Jews?  I believe that this is the case.

          If one takes a look at a comment made by the messengers of Jacob sent to Esau when Jacob and Esau were reunited for a short meeting, you will find something said very interesting. 


Genesis 32:And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now:

And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.


One can see in the passage in Genesis 32:4-5, Jacob has made Esau his “lord” and he has become the servant of Esau.  This is prophetic to a sense that Israel did serve the gentiles from the Babylonian captivity onward even on through the time of the Romans ruling over them during the time of Christ.  Even during the time of the Hasmonean rulers, the Jews were subjected on and off with gentile rulers. 

          “Esau’s descendants, understood as the Romans, were in fact stronger militarily than the Jews.  In the darshan’s eyes, the later part of the verse ‘and the elder shall serve the younger’ was realized when the Rome embraced Christianity and was therefore, in a sense, serving the descendent of the younger brother.” (Brown P. 366)  Through this thought mentioned, one can look at the absolute, uncontroversial and permanent fulfillment of Genesis 25:23.  God has always looked at the world seeing two types of people, believers and non-believers.  He has also looked at His nation Israel as His people whom believes in Him.  The gentiles were always non-believers until the fulfillment of the second part of Genesis 25 verse 23.  When Christ died on the cross at Calvary, He brought it possible for the gentiles to become His people.  Paul the apostle was sent out to preach the gospel to the gentiles. The gentiles, as sons of Esau, became the servants to the Lord Jesus Christ whom is a descendent to Jacob.  What an amazing fulfillment to “and the elder shall serve the younger”!  All Praise, Honor and Glory be to the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen!




Brown, R. N. (1994). And the Elder Shall Serve the Younger. The Harvard Theological Review, 87(3), 363-366. Retrieved from

Davis, J. J. (1975). Paradise to prison: Studies in Genesis. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Book House.

Elazar, D. J. (1994). Jacob and Esau and the emergence of the Jewish people. Judaism, 43(3), 294. Retrieved from">

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