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21 Isaac prayed[a] to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22 But the children struggled[b] inside her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?”[c] So she asked the Lord,[d] 23 and the Lord said to her,

“Two nations[e] are in your womb,
and two peoples will be separated from within you.
One people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.”

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  1. Genesis 25:21 tn The Hebrew verb עָתַר (ʿatar), translated “prayed” here, appears in the story of God’s judgment on Egypt in which Moses asked the Lord to remove the plagues. The cognate word in Arabic means “to slaughter for sacrifice,” and the word is used in Zeph 3:10 to describe worshipers who bring offerings. Perhaps some ritual accompanied Isaac’s prayer here.
  2. Genesis 25:22 tn The Hebrew word used here suggests a violent struggle that was out of the ordinary.
  3. Genesis 25:22 tn Heb “If [it is] so, why [am] I this [way]?” Rebekah wanted to know what was happening to her, but the question itself reflects a growing despair over the struggle of the unborn children.
  4. Genesis 25:22 sn Asked the Lord. In other passages (e.g., 1 Sam 9:9) this expression refers to inquiring of a prophet, but no details are provided here.
  5. Genesis 25:23 sn By metonymy the two children in her womb are described as two nations of which the two children, Jacob and Esau, would become the fathers. The language suggests there would be a struggle between these nations, with one being stronger than the other. The oracle reveals that all of Jacob’s scheming was unnecessary in the final analysis. He would have become the dominant nation without using deception to steal his brother’s blessing.

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