Why are all of Jacob's sons included in the promise?


I recently thought of this question and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything written on it before. So I thought maybe some helpful CAF folk could point me in the right direction.

In the Old Testament, we have God making a covenant with Abraham and his descendants. This covenantal blessing them passes on to Isaac, but not Ishmael.

Then Isaac has two sons. And the covenantal blessing passes on to Jacob, but not Esau.

However, when it comes to Jacob, he has twelve sons and they are all included in the deal.

I’m sure there’s a great theological explanation for this that I have simply never come across. It got me thinking, though. Ishmael is excluded. Esau is excluded. But then all of Jacob’s sons are included. Why is that?


God granted the promise to Abraham and the son God would give him. Abraham and his wife however, did not initially trust God and had their own plan. Instead of waiting for God to deliver on his promise of a son, they devised a scheme to have a son by Sarah’s maid Hagar.

***and Sar’ai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my maid; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sar’ai. *(Genesis 16:2)

The son they had by the maid was Ishmael. Ishmael was not the son God promosed but the son of their own scheming.

Esau was the first-born and the promise would have fallen to him but he despised his birthright and sold it for a bowl of lentils. Scripture tells us that he was a “man of the field”, symbolic of his wild nature and lack of attentiveness to his family. A birthright was a big deal in those days - it entitled you to a double portion of the inheritance but also came with responsibility to become head of the household and to care for your mother after your father’s death. Esau would have made a poor leader of the clan as he was always running around the fields and never home.

When the boys grew up, Esau was a skilful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. (Genesis 25:27)

Jacob however “dwelt in tents” meaning that he was attentive to his family, especially his mother who forshadows Mary. Jacob was obedient to his mother who told him to put on the skins and secured the blessing for him. The mother is symbolic of the authority of the queen - Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth - who secures the blessing from the Father for us. Jacob’s mother truly knew what she was doing because she wanted quiet, tent-dwelling Jacob as head of the household and not Esau who was never home.

Which one would you want taking care of you if you were the mother?



My monsignor just talked about this last night at Bible Study.

He explained it like this: the lineage of promise depends on Faith, not blood. Isaac fully believed, Ishmael didn’t and just wanted the promise. Same with Jacob, he fully believed, but the other did not.

Believe and Faith are required for the “inheritance.” The bloodline isn’t important. But the bloodline is important to the Arabs, who will proudly announce that Ishmael is the first in the bloodline of Abraham. Now that doesn’t mean that God didn’t protect Ishmael, etc. But they did not pass on the “line of inheritance” which eventually came to Joseph.

This is also way the linage allows for Jesus, Jesus was not of the bloodline of Joseph, but Mary was given the promise because she believed and bore Christ, allowing Him to be of the lineage of David and Abraham.

I hope this makes sense.


Thanks, Tim and Phil. :thumbsup:

It sounds like you are both saying about the same thing: it comes down to faith (or lack thereof).

That seems pretty obvious now that I think about it. :blush:


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