In Genesis 26:26–35 we see that it is lawful for the children of God to enter into league and friendship with heathen people who profess nothing but false religion — as long as we do not join ourselves with them, nor draw in the same yoke. For we must mark well, that admonition
of Paul, who writes: “Take heed that you draw not in the yoke together with unbelievers.” For he says this by way of comparison, as if two oxen were coupled together, to draw in one yoke, they must answer each other, and though they are wild and sometimes straggle, yet being tied together by the necks with the yoke, they must follow the same train. Saint Paul shows us that we must not be coupled with unbelievers, in such sort, that we are bound with their chains, and that we are not so entangled with them that we consent to evil, nor in any way tied to it. Only to nourish peace, and to stop outrages and violences, shall it always be lawful for us to enter into league with them. Let us take heed therefore that we are separated from all their malice, and that we have no acquaintance with them in it. Let us especially condemn their iniquity as much as we are able, in order that we may not be brothers and companions with the wicked…. But nevertheless, we may well…make league with them to stop their rage, to take away all occasion of hurt, to shut the door against them so they may not put
their lewd enterprises into practice….
Yes, we see that God has showed us this favor and grace, that we should take his name to witness and thereby be assured…how acceptable concord amongst men is to Him and how much He detests all quarrels, wars, wrongs, hurts, outrages, and oppressions, which men shall do unto each other. For this is no small matter, that God gives His own name to be used…when there is cause of nourishing peace among us, yes, and when the matter stands so, that concord must be had with infidels to the end they may leave off raging against us and not hurt us. Seeing how God has permitted His own name to this purpose, we must all the more seek by all possible means that men may be peaceable and that we have no quarrels with them, yes, that we seek to appease them…. We must (as much as we can) prevent quarrels, but if we cannot do so altogether, we should endeavor to kill them…. This, then, is the sum of what we have to learn.
Now it is not said in this place in what form they swear, but we shall find afterwards, that Isaac always made his oath unto the living and everlasting God, rendering honor unto Him to whom it belonged, albeit he had to do so with heathen people…even though he continued in sound belief. …And after [Moses] adds concerning Esau “that he took a wife from among the Hittites, yes two wives: which were bitter to the souls of Isaac and Rebekah.” Here we see on the one side, how God would comfort his servant [Isaac] every way: For it was not only showed him that he should be assured from then on that none should hurt him — seeing the king himself of the country came to seek him — but also he had water given him, which he might enjoy peaceably and quietly as his own. When therefore our Lord shows this great favor towards Isaac, let us know that He does not tempt him above their strength, but always sweetens their afflictions in such sort, that they shall not be, as it were, ever oppressed and quite overthrown. Let us hope, that just as Isaac was upheld, God after He had afflicted him, looked also again unto him to give him some comfort, so likewise must we wait, and then we shall not be disappointed if we rest there. For God knows our frailty, and there is no doubt He will always give us such taste of His mercy and favor that we shall have good cause to bless His name and have no occasion to think the sad thought that we do not know how to comfort ourselves anymore in Him.
However, the principal point is that Esau took two wives from among the Hittites. Here we begin to see already that Esau was not only once profane, but that he went on in that course, and gave himself wholly to it, as we have showed before, that after he had well filled his belly with the pottage, that Jacob his brother had prepared for him, and when he had eaten and drunk, he went his way, and despised his birthright. Moses also rehearses now that he took two wives from among the Hittites, for if he had any remorse within him, and if he had esteemed the promise of the spiritual inheritance made unto his father, it is certain, that he would have separated himself from all those people [the Hittites].
For he knew full well how his grandfather Abraham had behaved himself in that point, that he had made his servant to swear solemnly, that he should not take a wife for his son Isaac in the land of Canaan; he knew that his mother was sought after, in a far country, in Mesopotamia, because God would have this house set apart, and would not have it mingled and mashed with those of that country. This was just as if Esau had forsaken the promise of salvation, and [reckoned it as]…if it had not been worth a straw.
Here is one testimony already how Esau made himself unworthy of his birthright, and this came to pass because he was not governed by the Spirit of God, as also we have showed before, that God will so hold in and keep his elect, and in such sort ratify and seal in their hearts His goodness and fatherly adoption, that they shall soar up to Him, and despise this world, to the end they may rejoice in those spiritual benefits He has prepared for them. On the contrary, He lets loose the reigns to all those whom He has rejected, in such sort that they harden themselves. Although this be not done all at once at the first push, nevertheless a man shall find in the end that there is no seed of the fear of God, nor of godliness, in them. This is what we must learn from this text. Therefore, let us learn in this way to behave ourselves, that we always labor to sunder ourselves from those that would draw us to destruction. For it is without all doubt, that if we live over-familiarly with the despisers of God, they will soon defile us; their fellowship and conversation is a deadly pestilence. Instead, it behooves us to walk with carefulness, taking good heed unto ourselves that we do not defile ourselves with the filthiness of this world.
And let us in the meantime acknowledge that it is also a wonderful providence of God that He would have Esau to take two wives in this country. For it was the Lord’s intent that he might be, as it were, cut off from the house of his father. Isaac loved him dearly, and although his wives vexed him, yet for all that he could not withdraw his heart from Esau, even while knowing that God had rejected him. Thus, Isaac resisted God, without ever thinking upon the matter. But God worked in him after another manner. When he saw such infirmity in His servant Isaac, He brought to pass in the end that Isaac must utterly forsake his son Esau. Mark then how God rules in such matters, that His church continued always in her smallness, as it were, hidden under the earth, as though it had been nothing. There remained no more but Jacob, as we shall see oftentimes, and Isaac was half spent: he was sixty years old when his children were born, and now was Esau of the age of forty years when he took his wives. Isaac therefore was very old. Concerning Jacob, he was also forty years old and yet was not married. And where then was the [promised] stock? It seemed that the church must perish and all the promises of God be utterly abolished, but though it were so small that it was contemptible in men’s eyes, yet we see that God governed His church well. It remained pure and sound, and that which was profane was cut off from it, as if a house should be swept, and the sweepings be cast out of doors. Thus, Esau was rejected, and Jacob remained alone, as it was
appointed to him.
But now let us fall down before the high majesty of our good God, acknowledge our faults, and pray He will make us to feel them in such sort that it may serve to make us continually to mourn before Him and to ask pardon in such sort that we may labor to resist them and more and more be withdrawn from them, until we shall be thoroughly clothed with His righteousness. And ask Him to support us in our weaknesses, so that we do not cease to call upon Him as our Father, although we fall many ways. So, let us all say,
“O almighty God, heavenly Father….”
An excerpt from a sermon on Genesis 26:26–35, from Sermons on Election and Reprobation by John Calvin, published by Old Paths Publications, Audubon, New Jersey, 1996. Adapted into modern English spelling and grammar by Tabletalk magazine. Used by permission. All rights reserved.