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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 35

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 35.—What Was Indicated by the Divine Answer About the Twins Still Shut Up in the Womb of Rebecca Their Mother.

Let us now see how the times of the city of God run on from this point among Abraham’s descendants.  In the time from the first year of Isaac’s life to the seventieth, when his sons were born, the only memorable thing is, that when he prayed God that his wife, who was barren, might bear, and the Lord granted what he sought, and she conceived, the twins leapt while still enclosed in her womb.  And when she was troubled by this struggle, and p. 331 inquired of the Lord, she received this answer:  “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall overcome the other people, and the elder shall serve the younger.” 953   The Apostle Paul would have us understand this as a great instance of grace; 954 for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, the younger is chosen without any good desert and the elder is rejected, when beyond doubt, as regards original sin, both were alike, and as regards actual sin, neither had any.  But the plan of the work on hand does not permit me to speak more fully of this matter now, and I have said much about it in other works.  Only that saying, “The elder shall serve the younger,” is understood by our writers, almost without exception, to mean that the elder people, the Jews, shall serve the younger people, the Christians.  And truly, although this might seem to be fulfilled in the Idumean nation, which was born of the elder (who had two names, being called both Esau and Edom, whence the name Idumeans), because it was afterwards to be overcome by the people which sprang from the younger, that is, by the Israelites, and was to become subject to them; yet it is more suitable to believe that, when it was said, “The one people shall overcome the other people, and the elder shall serve the younger,” that prophecy meant some greater thing; and what is that except what is evidently fulfilled in the Jews and Christians?



Gen. 25.23.


Rom. 9.10-13.

Next: Chapter 36

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