Different Types of Twins

November 29th, 2005 by Yaakov Ellis

ויאמר ה’ לה, שני גוים בבטנך, ושני לאמים ממעיך יפרדו, ולאם מלאם יאמץ ורב יעבד צעיר. וימלאו ימיה ללדת, והנה תומם בבטנה

And God said to her: there are two nations in your womb, and two governments will separate from within you, one government will be stronger than the other and the greater one will serve the younger one. And the days of her pregnancy were completed, and behold there were twins in her womb

Bereishit 25:23-24

If Rivka had already received a prophecy (through Shem) that there were two nations growing within her womb, why does the Torah need to point out to us in the very next verse that “behold, there were twins in her womb”. Was this such a surprise?

Something else that is out of the ordinary here: in the second verse above (25:24), the word that is used for twins is תומם. Normally this is spelled תאומים. Why the change here?

Rashi explains that the word for twins is spelled differently here (without the alef) to signify that in this case one of the children was righteous and one wicked (in distinction to the case with Tamar a few weeks down the line, where both of her children were righteous and thus the normal spelling of תאומים is used). The spelling is changed because they were not twins in every way.

The Netziv takes this idea one step farther: he says that Rivka expected that her two children would be very different – this is obvious from the prophecy that she received (25:24). However what she did not expect was that this difference would be noticeable while her children were still in utero. The differences between her children were already developed and present at the time of their birth (see the next two verses, 25:25-26).

(Question: whatever happened to yir’at shamayim being in the hands of the person? Was Esav destined for wickedness?)


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