Genesis Part 2-3-2 (The eighth account Isaac continued)

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Genesis Chapter 27, verses 1 through 4
When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.”

“Here I am,” he answered.

Isaac said, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. Now then, get your weapons—your quiver and bow and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.”

Commentary

As God carries out his great, good plan for mankind, he must often overrule the stubborn, misguided efforts of his own children. This chapter paints a picture of the family of Isaac that is not flattering—not to any of the four people involved.

Isaac was the head of this important family. As husband and father, he had the primary responsibility of leading his family in the way of the Lord. Isaac was now an old man in declining health; he seems here to have been on a sickbed (Chapter 27 verse 31). His failing eyesight and his generally weakened condition may have reminded him that he didn’t have long to live. Before he died, however, Isaac wanted to transmit the right of the firstborn to his favored son. It would be at a special meal that he would announce, “Esau will succeed me as head of the family and will receive a double share of my estate,” which must indeed have been sizable. Isaac therefore asked Esau to perform one last act of obedience, after which he would receive the blessing of the firstborn.

It’s difficult to appreciate or even to defend Isaac’s action. He knew that God had designated Jacob, not Esau, to be the bearer of the promise. Perhaps Isaac had convinced himself that even if he gave the blessing to Esau, God’s original intent would somehow not be violated. Furthermore, even though Esau was his favorite son, Isaac overlooked the flaws in Esau’s character that disqualified him from being the covenant link. At the conclusion of the last chapter, we noted that by marrying two heathen women Esau had shown total indifference to the Lord’s promise. Isaac’s intention here to reverse God’s decree was sinful.

Esau shared in the guilt of that sin. Surely his parents had told him about the special revelation God had given them prior to his birth: “The older will serve the younger” (Chapter 25, verse 23). Furthermore, in agreeing to his father’s plan, Esau violated his oath to Jacob at the time he had sold the birthright.

Genesis Chapter 27, verses 5 through 13
Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the LORD before I die.’ Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.”

Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I’m a man with smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.”

His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.”

Commentary

The other two members of the family don’t exactly come off smelling like roses here either. Rebekah’s scheming and Jacob’s lying do little to glorify God or to demonstrate that they trusted God to carry out his promises. It has been argued, by Luther among others, that it was not wrong for Jacob to take what God had promised to him. God may indeed overrule the evil plans of sinful people, but surely he does not need them or approve of them. All four members of Jacob’s family were involved here in dishonest business, and for that each of them paid an awful price, as we shall see.

When Rebekah overheard Isaac explain his perverse plan to give the blessing to his favorite son, she was desperate. She realized that when the patriarchs pronounced the messianic blessing, they did so as the Lord’s spokesmen, speaking for him as though he were pronouncing the blessing himself. She was afraid that if she didn’t act quickly, before Esau returned from hunting, Jacob would forever lose the blessing. Rebekah knew, on the one hand, that her husband was evading the expressed will of God. But in her otherwise laudable attempt to further God’s will, she likewise stooped to dishonesty. In Rebekah’s reaction to Isaac’s plan, we can hear her sinful nature speaking. Her motivation was not the glory of God but the welfare of her favorite son. She would use her cooking ability to deceive her husband into thinking that the goat meat he was eating was wild game, and she convinced Jacob to deceive his nearly blind father into giving him the coveted blessing while Isaac imagined he was blessing Esau.

Jacob’s response was entirely unbecoming to the heir of God’s messianic promise. Instead of “Mother, are you asking me to lie?” his response was, “What if I get caught? I could end up with my father’s curse resting on me instead of his blessing!” Rebekah’s quick “I’ll take the curse. You do as I
say” satisfied Jacob.

Genesis Chapter 27,verses 14 through 25
So he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made.

He went to his father and said, “My father.” “Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?”

Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you may give me your blessing.”

Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?” “The LORD your God gave me success,” he replied.

Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.”

Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he blessed him. “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked.

“I am,” he replied.

Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.”

Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank.

Commentary

The narrative of Jacob’s deception is presented in abundant detail. To make his lie more believable, Jacob even put on some of Esau’s clothing, knowing it would have Esau’s characteristic scent. He tried to imitate Esau’s voice, so that the aged patriarch was confused. When Jacob said, “I am Esau,” he was not only lying through his teeth, he was behaving lovelessly to his father, to whom he owed obedience and respect. When his father asked how he could have returned from the hunt so quickly, Jacob even dragged God’s name into the deceit. That’s blasphemy.

In spite of the elaborately staged deception, Isaac was still not convinced. “Come near so I can touch you, my son.” To this Luther comments, “If I had been Jacob I would have dropped the dish and run from the scene as though my head were on fire.” But Jacob, wearing Esau’s clothing and with the skin of goats covering his neck and arms, drew closer and acted out the lie his mother had concocted.

Genesis Chapter 27, verses 26 through 29
Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.”

So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,

“Ah, the smell of my son
is like the smell of a field
that the LORD has blessed.

May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness an abundance of grain and new wine.

May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you.

Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.

May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”

Commentary

Isaac, still confused but unwilling to suspect his own flesh and blood of deceiving him, finally pronounced the blessing on Jacob. We’ll want to note his words carefully. He said nothing about the messianic blessing but pronounced only material prosperity on the son he imagined to be Esau. “May God give you of heaven’s dew.” In the Negev, a land of minimal rainfall, the dew is an important source of moisture, especially during the long rainless season. “Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.” This was a statement Isaac had no business making. He was trying to divert to Esau a blessing that God had designated for Jacob.

The fact that God overruled Isaac’s presumptuous self will and saw to it that Jacob got the promised blessing does not excuse the treachery of either Rebekah or Jacob. Sin remains sin, and both mother and son lived to feel God’s displeasure over their sin. The fact that on another occasion God overruled Judas’ dastardly act of betraying the Savior and actually used it to rescue a whole world of sinners will not excuse Judas on judgment day either.

Genesis Chapter 27, verses 30 through 40
After Isaac finished blessing him and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?” “I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.”

Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”

When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”

But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”

Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?”

Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.

His father Isaac answered him, “Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above.

You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother.

But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.”

Commentary

It’s not difficult to understand why Isaac trembled violently when Esau returned from the hunt; it’s a shattering discovery to learn one has been deceived by one’s own wife and son. But is it possible Isaac trembled also because he realized he had just gone head-to-head with God and come off second best? Isaac was keenly aware that God had rebuked him, and properly so. He recognized humbly that God had intervened and that he was helpless to change what God had done. Penitently, Isaac now acted and spoke in faith (Hebrews Chapter 11, verse 20). When Esau asked for a blessing, Isaac answered, “What can I possibly do for you?”

Isaac was unable to give Esau a blessing; God had made that very clear. But what the Spirit of God did direct Isaac to give his older son was a prediction of what lay ahead for Esau and his descendants. “Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew.” Esau’s descendants lived in the land south of the Dead Sea—a barren, rocky land, ill-suited for agriculture. It is perhaps worth noting that Isaac’s words to his sons about the dew contain a play on words, a pun. The phrases translated “of heaven’s dew” (verse 28) and “away from the dew of heaven” (verse 39) are identical in Hebrew. The sacred writer used a form of literary artistry to make the contrast between the father’s words to Jacob and those to Esau all the more striking.

If the future homeland of Esau’s descendants, the Edomites, was not suited for agriculture, what did the future hold? “You will live by the sword,” by continued violence, “and you will serve your brother.” The truthfulness of this prophecy was demonstrated during the reigns of King Saul (1 Samuel Chapter 14, verse 47) and of King David (2 Samuel Chapter 8, verse 14). The Edomites would be a second-rate power, although on occasion they would manage temporarily to throw off their yoke (2 Kings Chapter 8, verses 20 through 22; and Chapter 21, verses 8 through 10).

Genesis Chapter 27, verses 41 through 46
Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is consoling himself with the thought of killing you. Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran. Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?”

Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.”

Commentary

Esau realized at once that the future his father had predicted for him was anything but bright. Blinded by anger, he failed to see God’s overruling hand in what had happened. One thought, and only one thought, filled his mind: “My brother has again cheated me out of my blessing, and I’m going to kill him.”

The whole unlovely transaction, recorded in minute detail in this chapter, must be regarded as a net loss for Rebekah and Jacob. They actually gained nothing God hadn’t already promised them. Instead they both lost much. When Rebekah learned of Esau’s murderous scheme, she arranged to have Jacob go to her brother’s house in Haran, five hundred miles north, “for a while.” The Lord of the calendar stretched that “a while” out to 20 years, and by the time her favorite son returned home, Rebekah was dead.

And Jacob? God saw to it that he received more than the blessing. Jacob had to enroll in God’s training school. Although the blessings of the birthright entitled him to a double share of the inheritance of a very wealthy father, Jacob left home with only a staff in his hand (Chapter 32, verse 10). As he
later looked back over his life, he said, “My years have been few and difficult” (Chapter 47, verse 9). For the next 20 years God would be working to purify the faith of this patriarch, to cleanse it of self-trust and dishonesty and falsehood.

When Rebekah spoke to her husband about sending Jacob to her family, we note that she again used a subtle deception. Her real reason for sending him out of the country was to spare his life as well as Esau’s. Rebekah realized that she stood to lose both of her sons. If Esau had fulfilled his threat and murdered his twin, Jacob’s relatives and friends would take vengeance on the murderer.

But Rebekah didn’t reveal her real reason to her husband. Instead she used her unhappiness over Esau’s Hittite wives to try to persuade Isaac to find a wife for Jacob among her relatives in Mesopotamia, as Abraham had done a generation earlier. This is the last statement of Rebekah we have in the Scripture. At this point she is dismissed from the biblical narrative.

The End