A. Rebekah and Jacob plot to deceive Isaac.
1. (1-4) Isaac’s deathbed request to Esau.
Now it came to pass, when Isaac was old and his eyes were so dim that he could not see, that he called Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.” And he answered him, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Behold now, I am old. I do not know the day of my death. Now therefore, please take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me. And make me savory food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.”
a. Now it came to pass, when Isaac was old: Isaac believed his time had come to die, and this was his way of settling his affairs, sort of a last will and testament.
i. Isaac was old, but perhaps not near death. Martin Luther calculated Isaac’s age to be 137 at this point; he lived to be 180. Isaac lived 43 more years.
b. That my soul may bless you before I die: Strangely, Isaac insisted on giving the blessing to Esau, the one whom God did not choose, who despised his birthright, and who married pagan wives. It seems Isaac plainly rejected godly thinking and spiritual wisdom, instead thinking only of the good food he received from Esau’s hunting.
i. Actually, it seems Isaac acted more in human wisdom in regard to his glorying in Esau’s manly hunting prowess. We later find that he actually could not taste the difference between what Esau hunted in the field and what his wife Rebekah could prepare from the flock.
2. (5-10) Rebekah advises Jacob to deceive his father Isaac.
Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt game and to bring it. So Rebekah spoke to Jacob her son, saying, “Indeed I heard your father speak to Esau your brother, saying, Bring me game and make savory food for me, that I may eat it and bless you in the presence of the Lord before my death.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to what I command you. Go now to the flock and bring me from there two choice kids of the goats, and I will make savory food from them for your father, such as he loves. Then you shall take it to your father, that he may eat it, and that he may bless you before his death.”
a. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to what I command you: Instead of trusting God to fulfill what He had promised in Genesis 25:23, Rebekah went about to do what she thought was right in man-centered wisdom and strength. Her good intentions did not justify this self-centered approach.
b. I will make savory food from them for your father, such as he loves: Isaac was no less scheming than Rebekah. In the willfulness of his old age, he was determined to pass on the blessing to Esau, despite what the Lord had said and what the boys had shown in their lives.
i. The fact Isaac tried to dispense the blessing secretly showed he knew what he wanted to do was wrong. Sadly, in this house, no one trusted anyone else.
3. (11-17) Preparations are made for Jacob’s deceptive attempt to steal the blessing.
And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Look, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth-skinned man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.” But his mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.” And he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and his mother made savory food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the choice clothes of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she gave the savory food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.
a. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him: Jacob, true to his name (“trickster” or “scoundrel”), was happy to go along with this plan. His only concern was if it would succeed.
i. When we are willing to abandon the question of right and wrong, and when our only concern is what works, we agree with the modern idea of pragmatism, as many in the church do today.
b. His father…Rebekah…Esau…Jacob: Significantly, at this point, each of these actors in this drama acted in man-centered wisdom and energy, not according to divine or spiritual wisdom and energy. Even Esau, in agreeing to Isaac’s plan to give him the birthright, disregarded his previous promise to allow Jacob to have the birthright.
i. The worst aspect of this all is they seem to regard the blessing as magical, as something detached from God’s wisdom and will. But the most Isaac could do is recognize God’s call and blessing on Jacob. Only God could truly bestow the blessing. Esau could receive the blessing from Isaac a hundred times, but it only mattered if God in heaven honored it.
B. Jacob receives the blessing Isaac intended for Esau.
1. (18-27a) Jacob lies to his father, pretending to be Esau.
So he went to his father and said, “My father.’ And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn; I have done just as you told me; please arise, sit and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.” But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” And he said, “Because the Lord your God brought it to me.” Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.” So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. Then he said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He said, “I am.” He said, “Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s game, so that my soul may bless you.” So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near now and kiss me, my son.” And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing,
a. I am Esau your firstborn: Sometimes it is difficult to discern a lie, and whether a statement is sin or not comes back to the question of intent. But other times it is not difficult at all, and here Jacob clearly lied to his father.
b. Because the Lord your God brought it to me: Jacob, the scoundrel, did not hesitate to bring in God as a party to his deception.
i. Jacob could do this because his only concern is for what worked. Since he (rightly) knew God that wanted him to have the birthright, he justified any lie or sin he committed in the pursuit of the birthright and told himself that it was a stand for righteousness.
ii. Jacob probably used the promise and calling of God as an excuse for sin; he justified it to himself by saying his sinful conduct acted towards the fulfillment of the promise of God.
c. Are you really my son Esau? Even under repeated questioning Jacob stayed confirmed in his lie. Partially, Jacob took advantage of his father’s good nature. Isaac probably would not believe that his Jacob would lie to him so repeatedly.
2. (27b-29) The blessing is given to Jacob.
And blessed him and said: “Surely, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed. Therefore may God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you!”
a. And blessed him: Isaac blessed Jacob as the spiritual head of the family. Isaac had the right (not Ishmael) to pass on this blessing related to the covenant of Abraham. The son (Jacob or Esau) who received this blessing was able to pass it on to his descendants.
b. May God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth: The words of the blessing were filled with pictures of the Lord’s rich bounty, and they echoed some of the words of the covenant God made with Abraham.
c. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you: Again, it is important to see it wasn’t the bestowal of these words upon Jacob that made him blessed. Instead, Jacob was blessed because God chose him long before (Genesis 26:23). What mattered was that God said the older shall serve the younger (back in Genesis 25:23), not that Isaac said be master over your brethren.
i. “The point is that the sovereign will of God is done, in spite of our or any other person’s opposition to it.” (Boice)
C. Esau discovers the deception of Jacob.
1. (30-38) Esau’s grief at discovering Jacob’s deception.
Now it happened, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. He also had made savory food, and brought it to his father, and said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that your soul may bless me.” And his father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” So he said, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.” Then Isaac trembled exceedingly, and said, “Who? Where is the one who hunted game and brought it to me? I ate all of it before you came, and I have blessed him; and indeed he shall be blessed.” When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me; me also, O my father!” But he said, “Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing.” And Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!” And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” Then Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Indeed I have made him your master, and all his brethren I have given to him as servants; with grain and wine I have sustained him. What shall I do now for you, my son?” And Esau said to his father, “Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me; me also, O my father!” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.
a. Isaac trembled exceedingly: Isaac began to shake convulsively. This phrase is very strong. It could be translated, “Isaac trembled most excessively with a great trembling.” (Morris)
b. Isaac trembled exceedingly: Isaac was troubled because he knew he had tried to box God in, to defeat God’s plan, and God had beaten him. He realized he would always be defeated when he tried to resist God’s will, even when he didn’t like it. And he came to learn that despite his arrogance against God’s will, God’s will was glorious.
i. Later, in Hebrews 11:20, it says By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. Isaac’s faith was demonstrated after his own attempt to reprogram the will of God was destroyed and he said of Jacob, “and indeed he shall be blessed.”
c. He took away my birthright: Both Isaac and Esau were grieved when they understood what Jacob did, and now Esau was concerned about the birthright. Previously (in Genesis 25:22-34), he was willing to sell his birthright for a bowl of stew, and he despised his birthright. Now he wanted the material and political advantages of the birthright.
i. When he saw it as a spiritual birthright, Esau did not value the birthright, but now that he saw it in material and political terms, he wanted it.
d. He took away my birthright: Esau was also more than willing to rewrite history. Though he was right in accusing Jacob of acting true to his nature when he took the birthright from Esau the first time, he neglected to mention he sold the birthright for a bowl of stew, and he thus despised his birthright.
i. Esau could not truly say that Jacob took away my birthright. Esau gave it away, and God was Lord over the birthright anyway.
e. Bless me, even me also, O my father! This was more spiritual concern than seen before in Esau, though even this was colored with material and political concern.
f. Esau lifted up his voice and wept: Esau’s tears were the tears of frustrated selfishness, not of regret for his own sin and despising of his birthright.
i. Hebrews 12 uses the occasion of Esau as a warning: Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. (Hebrews 12:15-17)
2. (39-40) Isaac gives a limited blessing to Esau.
Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: “Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; and it shall come to pass, when you become restless, that you shall break his yoke from your neck.”
a. Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth: Barnhouse (and others) indicate the blessing Isaac bestowed on Esau actually said, “your dwelling shall be from the fatness of the earth.” That is, Esau and his descendants would be desert-dwellers.
b. You shall serve your brother: Esau would be under Jacob, but not forever. The promise also was that Esau would break his yoke from your neck – that he would not forever serve or be under his brother Jacob.
3. (41-46) Esau’s anger; Rebekah makes plans for Jacob to flee.
So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” And the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, “Surely your brother Esau comforts himself concerning you by intending to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. And stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury turns away, until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereaved also of you both in one day?” And Rebekah said to Isaac, “I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife of the daughters of Heth, like these who are the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?”
a. Then I will kill my brother Jacob: Esau’s somewhat spiritual concern for the blessing of his father quickly vanished in a bitter hatred of Jacob, a bitter hatred that also had murderous intent. Esau planned to kill Jacob as soon as Isaac died, and this was a comfort to Esau (Esau comforts himself).
i. Revenge is a comforting thought to those who feel they have been wronged like Esau, but things would not work out as Esau had hoped or planned. He vowed to kill his brother after the death of his father, thinking it was soon (the days of mourning for my father are at hand), yet Isaac lived another 43 years.
ii. Perhaps Esau was going to test just how blessed Jacob was. His intention may have been to kill him in an attempt to defeat God’s revealed will regarding the birthright.
b. Stay with him a few days: The few days Jacob was to stay with Laban and Rebekah’s family in Haran turned out to be more than 20 years. Yet, God will fulfill His purpose in all of it.
c. If Jacob takes a wife of the daughters of Heth, like these who are the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me? Rebekah successfully maneuvered Isaac into telling Jacob to leave. This saved his life, but the mother would never see the son again.
i. “Rebekah’s diplomatic victory was complete; but she would never see her son again.” (Kidner)
ii. In this tragic story, everyone lost. Each of the man characters – Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob – schemed and maneuvered in human wisdom and energy, rejecting God’s word and wisdom. God still accomplished His purpose, yet each of the participants suffered because of they insisted on working against God’s word and wisdom.
©2013 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission