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. His old age was evident in his weakened eyesight (his eyes were so dim that he could not see).
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. Make me savory food, such as I love: Isaac asked for food, but he seemed to mostly glory in Esau’s power as a manly hunter. 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. It wasn’t the taste of the food that attracted him, but how he prized the thought of Esau as a mighty hunter.
c. 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 (Genesis 25:23), who despised his birthright, and who married pagan wives. It seems Isaac rejected godly thinking and spiritual wisdom, and instead thought only of food and common, man-centered ideas of might.
i. 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. 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.
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. Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to Esau: The account here does not specifically tell us that Rebekah spied upon Isaac and Esau in some inappropriate sense. The feeling that this was scheming and spying is here, but it is possible that she casually overheard this important conversation. When Esau went to the field to hunt, Rebekah was ready with her plan.
b. 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 used manipulative scheming to accomplish what she thought was God’s plan – and, likely, also her preference.
i. “Good men have gone very wrong when they have thought of aiding in the fulfillment of promises and prophecies. See how Rebecca erred in trying to get the promised blessing for Jacob. We had better leave the Lord’s decrees in the Lord’s hands.” (Spurgeon)
c. I will make savory food from them for your father, such as he loves: Rebekah knew her husband well enough to know that he couldn’t tell the difference between what she prepared and what Esau might bring home from hunting.
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. He went and got them and brought them to his mother: Once Jacob overcame his fear of getting caught in his deception, he was ready to carry it out. Rebekah manipulated both Isaac and Jacob, but Jacob was willing to be manipulated.
c. His father… Rebekah… Esau… Jacob: Significantly, at this point, each person 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. All four of them – Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau – did not trust each other. Worse yet, they did not trust the Lord. Each one of them schemed and plotted against each other and against God. “The whole story reflects no credit upon any of the persons concerned.” (Spurgeon)
ii. 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 in giving the blessing, the most Isaac could do was to 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 that 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 give credit to God as part of his deception.
i. Jacob could do this, because his only concern was for what worked. Since he (rightly) knew that God wanted him to have the birthright, he justified any lie or other sin he committed in the pursuit of the birthright. He likely did so telling himself that it was all for a righteous cause.
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 25:23). 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 Jacob’s deception.
1. (30-32) Esau returns to his father with food from the hunt.
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.”
a. As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob: The timing of each aspect of this story makes it all the more dramatic. As soon as Jacob received the blessing and left his father’s presence, Esau his brother came in from his hunting.
b. That your soul may bless me: We picture Esau hunting, returning, and preparing the food with pleasure. He would receive the blessing from his father and all the material benefits that went with it.
c. Who are you: This question may have seemed strange to Esau, but he remembered that his father was old and couldn’t see well. Esau probably first thought this was a simple mistake.
2. (33) Isaac understands what Jacob did.
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.”
a. Isaac trembled exceedingly: Isaac began to shake convulsively. This phrase is very strong. He was overcome with a deep sense that something had gone wrong in his plan to bless Esau instead of Jacob.
i. This phrase 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 work against the plan God revealed in Genesis 25:23 – and God had beaten him. At this moment, Isaac realized he would always lose when he tried to resist God’s will, even when he didn’t like God’s will. 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 attempt to redirect the will of God was destroyed and he said of Jacob, “and indeed he shall be blessed.”
ii. “As soon as Isaac perceives that he has been wrong in wishing to bless Esau he does not persist in it. He will give Esau such a blessing as he may, but he does not think for a moment of retracting what he has done — he feels that the hand of God was in it. What is more, he tells his son, ‘He is blessed, yea, and shall be blessed.’” (Spurgeon)
3. (34-38) Esau’s reaction to the blessing given to Jacob.
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. He cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry: This is about the strongest description possible to describe the depth of Esau’s horror upon learning that Jacob had used deception to “take” the birthright.
b. Bless me; me also, O my father: Esau repeated this agonized plea. Yet we understand that Esau valued his father’s blessing mainly in material terms. He did not value the blessing’s spiritual value.
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 25:32-34), he was willing to sell his birthright for a bowl of stew, and he despised his birthright. Now, he wanted the material and social 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. For he has supplanted me these two times: Esau failed to take responsibility for the fact that in the first of the two times he referred to, Esau actually despised his birthright (Genesis 25:34), selling it to Jacob for a bowl of stew. In the first of the two times, Esau could not truly say that Jacob took away my birthright. Esau gave it away, and God was Lord over the birthright anyway.
e. 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)
4. (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: These words of Isaac sound more like a curse than a blessing. Yet, in fact, Esau ended up being a blessed man. Many years later when he met Jacob again, he could say the blessed words I have enough, my brother (Genesis 33:9).
i. 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 live as nomads in mostly wilderness lands.
b. By your sword you shall live: Whatever blessings and security Esau might enjoy, it would come as he skillfully wielded his sword. His life would not be easy, though it could be blessed.
c. 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.
5. (41-42) Esau’s anger.
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.”
a. So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing: Esau’s hatred rose against Jacob for many reasons, but mostly it was out of pride and envy. Pride, in that his brother would be preferred before him in regard to the covenant. Envy, in that his brother would enjoy greater prosperity.
b. Then I will kill my brother Jacob: Esau’s somewhat spiritual concern for the blessing of his father quickly disappeared 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 much longer, perhaps 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.
6. (43-46) Rebekah makes plans for Jacob to flee.
“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. 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 would fulfill His purpose in all of it.
b. 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 manipulated Isaac into telling Jacob to leave. This saved his life, but it is likely that this mother never saw her 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 main characters – Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob – schemed and maneuvered in human wisdom and energy, rejecting God’s word and wisdom. Nevertheless, God still accomplished His purpose. The tragedy was that each of the participants suffered, because they insisted on working against God’s word and wisdom.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission