This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.
Abraham’s son, Isaac, had two sons. God chose only one of them to inherit the Abrahamic covenant. The covenant promises would be passed on through the generations until all was fulfilled. Jacob had already bought Esau’s birthright from him in exchange for a bowl of porridge. This birthright made him the prime inheritor of the family estate.
Now, a number of years passed by, and Isaac began to prepare for the time of his death. Though his death was more than twenty years away, Isaac knew that he must be prepared for it to happen any time. To that end, he needed to officially select a son to pass on the Abrahamic covenant to. Isaac seems to be in a sort of spiritual slump. He did not obey the word of the LORD, but sought to force his own will upon the matter. He knew that God had told Rebekah before the twins were born that the younger son would rule over the older. So Isaac knew that God had said that Jacob would be the heir to the Abrahamic covenant. However, Isaac chose to bestow his blessing upon Esau, in direct defiance of the revealed will of God.
1 Now it came about, when Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see, that he called his older son Esau and said to him, “My son.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” 2 Isaac said, “Behold now, I am old and I do not know the day of my death. 3 Now then, please take your gear, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me; 4 and prepare a savory dish for me such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die.”
Isaac thought with his stomach. Esau was Jacob’s favorite, because he was a hunter who would cook up savory food for him. So Isaac’s blessing is tied to the preparation and eating of his favorite food.
5 Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game to bring home, 6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Behold, I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, saying, 7 ‘Bring me some game and prepare a savory dish for me, that I may eat, and bless you in the presence of the LORD before my death.’ 8 Now therefore, my son, listen to me as I command you. 9 Go now to the flock and bring me two choice young goats from there, that I may prepare them as a savory dish for your father, such as he loves. 10 Then you shall bring it to your father, that he may eat, so that he may bless you before his death.”
Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite son. She also remembered the word of the LORD that Jacob would be the son of the blessing. However, she did not seek the help of the LORD or confront her husband in the matter. Instead, she engineered a deceptive scheme. She was indeed seeking for what was according to God’s will, but she was going about it in an ungodly manner. This is not pleasing to the LORD.
11 Jacob answered his mother Rebekah, “Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man and I am a smooth man. 12 Perhaps my father will feel me, then I will be as a deceiver in his sight, and I will bring upon myself a curse and not a blessing.”
Surely the man who will inherit the covenant blessing will approach this situation in a godly manner! But alas! He did not. He had reservations about the deception, only because he was afraid to get caught! He still had to learn the fear of the LORD.
13 But his mother said to him, “Your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.”
Rebekah allayed Jacob’s fears of being caught and receiving a curse. He was much more comfortable allowing his mother to receive the curse instead of him.
14 So he went and got them, and brought them to his mother; and his mother made savory food such as his father loved. 15 Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. 16 And she put the skins of the young goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17 She also gave the savory food and the bread, which she had made, to her son Jacob.
In this way, Rebekah and Jacob took advantage of Isaac’s blindness. Isaac would rely on his other senses to discern who was speaking to him. So Rebekah made Jacob feel and smell like Esau. But there was nothing she could do about his voice, and Jacob resorted to speaking short and terse sentences, probably trying to change his voice to sound like Esau’s.
18 Then he came to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” 19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn; I have done as you told me. Get up, please, sit and eat of my game, that you may bless me.” 20 Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have it so quickly, my son?” And he said, “Because the LORD your God caused it to happen to me.” 21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come close, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 22 So Jacob came close to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. 24 And he said, “Are you really my son Esau?” And he said, “I am.”
Isaac appears weak and confused, for he was not walking with the LORD according to all His ways. Jacob successfully deceived Isaac into believing that he was Esau, and secured the blessing:
25 So he said, “Bring it to me, and I will eat of my son’s game, that I may bless you.” And he brought it to him, and he ate; he also brought him wine and he drank. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Please come close and kiss me, my son.” 27 So he came close and kissed him; and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him and said,
“See, the smell of my son
Is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed;
28 Now may God give you of the dew of heaven,
And of the fatness of the earth,
And an abundance of grain and new wine;
29 May peoples serve you,
And nations bow down to you;
Be master of your brothers,
And may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be those who curse you,
And blessed be those who bless you.”
Isaac played off of the smell of Esau’s garments in his blessing upon Jacob. He asked the LORD to bless Jacob with the prosperity of the earth and with the dominion over the nations. He prayed that the Abrahamic covenant would be his, establishing him as a great nation upon the earth through whom the earth would be blessed and cursed accordingly. By this blessing, Isaac asked the LORD to carry on His covenant through this son. Ironically, he blessed the son who was indeed to inherit the covenant and not the son that he intended to bless.
30 Now it came about, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had hardly gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. 31 Then he also made savory food, and brought it to his father; and he said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.” 32 Isaac his father said to him, “Who are you?” And he said, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.” 33 Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, “Who was he then that hunted game and brought it to me, so that I ate of all of it before you came, and blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.”
Suddenly, everything made sense to Isaac. He realized what had happened, and knew it could not be taken back. Isaac could not take the blessing away from Jacob, though he had received it deceitfully.
34 When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” 35 And he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing.” 36 Then he said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” 37 But Isaac replied to Esau, “Behold, I have made him your master, and all his relatives I have given to him as servants; and with grain and new wine I have sustained him. Now as for you then, what can I do, my son?” 38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” So Esau lifted his voice and wept.
In reality, Isaac did have only one blessing, because he had one covenant from God to pass on. It was not a matter of asking similar things for Esau. He had already blessed Jacob with the Abrahamic Covenant promises. So he gives a prophecy:
39 Then Isaac his father answered and said to him,
“Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling,
And away from the dew of heaven from above.
40 “By your sword you shall live,
And your brother you shall serve;
But it shall come about when you become restless,
That you will break his yoke from your neck.”
Esau would become the nation of Edom, who would dwell high in the mountains of Seir. The Edomites would fight time and again with Israel, and would throw off Israelite dominion for a time.
41 So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” 42 Now when the words of her elder son Esau were reported to Rebekah, she sent and called her younger son Jacob, and said to him, “Behold your brother Esau is consoling himself concerning you by planning to kill you. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice, and arise, flee to Haran, to my brother Laban! 44 Stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury subsides, 45 until your brother’s anger against you subsides and he forgets what you did to him. Then I will send and get you from there. Why should I be bereaved of you both in one day?”
As a result of her scheme, Rebekah lost her son. She made him flee from the wrath of Esau. Instead of only being away for a few days, Jacob would live in Paddan-Aram for twenty years. It is not recorded that Rebekah ever sent for her son, and if she did, he was too busy working for her brother. Rebekah would die before his return.
She had Isaac send Jacob away under the pretense of finding a wife from their family:
46 Rebekah said to Isaac, “I am tired of living because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of Heth, like these, from the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?”
Just as we saw previously, the covenant sons were not to take wives from the daughters of the Canaanites lest they adopted their religious practices and were drawn away from the exclusive worship of the LORD. They would also be in danger of assimilating into the peoples of the land, losing their covenant identity.
God’s will was not thwarted, even though none of the family were walking in His ways at this time. He does not approve of sin, but He still works His purposes in spite of it. All of this is building to development of the nation of Israel from whom would come the Messiah. Jesus, the Messiah, would live a perfect life, always obeying God’s will in everything. He was unlike anyone who has ever lived. Being blameless, He laid down His life to take away the sins of all who would believe upon Him. To those who believe, He gives His righteousness so that they will have eternal life with God. And God has given Him the inheritance of dominion over all the nations and the possession of the prosperity of the earth. One day He will return as the rightful king to take up His kingdom and rule forever.