Well thank you for tuning into this verse by verse Bible study, I’m your host Randy Duncan, and we are making our way through the book of Genesis. In this episode we are picking up where we left off in chapter 27.
In the last episode, we covered the first 17 verses, and saw Rebekah and Jacob begin to carry out their plan to deceive Isaac and receive the blessing he intended for Esau. We left off with Rebekah preparing the meal, outfitting Jacob in Esau’s clothing, and sending him to see his father Isaac, which is where we now pick up the action.
V18-25 18 So he went in 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; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.” 20 But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.” 21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 22 So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands. So he blessed him. 24 He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” 25 Then he said, “Bring it near to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.” So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank.
So Jacob does as his mother Rebekah, has instructed him. You sort of get the feeling that he is still a little hesitant and shaky, because all he manages to get out when he enters the room is a single word, “father”. Now when we get to verse 31, you can compare that to Esau, who says much more than a single word. So maybe Jacob is keeping his words at a minimum in an effort to decrease the chances that Isaac will catch on.
Isaac then asks Jacob, “who are you, my son?”, and Jacob responds, I am Esau, your firstborn. Couple of things. First, why is Isaac asking? Is he truly having difficulty seeing and hearing to the extent that he actually doesn’t recognize his own son? Remember, we are told that Isaac is now blind, so perhaps he wanted to hear more of the voice. IOW, Isaac is doing his due diligence here, to verify who he is interacting with.
In fact, some modern commentators, as well as some commentators dating all the way back to the medieval era, have suggested that at some level, Isaac was aware, at least subconsciously, that this was Jacob all along, and that he only pretended to be deceived. In their view, even though Isaac preferred Esau, he knew on some level that Esau would not be the one to carry on God’s promise to Abraham
But Isaac continues, and appears surprised that Esau was able to so quickly go out, hunt game, kill it, and then bring it back and prepare the meal. And so he asks Jacob, “How is it that you have found it so quickly my son?” And notice how Jacob responds. “Because the Lord your God granted me success”. So Jacob has now added a bit of blasphemy to his lie. Jacob is now invoking God in an outright lie! And although God has foretold that Jacob would be the inheritor of the blessing, there is little doubt that this was NOT the manner by which it would take place.
As I mentioned in the last episode, God does not need us to act immorally in order for Him to carry out His plans. But that is exactly what Jacob and Rebekah are doing here. And again, it takes a lot of hutzpah to invoke God’s name into your lie, and give God credit for something that was strictly of your own doing. I would honestly be worried about the ramifications of testing God in that manner, and bringing God’s name into a plan of deception. Matt 4:7. Jesus told us “ it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test”, which is a reference to Deut 6:16. And I can think of no more obvious way to test God than to give Him credit for the success of your lie!
Now, to be fair to Jacob, it’s worth noting that some think Jacob was simply obeying his mother, whom he trusted and loved, and that he may have had little reason to think what he was doing was wrong, since he already knew he was the one who now held the birthright which Esau sold to him. And so he may not have believed he was violating God’s will at all.
But after hearing his voice, Isaac tells Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” Interesting. Isaac has already asked him who he was, and he responded, I am your son, Esau. But now Isaac wants to reach out and touch him. Why? Did he suspect something? Was he just making sure by implementing a second layer of detection? Or, as some believe, did he suspect that it was truly Jacob all along?
And what does Isaac say next? “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau”. This is actually one of the most famous lines in the Bible. Writers and speakers have picked up on and used this phrase to describe confusion and deception for thousands of years now.
V26-29 – 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” 27 So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said, “See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed! 28 May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine. 29Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”
So Isaac tells Jacob to come near him, and kiss him. Now, this act may have been part of the ritual. If so, then it has the feel of a traitor’s kiss, similar in a way to the kiss that Judas betrayed Jesus with. Or, it may have simply been a way for Isaac to get Jacob close enough so that he could smell him, to smell the clothes and see if they were indeed the clothes of Esau.
And in fact, Isaac comments on the smell of the clothes, that they were the smell of the fields, the outdoors. Jacob was a shepherd, he tended to the flocks and the herds, and the clothes of the shepherd reeked of the flock and the herd. On the other hand, Esau was a hunter, and his clothes smelled like the odor of the fields, which Isaac preferred.
This would have been Isaac’s 4th test to make sure this was really Esau. Isaac is using the last of his functioning senses, the sense of smell, to make sure this is really Esau. And here we also see the cunning Rebekah was. After all, why would she have had Jacob put on Esau’s clothes if Isaac couldn’t see him, he couldn’t see the clothes he was wearing? Because Rebekah knew Isaac would rely on his other senses. She has anticipated this from the beginning.
So Jacob inherits Abraham’s blessing and destiny. I mentioned in an earlier episode, but it is worth repeating here, that the Bible sometimes goes against what were traditional beliefs and practices at the time. It was customary that the first-born son was the inheritor of the family, kingship was conferred to the first-born. But the Bible does not always follow script in that regard. For example, here we see Jacob selected over Esau, we also saw Isaac selected over Ishmael. Soon, we will see Joseph selected over his older brothers, and Moses over his older brother Aaron. And finally, King David will be selected over all of his older brothers. The Bible demonstrates that it is more concerened with merit over birth order.With honor and ability over tradition.
30 As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, Esau his brother came in from his hunting. 31 He also prepared delicious 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 His father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” He answered, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.” 33 Then Isaac trembled very violently and said, “Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.” 34 As soon as 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 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.” 36 Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.
And here is where things begin to get really interesting. As soon as Jacob leaves Isaac, here comes Esau with the delicious food, the game he had gone out and hunted, and then prepared, just the way Isaac loved. And he says to Isaac, “rise up and eat, that you may bless me”.
Notice what Isaac says to Esau, after Esau tells him “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game”. Isaac doesn’t say, well hello son, come on in! I appreciate it, but your brother has already cooked for me, and I’m still full, but I’ll eat it later! No, he asks, “Who are you?”. He asks this because he was confused, he could not imagine being deceived by his own son.
And when Esau replies that “I am Esau, your firstborn son”, Isaac realizes what has happened, and the text tells us that he begins to tremble, violently. It doesn’t tell us why he is trembling exactly, perhaps at the prospect of having to face Esau after making such a terrible mistake, maybe he was just so upset, angry at himself or Jacob. Maybe Isaac has just realized he has opposed God’s will all the years concerning Jacob, and he is now being hit with the reality. And reality hits hardest on those who try and deny it
But either way Isaac asks, “So who was it that hunted the game and brought it to me, and I ate it, and I blessed him?” And yes, he shall be blessed!
When Isaac says this last part, “Yes, he shall be blessed”, what he is saying is that the blessing he gave could not be undone. In the ancient world, blessings were deemed to be irrevocable. Although Isaac had the wrong son in view here, still, he brought about and helped to accomplish what God had planned, even if he did so inadvertently. This divine blessing was just as irrevocable as a vow made to God. IOW, Isaac realizes that despite the circumstances, the blessings he gave were irreversible.
So how does Esau react? This tough man, this man of the outdoors, the hunter, cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!”
Esau is now reaping the consequences of selling and despising his birthright. But he knows the blessing cannot be rescinded, so all he can do is cry out for Isaac to bless him too
Isaac tells Esau that “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing”, to which Esau says “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.
Again, Esau rhetoricaly asks, Is he not rightfully named Jacob? He says this because he reinterprets Jacob’s name as deriving from a Hebrew word stem that means “supplanter”. In a particular semitic language, Jacob means “deceiver”. And so Esau is saying, wow, Jacob sure is a proper name for my brother, the deceiver”. “For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.”
So a couple of things to keep in mind here. First, Esau is calling Jacob a deceiver. But remember how Esau responded when he walked into Isaac’s room. When Isaac asks who he was, Esau didn’t respond by simply saying his name. He said, “ I am Esau, your first-born. By adding on the part about being the first- born, Esua was actually laying claim to the rights of the firstborn, including the blessing associated with that position. So now who is the deceiver?
Second point here is that Esau says Jacob “took away his birthright”. But remember, Jacob didn’t take it away, Esau traded it…for a bowl of stew. And claiming that Jacob has now cheated him two times is not really accurate, since the birthright now actually belonged to Jacob. So Esau is still not willing to admit or recognize his culpability in what has happened. Although, the more he talks here the more info he is giving Isaac, since in his emotional state he admits that Jacob now actually possesses the birthright of the first-born. IOW, in his emotional outburst he sort of blurts out his foolish sale of his birthright to Jacob, which Isaac is probably hearing for the first time!
We continue on with the last half of verse 36 through verse 40 – “Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” 37 Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Behold, I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?” 38 Esau said to his father, “Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept. 39 Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: “Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be, and away from the dew of heaven on high. 40 By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow restless you shall break his yoke from your neck.”
Knowing that the blessing was irreversible, all Esau could do was ask Isaac for an additional blessing. But Isaac says that he has already placed Jacob over him, and blessed him, so what exactly can he do for Esau? And again, we hear the desperation in Esau’s voice. “Have you but one blessing for me, my father?” And at that, Esau lifted up his voice and wept. Again, the hunter, this strong man, is reduced to tears and anguish as he begins to reap the consequences of despising his birthright.
But Isaac blesses Esau in the only way he can now. But notice that Esau will live in Edom, away from the fruitful land, the fat of the earth and the dew of the land. Edom was never very fruitful. And even though Edom will survive, it isn’t from pastoral or agricultural endeavors. Isaac tells Esau that he will live by the sword. And so for the land of Edom and the Edomites, who were descendents of Esau, it will survive by raiding its neighbors, and plundering caravans that pass by. The Edomites will actually fight against Israel for many years throughout history. Esau will have a hard life, but he will survive. Esau and his descendents will survive by hunting people, just as Esau has survived by hunting game
Finishing out this chapter, V41-46 read – 41 Now Esau hated 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 approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” 42 But the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son and said to him, “Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice. Arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran 44 and stay with him a while, until your brother’s fury turns away— 45 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 bereft of you both in one day?”
46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?”
So it is no surprise to learn here that based on everything that has happened, Esau hated Jacob, and planned to kill him. Only, out of respect for Isaac, he would wait until Isaac died. Even at his moment of greatest anger and emotion, Esau had enough respect for his father Isaac to not kill Jacob while Isaaac was still alive, knowing how much hurt and anguish that would cause Isaac.
But, Rebekah learns of Esau’s plan to kill Jacob. Somebody told her. Perhaps Esau could not conceal his anger and hatred, and ended up talking and telling a few people and word got back to Rebekah. In life, I think there is a truism that is worth remembering, “everybody talks to somebody”. And so word gets around faster than you might expect.
So Rebekah sends for Jacob and tells him of Esau’s plan to kill him. She tells him to leave, to flee to her brother, Laban’s house in Haran, where he would be safe until Esau’s anger has subsided. And after Esau is no longer angry, after his fury has subsided, she will send for him to come back home.
Part of Rebekah’s plan here is sensible, to send Jacob away to her brother’s house where he would be safe. However, part of her plan is a little naive I think. Does she really think Esau will so quickly forgive and forget? She tells Jacob to stay there for a while, which, in the Hebrew, actually says “a number of days”. I wonder how long Rebekah expected Jacob would need to stay away? A few weeks, a few months? A year? Maybe this was a bit of wishful thinking on the part of a mother. But we will learn the harsh reality that Jacob will be gone for 20 years! In fact, Rebekah will never see Jacob again.And so in this way, she tastes the bitter consequences of her deception.
When she tells Jacob to leave, she also says “Why should I be bereft of you both in one day? That word bereft, and to “lose both of you” in Hebrew means “bereaved”. What she means is, if Esau carries out his plan to Kill Jacob, she will lose Jacob. But she will also lose Esau, because murder called for capital punishment, so Esau would have been condemned to death, or killed by the next of kin, an avenger of blood, resulting in Rebekah losing both of her sons.
Finally, Rebekah realizes she needs to get Isaac’s approval for Jacob to leave and go to Haran, so she tells him she is disgusted with her life because of Esau’s marriage to Hittite women. And so she parlays this into her telling Isaac that they need to send Jacob to Haran to find a wife. In this way, she could hide from Isaac the real reason for sending him away, which is that Esau was planning to kill him.
Also in Rebekah’s words here, brilliantly perhaps, she is reminding Isaac of Esau’s marriage to these pagan women, and of his unworthiness to receive the Abrahamic blessing, perhaps in a way making Isaac feel a little better about inadvertently blessing Jacob
And as we end this chapter, consider that despite Isaac’s plan to bless Esau, and even in spite of the fact he may have known God had elected Jacob, he ironically blesses Jacob due to the deception of Rebekah and Jacob, thus bringing about what God said was going to happen all along. It probably wasn’t the way God would have chosen, with the jealousy, deception, favoritism, and family tension, but as always, God is able to accomplish His plan despite the presence of all these other factors. God knew what would happen. God knew Jacob would inherit the blessings and promises made to Abraham. And this in spite of Isaac’s efforts to bless Esau.
And if you think Jacob has gotten away with something here, that God will not hold him accountable, we will soon see that is absolutely not the case. God will soon get Jacob’s attention and turn his life around
It really is like a science fiction movie, where the characters try to stop some foretold future, but actually end up causing that very future to come about due to their involvement and attempts to stop it. Meanwhile, God sits outside of time, seeing the end from the beginning, knowing what each of the characters would do, knowing how it would all end. Just as he does for each of us.
We don’t aways get what we want in life, the answer is sometimes “no”, or at least “not right now”. There are times in all of our lives when we experience hardships and disappointments that we certainly don’t understand at the time. It may be months or even years before we start to get a glimpse of a possible reason. And then for other situations, we may never get an answer to our questions.
In those times, we can choose to either dwell on it, to try to live in the present while still being chained to the past, or we can choose to trust that God allowed those circumstances in our lives for a reason.
We would do good to remember the words found in Isa 46:9-10 which read, “for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done,… ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose”
God sees the end from the beginning. God has a purpose for your life. And one of the greatest joys in life is to discover that purpose, and then start living it.