- Locate the passage
While Jacob will be the child through whom the Covenant will extend, this pericope is more about Esau than Jacob. His marriage in defiance of his family, his lost blessing, his intention to kill his brother, and more marriages out of spite.
This passage is narrative with two episodes of poetry in Isaac’s blessing of Jacob (27:27-29) and later response to Esau (27:39-40). It is bookended by two different accounts of marriages of Esau that bring grief to his parents. The conversations recorded here center around Jacob’s deceit and Esau’s despair.
- Determine the structure of the passage
26:34-35 – Esau’s marriages grieve his parents
27:1-4 – Isaac intends to bless Esau
27:5-17 – Rebekah’s plan to help Jacob deceive her husband
27:18-40 – Isaac blesses Jacob
27:41-46 – Rebekah’s plan to help Jacob flee from her son
28:1-5 – Isaac intends to bless Jacob
28:6-9 – Esau’s marriages grieve his parents
- Exegete the passage
While the story of Isaac’s wife revolves around prayer and the provision of the Lord, Esau also marries late, but marries in defiance of the wishes of his family and his wives brought grief to his family.
Isaac and Rebekah’s favoritism here leads to division in their family. See comments above on Gen. 25:28. Rebekah is the initiator of the deceit. No doubt she justified her deception as helping her son. Perhaps she recalled the Lord’s promise in 25:23 that her older son would serve the younger. But, God did not need her help to fulfill His promise.
This passage also begins a theme in Jacob narratives of being controlled by the women in his life.
This pericope unfolds in a chiastic structure:
A Esau’s marriages grieve his parents
B Isaac intends to bless Esau
C Rebekah’s plan to help Jacob deceive her husband
D Isaac blesses Jacob
C´ Rebekah’s plan to help Jacob flee from her son
B´ Isaac intends to bless Jacob
A´ Esau’s marriages grieve his parents
26:34-35 – These verses could function as a close to the previous section or an introduction to this one. The connection of his wives bringing grief to his parents sways the inclusion here.
27:1 – Isaac was old and his eyes were dim
- The Bible records a number of physical effects as a result of age The Bible records a number of physical complications as a result of old age including: loss of eyesight (Gen.27:1-4; Gen. 48:10; 1 Sam. 3:13; cf. Deut. 24:7); diminished sense of taste (2 Sam. 19:35); loss of hearing (2 Sam. 19:35); susceptibility to cold (1 Kings 1:1-4); loss of sexual desire (1 Kings 1:1-4; Cf. Gen.17:17; 18:12); inability to conceive or bear children (Gen.18:11; 2 Kings 4:14; Ruth 1:11-12); loss of alertness or acumen (Gen.19:30-38; 27:1-29; 1 Kings 1:1-27; 11:4); loss of physical strength (Ps. 71:9; Prov. 20:29); foot problems (2 Chron. 16:12); nostalgia (Ezra 3:12-13; Hag. 2:3); and senility (Hos. 7:9)..
- But, Isaac is blind in more ways than one.
27:1 – The “Blessing”
- The two coveted commodities that Jacob “steals” from his brother are the birthright and the blessing.
- The birthright is the order in which a son will receive the inheritance from his father. While, the determination of the actual distribution of his wealth was determined by the father; normally, if there are two sons, the older son would receive 2/3 of his father’s inheritance and the younger son would receive 1/3.
- The blessing was more of a faith-grounded pronouncement of favor in anticipation of what God would do in one’s life.
- The significance of these two is suggested in Esau’s reaction to the loss of them. His reaction to the loss of the birthright was to “despise” the birthright. But, his reaction to the loss of his father’s blessing is anger and desperation that lead him to thoughts of murder.
27:2-4 – Isaac is confident that Esau knows the kind of food that he likes and wants a savory meal as the occasion of his blessing to his son. The occasion for the blessing is the advanced age of Isaac who wants to bless his son before he dies. Isaac seems to have lived at least another 20 years after these events as his death is not recorded in the text (Gen. 35:28-29) until after Jacob has been gone from the house for 20 years (Gen. 31:41), married four women, and had 12 sons and at least one daughter.
27:5 – Isaac seems to have been unaware that Rebekah was eavesdropping on his conversation with Esau (Cf. Gen. 18:10).
27:6 – Jacob was not immediately receptive to his mother’s plan, but she eventually persuades him.
27:8-10 – “Obey my voice”
- The Hebrew imperative (“shama”) occurs twice in her instructions to her son (Gen. 27:8, 13; Cf. 27:43).
27:9 – Rebekah also knows what kind of food her husband likes
27:11-12 – Jacob’s main objection doesn’t seem to be regarding the ethics of the deception, but the logistics. He is aware that he and Esau are not identical twins. Esau is hairy and surely Isaac, though he can’t see, would be able to feel that.
27:13 – Rebekah was quick to declare that the “curse” be on her at this point, but is nowhere to be found once the plot is discovered.
27:16 – Rebekah’s solution to Jacob’s smooth skin was hair from a goat. Esau really must have been a hairy man!
27:18-23 – Rebekah’s plan worked and Isaac was deceived. When asked, Jacob blasphemously invokes God in his deception, crediting Divine favor (27:20) for how quickly the meal was prepared. Note that his response points to “the Lord your God” and not HIS God.
27:21-27 – Isaac was not completely convinced and took several measures to try to validate that this was Esau: he invited Jacob to “come close” (27:21), he listened to the voice (27:22), he felt the hands and neck (27:23), he asked him to verify that he was Esau (27:24), and he smelled his clothes (27:27).
- Ultimately, though the timing seemed too swift and the voice seemed more like Jacob than Esau, Isaac was ultimately “convinced” by the smell.
27:27-29 – Isaac’s blessing of Jacob is a prayer for God’s blessing on his work in the land (rain, productivity) and personal security and prominence over the nations as well as his family. The blessing recalls the blessing of God upon Abraham (Cf. Gen. 12:3 – “bless those who bless you … curse those who curse you”) and establishes Jacob as the continuing the line of the Abrahamic Covenant.
27: 30 – “As soon as”
- See 1 Sam. 13:10, where nearly the exact same phrase in Hebrew is used when Saul arrogantly and disobediently offered a sacrifice to the Lord instead of waiting for Samuel and “as soon as” he finished, Samuel arrived.
- Rebekah’s plan seems to have overlooked one thing – eventually, it was bound to be found out! Rebekah in endeavoring to secure a blessing for her favored son, put him in danger from his brother and led to his departure from her home.
27:30-33 – When Esau returned, having followed his father’s instructions, he is met with the devastating news. Isaac’s response (“Who are you?”) serves as the disappointing climax for Esau as his mother’s deception and his father’s gullibility have converged to “rob” him of the blessing his father intended to give him.
- The episode reads like a tragic episode of the TV show, “To Tell the Truth” with both boys making the statement, “I am Esau.”
27:34-35 – Esau’s response is jarring in the text. His despair at being doubly-deceived by his brother matches Isaac’s trembling response to having blessed the “wrong” son.
- Note that while the scheme began with Rebekah, Jacob is blamed for it
- While one might have cause to question Esau’s “enthusiasm” towards his birthright, the loss of his blessing was not at all his fault
- He seems to have done everything his father asked him to do in a timely fashion.
- Thus, his exasperation seems warranted in the text.
27:37 – Both Isaac and Esau perceive the blessing pronounced by Isaac on Jacob as irreversible. Esau pleads for an additional blessing.
27:38 – “Bless me … even me”
- Esau’s two-fold emphasis of “me” suggests that his father blessed the wrong twin.
- His plea suggests that he would be willing to accept even a lesser blessing if his father had more than one blessing to offer.
27:39-40 – Despite Esau’s pleas for an additional blessing, what he receives from his father is the opposite of blessing.
- His dwelling will be “away from”
27:41-42 – Esau responded to the situation with hatred.
- Scripture says that his hatred was based on, “the blessing with which his father blessed him.”
- Esau was not responsible for the situation, but he is responsible for his response to it.
- He began to plan to kill his brother once his father died.
- But, he apparently uttered those words out loud and they got back to Rebekah
- Instead of confronting her son, she again plots to protect her favored son
27:43 – “Obey my voice”
- Jacob might have been thinking to himself, “Obeying your voice is what got me into this mess in the first place!”
27:43-45 – Rebekah’s solution is for Jacob to go to her brother’s house temporarily until Esau “gets over” being so made at Jacob that he wanted to kill him.
- She advised Jacob to abide with her brother, “Until he forgets what you did to him.”
- Now even Rebekah is blaming Jacob for the deceit which was her idea in the first place!
- Wait a minute! I thought she was going to bear the curse …?!
27:46 – Rebekah has already deceived her husband, so lying to him must have come naturally.
- These are the parents who both prayed for a child, but now have fumbled God’s blessing
28:1-2 – Isaac advises Jacob according to his wife’s wishes
- He instructs his son, “Do not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan”
28:3-4 – Isaac now realizes that the Covenant blessing of Abraham will extend through Jacob.
28:6-8 – Esau heard that his father advised Jacob to marry within the family
- Perhaps Esau recognized the failure of his first two marriages and decided to try to make things right with a subsequent marriage that reads like a desperate attempt of a young man trying to win his father’s favor.
- But, his effort ironically missed. In a desperate attempt to marrying within the family, Esau married the daughter of Isaac’s half-brother, who was sent away from the family of Isaac.
- Here, Esau, perhaps unintentionally identifies with Ishmael and not Isaac. Unwittingly, he has embraced his role as comparable to the role of Ishmael with Isaac; now, Esau was the “Ishmael” to Jacob’s “Isaac.”
- Let the structure of the text drive the sermon
- The harmful effects of sin in the home
Exp. This passage depicts the consequences of setting aside God’s will in an effort to accomplish our own
- The sin (disharmony caused by their favoritism) of the parents has been passed down to the children
- Deception brings disharmony to the home
- Jacob even invoked God in his sin, “the Lord your God caused it.”
- The sin put Jacob’s life (and the Covenant of Abraham) in jeopardy as Esau desired to kill Jacob
- Sin has led to anger which devises more evil
- God doesn’t need my help to fulfill His promise
- Rebekah and Jacob attempt to manipulate God’s promise
- Perhaps, Rebekah remembered the words of the Lord in 25:23, “the older will serve the younger.” She may have rationalized her deception as helping God fulfill His promise. But, God never sanctions evil to accomplish good.
- This is the last record of Rebekah (aside from a reference to being the brother of Laban – Gen. 28:5) in the text.
Application: This passage reveals:
- The potential impact of a Godly blessing on a home
- The lingering consequences of sin
- The folly of our best efforts to accomplish God’s will on our own
- God’s faithfulness to His promise despite our sin
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||The Bible records a number of physical complications as a result of old age including: loss of eyesight (Gen.27:1-4; Gen. 48:10; 1 Sam. 3:13; cf. Deut. 24:7); diminished sense of taste (2 Sam. 19:35); loss of hearing (2 Sam. 19:35); susceptibility to cold (1 Kings 1:1-4); loss of sexual desire (1 Kings 1:1-4; Cf. Gen.17:17; 18:12); inability to conceive or bear children (Gen.18:11; 2 Kings 4:14; Ruth 1:11-12); loss of alertness or acumen (Gen.19:30-38; 27:1-29; 1 Kings 1:1-27; 11:4); loss of physical strength (Ps. 71:9; Prov. 20:29); foot problems (2 Chron. 16:12); nostalgia (Ezra 3:12-13; Hag. 2:3); and senility (Hos. 7:9).|