The Battle for the Blessing
We finished with the death of Abraham and the close-up of Isaac's life now being transcribed by Jacob. Early on we have seen Isaac's own personal tests of faith and the birth of his twins Jacob and Esau. The bulk of the chapter compared the character and activity of these two brothers and finished with Esau giving away his birthright to Jacob.
God had promised that the birthright would go to Jacob. His small faith, however, moved him to manipulate his brother rather than wait on God to fulfill His promise. This shows that small faith moves you to certain actions (which you regret) in the same way that great faith moves you to actions that cause you to rejoice.
This manipulation will cause problems later on and the next chapters deal with the continued striving within this family over who possessed the blessing.
The Deception – 27:1-25
Now in chapter 26:34-35 it says that Esau, to the sorrow of his parents, married two pagan women from the area. This sets up the condition and strife within the family as we enter into the story of chapter 27.
1Now 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." 2Isaac said, "Behold now, I am old and I do not know the day of my death. 3Now then, please take your gear, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me; 4and 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."
5Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game to bring home,
Isaac is getting older (but not near death as he thought because he died at 180 and was about 135 at the time). It was the custom to pronounce the blessing at the time of a feast and so since Isaac was to bless Esau, it seemed fitting that Esau should provide the feast himself.
Some interesting notes about this passage concerning the blessing:
- It was done in secret and Rebekah only overheard the plan. It seems that giving Esau the blessing was not a popular decision.
- Despite Esau's unholy behavior (marrying two pagan women), God's promise to give the blessing to Jacob and Esau's oath to give the blessing to Jacob, Isaac was determined to give the blessing to Esau anyways.
- Isaac's physical blindness mirrored his spiritual blindness when it came to favoring this particular son.
6Rebekah 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.' 8Now therefore, my son, listen to me as I command you. 9Go 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. 10Then you shall bring it to your father, that he may eat, so that he may bless you before his death." 11Jacob answered his mother Rebekah, "Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man and I am a smooth man. 12Perhaps 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." 13But his mother said to him, "Your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me." 14So he went and got them, and brought them to his mother; and his mother made savory food such as his father loved. 15Then 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. 16And she put the skins of the young goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17She also gave the savory food and the bread, which she had made, to her son Jacob.
In the next passage we see Rebekah, Isaac's wife, devise a plan where she would cook the food (it seems Isaac's love of game food was not that great since he could not tell the difference between game and goat – love is truly blind). In addition to this, she plans to have Jacob serve it in disguise.
Again, neither she nor Jacob were rebuked for this. The plan was deceitful but the purpose was right. We know that God does not support deceit and the troubles that they suffered for this show it. However, God allows us to work our way through with our methods instead of waiting patiently on Him, if we insist on it.
Jacob is hesitant but Rebekah convinces him that her food and a disguise of Esau's clothing (with its particular smell) as well as animal skins sewn to his collar and wrists would be able to fool Isaac.
- Rebekah is a forceful and decisive woman. She makes the plan, convinces her son, she is even ready to take the blame if it all goes wrong.
- This could be for the love of her son but her character so far suggests that she is a strong-willed believer and a "take charge" kind of woman.
- Her strength is her zeal for God and doing His will; her weakness is impatience and self-will.
18Then he came to his father and said, "My father." And he said, "Here I am. Who are you, my son?" 19Jacob 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." 20Isaac 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." 21Then Isaac said to Jacob, "Please come close, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not." 22So 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." 23He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau's hands; so he blessed him. 24And he said, "Are you really my son Esau?" And he said, "I am." 25So 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. 26Then his father Isaac said to him, "Please come close and kiss me, my son." 27So 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;
28Now may God give you of the dew of heaven,
And of the fatness of the earth,
And an abundance of grain and new wine;
29May 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."
One question arises from this passage, "Why did God honor this blessing when it was received through deception and lies?" It was certainly not because God justifies or does not care about lies. Also, it was not because the mean justifies the end. God honored this blessing because God honors our will, for good or evil.
God promised the blessing to Jacob but his mother and he went ahead of God (like Abraham and Sarah) in order to work it out, and God permitted them to do it. However, He also permitted them to suffer the consequences. The sins were definitely on Esau and Isaac. One for being an ungodly man and the other for refusing to do God's will. God would have handled them and the blessing in his own way and time. Jacob and Rebekah would not have had to sin.
This brings up another ethical problem, the one of the lesser of two evils. Sometimes we are in a situation where the options are bad and worse. For example, a mother will die if she does not abort the child. People will be murdered if the one hiding them does not lie. Ten people with a disease and only five vaccines on hand.
The Bible also shows examples of people who had to break one of God's commands in order to obey another. For example, Hebrew midwives disobeyed civil authority (the king's edict to kill male children) in order to save Jewish babies. Rahab, the harlot, lied to the army in order to protect the Jewish spies.
Some could argue that Jacob and Rebekah lied and practiced deceit in order to preserve the promise and save it from going into the hands of an ungodly man thus bringing condemnation and destruction on himself and his father. Lying to save it was not as bad as what could have happened.
In the end, whether one suffers in waiting for God to intervene or one intervenes by choosing the lessor of two evils, one thing is sure. These situations bring about the necessity for God's grace to save us either way: for those who wait, they wait for God's grace to save them; for those who make bad choices, they need God's grace to cover their sins in order to save them.
- A lie, even if done to save, is a sin and requires God's grace to cover.
- A woman lets the child go in order to save her life and needs God's grace to forgive her and comfort her in this impossible decision.
- Jacob and Rebekah needed God's grace to forgive their flawed plan even if it did have good intentions, and because they were in a faith relationship with God, they received this grace.
The point is, if you are in a faith relationship with God, you receive grace for sins, bad choices, decisions on the lessor of two evils. If you are not, you receive no grace and die in your sins.
In the final verses of this section, Isaac gets to the heart of the matter by giving away the blessing. First he blesses him for physical and worldly blessings. Then the blessing of God regarding superiority, protection and the fact he would be blessed by others and be a blessing to them.
Despite the rebellion of Isaac, the worldliness of Esau (he knew the blessing was promised to Jacob and that he had sold it to him himself yet he was still ready to accept it), and the scheming of Rebekah and Jacob, God's will was accomplished.
30Now 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. 31Then 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." 32Isaac his father said to him, "Who are you?" And he said, "I am your son, your firstborn, Esau." 33Then 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."
Isaac and Esau learn of Jacob and Rebekah's deceit. It is interesting that Isaac confirms that Jacob shall be blessed. He gives in to God at last when, in trembling reality, he sees that God has judged his rebellion through Jacob's deceit.
Have you ever done something wrong, knew it was wrong, but kept doing it anyways? And then something happens to you to prove that you should not have been doing this all along, and you are caught.
This is what is happening to Isaac.
- He loved Esau, idolized his virility and allowed it to blind him and go against what he knew was right.
- God showed him, through this event, what he knew all along but would not give in to: Jacob was God's choice.
- His trembling was a mixture of anger at his family but also fear that God had, by this, judged his rebellious heart.
He is quick to see this and becomes firm that Jacob has and will keep the blessing.
34When 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!" 35And he said, "Your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing." 36Then 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?" 37But 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?" 38Esau 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. 39Then 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 is sad because the political advantage of the blessing has slipped away from him. The elder will serve the younger means that even their descendants will have this relationship. He begs for a blessing (since Jacob took it by deception, he reasons that it does not count). Isaac refuses and instead gives a prophecy concerning Esau: that he will dwell in rocky places, be at war and have a brief time of respite. Esau's descendants, the Edomites, bear this out. They lived in the hill country, were constantly at war with Israel and were independent until David's reign. After David they were in subjection and ultimately disappeared.
41So 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." 42Now 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. 43Now therefore, my son, obey my voice, and arise, flee to Haran, to my brother Laban! 44Stay with him a few days, until your brother's fury subsides, 45until 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?"
46Rebekah 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?"
The deceit bears fruit as Esau's sadness turns to murderous rage. Rebekah decides to send Jacob to her relatives to live while Esau calms down, and also to prevent him from marrying pagans as Esau did. Again, she is decisive and a planner.
Of course, she is hoping that Esau's rage will subside (and we find out that it eventually does) but it will be twenty years before Jacob returns and this will be the last time that Rebekah will see him. She will be dead before he comes back.
1. We need God's grace for everything
We think we need God's grace only when we do something wrong but without His grace we could not exist.
- Grace brings us into being.
- Grace provides for all of our needs.
- Grace permits us to continue to exist despite the fact that we are imperfect in every way.
From morning till night and all through the night we need God's grace to sustain us when we do wrong and when we do right but do it imperfectly.
2. Blind love is not true love
Esau is a good example of those children who are talented, charismatic; raised in Christian homes with love and stability; but love the world, reject or ignore all the good influence that is around them. Parents sometime make Isaac's mistake of ignoring all the signs of fallen faith and try to love them into heaven. Nowhere in the record does Isaac rebuke, admonish or discipline Esau. On the contrary, he encourages him in his ways. Blind love is not love. True love takes the good and the bad for what it is and deals with both in the appropriate way.
3. There is always a price to pay
Isaac lost both sons and the confidence of his wife for his rebellion. Rebekah lost sight of her Jacob and the peace in her home. Esau lost the blessing, the respect of his parents as well as the fellowship of his brother. Jacob lost his family. Even if no one knows, even if you think it will result in good, there is always a price to pay for sin.
- Summarize Genesis 27:1-46 how Rebekah and Jacob deceived Isaac and answer the following questions:
- Why would God not punish Rebekah and Jacob for their deception?
- How does God's choice of when and how to punish relate to Matthew 24:36 regarding the return of our Lord?
- Read Genesis 27:34-47 and answer the following questions:
- What was the immediate outcome once Esau realized Jacob had cheated him of his birthright?
- What was Esau's plan once he realizes his mother and brother's deceit?
- How does Esau's plan for revenge on his brother relate to Jesus' teachings on hate and murder (Matthew 5:21), I John 3:15, and Ephesians 4:26-27?
- How does this event point to God's grace?
- How can you use this lesson to grow spiritually and help others come into a relationship with Jesus?