Jacob: Trying to fulfill God’s Blessing through the Flesh
Genesis 27 – 36
The next section in the book of Genesis concerns Jacob, who spent the majority of his life trying to fulfill God’s blessing through the flesh:
O U T L I N E
Jacob. If Abraham’s life teaches us about the call of God, and Isaac’s life teaches us about the privileges of sonship, then the life of Jacob exemplifies God’s discipline of His sons.
Jacob Steals his Father’s Blessing
Genesis 27. This is one of the saddest chapters in Genesis. It is hard to find something happy in the chapter. We see the flesh in activity on the part of Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Esau. The vices of each are manifested. Rebecca and Jacob at least value the blessing, but seek to attain it through the most disgraceful and dishonest means. Isaac is blinded by his favoritism for Esau, but does tremble when God intervenes. Esau exhibits no evidence of faith whatsoever, but instead manifested that he was a profane person. If we can say anything positive, it is that God’s will is ultimately done regardless of the failure of man. There is also the fact that Issac trembled, and seemed to submit to God’s overruling the blessing of his sons, and this is credited to Isaac for faith in Hebrews 11.
Isaac’s State Prior to Conferring the Blessing (27:1-5)
1 And it came to pass when Isaac had become old, and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, that he called Esau his elder son, and said to him, My son! And he said to him, Here am I. 2 And he said, Behold now, I am become old; I know not the day of my death. 3 And now, I pray thee, take thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field and hunt me venison, 4 and prepare me a savoury dish such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, in order that my soul may bless thee before I die. 5 And Rebecca heard when Isaac spoke to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt venison, to bring it. vv.1-5 Isaac’s Instructions to Esau. We find Isaac in a sad condition in his old age; “his eyes were dim so that he could not see”. Physical blindness is scripture is a type of poor spiritual discernment (John 3:3; 9:40; 2 Pet. 1:9; Rev. 3:17). We read of no such dimness of sight with Abraham. The time had come for Isaac to bless his sons before he died. Isaac fully intended to bless Esau with the portion of the firstborn son. Way back before the boys were born God had told Rebecca that “the elder shall serve the younger”. Rebecca may have kept this revelation from her husband, because we never read that she told Isaac what the Lord had said. Rebecca seeks in this chapter to get the firstborn’s blessing for Jacob (her favorite) though deceit. Isaac’s instructions to Esau reveal another issue with Isaac. He had become accustomed to the wild game that his favorite son would catch and prepare. He even used the word “love” in connection with food! The lust of the flesh had clouded his discernment. But there is something more serious than this. Notice how Isaac words it. He asks Esau to take his bow, hunt venison, prepare a savory dish, “in order that my soul may bless thee”. It was as if Isaac couldn’t summon the strength to perform this sacred ritual without a fleshly stimulant. Isaac’s state of soul was not what it should have been embarking on this priestly work of blessing. He calls for the intoxication of nature to get him in the appropriate mood to bless. “Do not drink wine nor strong drink, … when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation… that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean” (Lev. 10:9-10). Rebecca heard what Isaac told Esau, and she knew his weaknesses well enough to exploit them.
Rebekah and Jacob’s Plot to Steal the Blessing (27:6-17)
6 And Rebecca spoke to Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak to Esau thy brother, saying, 7 Bring me venison, and prepare me a savoury dish, that I may eat, and bless thee before Jehovah, before my death. 8 And now, my son, hearken to my voice in that which I command thee. 9 Go, I pray thee, to the flock, and fetch me thence two good kids of the goats. And I will make of them a savoury dish for thy father, such as he loves. 10 And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, in order that he may bless thee before his death. vv.6-10 Rebecca’s Plan. Rebecca saw an opportunity to secure the first-born’s blessing for her favorite son. She hatches a plot to steal the blessing, counting on her skills of deceit, and Isaac’s lack of discernment. What a terrible state for this home to be in! How wonderful the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca had begun in ch.24, as a type of Christ and the church. How could things have gone so far awry in their home, that eavesdropping, secret meetings between mother and son, plots to deceive the father, should carry on without a thought of what was pleasing to the Lord? There is no excuse for this behavior. From the outside, this family appeared to be a prosperous and successful household, with flocks and herds in abundance; the Lord had blessed them. But inside, where no outsider could see, the family dynamics were all wrong.
11 And Jacob said to Rebecca his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. 12 My father perhaps will feel me, and I shall be in his sight as one who mocks him, and I shall bring a curse on me, and not a blessing. 13 And his mother said to him, On me be thy curse, my son! Only hearken to my voice, and go, fetch them. vv.11-13 Jacob’s Fears Quelled. Jacob had fears about the plan. He knew his father was blind, but Isaac had not lost all his senses. What would happen if the truth was discovered by Isaac? How angry Isaac would be – or so he thought – if he discovered the truth. Although the plot was Rebecca’s idea, Jacob knew this behavior was unrighteous; “I shall be in his sight as one who mocks him”. But Jacob’s fear was not the fear of the Lord. It was the fear of being discovered. Jacob pictures to us a believer, but one who is walking in the flesh. Rebecca quells Jacob’s fears in the most awful way possible; “On me be thy curse, my son!”
14 And he went, and fetched and brought them to his mother. And his mother prepared a savoury dish such as his father loved. 15 And Rebecca took the clothes of her elder son Esau, the costly ones which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son; 16 and she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands, and on the smooth of his neck; 17 and she gave the savoury dishes and the bread that she had prepared into the hand of her son Jacob. vv.14-17 Preparations Made. With his fears quelled, Jacob proceeds with his mother’s plan. Rebecca knew the taste that Isaac was expecting, the places that he would expect to be rough and not smooth. She knew Isaac, but she deceived him.
The Blessing of Jacob (27:18-29)
18 And he came to his father, and said, My father! And he said, Here am I: who art thou, my son? 19 And Jacob said to his father, I am Esau, thy firstborn. I have done according as thou didst say to me. Arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, in order that thy soul may bless me. 20 And Isaac said to his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because Jehovah thy God put it in my way. 21 And Isaac said to Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be really my son Esau or not. 22 And Jacob drew 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. 23 And he did not discern him, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands; and he blessed him. 24 And he said, Art thou really my son Esau? And he said, It is I. 25 And he said, Bring it near to me, that I may eat of my son’s venison, in order that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. 26 And his father Isaac said to him, Come near, now, and kiss me, my son. 27 And he came near, and kissed him. And he smelt the smell of his clothes, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which Jehovah hath blessed. vv.18-27 Jacob’s Guile and Isaac’s Suspicion. From the very beginning Isaac was suspicious; “who art thou, my son?”. Jacob knew his lines well, and executed them perfectly. Isaac was surprised at how quickly his son had returned with the deer. Jacob audaciously invoked the name of Jehovah to alleviate his father’s suspicions. It is a sad thing when believing parents are deceived by their children, who know the right words to say. Isaac was still suspicious; “Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be really my son Esau or not.” The preparation of the goat’s skin worked just as Rebecca had planned; “he did not discern him, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands”. Even though Isaac did not know it was Jacob, something in him was still suspicious. One final time, the old man asked, “Art thou really my son Esau?” It was a final chance for Jacob to come clean, to tell the truth. He was a man of faith, as we find later, but he was acting in the strength of the flesh. It wasn’t wrong to seek the blessing, but they way he was going about it was all wrong; “the hands are the hands of Esau.” So again, Jacob lied; “It is I”. Still Isaac seemed to need the meat and wine before he could give the blessing. He had somehow become dependent on nature. Isaac ate, and did not discern a difference between the goat meat and venison. He couldn’t even discern his own specialty! Jacob’s treachery rose higher when Isaac asked Jacob to kiss him; a sign of affection. Isaac smelled Jacob’s clothes, which were really Esau’s, and reassured himself that this was indeed Esau, the man of the field. Isaac too invoked the name of Jehovah, saying; “See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which Jehovah hath blessed”, as if a love of the outdoors was equivalent to a love of Jehovah.
28 And God give thee of the dew of heaven, And of the fatness of the earth, And plenty of corn and new wine. 29 Let peoples serve thee, And races bow down to thee. Be lord over thy brethren, And let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee. Cursed be they that curse thee, And blessed be they that bless thee. vv.28-29 The Blessing of Jacob. Finally, Isaac issues the blessing. He blessed Jacob, thinking it was Esau, but the blessing was real. First were the symbols of earthly bounty from the Lord; “God give thee of the dew of heaven, And of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and new wine.” Second were the promises of supremacy over the peoples of the earth; “Let peoples serve thee, And races bow down to thee. Be lord over thy brethren, And let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee.” Third was the assurance of Jehovah’s protection as Abraham was given years before (Gen. 12:3); “Cursed be they that curse thee, And blessed be they that bless thee.” This was the blessing God had intended for Jacob, but Jacob should have waited on God’s time get it, rather than seek it by his own energy. God could have made Isaac see the Divine order as Jacob did many years later when he blessed Ephraim and Manasseh, crossing his hands. This blessing has not yet been fulfilled, because it really has Christ in view, who would descend from Jacob. Note that this blessing, given while Isaac was in a poor state, does not rise up to the heights of the blessing he gives Jacob in ch.28.
The Blessing of Esau (27:30-40)
30 And it came to pass when Isaac had ended blessing Jacob, and when Jacob was only just gone out from Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came from his hunting. 31 And he also had prepared savoury dishes, and he brought them in to his father, and said to his father, Let my father arise and eat of his son’s venison, in order that thy soul may bless me. 32 And Isaac his father said to him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn, Esau. 33 Then Isaac trembled with exceeding great trembling, and said, Who was he, then, that hunted venison and brought it to me? And I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him; also blessed he shall be. vv.30-33 Esau Returns, Isaac Trembles. Esau returned from the field and the kitchen just after Jacob had left, totally unaware of all that had transpired. Isaac was confused at first, but on hearing Esau’s voice, he knew that he had been fooled. When we read of Isaac in Hebrews 11:20, we cannot help but wonder where was ‘faith’ in all of this? “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.” There wasn’t faith in Isaac’s being deceived. But we read that “Isaac trembled with exceeding great trembling”. He must have realized the seriousness of not only the deceit of Jacob, but of his own intention to bless the wrong son. God had intervened and stopped Isaac from doing what he intended to do: to greatly bless the older son according to the claims of nature. Furthermore, Isaac told Esau “yea, he shall be blessed.” Isaac accepted the intervention of God, and did not try to thwart it. This was the activity of faith!1 How gracious God is to recognize faith, faint though it may be, wherever He finds it.
34 When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said to his father, Bless me — me also, my father! 35 And he said, Thy brother came with subtilty, and has taken away thy blessing. 36 And he said, Is it not therefore he was named Jacob, for he has supplanted me now twice? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me? 37 And Isaac answered and said to Esau, Behold, I have made him lord over thee, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants, and with corn and new wine have I supplied him — and what can I do now for thee, my son? 38 And Esau said to his father, Hast thou then but one blessing, my father? bless me — me also, my father! And Esau lifted up his voice and wept. vv.34-38 Esau’s Tears. Esau was horrified to discover the trick that Jacob had played. He cried “with a great and exceeding bitter cry”. In Hebrews 12:17 it says “he sought it [the blessing] earnestly with tears”.
In Deut. 21:17 we read about the birthright, that that natural order in families was that the oldest son would receive "a double portion of all" that a man possessed. The birthright has to do with the immediate inheritance of the older son. The blessing is different. In Hebrews 11:20 it says "By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come." The blessing therefore has to do with the future; i.e. extending to the descendants of the one who was blessed. Hebrews 12:16 speaks of how Esau sold his birthright. Hebrews 12:17 speaks of how he sought the blessing and was denied. Esau proved by his actions regarding the birthright that he didn't care for the portion that was promised to faith.Esau blamed the loss of his blessing on Jacob (whose name meant ‘supplanter’) as with the birthright, but the Spirit of God reveals that Esau was a profane or irreverent person, and he did not value the blessing, and therefore God refused to give it to him. This shows that God and His government are behind and above the actions of man. God may use men as instruments of His government, but the first cause (and only true cause) of the discipline that we experience is God Himself. As another has said, “People who are ever looking at second causes are led into practical infidelity”.2 Esau “found no place for repentance”; he sought the blessing without repentance.
39 And Isaac his father answered and said to him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, And of the dew of heaven from above; 40 And by thy sword shalt thou live; And thou shalt serve thy brother; And it shall come to pass when thou rovest about, That thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck. vv.39-40 The Blessing of Esau. Esau had asked Isaac if thee was but one blessing remaining that he might have. Isaac, by the Spirit of God, pronounces the future destiny of Esau and his descendants. The blessing of Jacob was far superior to that of Esau. Esau would live on the frontier, living off the land; “the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth”. But Jacob was promised that, not only we he have the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth, but also plenty of corn and wine; i.e. he would prosper as a farmer, rather than live as a hunter-gatherer. Jacob would rule over the nations, and they would bow down to him, but Esau would survive by his sword, fighting for his life. Jacob would be lord over his brethren, but Esau would serve his brother. Esau would live like his uncle Ishmael, as a roving nomad. One of the more striking aspects of prophecy is the judgment of the nations surrounding Israel in connection with their treatment of the people of God, and in connection with their moral character. Just us people have certain moral characteristics, nations also in scripture have characteristics. What characterized Edom was a hatred for the people of God. This hatred developed over time, but it sprang from “a root of bitterness” (Heb. 12). The full results of this hatred are seen in the book of Obadiah, and the resulting three-fold judgment on Edom.3 But eventually, Esau would break Jacob’s yoke from off his neck.
The Aftermath (27:41-46)
41 And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him. And Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand, and I will slay my brother Jacob. 42 And the words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebecca. And she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, comforts himself that he will kill thee. 43 And now, my son, hearken to my voice, and arise, flee to Laban my brother, to Haran; 44 and abide with him some days, until thy brother’s fury turn away — 45 until thy brother’s anger turn away from thee, and he forget what thou hast done to him; then I will send and fetch thee thence. Why should I be bereaved even of you both in one day? 46 And Rebecca said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth. If Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these, of the daughters of the land, what good should my life do me? vv.41-46 Esau’s Hatred: Jacob to be sent away. This is where the “root of bitterness” began in Esau toward Jacob. This hatred developed over time, but it sprang from this incident. We see how Esau’s hatred led to thoughts of murder. “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). Rebecca acted once again to protect her favorite, sending Jacob to her brother Laban in Haran. It was just meant to be temporary, “some days”, until Esau’s anger cooled. However, it was twenty years before Jacob returned (Gen. 31:41), and he returned just before Isaac died (Gen 35:27), and there is no mention of Rebecca being present. In all likelihood, Rebecca never saw her favorite son again. This was the sad result of her conniving to get the best for him. While in Haran, Jacob was tricked by his uncle, just as he had tricked his own father. Thus Jacob’s many years of chastening began. Meanwhile, Rebecca was getting fed up with Esau’s wives, and complained to her husband, “I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth”.
- Isaac’s trembling very exceedingly was on the discovery, not only of the guilt of Jacob, but of his own will against God who had overruled him; whereon he says emphatically that he had blessed him, “yea, he shall be blessed.” Nature in Isaac sought to bless otherwise, and had seemed all but to prevail; but “by faith Isaac, blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” according to God. – Kelly, William. An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
- God’s Rest, the Saint’s Rest. The Christian’s Friend: 1874.
- As men have certain moral traits which constitute a character, so nations may be said to have. Thus the prominent trait of Edom was envious dislike of the people of God. We do not find it so pronounced in any other nation…. There can be no question that the character of Edom answers to what the Lord lets us know through Isaac. “Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; and by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.” It would be hard to conceive a prediction of this nature where every word was more truly verified in the whole history of man than in the life and changes of Edom and Israel respectively. Nevertheless there is no intimation in this of their spite and vengeful hate. Living by the sword does not necessarily mean enmity; because ambitious activity often leads to a career of conquest and determination to have their own way where there is no particular enmity at work. – Kelly, William. Obadiah. Lectures on the Minor Prophets.