Genesis 27:1 Now it came to pass, when Isaac was old and his eyes were so dim that he could not see, that he called Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.” And he answered him, “Here I am.”
Two chapters ago, we looked at the final chapter of Abraham’s life, and saw that he chose to continue to live for the Lord. While his “ministry” as depicted in the previous chapters had ended, his ministry as head of the family, father, and husband remained. In this chapter, we will see that Isaac, in his old age, struggled in his role as spiritual head of his household.
Isaac’s “old age” was not really that old by the standards of his day because the patriarchs lived quite a bit longer than we do. Abraham died at the age of 175. Isaac was probably 130 years old in our chapter, and we will learn a few chapters later that he lived until he was 180. So keep in mind as we read the story here that Isaac had 50 more years to go and a lot more life to live.
Genesis 27:2 Then he said, “Behold now, I am old. I do not know the day of my death.”
Who can actually say that they know the day of their death? Hebrews 9:27 “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” God knows the appointed time, but we don’t get that date marked on our calendars. Our bodies may even deteriorate to the point that we feel like we can no longer be useful to the Lord’s business. Sometimes people become so incapacitated that every breath becomes a challenge, and yet they can live on for a while. These things can be impossible for us to understand, especially when we try to figure out why God would take someone young, and in the prime of his/her life, while at the same time keeping another individual alive who gets so old and weak that he can’t even get out of bed. We are not going to understand God’s thinking on this, but we should be willing to live each day to its fullest, in whatever capacity God has granted us.
Isaac, it appears, was ready to pack it in and give up way too early. Perhaps losing his eyesight at the relatively young age of 130 discouraged him. His eyes could have been important to him in his relationship with Isaac, his favorite son. Perhaps they hunted together and shared in those outdoor experiences many times. After losing his vision, he might have spent a lot of time thinking about those “good old days.”
Genesis 27:3-4 “Now therefore, please take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me. 4 And make me savory food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.”
It sounds so sad and gloomy! “Son, I’m about to kick the bucket here, but before I do, I want to eat some barbequed venison one last time!” This was now the most important thing in his life, which is sad, considering he was still a husband to Rebekah, father to his two sons, and head of the enormous estate which he inherited from Abraham. In addition to all that, he lived under the knowledge that he had inherited the spiritual blessings which God had given to Abraham and which were to be passed down through the generations leading towards the One who would be the blessing to all the earth’s nations. These important things were forgotten in his depression, and what was left was his craving for something carnal, and his equating of this carnal desire with the blessing he had to offer. Remember how Esau sold his birthright for a pot of stew? Is it possible that Isaac’s handling of the blessing could be compared to Esau’s attitude toward his birthright?
Genesis 27:5 Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt game and to bring it.
Sarah preferred Jacob over Esau, and so I’m sure her radar was always triggered whenever someone said or did something that might have impacted Jacob. This was certainly a time to be concerned! God had told her that Jacob would be the son who would be served by his older brother, and so there was no way that Esau could be allowed to receive Isaac’s blessing.
What happens when we believe God’s Word, receive it, and accept it, and attempt to live by it, only to begin to see things happen that seem to derail His plan? Most of us begin to figure out how to help God out. We figure that if the plan is being derailed, then the only way to get it on track is if we step in and act. Rebekah (and Jacob) knew that it was God’s will that Jacob would receive the blessing. They believed this promise, and attempted to live their lives accordingly. Their mistake was in thinking that in order for God to fulfill His Word, they needed to do something to help Him out. This is absolutely crazy, and yet, in our own lives we often forget how insane this logic is and jump headfirst into God’s business when we feel like things are getting out of control. Really? So God is stuck in neutral and can’t get things going again until we roll up our sleeves and figure things out for him? Everyone will agree that this is crazy, and yet we all do it. All we end up doing do is to make things worse.
Genesis 27:6-10 So Rebekah spoke to Jacob her son, saying, “Indeed I heard your father speak to Esau your brother, saying, 7 ‘Bring me game and make savory food for me, that I may eat it and bless you in the presence of the Lord before my death.’ 8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to what I command you. 9 Go now to the flock and bring me from there two choice kids of the goats, and I will make savory food from them for your father, such as he loves. 10 Then you shall take it to your father, that he may eat it, and that he may bless you before his death.”
So there was the plan. Rebekah worked out a way (according to her own understanding of the situation) that would protect God’s interests. Because, she knew that it was in God’s interest that Jacob receive the blessing, not Esau. Since she was clearly operating within God’s spoken will, Rebekah just came up with an insurance policy. But there is more to operating within God’s will than merely understanding the outcome.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
God is calling us to follow His chosen path towards that outcome spelled out in His will. We can’t just locate the destination on the map and then figure out our route to get there. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (NAST)” My route is the one that gets me lost, and something or someone can die. Rebekah lost something very precious to her as a result of her decision to figure this all out.
Genesis 27:11-12 And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Look, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth-skinned man. 12 Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.”
Jacob was worried about “seeming to be a deceiver?” That’s actually pretty funny! When we operate in our own understanding, instead of trusting in the Lord, we will often find ourselves having to compromise, cut corners, and even deceive others in order to “get to the blessing.” If only we could remember that God promised the blessing to us in the first place. If only we could conduct our lives according to the path that the Lord directs us to, and trust Him that His path will take us to the destination He promised.
What if Rebekah had, after hearing Isaac instruct Esau to hunt, gone to her husband and reminded him of what the Lord’s Word was concerning his two sons? Perhaps Isaac would have come to his senses and obeyed God’s command. And if he didn’t immediately, what if Rebekah would have prayed for her husband, and asked the Lord to perform His Word in spite of her husband’s disobedience? Would Jacob have missed out on the blessing? Or would God have performed a miracle?
Genesis 27:13-17 But his mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.” 14 And 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 choice clothes of her elder son Esau, 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 part of his neck. 17 Then she gave the savory food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.
She was willing to subject herself to her husband’s anger and a possible curse in order to achieve the Lord’s blessing for her son. This might sound noble. We all should be ready to suffer and be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. However, Rebekah’s martyrdom here was not for the cause of righteousness. If she was willing to deal with Isaac’s anger, she should have just gone to him and stood up for what was right. We need to be very careful about the “persecution” we sign up for. Are we creating persecution because we choose to manipulate and connive and deceive in order to get “God’s way”, or are we being made to suffer because we stand up for righteousness and are willing to take the hit because it’s the right thing to do?
Genesis 27:18-20 So he went 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 just as you told me; please arise, sit 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?” And he said, “Because the Lord your God brought it to me.”
To Isaac, it seemed unlikely that his son (Esau) could have located a wild goat, shot it, cleaned it, seasoned it, and cooked it so fast. Jacob was pretty quick-witted: he gave God the credit! Always remember that anyone can claim to do things in the name of the Lord, and even claim that God is fully behind what they are doing in His name. People might even point to circumstances that seem miraculous and unlikely unless God had done what they said He did. Don’t be fooled: not everything that is done in the Lord’s name is being done with His permission. Not everything that is credited to the Lord is His work. Remember what Jesus said, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’” Many of these will receive His response, “I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:22,23)
Obviously, the Lord knew Jacob and Rebekah. But He was not behind their scheme, in spite of Jacob’s willingness to give God credit.
Genesis 27:21-22 Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 22 So Jacob went 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.”
Isaac’s senses were telling him that something was wrong. His ears were working perfectly (hearing Jacob’s voice), and his fatherly instincts were picking up ‘Jacob’ rather than ‘Esau.’ But Isaac was apparently heavily dependent on his eyes, and they were not working any more. Without his earthly vision, he was lost. Without being able to see, he relied on his sense of touch, how the fur on Jacobs hands made him feel like Esau.
We, too, can become dependent on our earthly senses and miss out on the things that God wants us to perceive spiritually. We rely on our physical eyes, and often we pay too much attention to what we see around us. We depend on how we feel, and put too much stock in how people and circumstances affect our feelings. Unfortunately, these dependencies often lead us astray. What does Scripture tell us? “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)” We need to rely more on what God’s Word is revealing to us, and less on what our senses are telling us. This is because they often will contradict each other. When the Word is telling us one thing, and our senses and feelings are telling us something else, which will we believe and then act on?
Genesis 27:23-24 And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. 24 Then he said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He said, “I am.”
I wonder what have happened if Jacob came to his senses at that point and just told the truth?
Genesis 27:25-27 He said, “Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s game, so that my soul may bless you.” So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near now and kiss me, my son.” 27 And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him and said: “Surely, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed.”
I guess the final confirmation for Isaac was that Jacob smelled like he just came in from the hunt. Esau probably never did his laundry, so all his clothes smelled like that (Rebekah sure was smart!). Jacob had just claimed that God had blessed the hunt, and since Esau could smell the hunt on the clothing, it meant it must be true!
Isaac was looking for confirmation that he was doing the right thing in giving the blessing to the son of his own choosing. He had asked Esau to go out on a hunt for him. Then a son returns from a successful hunt claiming that God blessed that work. Isaac then perceived that it must be true, because the clothes smelled like they just came in from the field. Confirmation! Hallelujah! The Lord really had blessed this!! But Isaac was wrong, and deceived, and this is the danger we all face when we are not using Scripture and what God has said as confirmation of a work done in His name. It can smell good, feel good, sound about right, look about right, and still be completely wrong.
Genesis 27:28-29 Therefore may God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. 29 Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you!”
Jacob received the blessing that had been given to Abraham and passed along to Isaac. It included a promise of prosperity in husbandry, and we will see Jacob blessed in this way later in his life. We will also see that the children of Israel received the fulfillment of the promise of amazing harvests when God led them into the Promised Land, as God honored this prophetic word spoken over His people.
This is a very interesting scene. Isaac spoke a prophetic word meant for his son Esau, except that it was Jacob who heard it and received it. And it was Jacob who inherited it and was blessed by the Lord with it. All in the context of willful disobedience and deception. How can this be? If the word was spoken in a deceitful situation, and Isaac was trying to thwart God’s plan and give it Esau, how could God honor that? It’s hard to understand, but this is what God worked with. It reminds me of the story of Balaam in Numbers 22. He was hired by Balaak, king of Moab, to curse the people of Israel. Try as he might, Balaam could only speak blessings. It seems that when it is in God’s plan to bless someone, He is going to do it no matter how much people try and screw it up. This really should be an encouragement to us, especially when we see people attempting to thwart God’s purpose in our lives. Let them try. Really, just sit back quietly and let them try.
Genesis 27:30-31 Now it happened, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. 31 He also had made savory food, and brought it to his father, and said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that your soul may bless me.”
Wow, that was close! Jacob managed to get his blessing and get out in just the nick of time. Esau’s hunt was pretty successful, by the way, if he made it in that quickly. God must have blessed Esau’s hunting, after all, and why wouldn’t He have? Not for the purpose set by Isaac, but because God does bless His people. Esau probably would not have looked at this way, though.
Genesis 27:32-33 And his father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” So he said, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.” 33 Then Isaac trembled exceedingly, and said, “Who? Where is the one who hunted game and brought it to me? I ate all of it before you came, and I have blessed him—and indeed he shall be blessed.”
Pretty telling that Isaac couldn’t even bring himself to name his other son by name. Instead of naming Jacob, he said, “the one who hunted game.” Notice also that he was trembling. It was not from fear of what Esau would do to him. It had to have been fear of the Lord, except that it was the scary kind of fear knowing that he had really gotten himself out of bounds.
Genesis 27:34 When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me—me also, O my father!”
Esau was brought to tears, but these weren’t tears of repentance. They might have been tears of sorrow, as in he was sorry that his blessing had been taken away. But those kinds of tears are not the kind of sorrow that God is looking for in heart that is broken because of sin. When we are truly sorry for what we have done that has separated us from God’s presence, we will demonstrate a heart that is described in Psalm 51:17: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart — these, O God, You will not despise.
Esau was very much interested in receiving a blessing, but he was not willing to humbly repent for how he had once despised the birthright and its spiritual importance in his life. Hebrews 12:14-17 uses Esau as an example for us of what happens when a person becomes so hard that true repentance is impossible:
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
Genesis 27:35 But he said, “Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing.”
Of course, God was going to make Isaac give Jacob the blessing anyway. It wasn’t Jacob’s to steal, nor was it Isaac’s to withhold. It’s just interesting how people perceive things when they get caught up in their own will instead of submitting to the Lord’s will.
Genesis 27:36 And Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!” And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”
Hmmm…. Esau clearly made a choice to despise the birthright (Genesis 25:34). We see now that he regretted that choice. But rather than assume his own responsibility, he blamed Jacob, and held it against him. This was the root of bitterness spoken of in Hebrews 12:15. The consequence of this bitterness in Esau was an inability to forgive Jacob, and an unwillingness to repent of his own sin. The writer of Hebrews is speaking to us when he uses the example of Esau as a warning about unforgiveness.
Genesis 27:37-38 Then Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Indeed I have made him your master, and all his brethren I have given to him as servants; with grain and wine I have sustained him. What shall I do now for you, my son?” 38 And Esau said to his father, “Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me—me also, O my father!” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.
Esau had despised the spiritual inheritance that was his to keep, and yet here he was demanding a blessing. God doesn’t separate the spiritual inheritance from the blessings He has for His people. We can’t expect the blessing if we despise the spiritual heritage. Yet, many people attempt to shortcut to the blessing part, and are willing to accept anything as “good enough.” Satan counts on that, and is ready with lots of blessings that seem “good enough” but fall far short of the perfect blessings God has.
Genesis 27:39-40 Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: “Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above. 40 By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; and it shall come to pass, when you become restless, that you shall break his yoke from your neck.”
All things considering, Esau didn’t do too bad. He probably deserved nothing, but God is merciful, and promised to sustain Esau (and his descendants), and promised that there would be a time when his descendants broke out from under the yoke of Jacob’s descendants (Israel). The second part of the promise was fulfilled in 2 Kings 8 when the Edomites (Esau’s descendants) revolted against King Jehoram.
Genesis 27:41 So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
Bitterness leads to unforgiveness, and the end result will be hatred. Esau planned to kill Jacob as soon as their Pop kicked off, probably because he knew Isaac would have dropped a curse on his head if he did it in front of him.
If we allow bitterness to enter into our hearts, we are really in danger of hatred and murder. Remember that Jesus explained that hatred is murder, and we don’t need to wait for the physical act in order to be credited with that crime in God’s eyes.
Genesis 27:42-45 And the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, “Surely your brother Esau comforts himself concerning you by intending to kill you. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. 44 And stay with him a few days, 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 bereaved also of you both in one day?”
There was Rebekah’s radar again. Esau probably made it easy, because if he was so mad that he comforted himself with the thought of killing Jacob, then he likely couldn’t keep his mouth shut about it and vented often (probably with is drinking buddies). Still, Rebekah certainly thought that this whole thing would blow over quickly, and that she would have her son back soon. It was wishful thinking, because Jacob ended up being gone for more than 20 years, and she died while he was away. For her, this part was the tragic consequence of her scheme. Jacob was out of her life, and Esau wanted no part of it. Essentially, she lost both her sons.
Genesis 27:46 And Rebekah said to Isaac, “I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife of the daughters of Heth, like these who are the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?”
Rebekah apparently did not tell Isaac about Esau’s plan to kill Jacob, but instead wove a little bit more deceit into her plan to protect Jacob. All of this was unnecessary. God had planned for Jacob to be blessed, to receive the inheritance of Abraham, and would have protected him from anything and anyone. All Rebekah had done by her manipulations was to deprive herself of the blessing she could have received as mother and grandmother. We don’t know any more about how her final years were, but I can imagine that she was sad and lonely. She is one of the Old Testament saints, but she chose a hard road to follow towards the end of her life, and it wasn’t the one that God had planned for her.