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Chapter 27

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Jacob Gets Isaac's Blessings (ch. 27:1 - 40)


In verse 1 we see that Isaac was now getting old, or at least he felt he was old.  Most scholars say he was around 137 years old.  They come up with this figure by combining a number of passages with dates.  You might remember that Ishmael died when he was 137 years old.  Maybe Isaac had this in the back of his mind, along with the way he had been feeling.  We learn in this verse  that he was now blind, so he was probably feeling old.  The ironic thing here is that most scholars say Isaac lived another 40 or so years.  So he did not die right away.


In verses 2 through 4 Isaac tells Esau, his oldest son, to go out into the wilds and kill and animal to bring home and cook for him.  Isaac, as we learned earlier like to eat meet.  Yet the meal Isaac wanted to eat at this moment in time wasn't just any meal.  The text says that Isaac wanted to bless Esau. This was a covenant meal.  


The blessing here was meant to be a passing of the torch so to speak from Isaac to Esau.  This would have required a covenantal type meal.  Isaac wanted to hand over the reigns of authority and the inheritance to his oldest son, as was normal procedure.  


We should note here that Isaac should have known better not to do what he had planned to do here.  God specifically told Isaac's wife Rebekah that this blessing was not to go to Esau but to Jacob.  So we really don't know why Isaac would do such a thing, except for the fact that he liked Esau better than Jacob. We learn that from Genesis 25.  We also know that Jacob was Rebekah's favourite son. 


Whatever the reason for Isaac's plans here, he wanted to bless Esau with the birthright. We don't know for sure if Isaac knew that Esau had already dealt this birthright away.  Isaac may or may not have known this, and even if he did, it might not have mattered to him.


Verse 5 tells us that Rebekah was listening into the conversation between Esau and Isaac.  She was simply being nosey.  You might picture her with her ear up to the tent door and secretly listening in. 


In verses 6 through 11 we see Rebekah called Jacob in and told him what she overheard between Isaac and Esau.  Her plan was to get Jacob to go out to their flock, kill two goats so she could cook up a meal just the way Isaac liked.  The whole plan was to trick Isaac into thinking Jacob was Esau.   That way Jacob would get the blessing.


What Rebekah was planning, and what Jacob would participate in, was certainly trickery and dishonest.  Let's look at this a little closer.  Here Rebekah overheard that the blessing was now going to go to Esau, but she knew the Lord told her that it was to go to Jacob.  Imagine how she felt.  She had to do something to stop this.  You might suggest that she could have simply reminded Isaac what the Lord had already said.  That probably would not have worked.  I'm not convinced that Isaac and Rebekah had the best relationship, mainly because of the favouritism that each of them showed to their boys.  I imagine much friction over the years with this issue.  Besides, women did not have a lot to say in these situations in those days.  I think she just felt pressure to do something to stop what was going to happen, and this is what she decided to do. Was it honest?  No, yet in the long run it was the will of God.


As a side note, we should notice that God spoke to  Rebekah and told her His plans for Jacob.  For some reason He did not speak to Isaac, although I can't believe that Rebekah wouldn't tell Isaac what God had told her.


Notice in verse 7 Isaac said that he wanted to impart this blessing to Esau "before the Lord", that's before Yahweh, the covenant God.  Isaac understood this was a serious matter.  This was just as much a spiritual ritual as it was a family ritual for Isaac.  I think Isaac did view what he was about to do as the will of the Lord.


The question is this. Why would Isaac pass this blessing on to Esau, and do it "before the Lord', when he apparently knew that it was not to be his.  I'm not sure I can answer this question.  Isaac loved Esau so much that maybe the will of God didn't to matter to him.  This can often be the case.  The love of things, even people, can and often does distract us from the will of God.


In verses 11and 12 Jacob responds with some logistical questions.  Esau was a hairy man.  He was smooth skinned.  He did not have much hair.   He was concerned that Isaac would touch his skin and know it wasn't Esau, not him.  This would result in a curse, not a blessing.  These people believed just as much in curses as they did in blessings.  There is something to this.  Even the Law of Moses speaks of Israel being cursed if they did not obey God.


In verse 13 Rebekah replied by saying, "let the curse fall on me."  She was serious.  This was her plan, not Jacobs, even though he would carry it out.  Rebekah new what God had clearly told her, and she was willing to lose it all, because she knew the will of God.


It is hard for us to get into the motivations of everyone in this event.  It seems everyone wasn't acting properly and honestly.  Rebekah was planning dishonestly. Jacob was participating in a lie.  Isaac was disobeying God, and Esau wasn't, and hadn't acted properly in matters concerning his birthright.  Yet in all this mess, God's will was done.  That being said, that does not excuse the dishonest behaviour we see from Rebekah and Isaac. 


I've heard some say over the years that it is okay to lie if it furthers the Kingdom of God.  I don't believe that for a minute.  It is quite possible that God would have had other plans for his will to be worked out but man, once again, got in the way.  Still this was important to God, so he made sure his will was done, even if it had to be through faulty human means.


In verses 14 through 17 Rebekah cooks the food, dresses Jacob in Esau's clothes, and covers his arms and neck in hairy goats skin.  Goats in that area of the world and at that time in history were somewhat hairy, with fine hair, much like human hair. 


In verse 18 through 20 Jacob goes into see is father.  Isaac asked, "who is it?"  Remember, Isaac was either blind or very close to being blind.  You would think by now in his life that Isaac would be able to recognize voices, especially that of his own sons.  But the point here is that Isaac was expecting Esau, and I'm sure Esau's voice was different from Jacobs, although there might have been some similarities, and also I would think that Jacob would do his best to sound like his brother.


Anyway, Jacob replies by telling a lie.  He tells his father that he is Esau, and this from a man that the Bible says God loves and is seen as righteous.  Once again, we need to note that no man is righteous in his own right.  Man, and that's every man, is sinful at heart.  God declares us as being righteous.   His declaration doesn't mean that we are righteous. This is one of the fundamental points to the salvation message.


In verse 20 we see that Isaac is surprised that Esau had return so quickly with the wild game and had it cooked just the way he liked.  Maybe this was a slip-up on the part of Rebekah,  Jacob did not have to go far for his meat.  They were being raised by him.  He did not have to hunt them down, and so he was able to get the meat faster than Esau.  On the other hand, Rebekah probably did not want to miss this opportunity  So she made sure that her meat was prepared and ready before Esau returned from his hunt.  So we clearly see the cunningness and craftiness of both Rebekah and Jacob here, and Rebekah had actually had God Himself speak to her.  This shows us the frailty of man.  Even after hearing the voice of the Lord, we can still attempt to work out the will of God in a humanistic way.  I think this is one of the downfalls of the church today.     


Jacob answers his father with yet another lie, and this lie was worse than the last.  I'd suggest that this lie was next to blaspheming God.  He told his father that the Lord had given him success in hunting down the wild game.  This was an out and out lie, but attributing the deceit to God is especially bad.  That's why I suggest that this is next to blasphemy.  This would be something that any New Testament Christian should be appalled at doing themselves.  It is hard for me to imagine that Jacob would associate God with the deceit he was involved in.  


We see in verses 23 and 24 that Isaac is really uncertain that the one standing before him is really Esau, so he asked Jacob to come closer so he could touch him, to see if he had hairy hands like Esau.  This is where the cunningness of Rebekah comes in.  The goat skin that she placed on Jacob's arm did the trick.  So you can see that when Isaac asked who was coming into the room, he had suspicions.   The voice of Isaac was not the voice of Esau.


Isaac felt that the voice was not the voice of Esau, but rather the voice of Jacob, but the skin, that seemed to be the skin of Esau, so he accepted Jacob as really being Esau, and he was willing to bless him.   


Yet before he finally gave the blessing, he asked one more time. "Are you really my son Esau."  He was not sure, but how could he be sure?  I suppose he could have called someone else into the room to verify this, but he didn't. 


Once again Jacob lies.  This is the third time in the chapter that we see Jacob lying.  He said to his father that he was indeed Esau.  Once again, this is from the lips of the man of God, the one declared as being righteous, the promised son of Abraham, the type of Jesus Himself.


In my thinking, verse 25 clearly suggests that the eating of this meal was a covenant meal.  Isaac told Jacob  to bring him the meat to eat so he could give the blessing to him.  The blessing is clearly linked to the eating of this meat.  Many scholars see this covenant meal eaten here as a type of the last supper that Jesus ate with His disciples.  What we call the "last supper"  is in fact a covenant meal.  It is the New Covenant meal, and really the New Covenant is simply an extension of the Old Covenant.  It's actually the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. It is not new in the sense that it has nothing to do with the Old Testament, because all of what it is, has altogether everything to do with the Old Testament.


The rest of verse 25 states that Isaac ate the meat and also drank the wine, just as the disciples and Jesus did in the upper room centuries later. 


In verse 26 Isaac asked Jacob, who he thought was Esau to come close to him and kiss him.  The deceiver kissed his father.  Yet another allusion to Jesus when Judas, another deceiver, kissed a very unholy kiss.  Jacob's kiss could almost be seen as another lie.  It was a kiss of deception.  You wonder how Isaac could actually lie in this fashion.  He obviously wanted that birthright pretty bad, or perhaps he knew beyond any doubt that it belonged to him by divine appointment.


In verse 27 Isaac smelled the clothes of Jacob.  One last test before Isaac gave the blessings.  If you remember, the clothes that Jacob was wearing were actually Esau's clothes, that why they smelled like Esau's clothes.  Esau would have smelled differently than Jacob after being out in the wild hunting all day. 


Isaac said that the smell of his son, who he thought was Esau, was like the smell of an open field that the Lord had blessed.  You can tell by this that Isaac liked the open fields.  He was not the home-body as his son Jacob was.  This is where Esau got his love for the open countryside.  This is also one reason why Isaac loved Esau better than Jacob.   Jacob was more like his mother, than his father, and that's why Rebekah liked Jacob better 


The blessing begins in verse 28 with the words, "may God give you of heaven's dew."   They lived in a part of the world that was very dry.   Wells were important because of the lack of rain and rivers.  Dew was very important for the crops that they could grow.  It provided sufficient moisture to grow certain types of plants.


Also in verse 28 Isaac continued by saying that may God bless his son with the earth's richness and with an abundance of grain and wine.  Note the words "may God".  This is not what some teachers of the Prosperity Movement might think it is.  This is not a promise for abundance.  It's more like a request to God for these things, if God so chose to give these things to Jacob.  You can't get a "name it and claim" doctrine out of the words "may God give…"


Verse 29 begins the prophetic nature of this blessing, although you might include that last statement as being prophetic as well.  Isaac said, "may nations serve you and peoples bow down to you."  I think there are three ways to view this blessing.  First of all it is a prayer for Jacob himself.  It's a personal prayer and blessing for him, but it has farther implications than that if you understand Biblical prophecy and all the prophetic inferences we've seen throughout Genesis to date.   This has all to do with Jesus and Israel.  Nations will serve and bow down to Jesus at the end of this age when He returns to earth and rule as king of the world.  Also, at that time Jesus will make Israel the number one nation on earth, and all nations will be subservient to Israel.  I don't believe the New Testament changes any of these prophecy spoken to or about Israel of old.


Verse 29 also says, "be lord over your brothers.."   These are the words that make Jacob the head of the household.  He now takes the place of Isaac as being the father of the family.  Yet beyond that, this is a prophetic allusion to the rule of Israel after the return of Jesus to earth. 


The blessing ends in the last part of verse 29. Isaac said, "may those who curse you be curse, and those who bless you be blessed."  This is clearly a restating of part of the Abrahamic Covenant from Genesis 12:2 and 3.  Isaac is passing down the terms of the promise that God made to Israel.  Once again, these blessings and cursings will find their ultimate fulfillment after Jesus returns to earth.  That being said,  the nature of this part of the covenant clearly state in my thinking that these blessings and cursings are an ongoing thing through history.  I think history proves that out as well.  I also think that even in today's world, people and nations need to think seriously how they treat Israel, even in Israel's present back-slidden condition.  I don't believe the Abrahamic Covenant has been changed or set aside.  The apostle Paul makes that clear.   


The blessing is now over.  Jacob leaves Isaac.  The mantle has been passed from one generation to the next.  Within minutes after Jacob left, the real Esau comes into the room in verse 30.  So in verse 31 Esau brings his father the food for the covenant meal to ate.  In verse 31 Isaac asked, "who are you".   What a surprise and shock this must have been.  This voice sounded like the voice of Esau.  Esau answered by saying that  he was Isaac's firstborn son Esau, with the emphasis on "firstborn" since that is what this blessing was all about.  The firstborn would receive the inheritance and become the head of the family.


In verse 33 we see that Isaac was more than shocked.  The text says that Isaac "trembled violently".   This was no small matter to Isaac.  This was one very important issue to him and to all of society back then.  A horrible mistake had just been made.  He just gave away all he had to the wrong person, that is, the wrong person in his thinking.  It was the right person in God's thinking, something Isaac should have known, but seemingly forgot or ignored. 


Isaac proceeds to question who he had actually blessed.  Here we see the importance of this blessing.  Isaac finally realized that he had blessed the wrong son, but he could not revoke the blessing  It had already been given.  You can see how serious of a matter this was in those days.  Today, we might simply change our mind and rewrite our will.


In verse 34 Esau responds by crying out loudly and bitterly.  He said "bless me, me too".   These words show the intensity of Esau's feelings here.  He had been outwitted by his brother.  Being the rough and tough man that he probably was, he demanded a blessing as well.  I think what he was demanding was a split in the blessing. He might have figured each son should get half of the blessing, half of the inheritance, but that couldn't be.  The blessing was already given. 


One thing that Esau seems to forget here is that he sold or traded away his blessing some time earlier for a meal to fill his stomach.  In chapter 25 verse 34 the text says that Esau despised this birthright.  He clearly has different thoughts now.  That shows you the impetuous nature of Esau.  He was hungry.  He'd traded his birthright for food because that mattered more at the time, yet all along he figured he'd get his birthright anyway.  Even though he promised and made an oath to Jacob that Jacob would get the blessing, I don't think he meant it.  He took the oath under false intentions.  This too is why the book of Hebrews calls Esau and ungodly man.  Se here we see Esau not behaving right.  No one in this chapter is behaving right.  Rebekah and Jacob lie and deceive.  Esau is demanding something that wasn't his.  And Isaac should have being doing the will of God in the first place by blessing Jacob, something he didn't want to do.


In verse 35 Isaac said that Jacob had deceitfully took Esau's blessings.  That was partly true.  Jacob did use deceit in getting the blessing, but the blessing wasn't Esau's to get.  It belonged to Jacob.  Jacob got what was his, but through wrong ways.


In verse 36 Esau said, "isn't he rightly named Jacob.  He has deceived me these two times."  Jacob means deceiver.  Jacob did deceive this time, but I wouldn't call the time when Esau traded his birthright  for a meal deceptive.  That was a simple deal, confirmed in an oath.


Esau then asked, "haven't you reserved any blessing for me."  Well, why would have Isaac done that?  He thought he was blessing Esau, so he gave everything to the one he thought was Esau. 


Verse 37 must have really made Esau mad. Isaac told Esau that he made Jacob lord over him, and the rest of the family would be subservient to Jacob.  That could not be revoked.  Isaac blessed Jacob with grain and wine, and I suggest that's Isaac's grain and wine.  So there was nothing left for Esau.  Esau had to be boiling mad at this point.


In verse 38 we see Esau weeping.  Were these tears of sorrow.  I'm not sure.  I'd suggest that these might have been tears to make his father feel sorrow for him.  He pleaded with his father to do something about this bad mistake.  He wanted a blessing as well.


In verse 39 Isaac said that Esau's dwelling would be away from the earth's dew and richness.  This is just the opposite to what he told Jacob.  I'm sure than didn't sound acceptable to Esau.  That isn't what he wanted to hear. 


I need to comment on the fact that there is a discrepancy between some translations and others in interpreting this verse.  The NIV says that Esau will live "away" from the dew and richness of the earth.  Some other translations say the same.  But, the KJV, and other versions say just the opposite to the NIV.  They say that Esau's dwelling will be with the richness of the earth and the dew of the earth.  I can't say for sure why there is this discrepancy.  It's clearly a matter of understanding and translating the Hebrew text here. 


The problem arises over the Hebrew word that is translated as "away", here n the NIV.   The same Hebrew word is used in verse 28 when Isaac promised Jacob that he would receive the abundance "of"  the earth.  The way the KJV puts it, in both cases, it appears that both men word receive good things from the earth.  The way the NIV puts it is that Jacob would receive good things from the earth, while Esau wouldn't.  It comes down to a simple play on words.  Let me put it this way.  I can receive grain from the land, or I can move away from the land.  In both cases, the word "from is used, but with total different meanings.  This is what is going on here.  The NIV has it right, and the context clearly says this to be true.               


Verse 40 states that Esau would live by the sword and that he would serve his brother, something else he didn't want to hear.  Serving his brother at this point would be the last thing he would want to do.  And "living by the sword", even though he appeared to be a pretty rough and tough guy, would sound a bit dangerous.  Normally this term is not associated with using your sword simply for food, but also for fighting off your enemies.   I'm sure Esau thought he had better things to do than that.


The last thing Isaac said is that when Esau gets restless, he will throw this yoke of bondage from his neck.  I'm not sure when this took place.  There have been various interpretations of this over the years.  A few times in Old Testament history Edom, who Esau became, did throw off this bondage. But somehow, I think there might be some future significance here.


Most scholars feel that Jacob and Esau were around 70 years old at this time in their life. 


The biggest question that I have in connection with this chapter is "did Isaac know that Jacob was God's choice to receive this blessing"?   I've always thought that he did know, but I could be wrong.  I can't imagine Rebekah not telling Isaac what God had told her.  Yet some suggest Rebekah is like Mary in the New Testament, who hid the Word of the Lord in her heart and pondered on it for years. If Isaac didn't know God's will, he would have naturally thought that Esau was God's choice.  It's clear from the text that Isaac's intention was to bless Esau which he did "before the Lord", suggesting in his heart, he wanted Esau to be blessed.  So, from this chapter, we do not know if Isaac knew of what the Lord told Rebekah.  


Hebrews 11:20 is interesting concerning this chapter.  The writer of Hebrews says that "by faith Isaac blessed both Jacob and Esau.  What does this mean?  Did Isaac understand what he was doing when he blessed Jacob when he thought he was blessing Esau.  When we read this Genesis account it appears that when Isaac didn't blessed Jacob he thought he was blessing Esau.  How then could he have done that by faith?  Why then does Hebrews 11:20 say that Isaac blessed both men by faith?  We may never know the answer to this question, but at some point between blessing the two men Isaac knew what had happened.  He clearly blessed Esau by faith, but did he bless Jacob by faith, or was he simply tricked into blessing Jacob?   When all was said and done, I do believe that Isaac knew what had happened, and that in the long run it was the will of God.                      

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