Isaac Blesses Jacob
1Isaac was old and almost blind, when he called in his first-born son Esau, who asked him, “Father, what can I do for you?”
2Isaac replied, “I am old and might die at any time. 3So go hunting with your bow and arrows and kill a wild animal. 4Cook some of that tasty food that I love so much and bring it to me. I want to eat it once more and give you my blessing before I die.”
5Rebekah had been listening, and as soon as Esau left to go hunting, 6she said to Jacob, “I heard your father tell Esau 7to kill a wild animal and cook some tasty food for him before he dies. Your father said this because he wants to bless your brother with the Lord as his witness. 8Now, my son, listen carefully to what I want you to do. 9Go and kill two of your best young goats and bring them to me. I'll cook the tasty food that your father loves so much. 10Then you can take it to him, so he can eat it and give you his blessing before he dies.”
11“My brother Esau is a hairy man,” Jacob reminded her. “And I am not. 12If my father touches me and realizes I am trying to trick him, he will put a curse on me instead of giving me a blessing.”
13Rebekah insisted, “Let his curse fall on me! Just do what I say and bring me the meat.” 14So Jacob brought the meat to his mother, and she cooked the tasty food that his father liked. 15Then she took Esau's best clothes and put them on Jacob. 16She also covered the smooth part of his hands and neck with goatskins 17and gave him some bread and the tasty food she had cooked.
18Jacob went to his father and said, “Father, here I am.”
“Which one of my sons are you?” his father asked.
19Jacob replied, “I am Esau, your first-born, and I have done what you told me. Please sit up and eat the meat I have brought. Then you can give me your blessing.”
20Isaac asked, “My son, how did you find an animal so quickly?”
“The Lord your God was kind to me,” Jacob answered.
21“My son,” Isaac said, “come closer, where I can touch you and find out if you really are Esau.” 22Jacob went closer. His father touched him and said, “You sound like Jacob, but your hands feel hairy like Esau's.” 23And so Isaac blessed Jacob, thinking he was Esau.
24Isaac asked, “Are you really my son Esau?”
“Yes, I am,” Jacob answered.
25So Isaac told him, “Serve me the wild meat, and I can give you my blessing.”
Jacob gave him some meat, and he ate it. He also gave him some wine, and he drank it. 26Then Isaac said, “Son, come over here and kiss me.” 27 While Jacob was kissing him, Isaac caught the smell of his clothes and said:
“The smell of my son
is like a field
the Lord has blessed.
28God will bless you, my son,
with dew from heaven
and with fertile fields,
rich with grain and grapes.
29 Nations will be your servants
and bow down to you.
You will rule over your brothers,
and they will kneel
at your feet.
Anyone who curses you
will be cursed;
anyone who blesses you
will be blessed.”
30Right after Isaac had given Jacob his blessing and Jacob had gone, Esau came back from hunting. 31He cooked the tasty food, brought it to his father, and said, “Father, please sit up and eat the meat I have brought you, so you can give me your blessing.”
32“Who are you?” Isaac asked.
“I am Esau, your first-born son.”
33Isaac started trembling and said, “Then who brought me some wild meat right before you came in? I ate it and gave him a blessing that cannot be taken back.”
34Esau cried out in great distress, “Father, give me a blessing too!”
35Isaac answered, “Your brother tricked me and stole your blessing.”
36 Esau replied, “My brother deserves the name Jacob, because he has already cheated me twice. The first time he cheated me out of my rights as the first-born son, and now he has cheated me out of my blessing.” Then Esau asked his father, “Don't you have any blessing left for me?”
37“My son,” Isaac answered, “I have made Jacob the ruler over you and your brothers, and all of you will be his servants. I have also promised him all the grain and grapes that he needs. There's nothing left that I can do for you.”
38 “Father,” Esau asked, “don't you have more than one blessing? You can surely give me a blessing too!” Then Esau started crying again.
39 So his father said:
“Your home will be far
from that fertile land,
where dew comes down
from the heavens.
40 You will live by the power
of your sword
and be your brother's slave.
But when you decide to be free,
you will break loose.”
As a result of Jacob and Rebekah’s deception Isaac’s blessing was given to Jacob rather than Esau.This passage has always generated very understandable questions. The principal question is: How does God allow Jacob to receive the birthright and the blessing from his father as the result of deception?
As with most accounts of divine-human cooperation the answer is both multi-layered and to some degree tinged with mystery. It is important to note that God is not caught off guard by human actions. God knew in advance that the older would serve the younger (25:23) and that the blessing would be on Jacob. He declared that it would be that way. But Esau’s actions have also led to this moment.
Esau had thought little of his rights as the first-born (25:34), and had begun to build his family life with two Hittite wives who were outside the covenant community and had “brought a lot of grief to Isaac and Rebekah”(26:34–35).Later, Isaac and Rebekah sent Jacob away to avoid this very problem (27:46). Esau’s devaluing of the birthright and of the covenant led to a just outcome. He will lose the blessing.
Jacob, on the other hand, placed great value on the birthright, and, together with his mother, is prepared to do anything to get the blessing. The means they use are questionable – deception as Jacob pretends to be Esau while deceiving his father with his mother’s cooking, favouritism on the part of Rebekah. The story is not sanctioning such behaviour. Its focus is elsewhere. The blessing is valued, and is passed from Isaac to Jacob.
God is committed to keeping his promises. His blessing is for those who follow him, despite their imperfections. This does not mean that there is no consequence for impure choices such as deception. As we will see in Jacob’s ongoing story, deception sows deception and leads to consequences that bring heartache. In the middle of all this is the bedrock of God’s faithfulness. As it was on that day centuries ago, so it is today.
O God of covenant, your ways are higher than our ways. Help us to always value the blessing of the promises you have made to us, so that Jesus’ life and love are completely evident in who we are and all we do, for his name’s sake, Amen.