New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Gen 27:1 It happened, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his elder son, and said to him, My son? He said to him, Here I am- Isaac was 117 and Jacob 57. "His elder son" (:5 also) compares with Jacob being described as Rebekah's son (:6). If Esau was of integrity, he would at this early point have explained that he had sold his birthright to Jacob. Isaac presents poorly here, in spiritual terms. Rebekah had been told that the elder would serve the younger- but Isaac either ignored that because it was God's word through a woman, or because he just wanted to all the same bless his older son, who was his favourite. He specifically states that the younger son is to bow down in service to the older son- as if Isaac specifically wants to undo God's principle stated 58 years previously. Over the years, he presumably forgot it, or just renegotiated it in his mind until the statement became irrelevant to him. As noted elsewhere, Isaac presents poorly throughout his life apart from possibly in being willing to be sacrificed- although a father being asked to sacrifice his son was something which the surrounding gods and religious cults often demanded, and Isaac may have gone along with it on that basis. For it is Abraham rather than Isaac who is warmly commended by God after the event. And yet, Isaac is held up as an example of faith and the Lord Jesus assures us that Isaac will be in the Kingdom. So as with Abraham, Isaac was counted righteous because of a core basis of faith, even though that faith was weakly articulated in his life. We should also be aware that the father had the right to choose who should receive the blessing of the firstborn; Jacob himself later demoted his firstborn son Reuben from "firstborn" status (Gen. 49:4), replacing him with Judah. And the Nuzi documents record how in those times, a father could indeed do this and it was not at all uncommon. So Isaac's insistence on giving Esau the firstborn status and blessing was a conscious act, and directly against God's intention. The blind Isaac was most impressed by "Esau's" hairy hands and the scent of the field on "his" clothes. The identity test for the firstborn, in Isaac's view, were completely secular and not spiritual. He loved Esau because Esau was a hunter and a macho man; not because of anything spiritual. "Who then was it who hunted game and brought it to me?" (:33) reflects how Isaac thought that the characteristic of being a hunter, with hands as hairy as the animals he hunted, was the prime characteristic of the firstborn whom he sought to bless. When it was well known that Nimrod, the antiChrist figure of earlier history, was characterized by his mighty hunting (Gen. 10:9,10). Isaac had become dominated by the thinking of the world around him, whereby kings and leaders were caricatured as succesful hunters. Thus King Ashurbanipal is presented as a mighty hunter of lions in many reliefs uncovered. Isaac likes to imagine that the smell of Esau's clothing is of a "field blessed by Yahweh", as if he was right in blessing Esau because Yahweh had blessed Esau with prowess in hunting. This of course was a totally wrong position. Yahweh's blessings were by grace alone, and given directly. And they are not given on any human basis; whereas Isaac discerned his firstborn, as he thought, using his human senses of touch, smell and hearing.  

Gen 27:2 He said, See now, I am old. I don’t know the day of my death- Isaac didn't die for another 43 years. Now Isaac was 137 (Gen. 41:46; 45:6; 47:9; 30:25 cp. 29:18,21,27); which was the age at which his brother Ishmael had died, 14 years before. The Biblical record is Divinely inspired, and the psychological 'ring of truth' about the incidents confirms this. It is normal and psychologically credible to get a fear of death when you come to the age at which your brother died. Isaac, and indeed all in the family, believed that the blessing of Yahweh (:7) was contingent upon it being given by Isaac. If he were to die, then, the blessing wouldn't be given. The idea of personal blessing direct from God, according to the Abrahamic covenant, was not appreciated by them. "He [Isaac] blessed him" (:23) is stressed. They felt that blessing and relationship with Yahweh had to be mediated through a living person, the elder of their family. Just as Israel turned away from direct encounter with Yahweh at Sinai, and wanted Moses to interact with Him on their behalf. This is the basis for religion, and it is the very opposite to personal spirituality. And they were persistently missing the point- that blessing from God was that of forgiveness, personal relationship with Him ["I will be their God"] and future eternal possession of the land. Jacob realizes this in Gen. 33, when he asks Esau to "take away my blessing". But just as his blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh reflects how he still sees parental blessing as important, we find in Gen. 49:25 that Jacob pretty much repeats the [relatively meaningless] blessing of Isaac in his words to his favourite son Joseph: “the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb”. Indeed, Jacob's likewise rather meaningless blessings of his sons repeat elements of the blessing of Isaac which he deceitfully received: "Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you” (Gen 49:8); “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Gen 49:10). We too may at some moments realize that nothing at all matters apart from God's spiritual blessings; but we may revert to hankering after material blessings, and still take that attitude to our grave planks.  See on :29.

Gen 27:3 Now therefore, please take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and take me venison- About Jacob's last recorded words were his memory of how he took "Shechem... out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow" (Gen. 48:22). Perhaps subconsciously he wanted to prove to himself and others that he was not weaker than Esau, and was as adept at the use of bow and weapons as he had been. The connection is made the stronger once we realize that "quiver" is "scabbard" and refers to a sword. The ideas of "sword", "bow" and "take..." are repeated. And later Scripture stresses that Israel [Jacob] did not get the land in possession by their sword nor bow. Again, Isaac is set up as not at all understanding how blessing- true blessing- is mediated. Just as many today do not understand.

Gen 27:4 Make me savoury food, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat, and that my soul may bless you before I die- The grammar seems to suggests that eating the food was necessary to impart the blessing; see on :9. Clearly Isaac is thinking in human terms; for the only blessing ultimately worth having came from God, not from Isaac's "soul", and was not bestowed through having a ritual meal. However we note the understanding they had that blessing and covenant relationship were somehow attested by a meal. This continues in our time with the memorial feast, the breaking of bread, serving the same function. Isaac believes that the blessing must somehow be mediated through food, over a meal. This is the force of "that my soul may bless you before I die". He is surely alluding to how Esau sold his birthright over food, feeling he too was about to die [and falsely thus feeling, because he didn't then die, and Isaac too didn't die for some years]. Isaac is seeking to reverse the sale of the birthright. Hence he stresses in :29 "Be lord over your brothers", literally 'become senior to your brother'. Isaac was trying to reverse the sale of the birthright, instead of accepting God's word that the elder must serve the younger. Isaac really does not present well here in spiritual terms.

Isaac blessed his sons by faith concerning things to come (Heb. 11:20). "Things to come" is literally "to come", and consistently this term is used in Hebrews about the things of the coming Kingdom of God. Abraham "would after", in the coming age, receive the eternal inheritance of the land (s.w. Heb. 11:8); our "continuing city" is "to come" (Heb.  13:14); the fire of judgment "shall" (s.w.) devour the condemned at judgment day (Heb. 10:27); we have only a foretaste of the powers of the world "to come" (Heb. 6:5); the world "to come" (Heb. 2:5) is that of the Kingdom, when we "shall be" saved (Heb. 1:14). The other examples of faith in Hebrews 11 are of faith in the future Kingdom and in the things of the Lord Jesus. So we are to deduce from this that Isaac's blessing of his sons was done with a perspective of the Kingdom within him- even though so much of his blessing was misplaced, wrong and unspiritual. And so often we see this in the NT comment upon Old Testament incidents, such as Sarah's angry words to Hagar, and her mocking reference to Abraham "my lord being old also...".        

Gen 27:5 Rebekah heard when Isaac spoke to Esau his son. Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it- See on Gen. 33:10. The fact Isaac spoke to Esau privately, away from Jacob and Rebekah, could reflect his awareness that Esau had sold the birthright to Jacob but he chose to get around that. Isaac also seems to be in studied disregard of the opening prophecy that Esau as the firstborn would serve Jacob the younger. All through the lives of the patriarchs we see weakness, and they were saved by God's grace and their faith in that grace, with occasional works which reflected that faith. But the general picture of their lives is not spiritually positive. In this sense they become our "fathers".

Gen 27:6 Rebekah spoke to Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard your father speak to Esau your brother, saying- One form of Bible study by questions is to ask questions like ‘What should Jacob have replied to Rebekah in Gen. 27?’, ‘What should Eve have said to the serpent’?  

Gen 27:7 ‘Bring me venison, and make me savoury food, that I may eat, and bless you before Yahweh before my death’- Rebekah appears to have added "before Yahweh" (:4). The blessing of being the Abrahamic seed and covenant relationship ('before God' is used in this sense in Gen. 17:18) was not predicated upon the paternal blessing of Isaac, but was given by God, by grace. But Rebekah assumed that the birthright was the covenant blessing; and she was bent on making the prophecy about the elder serving the younger somehow come true in her own strength and by her own device. This can so easily be our weakness too. She confused material blessings with the covenant blessings of Yahweh- which are forgiveness and salvation. The only blessings worth having. She also fails to appreciate that the covenant blessings come from Yahweh Himself- not from a man like Isaac.

Gen 27:8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command you- This is clearly alluding to Adam obeying his wife's voice and falling into sin; doing what she commanded rather than what God commanded. And Isaac was surely intended to see the parallel, especially as the narrative included eating and blessing [and cursing]. We too are set up with situations where we are intended to see the Biblical parallel, and act accordingly. This is where basic knowledge of the Bible text is valuable; and moreso, the willingness to perceive that we are really intended to see the links and act accordingly.

Gen 27:9 Go now to the flock, and get me from there two good young goats. I will make them savoury food for your father, such as he loves- One goat was quite enough for two men to eat. Two goats suggest some kind of ritual meaning to the meal; we noted on :4 that Isaac felt the blessing had to be somehow mediated through a meal. This was a quite wrong understanding of "blessing", for true blessing is from God and not man. We note that the only other reference to two young goats is when the phrase is used about the ritual of the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:5,7,8), where one represented the sinner who must die, and the other the righteous who was set free.

Gen 27:10 You shall bring it to your father, that he may eat, so that he may bless you before his death- As noted on :4, they all understood that the blessing was predicated upon the meal ["so that..."]. Her emphasis was clearly upon the word "you". She was aware of the sale of the birthright, and also wished to force to come true the prophetic word about the elder serving the younger. But blessing is of God; although the memorial feast, the breaking of bread, continues this theme of blessing being associated with a meal. But the meal is a celebration of the blessing already given, a reaffirmation that we want to be part of it; the meal doesn't of itself give blessing. This is the error of transubstantiation, and the essence of that misunderstanding is seen here.

Gen 27:11 Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man- The way Jacob is described at the time as "smooth", without a covering of hair, may be a hint that he needed a covering of atonement. Jacob's concern was how to get away with the deception, rather than any moral issue with what Rebekah was suggesting. "Smooth" is only elsewhere used about flattery (Prov. 5:3; 26:28; Ez. 12:24). It could be that by "smooth" there is a contrast set up with the hairy Esau to suggest Jacob was like a smooth lamb and Esau the kid of the goats hairy from birth; as explained on :16, "hairy" is usually translated "kid of the goats". The parable of the sheep and goats would then suggest Jacob as the righteous; but he was so far from that at this time, and was only counted as a sheep by grace.

Gen 27:12 What if my father touches me? I will seem to him as a deceiver, and I would bring a curse on myself, and not a blessing- See on Gen. 25:31. The true blessing of God according to the Abrahamic promises could not be taken away by men, nor simply due to human failure. And yet Jacob had yet to come to perceive that. And the Divine blessing was given by God; it was not 'brought upon oneself' by dint of human device and skill. It took Jacob a lifetime to come to perceive this grace. "Touches" is the same Hebrew word translated "search" or "felt" when Laban felt all over Jacob's possessions in search of the stolen idols (Gen. 31:34,37). The word "recognize" is likewise common in both incidents; see on :23. We are intended to join the dots between our experiences in life. Jacob was intended to see how he had earlier survived such a 'touching' when he was in the wrong- but to what end? He was to later give back his blessing to Esau, rejoicing instead in God's gracious blessing of him (see on Gen. 33:11).

Gen 27:13 His mother said to him, Let your curse be on me, my son. Only obey my voice, and go get them for me- The lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons are held up in the NT as our examples. And yet their records are absolutely shot through with reference to the spiritual weakness of those men, and even the suggestion that as men they were not 'nice' people. They, the archetypical believers, aren't good people. Indeed, the records seem to juxtapose their weakness against the more humanly acceptable behaviour of the world around them. The whole business of Jacob obtaining the blessing from his slightly drunk father Isaac is almost comical; dressed up with skins, with his mum prodding him under the ribs saying "Go on, go on, it's my sin not yours"; Jacob must have been willing the old boy to hurry up, knowing as he did that Esau was about to come in with his meal. Yet this was the most Godly family on earth at the time.

There was no recorded curse from Isaac upon Jacob, and in any case if there was there is no record of it coming upon Rebekah. The whole idea of blessings and cursings uttered by men appears somewhat phony; they were indeed held to be of great value, but the Biblical record demonstrates that it is the Divine blessing and cursing which is important. Thus Jacob's later blessings of his sons don't all seem to have had direct fulfilment; and likewise the expected curse from Isaac either doesn't come or is not carried out. It should've been obvious that Isaac would realize the deception; but both Rebekah and Isaac assumed that what mattered was whether he uttered a curse during the blessing ceremony. And if he didn't, and blessed Jacob, then this could not be retracted. They predicated the receipt of blessing upon the ceremony; but Jacob was slowly brought to realize that it is direct Divine blessing which is to be sought above all, rather than some secular blessing from an old man.

Gen 27:14 He went, and got them, and brought them to his mother. His mother made savoury food, such as his father loved- Went, got and bought to her... all emphasize his total obedience and complicity in the plan. The only other times the Hebrew phrase "savoury food" is used outside of this incident is in Prov. 23:3-8, where the "dainty food" is used in the context of deceivers who want to get rich; and as so often in Proverbs, we appear to have a commentary upon this earlier Biblical incident: "Don’t be desirous of his dainties, since they are deceitful food. Don’t weary yourself to be rich... Don’t eat the food of him who has a stingy eye, and don’t crave his delicacies: for as he thinks about the cost, so he is. Eat and drink! he says to you, but his heart is not with you. The morsel which you have eaten you shall vomit up, and lose your good words".

Gen 27:15 Rebekah took the good clothes of Esau, her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob, her younger son- These clothes were likely those of the firstborn, and they would have had religious meaning; just as they did when given to Joseph. This would explain why the clothes were not in Esau's own dwelling, but in that of Isaac and Rebekah. Rebekah didn't have to go into Esau's home, and in full view of his pagan wives, grab his best clothes. Isaac liked to think that the smell of these robes was as the smell of the field or garden which God had blessed- perhaps an allusion to Eden. Esau usually led the family worship in these clothes- and yet he was very far from the true God. This shows the low level of spirituality which there was in the family.

Gen 27:16 She put the skins of the young goats on his hands, and on the smooth of his neck- Esau was "hairy", the same word translated "kid [of the goats]" (Gen. 37:31; Lev. 4:23 etc.). The word is also used of idols made to goats (2 Chron. 11:15 "devils" AV). Clearly Esau is being set up as an idolater by his very appearance.

Gen 27:17 She gave the savoury food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob- The level of detail increases, as it often does in the Biblical narrative when we are being invited to re-imagine the scene, playing "Bible television" with the information presented. Here, we see Rebekah putting bread and meat into Jacob's literal hands. The last time we have heard of Jacob with cooked food, he was again involved in a deception. He ought to have learnt from his mistakes, but like us, he didn't. At the time.

Gen 27:18 He came to his father, and said, My father? He said, Here I am. Who are you, my son?- The question "Who are you?" suggests that Jacob's carefully practiced imitations of Esau's voice just weren't much good. He would've panicked at the question.  Jacob foresaw that
the same question would be asked as he came to meet Esau (Gen. 32:17 s.w.); consciously or subconsciously, Jacob came to realize that the fruit what he had done in that tent with Isaac was being demanded of him.

Gen 27:19 Jacob said to his father, I am Esau your firstborn. I have done what you asked me to do. Please arise, sit and eat of my venison, that your soul may bless me-
His proud claim to his father that "I have done according as thou badest me" (27:19 AV) when he had effectively done nothing of the sort was the basis for the character of the elder brother in the Lord's parable (Lk. 15:29). Time and again, Jacob emphasizes his works: "I have done according as thou badest me (AV)... my days (of service) are fulfilled (therefore) give me my wife... did not I serve with thee for Rachel? (notice Jacob's legalism; Gen. 29:21,25)... give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee... thou knowest my service... how I have served thee (Gen. 30:25-33)... with all my power I have served your father (Gen. 31:6)". This trust in his own works was what prevented Jacob from a full faith in the promises. It was only the night of wrestling and his subsequent handicap that drove it from him.

As noted earlier in this chapter, the family understood the blessing as being predicated upon eating this ritual meal; it had to be eaten that the blessing might be given. But this betrays a total lack of appreciation of the fact that the only blessing worth having, that from God, is not given by man, and is not dependent upon a meal or ritual.

Gen 27:20 Isaac said to his son, How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son? He said, Because Yahweh your God gave me success- "Your God" is almost cynical; the sort of thing an unbaptized child of a believer might say to their parents. It was only at the very end of his life that Jacob was to talk of God as "my God"; it took him a lifetime to find God for Himself, rather than seeing Him as merely his father's deity. And the same happens in the lives of many born and bred into believing households. "Success" translates a Hebrew word which has only so far been used in the Hebrew Bible in Gen. 24:12, where the mission to find a wife for Isaac is met with Divine "success" through finding Rebekah. Perhaps Isaac and Rebekah had often rehearsed the story, and used this word- which Jacob now uses. As if to say: 'Just as your God gave amazing success in your search for a wife, so He gave me'.

Gen 27:21 Isaac said to Jacob, Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not- Jacob was to use the very same words "come near" when he too was blind and Joseph's sons were brought before him for blessing (s.w. Gen. 48:10,13). It's not simply that what goes around, comes around. Even in his old age, God was still working with Jacob to help him realize how his aged father must have felt at that time. The same Divine hand works in our lives to help us appreciate how others feel, whom we have hurt. It's not punishment nor judgment, as it were; but more an attempt at our education and spiritual maturity, as thereby our deeper repentance is elicited. And God was still at work in Jacob's life when he was very old, as He works with us too right to the end.

Gen 27:22 Jacob went near to Isaac his father. He felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau- For "felt", see on :12. Later, Jacob was to beg God to deliver him from "the hands of Esau" (Gen. 32:11 s.w.). He was being taught how wrong he had been to impersonate those hands and make them his own. God ever seeks to reform, rather than simply punish. His hope and intention was Jacob's repentance; and when Jacob finally meets Esau, he hands back to him the blessing he had stolen (see on Gen. 33:11). Laban was also going to 'feel' all over Jacob's possessions in order to find the idols Rachel had stolen. And Jacob would be saved by grace then, surely being reminded of how he had been 'felt' by his father and had got away with his deception. He would have later reflected how indeed, his life had been a constant experience of grace. Life circumstances sometimes repeat in order to teach us that lesson. "The voice is Jacob's" may not have to be a reference to his tone of voice, because Jacob was surely impersonating Esau. Rather the reference may be to how Jacob spoke with the kind of words Jacob would speak, rather than the ever crude and brash style of Esau. There is a clear connection with Peter being betrayed by his own voice- and again, without doubt, what Jacob does here is condemned by later Biblical allusion and connection.

Gen 27:23 He didn’t recognize him- The same word translated "recognize" is found in Gen. 31:32, where Jacob invites Laban to "recognize" what is his, and Laban 'feels' his possessions in search for his lost idols; see on :12. Again we marvel at how the Divine hand repeated the essence of circumstances in Jacob's life, in order to lead Jacob to repentance and a transparent life, rather than a deceptive one. The same word is also used in Gen. 37:33, again in connection with deception involving a garment; Jacob's sons bring him the robe of the firstborn, worn by Joseph, and Jacob 'recognizes' it (s.w.), although he draws wrong conclusions from it. He was again being put in the seat of his father Isaac; although Jacob would only have realized this deception some years later, when he met Joseph and the whole deception was exposed.

Because his hands were hairy, like his brother Esau’s hands. So he blessed him- Jacob was smooth skinned, but he placed skins on his hands to deceive Isaac that he was Esau. Yet we read: "his hands were hairy". Were Jacob’s hands really hairy? No. He made them appear hairy, and this is the perspective the record adopts, without correcting it. It doesn’t say ‘Isaac didn’t realize, because Jacob’s hands seemed hairy’. This helps us understand the New Testament usage of the language of demons.

Gen 27:24 He said, Are you really my son Esau? He said, I am- It's possible that "I am" is an allusion to the Yahweh Name, and that Jacob was thereby swearing by Yahweh. His point blank lie thereby becomes the more reprehensible. The question could be yet another expression of doubt by Isaac, as in :21. But the question and answer could also have been the beginning of the ritual by which the firstborn received the blessing.

Gen 27:25 He said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s venison, that my soul may bless you. He brought it near to him, and he ate- The verb translated "bring / come near" occurs often here (:21,22,25,26,27). We also find a similar cluster of occurrences when Jacob draws near to and meets Esau years later (Gen. 33:3,6,7). Clearly the hand of providence, the working of the Spirit, was seeking to remind Jacob of this earlier incident in his life, just as the Spirit restimulates memories and situations so that we might better understand both ourselves and the others who were involved. And Jacob did respond, for he hands back to him the blessing he had stolen (see on Gen. 33:11).

He brought him wine, and he drank- The taking of bread (:17) and wine over a meal was all part of a ritual for confirming a covenant; and we see the essence of it in the breaking of bread service. But we suspect that the intention was to get Isaac drunk. “Deceiving and being deceived” is so true of Jacob (2 Tim. 3:13). Laban likewise used alcohol and darkness (cp. blindness) to deceive Jacob into marrying Leah rather than Rachel.

Gen 27:26 His father Isaac said to him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son- The kissing was likely part of some ritual. For "come near", see on :25. Kissing a parent was a sign of leaving them and becoming independent (Gen. 31:28; 1Kings 19:20). Just as Abraham prematurely gave all that he had to Isaac even before he died, so it seems Isaac now wished to do to his firstborn Esau. This shows how much he loved Esau and wanted by all means for him to be his primary "seed". And in that desire we see an unspirituality and lack of faith in the prophetic words to Rebekah about the elder serving the younger. It was as if Isaac wished by all means to reverse it. God didn't allow him to do so; and yet He worked through the unethical and sinful behaviour of Jacob and Rebekah. God works through sin to the extension of His purpose; rather than turning away from sinners in disgust.

Gen 27:27 He came near, and kissed him. He smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him, and said, Behold, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which Yahweh has blessed- The clothes had a distinctive smell, and they were used in family worship. The smell may have been from incense, which might suggest that their religious rituals were not as spiritual as they might have been. The whole question of "blessing" in its human sense is and was very subjective. Isaac liked to imagine that the ritual clothes of Esau even smelt of Yahweh's blessing; but that was in his imagination. Yahweh would bless the field if there was obedience to His covenant (Dt. 28:3); but there was none of that with Esau. We too can imagine spirituality in those we love, especially family members, when it simply isn't there.

The Hebrew for "smelled the smell" is only used elsewhere of God receiving acceptable sacrifice and being pleased with it (Gen. 8:21; Lev. 26:31). But the spirituality of this family had descended into mere tokenism and ritualism. Isaac "smelled the smell" of spiritual acceptability just because a man was wearing certain clothes which had a distinctive smell, perhaps from incense.

Gen 27:28 God give you of the dew of the sky, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and new wine- Isaac's mind was focused very much on earthly realities. He had failed to appreciate that his noticeable material blessings were really but visible indicators towards the far greater spiritual blessings which the covenant promises were centred upon. And he makes no reference to the all important aspect of the Abrahamic promises- the seed.

The fatness of the eretz may refer to Canaan, the best part of the eretz promised. Isaac later wishes that wherever Esau dwells shall be likewise blessed (:39).

There are many examples of where God worked through Jacob's weakness, and blessed him in spite of it, imputing righteousness to Jacob. Thus Jacob's use of red stew to wrest the birthright from his red brother was used by God to give him the birthright (the words for "red stew" and "Esau" are related), even though Paul evidently disapproved of Jacob's attitude (Rom. 12:20 surely alludes here); his evil deception of his father was used by God to grant him the physical blessing (Gen. 27:28 is confirmed by God in Dt. 33:28), even though at the time he was dressed like a goat (27:16), connecting himself with fallen Adam and the rejected at the day of judgment; “Deceiving and being deceived” certainly rings bells with Jacob (2 Tim. 3:13). Laban likewise used alcohol and darkness (cp. blindness) to deceive Jacob into marrying Leah rather than Rachel.


Gen 27:29 Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers- This was a willful attempt to reverse the Divine statement that the elder would serve the younger. Isaac really doesn't come over as very spiritual. he wished Esau, as he thought, to be lord over Jacob because he seems to have disliked Jacob and wanted the Angel's words about his dominance over Esau to be untrue. And yet he had faith. It could be argued that his words here were initially fulfilled in Edom / Esau being dominated by Israel (2 Sam. 8:14; 1 Kings 11:15; 2 Kings 8:21; Ps. 60:8,9). But it seems to me that Isaac's blessings were not so much prophecy as simply his personal wishes, although within that there was still faith (Heb. 11:20).


Let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you. Blessed be everyone who blesses you- "Your mother's sons" is a strange way for Isaac to talk about his own sons. He clearly considered Jacob to be more of  Rebekah's child than his. We note the plural "sons", as if there may have been other unrecorded sons born later. The record of Isaac's blessing of Jacob is framed to portray Jacob as a type of Christ: "Let people serve thee" = Zech. 8:23; Is. 60:12 "nations bow down to thee" = Ps. 72:11; "Be Lord over thy brethren" = Phil. 2:11; "Let they mother's sons bow down to thee" = 1 Cor. 15:7. But Jacob was so far from being the true Abrahamic seed at that time. The fact was that Jacob bowed down to Esau, thereby recognizing that this blessing was not for him; Jacob hands back to him the blessing he had stolen (see on Gen. 33:11). The language of cursing and blessing is indeed taken from the Abrahamic promises; but there is no reference to blessings in the promised seed. Isaac seemed to understand the promises on a far too immediate and material level. Isaac's pronouncement of a curse upon any who cursed Jacob meant that he could not himself curse Jacob; so Jacob's fear of receiving a curse was therefore mitigated.

He effectively hands back the birthright to Esau after the night of wrestling, when he says "Take [away] my blessing..." because he had experienced God's grace. Jacob will seven times call Esau his "lord", bowing seven times to him [remember that the Hebrew word for "blessing" is a form of the verb berak, to bow down],  five times calling himself Esau's servant. Clearly he was resigning this blessing of the firstborm, and Isaac's blessing of Jacob was thereby rendered null and void. The blessing of the firstborn involved the other brothers bowing down to the firstborn (Gen. 27:29), so Jacob's protracted and emphasized bowing to Esau (Gen. 33:3,6,7) was likewise a way of resigning from the birthright which he had been born trying to grab hold of, and the desire for which had obviously filled his mind. We too are led to resign all our material, secular aspirations and dreams for the sake of God's grace. We realize that what was once nearest and dearest to us, was all in the end much ado about nothing. And in Jacob's case, he was born with the desire for the firstborn status, with his little hand desperately trying to grab his brother's heel to stop his brother being the firstborn. But encounter with God's grace [as happened to Jacob in Gen. 32] is enough to reorient a man away from even his natural, born-with passions and obsessions towards [in this case] materialism and jealousy. In Jacob's case his very name, 'heel catcher', reflected this obsession which was so strong it had become his self-definition; until he encountered God's grace. The blessing of the firstborn as given by Isaac involved the firstborn being "Lord" over his brothers; but Jacob repeatedly calls Esau his "Lord" in Gen. 32,33. Jacob's gifts to his brothers are described with a standard Hebrew word for "gift" [minha]; but in Gen. 33:11 Jacob then starts to consciously refer to them as berakah, the word for "blessing". And he urges Esau to take [s.w. 'take away'] his "blessing". I discussed on Gen. 25:23 how the blessing of the firstborn never came true- perhaps because Jacob's resignation of the firstborn blessings in Gen. 32,33 was accepted by God.

Gen 27:30 It happened, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob had just gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting- Isaac must have been willing the old man to get a move on. He obviously knew that the deception would be uncovered, but he had the idea that the words spoken at the ceremony were all powerful. He totally failed to understand that ultimately, all blessing is from God and not from man, and is not predicated upon any human ceremony. Jacob went away from "the face of Isaac" (Heb.) just as he was to flee from the face of Esau. The idea of being in the presence of / seeing the face of recurs in the incidents connected with Jacob's meeting of Esau, years later. Again, God was seeking to help Jacob join the dots and realize his need for repentance and for the face / presence of God, seeing he had ended his relationship with the face / presence of his earthly father and brother.

Gen 27:31 He also made savoury food, and brought it to his father. He said to his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s venison, that your soul may bless me- Again, the misunderstanding is repeated; the blessing was seen as dependent upon eating the food and doing the ritual. And the blessing was seen as most definitely proceeding from the person ["soul"] of Isaac. The Divine blessing was of grace and mediated through direct personal relationship between God and man.

Gen 27:32 Isaac his father said to him, Who are you? He said, I am your son, your firstborn, Esau- The insistence that he was the firstborn indicates that he refused to take seriously the selling of his birthright. Like us all, he liked to think that time works a kind of atonement for the past. But because the image of past events becomes distorted and far smaller on our horizon as the years pass, we should not think that the consequence of human action likewise diminishes; especially in God's sight. The mention of "firstborn" is a hint that Esau was already beginning to guess what had happened; and that has the ring of psychological credibility to it. We can be certain that what we are reading actually happened.

Gen 27:33 Isaac trembled violently, and said, Who, then, is he who has taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before you came, and have blessed him? Yes, he will be blessed- The violent trembling was not simply in anger at having been deceived. Isaac realized that he had been trying to reverse the Divine statement that the elder would serve the younger; "Yes, he will be blessed" shows how he recognized this. He makes no attempt to annul what he has said in blessing. He trembled before God, knowing that he had gone against Him and His word. And it had been reversed, albeit through human dysfunction. He recognized that as Paul put it, the gifts and calling of God are without changeability (Rom. 11:29). "Who is... he?" was not an enquiry, as all knew it was Jacob, but rather a rhetorical comment as to the nature of Jacob; as if to say "What kind of a person is he?". The reference was to Jacob's name (:36), "supplanter".

Gen 27:34 When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceeding great and bitter cry, and said to his father, Bless me, even me also, my father- The Hebrews were warned not to follow Esau's sinful example, otherwise at the judgment they would experience what he did: "Afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing (cp. our desiring the Abrahamic promises of entry into the Kingdom), he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it with tears" (Heb. 12:17). In view of this, the weeping of the rejected at judgment may be as a result of desperate pleading with the Lord to change his mind. There will be a sense, as with Esau, of an irrevocable decision. Just as the foolish virgins earnestly desire to enter the feast, but all too late. The request for the blessing all the same [this is the idea of the Hebrew word translated "also"] may have reminded Isaac of how his father Abraham had requested this for his half brother Ishmael, and God had heard this. Heb. 12:17 suggests that he sought to change Isaac's mind, to get him to somehow reverse the blessing and all the same give it to him.

Gen 27:35 He said, Your brother came with deceit, and has taken away your blessing- Isaac doesn't immediately agree to make up some kind of blessing. And he refused to change his mind about the blessing of the firstborn going to Jacob (see on :34). Because the blessing of the firstborn had indeed been uttered already, and taken by Jacob. This belief reflects their common understanding that the blessing was solely and totally dependent upon the uttering of the words by the father, and the ceremony. There was no idea that something could be recalculated; whereas God's purpose and word is full of such recalculation.

Gen 27:36 He said, Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright. See, now he has taken away my blessing. He said, Haven’t you reserved a blessing for me?- "He took away my birthright" indicates that Esau thought he had done nothing wrong by selling his birthright. He chose to remember it as Jacob taking it away. The parental blessing and the birthright went together; so on one hand it seems unreasonable to count up two cases of supplanting. But in another sense, he was right. The demand of the birthright was effectively a taking of it away. And Jacob had used deceit to try to force through the fulfilment of the promise that the elder would serve the younger. Hos. 12:2,3 comment that God would punish Jacob for supplanting; so although what he did was morally wrong, God still worked through it.

Gen 27:37 Isaac answered Esau, Behold, I have made him your lord, and all his brothers have I given to him for servants. With grain and new wine have I sustained him. What then will I do for you, my son?- Wine seems an unnecessarily significant item in Isaac's mind. "All his brothers" suggests there were other brothers who aren't mentioned in the records. Isaac seems to imply that as he had blessed with Jacob with lordship over his brothers and grain and wine, there wasn't much left he could now bless Esau with. This comment reflects his lack of appreciation of the promises to Abraham; the blessing of the seed and eternal inheritance of the land.

Gen 27:38 Esau said to his father, Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, my father. Esau lifted up his voice, and wept- At the time of Jacob's deception, Esau lifted up his voice and wept; and this is picked up in Heb. 12:17 as a warning to all those who would fritter away their spirituality for sensuality. The faithlessness of Jacob is disregarded, and the emphasis is placed upon Esau. If Esau's rejection by Isaac is indeed a picture of the rejection of the goats at the final judgment, Isaac there becomes a hazy prefigurement of our future judge. And yet the record presents a scene of both father and rejected son as shaken and helpless, both dearly wishing it could be different (Gen. 27:33). The sadness of Isaac becomes a figure of the pathos and sadness of God in rejecting the wicked. Note how the LXX of Gen. 27:38 adds the detail: "And Isaac said nothing; and Esau wept". We are left to imagine the thoughts of Isaac's silence. Truly our God takes no pleasure at all in the death of the wicked (Ez. 33:11). According to Heb. 12:17, Isaac did not change his mind despite the tears; the blessing of the firstborn was not given to Esau, and the other blessings now spoken were not the result of any change of mind.

Jacob too "lifted up his voice and wept" when he met Rachel (the same words are used, Gen. 29:11). It's not simply that what goes around, comes around. God was working with Jacob to help him realize how his brother must have felt at that time. The same Divine hand works in our lives to help us appreciate how others feel, whom we have hurt. It's not punishment nor judgment, as it were; but more an attempt at our education and spiritual maturity, as thereby our deeper repentance is elicited. 

Gen 27:39 Isaac his father answered him, Behold, of the fatness of the earth will be your dwelling, and of the dew of the sky from above- Mal. 1:3 speaks of how God made Esau's inheritance waste and barren. We therefore wonder whether Isaac's words had any relevance at all; the essential thing was the Divine blessing, not that of any man. Yet Heb. 11:20 says that Isaac blessed both his sons "by faith". He had faith that Esau's seed would have blessing and in Christ, that shall be ultimately true. These blessings of dew and fatness were exactly what Isaac had bestowed upon Jacob. But now he repeats them to Esau, despite having said that Jacob had come and irreversibly taken away Esau's blessing (:35). This gives an insight into how the 'blessings' were simply the whim of Isaac and had no ultimate, binding meaning; although he was too proud to retract the blessing he had just given Jacob. He again presents as convinced that blessing depends upon his words, uttered at a certain point- rather than the words of God directly. Likewise "When you win your freedom, you will break his yoke from off your neck" (:40) is effectively Isaac's attempt to undo the blessing of mastery over Esau which he has just given to Jacob; and it is again a refusal to accept the Divine word that the elder must serve the younger. Isaac may have been the passive patriarch, but he is clearly struggling by all means to not obey and accept God's word. Even though Heb. 11:40 says he did all this "by faith". Such is God's positive view of His children.

Gen 27:40 By your sword will you live, and you will serve your brother- Esau was in a similar position to Ishmael (Gen. 16:12). These words could only be seen as a "blessing" if Esau was proud to live by the sword. But the Lord Jesus alludes to this by saying that those who live by the sword shall perish by it (Mt. 26:52), and the spiritual way of life was not to take the sword. There is no evidence that Esau ever served Jacob, confirming that these blessings, although uttered in faith (Heb. 11:20), were Isaac's wishes rather than predictive prophecy. It could be that Isaac is referring back to the prophetic words that "the elder shall serve the younger" which he had tried so hard to overthrow, and is here accepting they would come true. Jacob would however have been aware of these words of Jacob to Esau when later he had to serve his brother Laban and was deceived into serving him for much longer than he expected (s.w. Gen. 29:15). Jacob deeply resented this service of his brother Laban; he was taught at length what this "blessing" of having your brother serve you meant. He was learning the feelings which Esau would have had, had this "blessing" come true. Constantly, we are seeing the attempted education of Jacob.

It will happen, when you will break loose- This could imply that Jacob meant that if Esau broke away from Jacob and lived elsewhere, outside of the land of promise, then the whole blessing and cursing would not apply to Esau. And this is what happened. Esau did leave Canaan, whereas Jacob remained there; and so these prophesied relationships between the two sons didn't come true within the land of Canaan. The later record makes this clear: “So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir” is juxtaposed with the description of Jacob in Canaan, “And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan” (Gen. 33:16,18). And again in Gen. 36:8, Esau's settling in Seir is contrasted with how Jacob lived in the “land of his father’s dwelling, in the land of Canaan” (Gen. 37:1).

That you shall shake his yoke from off your neck- Possibly a reference to how Edom broke free from Israel at the time of Ahaz (2 Kings 16:6; 2 Chron. 28:17). And Israel were in fact ruled over by the Idumean / Edomite Herods just before their final destruction as a nation in AD70, and frequently Israel are described as being yoked by the neck to their neighbours. That would rather disprove Isaac's blessing; but in fairness, blessings were seen more as wishes than as prophetic predictions. Yet Heb. 11:20 says that Isaac blessed both his sons "by faith". But his attitude at the time was weak and his understanding foggy; indeed he may well have been under the influence of alcohol at the time, and he set himself to go against the revealed word that the elder must serve the younger. And yet the Spirit in Heb 11:20 discerns that somewhere within all that confusion, there was faith. This is an extremely generous reading of Isaac at this point! And that same generous God, eager to count righteous on the basis of faith, just because we are the objects of His love, is the same God with whom we have to do. We can take comfort from this in our weakness, and be encouraged to more positively view our brethren and focus upon the positive within the general picture they present to us.

Gen 27:41 Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him. Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand. Then I will kill my brother Jacob- Our thoughts are our words; the intention is the action. In any case, there is a Biblical theme that what we say in our heart comes out into the open: “Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand. Then will I slay my brother Jacob. And the words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah” (Gen. 27:41,42). What Esau said to himself became public knowledge through his actions. Isaac lived another 43 years, so Esau was held back from immediately killing Jacob by Isaac's sickness, which he apparently overcame. Jacob would later have perceived God's grace in that. The connection with Cain killing his brother Abel is apparent; but Esau clearly didn't care for the Biblical allusions.

Gen 27:42 The words of Esau, her elder son, were told to Rebekah. She sent and called Jacob, her younger son, and said to him, Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you- Rebekah comes over as quite the amateur psychoanalyst of Esau (see on :44,45). She imagined him internally comforting himself with his plans to murder Jacob. She may have recalled how she had comforted Isaac after the death of his mother (Gen. 24:67 s.w.), and she saw this same need for comfort in her son at this time. The whole record has strong psychological credibility. Esau was inconsolable by anyone apart from his own inner thoughts; and Jacob was to go through this in later life, when he refused to be comforted over the loss of Joseph (Gen. 37:35). We are brought to know how others feel or felt; we are intended to examine our lives, our histories; and to learn the lessons and come to greater sensitivity and repentance.

Gen 27:43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice. Arise, flee to Laban, my brother, in Haran
- "Obey my voice" is what she had told Jacob about the whole plan of deceiving Isaac. Jacob comes over as dominated by his mother, although he was already in his 70s, and like Adam, lead by a woman into sin. The connection with Eve shows clearly that what Jacob and Rebekah did was wrong. Jacob flees, and Rebekah never sees her beloved son again. Her death is not recorded, unlike the deaths of the wives of the other patriarchs [Sarah and Rachel], and she is never mentioned again in scripture- unlike Sarah, Rachel and Leah, the other wives of the patriarchs. What she did was deeply wrong, and an attempt to force the fulfilment of God's word. And she likewise displays a great misunderstanding of Yahweh's blessing; for she adds the words "of Yahweh" to her comment that Isaac is now going to give the blessing.

Gen 27:44 Stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury turns away
- She twice states that Esau's anger would turn away (:45). She knew her son to be a man of the moment, living for today, emotional for a moment and then calming down. The Hebrew phrase "fury turned away" is mostly used about God's wrath turning away (Num. 25:11; Ps. 78:38; 106:23; Is. 66:15; Jer. 18:20; 32:37; 36:7; Dan. 9:16). The Bible opens here in Genesis with a picture of a livid, furious man, burning in anger because of the wrong done to him... whose anger turns away. We are intended to apply that word picture to God, and ever remember that He has feelings, and gets red hot angry at sin. His grace and patience is thereby given a backdrop, and such far greater meaning.

Gen 27:45 Until your brother’s anger turn away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him-
Rebekah knew Esau's character; just as he had effectively forgotten his sale of the birthright, so he would soon forget what Jacob had done, and calm down. He is presented as the epitome of the man of the flesh; living life for the moment, without care for longer term consequence, and seeing past history as of no meaning. "Anger" here is literally "nose"; it was as if Esau was a furious animal sniffing out Jacob as his prey and intending to kill him. We get the impression that Jacob must have run away or was hiding himself nearby; hence in :42 Rebekah sends for Jacob.

The Hebrew phrase "anger turned away" is different to that in :44, but as there, it is mostly used about God's wrath turning away. Again we observe as on :44, that the Bible opens here in Genesis with a picture of a livid, furious man, burning in anger because of the wrong done to him... whose anger turns away. We are intended to apply that word picture to God, and ever remember that He has feelings, and gets red hot angry at sin. His grace and patience is thereby given a backdrop, and such far greater meaning.

Then I will send, and get you from there. Why should I be bereaved of you both in one day?- Rebekah feared that the revenger of blood law would mean that if Esau killed Jacob, he too would be killed perhaps the same day. For her to fear the loss of Esau that same day, there must have been credible revengers of blood nearby. I have noted so far in this chapter the double mention of Jacob being lord over his brothers, plural. There were likely other brothers, not recorded in Scripture, who would have immediately killed Esau. Rebekah paid the price for her obsession about Jacob in that she likely never saw Jacob again, as he was away for at least 20 if not 40 years. Rebekah gets no great mention for spirituality, apart from in her brave decision to immediately leave her family and go to the land of promise to marry the Abrahamic seed. Isaac likewise is not exactly stellar in his spirituality, apart from in his early willingness to be sacrificed by Abraham and his implicit faith in resurrection. Abraham and Jacob likewise only occasionally manifested the works that prove faith is real. Perhaps we are to conclude from all this that the patriarchs and matriarchs of God's people were spiritually weak, but had a dogged faith in God, which they just only occasionally demonstrated in their works. And this is sadly the family characteristic which we too bear.

Gen 27:46 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, such as these, of the daughters of the land, what good will my life do me?
Rebekah’s apparent zeal against marriage out of the faith was really a cover for her desire to save her son from problems which he had only her to blame for. And yet we do remember that Rebekah had personally paid a huge price to marry within the faith, and indeed Esau's marriages out of the faith had deeply grieved her (see on Gen. 26:35). In family life we are so often tested on points where we have made a huge sacrifice, but our children act differently. For Rebekah, spiritually weak as she has been presented in the events of this chapter, life was not worth living if she failed to produce a Godly seed because her children had married unbelievers and thus denied the covenant. And yet those genuine feelings were clearly overridden by a simple desire to save Jacob's life and not be bereaved of her two sons (:45). Human motivation is never, or rarely, pure. Always there are other considerations, and our defence of the faith can so easily have more secular reasons for it.