Verses 1-29: The deception of Isaac
Both Jacob and Rebekah trick Isaac into giving Esau’s blessing to Jacob. Isaac is old and his eyes dim when he asks Esau to come to him. When Esau comes, Isaac asks him to go hunt game and prepare it for him because he loves the savory food Esau prepares. Isaac also tells him that he will give Esau a blessing before he dies.
We’ve taken note of how Rebekah favors Jacob over Esau. Her preference is readily apparent here as she encourages Jacob to trick Isaac so that he may receive the blessing instead of Esau. Rebekah tells Jacob to retrieve two excellent young goats that will be prepared as the savory food for Isaac. When Jacob hears this, he does not protest. Instead he brings up something that might foil the plan: Esau is a hairy man while Jacob is not and what if Isaac touches Jacob and realizes the deception? Committing to the deed, Rebekah tells Jacob that she will be to blame for this and that he need only obey her. Jacob, trusting his mother, does just this.
Imagine what it was like to be Jacob in this moment: he knows he is favored and he must know what he is doing is wrong, yet he completely trusts his mother. Jacob complies and gets the young goats. Rebekah makes the savory food from them, she dresses Jacob in Esau’s clothes and she puts the skins of the goats on Jacob’s arms and neck to give him the feel of a hairy man.
All goes according to their plan. Isaac eats the food, believes that Jacob is Esau and gives Jacob the blessing, which is substantial:
“Therefore may God give you Of the dew of heaven, Of the fatness of the earth, And plenty of grain and wine. 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!”” Genesis 27:28-29
Verses 30-46: Esau’s anger and Jacob’s escape
When Esau returns from the field with the savory food he has hunted and prepared for his father, he is angered to find that Isaac has beaten him to it and received the blessing. Esau asks for a blessing anyway, and receives the blessing that must have been meant for Jacob:
“Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, And of the dew of heaven from above. 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.” Genesis 27:39-40
Now that Jacob has taken Esau’s birthright and blessing, Esau wants to kill him. Esau says that he will kill Jacob when he is finished mourning the death of Isaac. Rebekah hears of this and tells Jacob to flee to Haran, where her brother Laban lives. Jacob is to stay there until Esau no longer wishes to kill him. Rebekah tells Isaac (he will not die until much later, in chapter 35) that it will be good for Jacob to go because it means that he will take a wife from among their people. You may remember that Esau’s wives, who were Hittites, grieved Isaac and Rebekah.
God’s people have not always behaved well. We think of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as our forefathers of faith yet we see them making increasingly poor decisions as the family tree grows. Are their mistakes part of God’s plan? Does God allow deception in these “early” days of mankind as part of the a larger plan? Does this behavior simply get overlooked because these men, despite their great faith in God, have not known the revelatory potency of the fullness of God’s law? This last explanation seems most likely especially considering Acts 17:30:
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,”
In our culture today, we do not accept ignorance as an excuse for breaking the law. We also have the full benefit of the knowledge of not only the Old Testament law, but also the evolution of that law in the liberty of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These men of old benefit from God’s grace in the outcome of their poor choices, much like we benefit from God’s grace in the forgiveness of sins that we receive through Jesus Christ.
I encourage you to say a prayer in thanks of God’s grace in your life. Knowing and seeing it is one of the greatest blessings we have.