Before we get started with our look at Genesis chapter twenty-seven, you should be warned in advance that this entire chapter resembles a non-stop family soap opera.
The first two characters in this family drama are Isaac and his wife Rebekah. You may remember that Rebekah had earlier become pregnant with twin boys. God told Rebekah during this pregnancy that her first-born child would end up serving the child that was born second. When the time of their birth arrived, Rebekah’s first child was born with so much hair on his body that his parents named him Esau (a word that literally meant “hairy”). The second child quickly followed his brother by grasping on to Esau’s foot during his own birth. This second child was named “Jacob,” (or “heel-catcher”), a name that is connected with someone who is a fast-talking, deceptive kind of person.
Now as we read about the things that happen with Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob in this chapter, we’ll see some examples where one family member lies to another, two members form an alliance to plot against another family member, one person pulls off an elaborate plan to trick another member of the family, and one sibling actually makes the decision to try and murder his brother. The motivation behind all this scheming and deception is really not so difficult to explain. As we’ll see, these things happened because each family member wanted to have his or her own way without any input, guidance, or direction from God. In other words, no one in this family wanted to pray, talk about their concerns, or ask themselves, “Am I really acting the way that God wants me to in this situation?”
Knowing this, it may be easy to ask why this chapter is included within the Bible at all. Well, to answer that question, we need to take a look at the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians where we can find one reason why the Bible includes the story that we’re about to read in Genesis 27…
“These things happened to them as a warning to us. All this was written in the Scriptures to teach us who live in these last days” (1 Corinthians 10:11 CEV)
The next verse then goes on to say, “So be careful. If you are thinking, ‘Oh, I would never behave like that’ -let this be a warning to you. For you too may fall into sin” (1 Corinthians 10:12 TLB). So it’s important to pay close attention to what happens in Genesis chapter 27 so you can avoid making the same kinds of mistakes in your life.
“When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, ‘My son.’ ‘Here I am,’ he answered. Isaac said, ‘I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death.
Now then, get your weapons – your quiver and bow – and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die'” (Genesis 27:1-4).
Isaac was about 137 years old at the time when the events of Genesis chapter twenty-seven took place. Now even though Isaac will actually go on to live for another 43 years, the idea of putting his affairs in order seems like a reasonable thing for a 137 year old guy to do- and the way he sought to accomplish that was by pronouncing a blessing upon his oldest son Esau.
This blessing not only included the first-born son’s share of Isaac’s money and property, but also included the rights to those promises that Isaac had received from his father Abraham. These promises were first given to Abraham by God in Genesis chapter 15 when God said to him, “… a son coming from your own body will be your heir” and, “‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars–if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be'” (Genesis 15:4,5).
Later on, God confirmed these promises to Isaac when He said, “…to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” (Genesis 26:3-4). These were the promises that Isaac wanted to pass down to Esau by giving him this blessing.
However, there was a big problem with what Isaac wanted to do. You see, in giving this blessing to Esau, Isaac wanted to follow the normal practice of giving all authority to the first-born son in the family. The problem was that God had already spoken to Isaac’s wife Rebekah and told her that the younger son (Jacob) was to have authority over the older son (that’s Esau -see Genesis 25:23). This should have told Isaac that God had some very different plans in mind for his family. But there were a few other warning signs that Isaac should have noticed as well, and we’ll look at those signs next.
So what were some of the other warning signs that should have told Isaac that Esau was not God’s choice to receive the blessings and promises that Isaac had inherited?
Well, remember that Esau had earlier chosen to sell his rights as the first born son. In Isaac’s family, these rights also included the responsibility of carrying on the spiritual blessings and promises that God had originally given to Abraham. The problem was that Esau apparently didn’t think very much of these rights as the first born son. However, Esau’s brother Jacob saw the importance of obtaining this birthright for himself and arranged to buy it from Esau in exchange for a bowl of stew.
Later on we saw how Esau decided to marry two local women named Judith and Basemath. Since there is no indication that Esau gave any concern to the character or spiritual beliefs of these women before he married them, it should come as no surprise that “…Esau’s wives made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah” (Genesis 26:35 NLT). So it seems that Esau was a spiritually unconcerned person in regard to his personal relationships as well.
These things should have told Isaac that Esau was not the person that God had chosen to carry on the spiritual responsibilities for his family after his death. Nevertheless, Isaac told Esau to, “…get your weapons… (and) hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die” (Genesis 27:3-4). So it seems that Isaac was determined to give this blessing to Esau despite God’s message to his wife and the evidence of Esau’s own life. The question is, why?
Well, one possible reason was that Isaac simply liked Esau more than he liked Jacob. Remember that Esau was an outdoorsman and Isaac liked to eat what Esau brought back from his hunting trips, according to Genesis 25:27-28. So Isaac was willing to pass along his family’s spiritual heritage to a son who didn’t really deserve it in exchange for a good meal. Unfortunately, this sounds a lot like the same kind of exchange that Esau made when he traded his inheritance to his brother Jacob for a bowl of stew.
In any event, what Isaac didn’t know was that a quick thinking counter-agent was also monitoring this conversation between Isaac and Esau. That person was about to formulate a daring plan to derail what Isaac wanted to do- and we’ll take a look at that plan next.
If you’ve been following along with the story of Isaac, his wife Rebekah, and their sons Esau and Jacob, then you’ve already seen a number of twists and turns within this family soap opera. For example, we’ve seen Isaac express his desire to pass along his inheritance to a son (Esau) who didn’t deserve it. We’ve also seen how Esau was perfectly willing to accept this inheritance anyway despite the fact that he signed those rights away in exchange for a bowl of his brother’s homemade stew.
And now the next player is ready to make her own contribution to this messed up situation…
“Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, ‘Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’
‘Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies'” (Genesis 27:5-10).
Unknown to her husband Isaac, Rebekah was secretly monitoring this conversation between Isaac and Esau. After hearing what Isaac what Isaac had in mind, she immediately launched into an undercover counter plan as soon as Esau left. But before we continue, let’s stop and think about the other options that Rebekah had in choosing her response to Isaac’s plan.
For instance, Rebekah could have spoken to Esau and Isaac together and reminded them of what God had said about her children before they were ever born. She also could have reminded Esau that he no longer had any rights as the oldest son because he had sold those rights to his brother and even swore to it with an oath (see Genesis 25:30-33). But even if Rebekah didn’t want to confront Isaac and Esau together, she still could have stopped Esau before he left and then spoken to Isaac privately.
Unfortunately, Rebekah didn’t choose any of those responses. And as we’ll soon see, her decision to undertake this stealth mission involving Jacob is actually going to make things worse.
“Now do exactly as I tell you. Go out to the flocks and bring me two young goats, and I’ll prepare your father’s favorite dish from them. Then take it to your father, and after he has enjoyed it he will bless you before his death, instead of Esau!” (Genesis 27:8-10 TLB).
We’ve already talked about what Rebekah could have done in this situation; now let’s talk about what she didn’t do.
For example, one thing that Rebekah didn’t do was speak the truth to Isaac and Esau with an attitude of love. In other words, Rebekah wasn’t willing to communicate directly with Isaac and/or Esau about the consequences of their actions in a truthful, loving manner. This concept is something that the Bible will talk about later on in Ephesians 4:15.
You see, Rebekah apparently didn’t understand that there are times when the most loving thing that you can do for someone is to tell them the truth in no uncertain terms. Remember that real love always seeks another person’s highest good, and there may be times when a dose of cold, hard truth spoken with an attitude of love is the only thing that will save someone from really serious trouble.
Something else that Rebekah didn’t do in this situation was to show respect for her husband Isaac. Instead of speaking the truth in love and then trusting God to handle the situation, she chose to engage in a covert operation and secretly undermine her husband with an act of deception. People who actually respect each other don’t interact with little plots and schemes like this, but that’s exactly what Rebekah did.
So Rebekah immediately contacted her son Jacob and said to him, “…listen carefully and do what I tell you” or, “…listen to me as I command you” (NASB), as it says in another translation. This tells us that Rebekah was using her authority as Jacob’s mother to get him to go along with the plan that she was putting together. And what was that plan? Well, as we see in the verse quoted above, Rebekah’s plan was to take an inferior piece of meat and turn it into a meal that was as delicious as anything that Esau was able to hunt down in the field. Then she would give that meal to Jacob who would use it to trick his elderly, blind father into giving him the blessing that he had originally planned on giving to Esau.
However, there was one big problem with this plan- while Isaac may have lost his ability to see, he still hadn’t lost his sense of touch. We’ll see how Rebekah proposed to overcome that problem next.
Jacob realized that there was one big flaw in Rebekah’s plan to deceive his father and obtain the blessing that Isaac had originally intended to give to Esau. Here’s how he identified that problem…
“Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, ‘But my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I’m a man with smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing'” (Genesis 27:11-12).
Look carefully at Jacob’s response in these verses. When Rebekah told him about her plan to deceive Isaac, Jacob didn’t respond by saying,“Is this plan right? Is this plan good? Does this plan honor God?” Instead, Jacob’s only concern seemed to be, “What if I get caught?” In other words, Jacob basically responded by saying, “If Dad catches on to the fact that we’re trying to trick him, he’s going to curse me rather than bless me.” Notice that Jacob doesn’t seem to care if he is being deceptive- he just doesn’t want to get caught being deceptive.
Now at this point, it might be good to step back for a moment and take another look at the players in this little family drama:
- First we have Isaac. He was trying to allow his favoritism of Esau to override what God clearly wanted to do.
- Next up is Isaac’s oldest son Esau. His lifestyle choices indicated that he wasn’t very concerned about the things of God. He was also willing to accept the benefits and privileges that went along with being the eldest son even though he traded those rights for a bowl of homemade stew.
- Then there was Rebekah, Isaac’s wife. She was the mastermind behind this secret plan to cut her oldest son out of the family inheritance by deceiving her husband.
- Finally there’s Jacob, Esau’s twin brother. Jacob doesn’t seem to be concerned about doing something wrong- his main concern seems to be, “What if I get caught doing something wrong?”
Unfortunately, it seems that no one in this family was willing to trust one another; all they seem to be interested in is double-crossing other family members in order to get what they want.
So that covers all the members of Isaac’s family, but there is one additional character in this story who has seemingly been forgotten by everyone else. This fifth person has quietly remained behind the scenes, but has seen and observed everything that’s happened so far. We’ll identify that person and talk about his importance to this story next.
Up till now, the events of Genesis chapter twenty seven have focused on four main personalities- Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob. However, there is a fifth person in this story who has seemingly gone unnoticed by these four main characters. That fifth person is God. You see, Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob have spent this entire chapter planning and scheming over who would receive Isaac’s inheritance and the blessing that went along with it. But here’s the thing that everyone seems to have forgotten: if it wasn’t for God, there wouldn’t be any blessing or inheritance at all!
It appears that each of these four people were under the impression that “Isaac’s blessing” was like some kind of mystic formula or magical enchantment that would automatically guarantee a blessing to anyone who received it. But the truth is that “Isaac’s blessing” didn’t obligate God to do anything. The reality is that Isaac could have given this blessing to Esau (or anyone else), and it would have meant nothing if that person wasn’t God’s choice to receive it.
So while each of these family members wanted God to get on board with their plan, the truth was that it really should have been the other way around. They were the ones who were responsible for getting on board with God’s plan- and they were messing up their opportunity to honor God and become a part of what He wanted to do.
“(Jacob said) ‘What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.’
His mother said to him, ‘My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me'” (Genesis 27:12-13).
If we were to rephrase what Rebekah said with some more up to date language, we might understand her meaning to be this: “If your father figures out what’s going on and decides to put a curse on you, I’ll take that curse upon myself.” Unfortunately, Rebekah is going to deeply regret saying those words, but we’ll talk more about that when we get to the end of this chapter.
So now this secret plan is in place but Rebekah still hasn’t addressed the one big flaw in this plot to deceive her husband. If Isaac somehow came into contact with Jacob during this stealth operation, Isaac would immediately know that Jacob was trying to fool him. We’ll find out how Rebekah intended to get around that problem next.
“So he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made” (Genesis 27:14-17).
So Jacob prepared the steaks and Rebekah cooked them up into a meal that her husband was sure to love. Then she took Esau’s best clothes and gave them to Jacob to wear. And for the finishing touch, Rebekah covered Jacob’s arms and the smooth part of his neck with some goatskins. That would allow Jacob to effectively impersonate his brother if Isaac were to somehow come into contact with him.
Now when you think about everything that Rebekah did to prepare for this deceptive scheme, it’s clear that she came up with a very skillful plan. To illustrate just how clever this plan really was, think about the five senses that human beings possess: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. In order to successfully fool Isaac into giving Jacob this blessing, Rebekah knew that she would have to deliver some convincing (but false) information to these senses- and one mistake could result in some really big trouble.
The key to making this plan work was the fact that Isaac had lost his sight. Since Isaac was no longer able to tell Esau and Jacob apart by sight, that left only four other senses to worry about. So by placing Esau’s clothes on Jacob, Rebekah knew that Isaac would be able to pick up the outdoor scent of Esau’s clothes. Since Esau was a hunter and outdoorsman, Isaac would immediately associate that scent with him.
Then there was the meal that Rebekah prepared- that would take care of the taste part. The goatskins on Jacob’s arms and neck would cover Isaac’s sense of touch. The only remaining sense was Isaac’s sense of hearing. Unfortunately for Rebekah, the only thing that she really couldn’t do was disguise the sound of Jacob’s voice. That represented the one potential flaw in Rebekah’s plan to convince her husband that Jacob was really Esau.
So Rebekah covered three out of Isaac’s remaining four senses. Would that be enough to trick Isaac into doing something that he didn’t want to do? We’ll get the answer to that question over the next few studies.
“He went to his father and said, ‘My father.’ ‘Yes, my son,’ he answered. ‘Who is it?’ Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you may give me your blessing.’
Isaac asked his son, ‘How did you find it so quickly, my son?’ ‘The Lord your God gave me success,’ he replied.
Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.’ Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, ‘The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.’ He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he blessed him. ‘Are you really my son Esau?’ he asked. ‘I am,’ he replied” (Genesis 27:18-24).
There are so many lies in this short conversation that it’s tough to know where to begin. Let’s start with the obvious stuff first. First, Jacob begins by falsely identifying himself as Esau- that’s lie #1. Then Jacob said to his father, “I have done as you told me” which, of course, is untrue because Isaac didn’t tell Jacob to do anything. So that’s lie #2.
Isaac then asked, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?” Isaac apparently realized that it was highly unlikely that someone could…
- Hunt down an animal
- Kill it
- Butcher it
- Cook it
- And get it home-delivered as fast as Jacob did.
Of course, if Isaac only knew that his son’s entire “hunting trip” consisted of chasing down two goats outside the tent, then he wouldn’t have had to ask the question at all. But even so, Isaac seems a little suspicious and Jacob responds with lie #3: “The LORD your God helped me find it” (GNB).
So it wasn’t enough for Jacob to try and deceive his father- he also had to bring God into his deception as well. But Isaac still wasn’t convinced, so he asked once more, “‘Are you really my son Esau?’ ‘Yes, I am,’ Jacob answered” (CEV). This false representation was lie #4 and it was a repeat of the first lie that Jacob spoke to his father. So when you add everything together, you find that Jacob told four lies in the five sentences that he spoke to his father during this conversation.
‘Are you really my son Esau?’ he asked. ‘I am,’ (Jacob) replied” (Genesis 27:24).
Jacob lied four times during the short conversation that he had with his father in Genesis 27:18-24, so it seems that he didn’t have a problem with telling as many lies as necessary to get what he wanted. Unfortunately, things haven’t changed very much because many people seem to share this very same attitude today. In fact, lying comes so naturally to so many people in our world that it’s sometimes surprising to find examples where people actually tell the truth.
While lying often seems to be easier than telling the truth (at least in the beginning), people who lie sometimes find that this is not always true. For example, one problem with lying is that “small” lies don’t always stay small. You see, small lies have a tendency to get out of hand quickly and many people who have been caught in a lie know that small lies can turn into big lies really fast.
Then there are the excuses that people sometimes use to rationalize a lie. For instance, people will often try to explain away a lie by saying that they lied about something small or unimportant. Of course, the problem is that once someone lies about a small thing, then how do you know that he or she won’t lie about something big as well? The truth is that telling a lie (even a small one) still makes the person who told the lie a liar. A lie is still a lie even if it had to do with something small.
Another problem is that lying eventually causes others to become suspicious and distrustful of the person who told the lie. Wherever suspicion and distrust exists, it’s almost impossible to have close, God honoring friendships and relationships with others. This is one reason why the New Testament book of Ephesians says, “So from now on, there must be no more lies: You must speak the truth to one another since we are all parts of one another” (Ephesians 4:25 JB). In a world where lying is so widespread and honest answers are hard to come by, people will give you respect if you develop a reputation for telling the truth.
Remember that God is a God of truth (Psalm 31:5) and does not lie (Titus 1:2). This means that lying is something that is totally outside the character of God and someone who tells the truth (even when it may be uncomfortable) is someone who is following God’s example of honesty and integrity.
So far, Jacob has managed to convince his elderly, blind father that he was Esau, the son that his father had chosen to receive his inheritance. But there was still one last test for Jacob to pass…
“Then he said, ‘My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.’ Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, ‘Come here, my son, and kiss me.’ So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, ‘Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed'” (Genesis 27:25-27).
Apparently, Esau wasn’t the kind of guy who was interested in smelling good because Isaac basically just said that Esau smelled like a pasture. But Esau’s personal hygiene wasn’t Isaac’s problem- what was Isaac’s problem was the fact that he was about to make a decision based only on what his senses told him- what he could touch, smell, and taste.
So what’s the issue with that? Well, the issue was that Isaac never asked God for His guidance, direction, or input before making this decision. Isaac never prayed or asked God to verify the truth of what his senses were telling him. You see, the person who only relies on what he or she can see, hear, or feel may not be getting all the information that God can provide. While it’s true that there is a basic reliability to sense perception, it’s also possible to be fooled by what our senses tell us, just as Isaac was here.
Isaac could have avoided this deception simply by asking God to help him detect the truth about what was going on. But he chose not to. The most likely reason for this is that Isaac already knew what God wanted him to do but he didn’t want to do it. Isaac was determined to give this inheritance to Esau even though God had earlier told his wife Rebekah that his younger son (Jacob) would have authority over his older son (Esau -see Genesis 25:23). Since Esau was Isaac’s favorite son (Genesis 25:28), giving this inheritance to Jacob probably wasn’t something that Isaac really wanted to do.
It’s possible that Isaac didn’t ask for God’s help because he already knew that God would tell him something that he didn’t want to hear. Unfortunately, Isaac didn’t realize that his responsibility was to get in line with what God wanted to do and not the other way around. That’s one reason why he was open to this deception.
Since Isaac was now convinced that he was speaking to Esau (even though he really wasn’t), he decided to go ahead and pronounce a tremendous blessing upon his son…
“May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness – an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed” (Genesis 27:28-29).
Some of the phrases used in this blessing (like “[the] earth’s richness” and “an abundance of grain and new wine”) imply that the person receiving the blessing will enjoy a tremendous amount of prosperity. So Isaac clearly wanted to make sure that Esau received “the best of the best” in this blessing.
But it didn’t stop there: “May many nations become your servants, and may they bow down to you. May you be the master over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. All who curse you will be cursed, and all who bless you will be blessed” (Amplified Bible). As you might expect, this blessing was designed to provide Esau with a leadership position within his family. But this blessing actually went far beyond that because it also provided Esau with a leadership position among others as well.
So Isaac had now officially completed his responsibility to pass along the inheritance and promises that he received from his father Abraham, who had received them from God (see Genesis 12:3). From Isaac’s point of view, everything had worked out great. First, he got to enjoy a great meal and then he was able to successfully pass along the family inheritance to his favorite son- not the other son who was his wife’s favorite. But Isaac is about to find out that things had not worked out quite the way that he planned…
“After Isaac finished blessing him and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, ‘My father, sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.’ His father Isaac asked him, ‘Who are you?’ ‘I am your son,’ he answered, ‘your firstborn, Esau”’ (Genesis 27:30-32).
Uh-oh. Isaac must have been feeling pretty good about the way things had worked out- at least until Esau showed up to receive the blessing that he had unknowingly just given to Jacob.
Now that he had been tricked into giving his blessing to Jacob instead of Esau, Isaac is about to come to the full realization of what he had done…
“Isaac trembled violently and said, ‘Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him – and indeed he will be blessed!'” (Genesis 27:33).
Isaac was clearly staggered as he tried to grasp what had just happened. In fact, the shock and astonishment that Isaac felt affected him to the point where he actually began to lose the ability to control himself.
But why would Isaac be so traumatized over what had just occurred? Well, Isaac tried to do what he wanted to do and ignore what God wanted- and he got caught. Even though Isaac tried to manipulate these circumstances for his own purposes, God easily worked around him to do what He wanted to do. This realization shook Isaac to the core as he began to understand just how close he actually came to putting himself on the opposite side of God. That was a bad place to be and Isaac knew it.
So Isaac was emotionally shaken by what had happened, but Esau had some feelings of his own about what he had just lost…
“When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, ‘Bless me – me too, my father!'” (Genesis 27:34).
As we’ve already seen, Esau was the kind of guy who didn’t care very much for spiritual things. We saw a demonstration of Esau’s uncaring attitude towards the things of God when he decided to sell out his spiritual heritage in exchange for bowl of stew (see Genesis 25:29-34). However, when it came time to receive a blessing that included things like, “…an abundance of grain and new wine…” and the opportunity to have “…nations serve you and peoples bow down to you….” then Esau was definitely interested. But Esau lost his opportunity to receive those other blessings when he turned his back on the things of God. That’s one reason why the Scriptures provide us with this warning…
“Watch out that no one becomes involved in sexual sin or becomes careless about God as Esau did: he traded his rights as the oldest son for a single meal. And afterwards, when he wanted those rights back again, it was too late, even though he wept bitter tears of repentance. So remember, and be careful” (Hebrews 12:16-17 TLB).
So Esau lost the blessing that his father wanted to give him- and it didn’t take very long to identify the culprit…
“…he said, ‘Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.’ Esau said, ‘Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!'” (Genesis 27:25-36a).
Esau’s response to his father about what Jacob had done was basically this: “When you named my brother ‘deceiver’ and ‘con-man,’ you sure gave him the right name. This is the second time that he has cheated me- first he took my birthright and now he has my blessing too.” Of course, Esau conveniently forgot that he was the one who willingly sold his birthright for a bowl of stew, but that didn’t stop him from blaming Jacob for the fact that he made a bad deal.
So what lesson can we learn from Esau’s example? Well, even though it was too late for Esau to reclaim what he had lost, it’s not too late for anyone who is determined to avoid his example. You see, God has also provided His followers today with some blessings as well- things like time, talent, skills, abilities, and opportunities to do some real good in the world. The question is, what will you do with those blessings? Will you trade them for something of little value (like Esau) or will you invest those things in a way that honors God?
Remember that time is short and the opportunities that are available to you now won’t last forever. That means that today is the day to do great things for God. There’s no guarantee that there will be a tomorrow, and you can’t change anything that happened yesterday. The Scriptures tell us that “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others” (1 Peter 4:10). This statement is important for two reasons. First, it implies that every Christian has received a gift from God in the form of some talent, skill, or ability. Secondly, that gift -whatever it is- has a specific purpose: to serve others.
This means that you don’t “own” your talents, so to speak- you are simply a manager of those abilities that God has given you. If you aren’t using those talents, skills, and abilities that God has given you (or if you’re using them in an inappropriate way), then you aren’t fulfilling your responsibility to use them to help and serve others.
Esau let a valuable blessing from God slip away- don’t make the same mistake.
Even though Esau had now lost everything that Isaac wanted to give him, he decided to make one last desperate attempt to obtain some sort of blessing from his father…
“Then he asked, ‘Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?” Isaac answered Esau, ‘I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?’
Esau said to his father, ‘Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!’ Then Esau wept aloud.
His father Isaac answered him, ‘Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck'” (Genesis 27:36b-40).
This probably wasn’t the kind of blessing that Esau was looking for, but there really wasn’t very much left for Esau since Isaac had basically given Jacob everything. However, this “secondary blessing” that we read about here did eventually come to pass.
You see, Esau’s descendants came to be known as the Edomites, a name that was developed from Esau’s nickname Edom (see Genesis 25:30 and 36:9), As time passed, the Edomites came to populate the area that we know today as the country of Jordan. This location featured some areas with desert-like conditions and fulfilled Isaac’s prediction that, “…The place where you live will lack the fertile fields of the earth and the dew from the sky above” (GW).
The Scriptures also go on to tell us that Esau’s descendants (the Edomites) came to oppose and revolt against the Israelites, the descendants of Esau’s brother Jacob. For example, the Edomites once mobilized their armed forces with a threat to kill the people of Israel when Israel asked for permission to pass through a land area that was under Edom’s control (see Numbers 20:14-21). Later on, the people of Edom succeeded in breaking away from the control of Jacob’s descendants and established their own government, just as Isaac said they eventually would (see 2 Kings 8:20-22).
Now as you might expect, Esau wasn’t very happy about what his brother had done and it wasn’t long before he started to think about taking revenge. But someone found out about Esau’s plan to pay back his brother and we’ll see what that person decided to do about it next.
So Jacob had managed to get away with the inheritance that Esau desperately wanted, but there was nothing that Esau could do about it- except to start plotting his revenge…
“Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob'” (Genesis 27:41).
The plan that Esau had in mind was simple: “It won’t be long before my father passes away. Once he dies, I’m going to kill my brother Jacob for what he did to me.” But once again, the very same person who overhead Isaac’s original plan to bless Esau found out about this new plan as well…
“When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, ‘Your brother Esau is consoling himself with the thought of killing you. Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran. Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides.
When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?'” (Genesis 27:42-45).
Here was the problem that Rebekah was concerned about: if Esau killed Jacob, then Esau would face the death penalty from another member of the family in order to avenge his brother’s death. Rebekah didn’t want that to happen and that’s why she said, “Why should I lose both of you in one day?”
So Rebekah’s plan was to get Jacob out of sight as quickly as possible. The way she proposed to do that was by sending Jacob to stay with her brother Laban in the town of Haran. Since Haran was about five hundred miles (800 km) away, it was a good place for Jacob to go and hide out for awhile until things settled down.
Now it seems that Rebekah was under the impression that Jacob would only had to leave for a short time; then he could come back again once Esau had the opportunity to cool down a little. What Rebekah didn’t know was that once Jacob left, it would be twenty years before he would return. Unfortunately, this also meant that it will be the last time that Rebekah will ever see her favorite son. By the time Jacob returns from Haran, Rebekah will be dead.
Now that she had learned of Esau’s plan to kill Jacob, Rebekah knew that she had to get Jacob out of town fast. But Rebekah also knew that her husband Isaac would question her if their son simply left without any reason. What she needed was a “cover story” to explain why Jacob had to get away -and here was the idea that she came up with…
“Then Rebekah said to Isaac, ‘I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living'” (Genesis 27:46).
In the last chapter, we saw how Esau married two women who belonged to a local group known as the Hittites. Since the Hittites were not normally followers of God, it’s likely that Esau’s wives did not exert a very good influence on him. Because of this, it’s not surprising to learn that,“…Esau’s wives made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah” (Genesis 26:35 NLT).
Since Esau’s wives had already brought grief to Isaac and Rebekah, the thought of Jacob marrying someone similar was sure to be a major problem for Isaac. So by saying, “I’m sick and tired of these local Hittite women! I would rather die than see Jacob marry one of them” (NLT), Rebekah cleverly planted the suggestion that Jacob needed to get away from that area in order to find a good marriage partner. The truth however, was that Jacob really needed to get away from that area in order to save his life.
So in the end, it’s clear that all four members of this family made some major mistakes…
- First, there was Isaac. His plan to evade God’s direction made him look really bad; it totally failed and left Esau with nothing.
- Then there was Rebekah. She was shown to be a devious and deceitful person. Her plan succeeded, but she never saw her favorite son ever again.
- Esau lost his inheritance because he had no interest or concern for his Creator. When he realized his mistake, it was too late to regain what he had lost.
- Jacob got what he wanted but he is going to pay a heavy price. You see, Jacob was going away to stay with his uncle Laban, but he will soon find out just how cunning, manipulative, and deceitful his uncle Laban really was.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “We make our own plans, but the LORD decides where we will go” (CEV). Everything we’ve seen in Genesis chapter 27 illustrates the truth of that proverb and it also reminds us not to make these same mistakes.