Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible
In this chapter we return to the typical story of the struggle between Esau and Jacob. Esau had profanely sold the birthright to Jacob but Esau hopes he shall be never the poorer, nor Jacob the richer, for that bargain, while he preserves his interest in his father's affections, and so secures the blessing. Here therefore we find how he was justly punished for his contempt of the birthright (of which he foolishly deprived himself) with the loss of the blessing, of which Jacob fraudulently deprives him. Thus this story is explained, Hebrews 12:16,17, "Because he sold the birthright, when he would have inherited the blessing he was rejected." For those that make light of the name and profession of religion, and throw them away for a trifle, thereby forfeit the powers and privileges of it. We have here, I. Isaac's purpose to entail the blessing upon Esau, Genesis 27:1-5. II. Rebekah's plot to procure it for Jacob, Genesis 27:6-17. III. Jacob's successful management of the plot, and his obtaining the blessing, Genesis 27:18-29. IV. Esau's resentment of this, in which, 1. His great importunity with his father to obtain a blessing, Genesis 27:30-40. 2. His great enmity to his brother for defrauding him of the first blessing, Genesis 27:41-46, &c.
1And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I. 2And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death: 3Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison 4And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat that my soul may bless thee before I die. 5 And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it.
Here is, I. Isaac's design to make his will, and to declare Esau his heir. The promise of the Messiah and the land of Canaan was a great trust, first committed to Abraham, inclusive and typical of spiritual and eternal blessings this, by divine direction, he transmitted to Isaac. Isaac, being now old, and not knowing, or not understanding, or not duly considering, the divine oracle concerning his two sons, that the elder should serve the younger, resolves to entail all the honour and power that were wrapped up in the promise upon Esau his eldest son. In this he was governed more by natural affection, and the common method of settlements, than he ought to have been, if he knew (as it is probable he did) the intimations God had given of his mind in this matter. Note, We are very apt to take our measures rather from our own reason than from divine revelation, and thereby often miss our way we think the wise and learned, the mighty and noble, should inherit the promise but God sees not as man sees. See 1 Samuel 16:6,7.
II. The directions he gave to Esau, pursuant to this design. He calls him to him, Genesis 27:1. For Esau, though married, had not yet removed and, though he had greatly grieved his parents by his marriage, yet they had not expelled him, but it seems were pretty well reconciled to him, and made the best of it. Note, Parents that are justly offended at their children yet must not be implacable towards them.
1. He tells him upon what considerations he resolved to do this now (Genesis 27:2): "I am old, and therefore must die shortly, yet I know not the day of my death, nor when I must die I will therefore do that at this time which must be done some time." Note, (1.) Old people should be reminded by the growing infirmities of age to do quickly, and with all the little might they have, what their hand finds to do. See Joshua 13:1. (2.) The consideration of the uncertainty of the time of our departure out of the world (about which God has wisely kept us in the dark) should quicken us to do the work of the day in its day. The heart and the house should both be set, and kept, in order, because at such an hour as we think not the Son of man comes because we know not the day of our death, we are concerned to mind the business of life.
2. He bids him to get things ready for the solemnity of executing his last will and testament, by which he designed to make him his heir, Genesis 27:3,4. Esau must go a hunting, and bring some venison, which his father will eat of, and then bless him. In this he designed, not so much the refreshment of his own spirits, that he might give the blessing in a lively manner, as it is commonly taken, but rather the receiving of a fresh instance of his son's filial duty and affection to him, before he bestowed this favour upon him. Perhaps Esau, since he had married, had brought his venison to his wives, and seldom to his father, as formerly (Genesis 25:28), and therefore Isaac, before he would bless him, would have him show this piece of respect to him. Note, It is fit, if the less be blessed of the greater, that the greater should be served and honoured by the less. He says, That my soul may bless thee before I die. Note, (1.) Prayer is the work of the soul, and not of the lips only as the soul must be employed in blessing God (Psalm 103:1), so it must be in blessing ourselves and others: the blessing will not come to the heart if it do not come from the heart. (2.) The work of life must be done before we die, for it cannot be done afterwards (Ecclesiastes 9:10) and it is very desirable, when we come to die, to have nothing else to do but to die. Isaac lived above forty years after this let none therefore think that they shall die the sooner for making their wills and getting ready for death.
6 And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying, 7 Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the LORD before my death. 8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee. 9 Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth: 10 And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death. 11And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man: 12My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing. 13And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them. 14And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made savoury meat, such as his father loved. 15 And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son: 16 And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck: 17 And she gave the savoury meat and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.
Rebekah is here contriving to procure for Jacob the blessing which was designed for Esau and here,
I. The end was good, for she was directed in this intention by the oracle of God, by which she had been governed in dispensing her affections. God had said it should be so, that the elder should serve the younger and therefore Rebekah resolves it shall be so, and cannot bear to see her husband designing to thwart the oracle of God. But,
II. The means were bad, and no way justifiable. If it was not a wrong to Esau to deprive him of the blessing (he himself having forfeited it by selling the birthright), yet it was a wrong to Isaac, taking advantage of his infirmity, to impose upon him it was a wrong to Jacob too, whom she taught to deceive, by putting a lie into his mouth, or at least by putting one into his right hand. It would likewise expose him to endless scruples about the blessing, if he should obtain it thus fraudulently, whether it would stand him or his in any stead, especially if his father should revoke it, upon the discovery of the cheat, and plead, as he might, that it was nulled by an error personæ --a mistake of the person. He himself also was aware of the danger, lest (Genesis 27:12), if he should miss of the blessing, as he might probably have done, he should bring upon himself his father's curse, which he dreaded above any thing besides, he laid himself open to that divine curse which is pronounced upon him that causeth the blind to wander out of the way, Deuteronomy 27:18. If Rebekah, when she heard Isaac promise the blessing to Esau, had gone, at his return from hunting, to Isaac, and, with humility and seriousness, put him in remembrance of that which God had said concerning their sons,--if she further had shown him how Esau had forfeited the blessing both by selling his birthright and by marrying strange wives, it is probable that Isaac would have been prevailed upon knowingly and wittingly to confer the blessing upon Jacob, and needed not thus to have been cheated into it. This would have been honourable and laudable, and would have looked well in the history but God left her to herself, to take this indirect course, that he might have the glory of bringing good out of evil, and of serving his own purposes by the sins and follies of men, and that we might have the satisfaction of knowing that, though there is so much wickedness and deceit in the world, God governs it according to his will, to his own praise. See Job 12:16, With him are strength and wisdom, the deceived and the deceiver are his. Isaac had lost the sense of seeing, which, in this case, could not have been imposed upon, Providence having so admirably well ordered the difference of features that no two faces are exactly alike: conversation and commerce could scarcely be maintained if there were not such a variety. Therefore she endeavours to deceive, 1. His sense of tasting, by dressing some choice pieces of kid, seasoning them, serving them up, so as to make him believe they were venison: this it was no hard matter to do. See the folly of those that are nice and curious in their appetite, and take a pride in humouring it. It is easy to impose upon them with that which they pretend to despise and dislike, so little perhaps does it differ from that to which they give a decided preference. Solomon tells us that dainties are deceitful meat for it is possible for us to be deceived by them in more ways than one, Proverbs 23:32. 2. His sense of feeling and smelling. She put Esau's clothes upon Jacob, his best clothes, which, it might be supposed, Esau would put on, in token of joy and respect to his father, when he was to receive the blessing. Isaac knew these, by the stuff, shape, and smell, to be Esau's. If we would obtain a blessing from our heavenly Father, we must come for it in the garments of our elder brother, clothed with his righteousness, who is the first-born among many brethren. Lest the smoothness and softness of Jacob's hands and neck should betray him, she covered them, and probably part of his face, with the skins of the kids that were newly killed, Genesis 27:16. Esau was rough indeed when nothing less than these would serve to make Jacob like him. Those that affect to seem rough and rugged in their carriage put the beast upon the man, and really shame themselves, by thus disguising themselves. And, lastly, it was a very rash word which Rebekah spoke, when Jacob objected the danger of a curse: Upon me be thy curse, my son, Genesis 27:13. Christ indeed, who is mighty to save, because mighty to bear, has said, Upon me be the curse, only obey my voice he has borne the burden of the curse, the curse of the law, for all those that will take upon them the yoke of the command, the command of the gospel. But it is too daring for any creature to say, Upon me be the curse, unless it be that curse causeless which we are sure shall not come, Proverbs 26:2.
18 And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I who art thou, my son? 19 And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me. 20 And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the LORD thy God brought it to me. 21And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not. 22And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. 23And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau's hands: so he blessed him. 24And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am. 25 And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son's venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank. 26 And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son. 27 And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed: 28 Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: 29 Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.
Observe here, I. The art and assurance with which Jacob managed this intrigue. Who would have thought that this plain man could have played his part so well in a design of this nature? His mother having put him in the way of it, and encouraged him in it, he dexterously applied himself to those methods which he had never accustomed himself to, but had always conceived an abhorrence of. Note, Lying is soon learnt. The psalmist speaks of those who, as soon as they are born, speak lies, Psalm 58:3; Jeremiah 9:5. I wonder how honest Jacob could so readily turn his tongue to say (Genesis 27:19), I am Esau thy first-born nor do I see how the endeavour of some to bring him off with that equivocation, I am made thy first-born, namely by purchase, does him any service for when his father asked him (Genesis 27:24), Art thou my very son Esau? he said, I am. How could he say, I have done as thou badest me, when he had received no command from his father, but was doing as his mother bade him? How could he say, Eat of my venison, when he knew it came, not from the field, but from the fold? But especially I wonder how he could have the assurance to father it upon God, and to use his name in the cheat (Genesis 27:20): The Lord thy God brought it to me. Is this Jacob? Is this Israel indeed, without guile? It is certainly written, not for our imitation, but for our admonition. Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. Good men have sometimes failed in the exercise of those graces for which they have been most eminent.
II. The success of this management. Jacob with some difficulty gained his point, and obtained the blessing.
1. Isaac was at first dissatisfied, and would have discovered the fraud if he could have trusted his own ears for the voice was Jacob's voice, Genesis 27:22. Providence has ordered a strange variety of voices as well as faces, which is also of use to prevent our being imposed upon and the voice is a thing not easily disguised nor counterfeited. This may be alluded to to illustrate the character of a hypocrite. His voice is Jacob's voice, but his hands are Esau's. He speaks the language of a saint, but does the works of a sinner but the judgment will be, as here, by the hands.
2. At length he yielded to the power of the cheat, because the hands were hairy (Genesis 27:23), not considering how easy it was to counterfeit that circumstance and now Jacob carries it on dexterously, sets his venison before his father, and waits at table very officiously, till dinner is done, and the blessing comes to be pronounced in the close of this solemn feast. That which in some small degree extenuates the crime of Rebekah and Jacob is that the fraud was intended, not so much to hasten the fulfilling, as to prevent the thwarting, of the oracle of God: the blessing was just going to be put upon the wrong head, and they thought it was time to bestir themselves. Now let us see how Isaac gave Jacob his blessing, Genesis 27:26-29. (1.) He embraced him, in token of a particular affection to him. Those that are blessed of God are kissed with the kisses of his mouth, and they do, by love and loyalty, kiss the Son, Psalm 2:12. (2.) He praised him. He smelt the smell of his raiment, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed, that is, like that of the most fragrant flowers and spices. It appeared that God had blessed him, and therefore Isaac would bless him. (3.) He prayed for him, and therein prophesied concerning him. It is the duty of parents to pray for their children, and to bless them in the name of the Lord. And thus, as well as by their baptism, to do what they can to preserve and perpetuate the entail of the covenant in their families. But this was an extraordinary blessing and Providence so ordered it that Isaac should bestow it upon Jacob ignorantly and by mistake, that it might appear he was beholden to God for it, and not to Isaac. Three things Jacob is here blessed with:-- [1.] Plenty (Genesis 27:28), heaven and earth concurring to make him rich. [2.] Power (Genesis 27:29), particularly dominion over his brethren, namely, Esau and his posterity. [3.] Prevalency with God, and a great interest in Heaven: "Cursed by every one that curseth thee and blessed be he that blesseth thee. Let God be a friend to all thy friends, and an enemy to all thy enemies." More is certainly comprised in this blessing than appears prima facie--at first sight. It must amount to an entail of the promise of the Messiah, and of the church this was, in the patriarchal dialect, the blessing: something spiritual, doubtless, is included in it. First, That from him should come the Messiah, who should have a sovereign dominion on earth. It was that top-branch of his family which people should serve and nations bow down to. See Numbers 24:19, Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, the star and sceptre, Numbers 24:17. Jacob's dominion over Esau was to be only typical of this, Genesis 49:10. Secondly, That from him should come the church, which should be particularly owned and favoured by Heaven. It was part of the blessing of Abraham, when he was first called to be the father of the faithful Genesis 12:3), I will bless those that bless thee therefore, when Isaac afterwards confirmed the blessing to Jacob, he called it the blessing of Abraham, Genesis 28:4. Balaam explains this too, Numbers 24:9. Note, It is the best and most desirable blessing to stand in relation to Christ and his church, and to be interested in Christ's power and the church's favours.
30 And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. 31And he also had made savoury meat, and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son's venison, that thy soul may bless me. 32And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau. 33And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed. 34And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. 35 And he said, Thy brother came with subtlety, and hath taken away thy blessing. 36 And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me? 37 And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son? 38 And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept. 39 And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above 40 And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.
Here is, I. The covenant-blessing denied to Esau. He that made so light of the birthright would now have inherited the blessing, but he was rejected, and found no place of repentance in his father, though he sought it carefully with tears, Hebrews 12:17. Observe, 1. How carefully he sought it. He prepared the savoury meat, as his father had directed him, and then begged the blessing which his father had encouraged him to expect, Genesis 27:31. When he understood that Jacob had obtained it surreptitiously, he cried with a great and exceedingly bitter cry, Genesis 27:34. No man could have laid the disappointment more to heart than he did he made his father's tent to ring with his grief, and again (Genesis 27:38) lifted up his voice and wept. Note, The day is coming when those that now make light of the blessings of the covenant, and sell their title to them for a thing of nought, will in vain be importunate for them. Those that will not so much as ask and seek now will knock shortly, and cry, Lord, Lord. Slighters of Christ will then be humble suitors to him. 2. How he was rejected. Isaac, when first made sensible of the imposition that had been practised on him, trembled exceedingly, Genesis 27:33. Those that follow the choice of their own affections, rather than the dictates of the divine will, involve themselves in such perplexities as these. But he soon recovers himself, and ratifies the blessing he had given to Jacob: I have blessed him, and he shall be blessed he might, upon very plausible grounds, have recalled it, but now, at last, he is sensible that he was in an error when he designed it for Esau. Either himself recollecting the divine oracle, or rather having found himself more than ordinarily filled with the Holy Ghost when he gave the blessing to Jacob, he perceived that God did, as it were, say Amen to it. Now, (1.) Jacob was hereby confirmed in his possession of the blessing, and abundantly satisfied of the validity of it, though he obtained it fraudulently hence too he had reason to hope that God graciously overlooked and pardoned his misconduct. (2.) Isaac hereby acquiesced in the will of God, though it contradicted his own expectations and affection. He had a mind to give Esau the blessing, but, when he perceived the will of God was otherwise, he submitted and this he did by faith (Hebrews 11:20), as Abraham before him, when he had solicited for Ishmael. May not God do what he will with his own? (3.) Esau hereby was cut off from the expectation of that special blessing which he thought to have preserved to himself when he sold his birthright. We, by this instance, are taught, [1.] That it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy, Romans 9:16. The apostle seems to allude to this story. Esau had a good will to the blessing, and ran for it but God that showed mercy designed it for Jacob, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, Romans 9:11. The Jews, like Esau, hunted after the law of righteousness (Romans 9:31), yet missed of the blessing of righteousness, because they sought it by the works of the law (Romans 9:32) while the Gentiles, who, like Jacob, sought it by faith in the oracle of God, obtained it by force, with that violence which the kingdom of heaven suffers. See Matthew 11:12. [2.] That those who undervalue their spiritual birthright, and can afford to sell it for a morsel of meat, forfeit spiritual blessings, and it is just with God to deny them those favours they were careless of. Those that will part with their wisdom and grace, with their faith and a good conscience, for the honours, wealth, or pleasures, of this world, however they may pretend a zeal for the blessing, have already judged themselves unworthy of it, and so shall their doom be. [3.] That those who lift up hands in wrath lift them up in vain. Esau, instead of repenting of his own folly, reproached his brother, unjustly charged him with taking away the birthright which he had fairly sold to him (Genesis 27:36), and conceived malice against him for what he had now done, Genesis 27:41. Those are not likely to speed in prayer who turn those resentments upon their brethren which they should turn upon themselves, and lay the blame of their miscarriages upon others, when they should take shame to themselves. [4.] That those who seek not till it is too late will be rejected. This was the ruin of Esau, he did not come in time. As there is an accepted time, a time when God will be found, so there is a time when he will not answer those that call upon him, because they neglected the appointed season. See Proverbs 1:28. The time of God's patience and our probation will not last always the day of grace will come to an end, and the door will be shut. Then many that now despise the blessing will seek it carefully for then they will know how to value it, and will see themselves undone, for ever undone, without it, but to no purpose, Luke 13:25-27. O that we would therefore, in this our day, know the things that belong to our peace!
II. Here is a common blessing bestowed upon Esau.
1. This he desired: Bless me also, Genesis 27:34. Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me? Genesis 27:36. Note, (1.) The worst of men know how to wish well to themselves and even those who profanely sell their birthright seem piously to desire the blessing. Faint desires of happiness, without a right choice of the end and a right use of the means, deceive many into their own ruin. Multitudes go to hell with their mouths full of good wishes. The desire of the slothful and unbelieving kills them. Many will seek to enter in, as Esau, who shall not be able, because they do not strive, Luke 13:24. (2.) It is the folly of most men that they are willing to take up with any good (Psalm 4:6), as Esau here, who desired but a second-rate blessing, a blessing separated from the birthright. Profane hearts think any blessing as good as that from God's oracle: Hast thou but one? As if he had said, "I will take up with any: though I have not the blessing of the church, yet let me have some blessing."
2. This he had and let him make his best of it, Genesis 27:39,40.
(1.) It was a good thing, and better than he deserved. It was promised him, [1.] That he should have a competent livelihood--the fatness of the earth, and the dew of heaven. Note, Those that come short of the blessings of the covenant may yet have a very good share of outward blessings. God gives good ground and good weather to many that reject his covenant, and have no part nor lot in it. [2.] That by degrees he should recover his liberty. If Jacob must rule (Genesis 27:29), Esau must serve but he has this to comfort him, he shall live by his sword. He shall serve, but he shall not starve and, at length, after much skirmishing, he shall break the yoke of bondage, and wear marks of freedom. This was fulfilled (2 Kings 8:20,22) when the Edomites revolted.
(2.) Yet it was far short of Jacob's blessing. For him God had reserved some better thing. [1.] In Jacob's blessing the dew of heaven is put first, as that which he most valued, and desired, and depended upon in Esau's the fatness of the earth is put first, for it was this that he had the first and principal regard to. [2.] Esau has these, but Jacob has them from God's hand: God give thee the dew of heaven, Genesis 27:28. It was enough to Esau to have the possession but Jacob desired it by promise, and to have it from covenant-love. [3.] Jacob shall have dominion over his brethren: hence the Israelites often ruled over the Edomites. Esau shall have dominion, that is, he shall gain some power and interest, but shall never have dominion over his brother: we never find that the Jews were sold into the hands of the Edomites, or that they oppressed them. But the great difference in that there is nothing in Esau's blessing that points at Christ, nothing that brings him or his into the church and covenant of God, without which the fatness of the earth, and the plunder of the field, will stand him in little stead. Thus Isaac by faith blessed them both according as their lot should be. Some observe that Jacob was blessed with a kiss (Genesis 27:27), so was not Esau.
41And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand then will I slay my brother Jacob. 42And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee. 43Now therefore, my son, obey my voice and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran 44And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother's fury turn away 45 Until thy brother's anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day? 46 And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?
Here is, I. The malice Esau bore to Jacob upon account of the blessing which he had obtained, Genesis 27:41. Thus he went in the way of Cain, who slew his brother because he had gained that acceptance with God of which he had rendered himself unworthy. Esau's hatred of Jacob was, 1. A causeless hatred. He hated him for no other reason but because his father blessed him and God loved him. Note, The happiness of saints is the envy of sinners. Whom Heaven blesses, hell curses. 2. It was a cruel hatred. Nothing less would satisfy him than to slay his brother. It is the blood of the saints that persecutors thirst after: I will slay my brother. How could he say that word without horror? How could he call him brother, and yet vow his death? Note, The rage of persecutors will not be tied up by any bonds, no, not the strongest and most sacred. 3. It was a politic hatred. He expected his father would soon die, and then titles must be tried and interests contested between the brothers, which would give him a fair opportunity for revenge. He thinks it not enough to live by his sword himself (Genesis 27:40), unless his brother die by it. He is loth to grieve his father while he lives, and therefore puts off the intended murder till his death, not caring how much he then grieved his surviving mother. Note, (1.) Those are bad children to whom their good parents are a burden, and who, upon any account, long for the days of mourning for them. (2.) Bad men are long held in by external restraints from doing the mischief they would do, and so their wicked purposes come to nought. (3.) Those who think to defeat God's purposes will undoubtedly be disappointed themselves. Esau aimed to prevent Jacob, or his seed, from having the dominion, by taking away his life before he was married but who can disannul what God has spoken? Men may fret at God's counsels, but cannot change them.
II. The method Rebekah took to prevent the mischief.
1. She gave Jacob warning of his danger, and advised him to withdraw for a while, and shift for his own safety. She tells him what she heard of Esau's design, that he comforted himself with the hope of an opportunity to kill his brother, Genesis 27:42. Would one think that such a bloody barbarous thought as this could be a comfort to a man? If Esau could have kept his design to himself his mother would not have suspected it but men's impudence in sin is often their infatuation and they cannot accomplish their wickedness because their rage is too violent to be concealed, and a bird of the air carries the voice. Observe here, (1.) What Rebekah feared--lest she should be deprived of them both in one day (Genesis 27:45), deprived, not only of the murdered, but of the murderer, who either by the magistrate, or by the immediate hand of God, would by sacrificed to justice, which she herself must acquiesce in, and not obstruct: or, if not so, yet thenceforward she would be deprived of all joy and comfort in him. Those that are lost to virtue are in a manner lost to all their friends. With what pleasure can a child be looked upon that can be looked upon as no other than a child of the devil? (2.) What Rebekah hoped--that, if Jacob for a while kept out of sight, the affront which his brother resented so fiercely would by degrees go out of mind. The strength of passions is weakened and taken off by the distances both of time and place. She promised herself that his brother's anger would turn away. Note, Yielding pacifies great offences and even those that have a good cause, and God on their side, must yet use this with other prudent expedients for their own preservation.
2. She impressed Isaac with an apprehension of the necessity of Jacob's going among her relations upon another account, which was to take a wife, Genesis 27:46. She would not tell him of Esau's wicked design against the life of Jacob, lest it should trouble him but prudently took another way to gain her point. Isaac saw as uneasy as he was to Esau's being unequally yoked with Hittites and therefore, with a very good colour of reason, she moves to have Jacob married to one that was better principled. Note, One miscarriage should serve as a warning to prevent another those are careless indeed that stumble twice at the same stone. Yet Rebekah seems to have expressed herself somewhat too warmly in the matter, when she said, What good will my life do me if Jacob marry a Canaanite? Thanks be to God, all our comfort is not lodged in one hand we may do the work of life, and enjoy the comforts of life, though every thing do not fall out to our mind, and though our relations be not in all respects agreeable to us. Perhaps Rebekah spoke with this concern because she saw it necessary, for the quickening of Isaac, to give speedy orders in this matter. Observe, Though Jacob was himself very towardly, and well fixed in his religion, yet he had need to be put out of the way of temptation. Even he was in danger both of following the bad example of his brother and of being drawn into a snare by it. We must not presume too far upon the wisdom and resolution, no, not of those children that are most hopeful and promising but care must be taken to keep them out of harm's way.
Sunday, February 26th, 2017
Transfiguration Sunday / the Last Sunday after Epiphany
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