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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Genesis 27



Verse 1



(1) It came to pass.—The importance of this chapter is manifest. Just as in Abraham’s life the decision had to be made which of the two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, was to be the heir of the promise, so, here again, there is the same Divine election (Romans 9:10-13): but while Abraham obeyed, though with heavy heart (Genesis 21:11), Isaac even struggled against God’s will, and his assent was obtained by human craft working tortuously to effect that which God would have wrought in His own better way. In this case, however, the sons are more closely allied, being twins, born of the same mother, but the younger following so closely upon the very heels of the elder as to seem, even at his birth, as if in eager pursuit. They grow up strangely unlike—the one brave, active, vigorous, but indifferent to everything save earthly things. In his skill and love of hunting, Esau is the very counterpart of Ishmael. The other is calm, sedentary, keenly alive to business, devoted to domestic pursuits, but chiefly valuing the spiritual privileges for which Abraham had left his distant home, and become a wanderer in the highlands of Canaan. Thoroughly as all honest men must disapprove of the mean way in which Jacob bought the birthright, yet, at least, he valued that which Esau so despised as to sell it for the gratification of a hungry appetite. And now again the transfer is ratified by means of another unworthy artifice, but Esau this time is grieved and distressed; for at least he loved his father, and gave proof of the possession of the same warm heart that made him afterwards fall so lovingly upon his brother’s neck, and kiss him with tears of hearty affection (Genesis 33:4).

For Jacob, it must be said that he sought no earthly good. It was not the elder brother’s share of the father’s wealth that he wanted. All that was Isaac’s he resigned to Esau, and went away to push his fortunes elsewhere. Even when he returned with the substance he had gotten in Padan-aram, he was no match for Esau (Genesis 33:1), though Isaac was still living. While, too, Esau violated the family law laid down by Abraham, Jacob conformed to it. By marrying Canaanitish women, Esau forfeited by his own act the birthright which previously he had sold; for his children, being illegitimate (Hebrews 12:16), could not inherit the promise. What was utterly wrong in Rebekah’s and Jacob’s conduct was that they used miserable artifices to do that which should have been left to God; and Isaac was equally wrong in trying to make void and annul the clear intimation of prophecy (Genesis 25:23).

Isaac was old.—Isaac was now 117 years of age. but he lived to be 180 (Genesis 35:28). (See Excursus on Chronology of Jacob’s Life at end of this book.) He had thus sixty-three more years to live, but not only himself (Genesis 27:2), but Esau also expected his speedy decease (Genesis 27:41). Probably, therefore, his failing eyesight was the result of some acute disorder, which so enfeebled his general health that he had grown despondent, and thought his death near. But evidently he recovered, and attained to a good old age. It seems, however, that though the lives of the patriarchs were so long extended, yet that their bodily vigour slowly decayed through the latter portion of their days. Jacob when but 130 speaks of himself as a grey-haired old man, already upon the brink of the grave (Genesis 42:38; Genesis 47:9). Moreover, the term old is used in a very general sense in the Old Testament, and thus Samuel is described as old in 1 Samuel 8:1, when we should have spoken of him as at most middle-aged.

Verses 1-46


The elaborate calculations of Lightfoot, and most Jewish and Christian commentators, intended to show that when Jacob set out upon his journey to Haran, he and Esau were each about 77 years of age, and Isaac their father about 137, though based apparently upon the letter of Scripture, are so contrary to its facts that evidently there must be some error in them. Fortunately there are several dates which are open to no doubt, and if we start with these, it may prove not Impossible to arrive at more trustworthy conclusions.

When, then, Jacob went down into Egypt, he was 130 years of age (Genesis 46:9), and as Joseph when he “stood before Pharaoh” was 30 (Genesis 41:46), and as his first years of power were the seven years of plenty, and there had been already two years of famine when he made himself known to his brethren, he was plainly about 14 years of age when his father joined him. Now he was a lad of 17 when sold into Egypt (Genesis 37:2), and as he was born before the contract to serve Laban for the speckled cattle (Genesis 30:25), which lasted for six years (Genesis 31:41), he was about 7 when Jacob returned to Canaan. It follows, therefore, that Jacob was 91 when Joseph was born. Now the usual calculations allow only twenty years for Jacob’s sojourn in Padanaram, of which the first seven were spent in service before Leah and Rachel were given him in marriage. If from the twenty, we subtract these seven years and the seven years of Joseph’s age, there remain only six years for the birth of Leah’s six sons and the interval of her barrenness; and undeniably the narrative would be guilty of very remarkable exaggeration in its account of Rachel’s childlessness, and Rachel herself of excessive impatience, considering that at the end of six years she gave birth herself to a son, and in the interval had given her maid Bilhah to Jacob, who had by her two sons; and as the birth of these was the occasion to Rachel of very unseemly exultation over her sister (Genesis 30:6; Genesis 30:8), her conduct can only be accounted for by the fact that Leah had already a numerous offspring when Rachel gave Bilhah to her husband.

The case of Leah is still plainer. She bears four sons, after which she “left bearing” (Genesis 29:35), and this barrenness continued so long that she gave Zilpah as her substitute to Jacob, who bare him two sons, Gad and Asher. Now neither Rachel nor Leah would have resorted to this expedient until they utterly despaired of having children themselves; and Leah herself describes it as an act of great self-sacrifice (Genesis 30:18). Zilpah’s sons both seem to have been born in this period of Leah’s barrenness; for we find that Jacob had entirely discarded Leah, and it was only at Rachel’s request that he visited her again. Zilpah had taken Leah’s place plainly because she had no expectation of having more offspring, and from Genesis 30:15 it is evident that Jacob shared in this view, and had long ceased to pay any visits to Leah’s tent. Moreover, this interval lasted so long that Reuben was old enough to be allowed to ramble in the field—that is, the uncultivated pasture land where the flocks fed; and he had sufficient self-control to bring the mandrake-berries which he had found home to his mother. According to the usual calculations, he was between three and four years old at this time: for it is necessary to arrange for the births of Issachar and Zebulun within the six years. He is therefore described as carried by the reapers to the wheatfield, and somewhere there he finds the man-drakes; but the wheat harvest is mentioned only to fix the time, and Reuben had evidently gone a long ramble to places not often visited. For it is plain that the mandrakes were rarities, and that their discovery was unusual; and this would not have been the case had they been found near the tents, nor is it likely that a young child would have been the discoverer. On the other hand, if Reuben were an active young man, nothing was more probable than for him to wander away into distant quarters, looking, perhaps, for game; and the kind heart which made him bring the berries to his mother is in agreement with the brotherly affection which made him determine to save the life even of the hated Joseph (Genesis 37:21-22; Genesis 37:29-30). “Unstable” he was, with no great qualities, but not destitute of generosity or of sympathy; and to Leah her sons must have been her one comfort under her many trials, and no doubt she treated them lovingly. Now if we put all these things together—the birth of Leah’s four sons; Rachel’s jealousy at her sister’s fruitfulness, and her gift of Bilhah to her husband; Leah’s interval of barrenness, and her gift of Zilpah to take her place; the complete estrangement of Jacob from Leah, upon the supposition that she would never again conceive; and the fact that she had to purchase of Rachel the visit of Jacob to her tent, which was followed by the birth of two more sons,—if we bear all this in mind, few persons could probably be found capable of believing that so much could have taken place in six years. If we add the further consideration that Hebrew women suckled their children for two or more years (note on Genesis 21:8), the supposition that Leah had four sons in four years becomes very unlikely. The patriarchal women are described as the reverse of fruitful. Even Leah, the one exception, has only seven children; and where any patriarch has a large family, he obtained it by having more than one wife.

After the six sons, Dinah was born, for so it is distinctly said in Genesis 27:21. But even if we interpolate Dinah among the sons, so far from making the difficulty less, we only land ourselves in an impossibility: for we have now to cram seven births, and a period of barrenness into six years. We must, then, accept what Holy Scripture says as a literal fact—that she was born after Zebulun. Now if we bear in mind that Jacob was seven years unmarried, that Dinah was Leah’s seventh child, and that her mother had an interval of barrenness, it is plain that, if Jacob’s sojourn at Padan-aram lasted only twenty years, Dinah could not have been more than two or three years old when Jacob returned to Canaan. Now in the ten years which elapsed between Jacob’s return, bringing with him Joseph, then seven years old, and the sale of Joseph to the Midianites, at the age of seventeen, Jacob dwelt first at Shechem (Genesis 33:18), then at Beth-el (Genesis 35:1), and finally near Hebron (Genesis 37:14). But not only is Dinah marriageable at Shechem, but her brothers, Simeon and Levi, about whose age there can be no doubt, as they were Leah’s second and third sons,—these lads, then, aged one eleven and the other ten, on their arrival at Shechem, are so precociously powerful as to take “each one his sword, and come upon the city, and slay all the males” (Genesis 34:25). Jacob, a peaceful man, is horrified at what they do, but dares only to expostulate with these boys; and they, acting upon the usual law, that where there are several wives, the women look not to the father, but to those of their mother’s tent, for protection, give him a fiery answer. Really we find in Genesis 27:13 that the sons of Jacob were grown men, who took the management of the matter into their own hands.

If, too, Jacob was seventy-seven when he went to Haran, then, as his mother was barren for twenty years, and Laban was a grown man when he made the arrangements for his sister Rebekah’s marriage, Laban must by this time have been nearly 120. Yet evidently all his children are very young. The difficulty is not, indeed, removed by subtracting twenty years; but it is lessened.

Moreover, as Joseph was born seven-years before Jacob left Padan-aram, and Reuben in the eighth year of his sojourn there, he would be Joseph’s senior by only five years. Yet Reuben calls him a “child (Genesis 37:30), and all the rest treat him as one far younger than themselves, though really he was of much the same age as Issachar and Zebulon, and Zilpah’s two sons, Gad and Asher. Judah, Leah’s fourth son, would at most be only four years older than Joseph, yet he seems to have had a flock of his own at Timnath (Genesis 38:12), marries, and has three sons. The first, Er, grows up, and Judah takes for him a wife; but he was wicked, and died a premature death. Tamar is then given in marriage to the second son, and he also dies prematurely; whereupon Judah sends Tamar back to her father’s house, with a promise that when Shelah, his third son, is grown up, he shall be given her as a husband. While she is dwelling in her father’s house, Judah’s wife dies, and there were the days of mourning; and as Tamar had long waited in vain, she has recourse, when Judah was comforted after the loss of his wife, to an abominable artifice, and bears twin sons to her father-in-law. Now there were at most twenty-three years between the sale of Joseph and the going down of Jacob’s family into Egypt, and if it was really the case that Judah was only twenty-one at Joseph’s sale, all these events could not have happened within so short a period. The phrase “at that time,” at the beginning of Genesis 38, by no means implies that the marriage of Judah with Shuah’s daughter was contemporaneous with the sale of Joseph. It is quite indefinite, and intended to show that the episode about Judah and his family happened about the same general period; but really it could not have taken place many years previously, for, as we have seen, only ten years elapsed between Jacob’s return and the cruel treatment of Joseph by his brethren. Judah’s marriage, then, must have happened soon after the return to Canaan, when, nevertheless, according to these calculations, he was a boy only eleven years of age.

It is quite plain, therefore, that Jacob’s sojourn in Padan-aram lasted more than twenty years. What, then, is the explanation? It was long ago given by Dr. Kennicott, and, as stated in the Speaker’s Commentary, Bishop Horsley considered that the reasons he gave for his conclusions were unanswerable. All really depends upon the translation of Genesis 27:38; Genesis 27:41 of Genesis 31, and in the Authorised Version the two periods of twenty years are made to be identical, the second statement being taken as a mere amplification of the first. But if we turn to the Hebrew, it clearly distinguishes the two periods. In Genesis 27:38 it is literally, “This twenty years I was, with thee; thy ewes, and thy she goats, did not cast their young,” &c.; and in Genesis 27:41, “This twenty years was for me in thy house: I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy sheep.” But in Hebrew the phrase this . . . this, means the one and the other, or, in our language, this and that. (See Note on Genesis 29:27.) Thus, then, there were two periods of service, each about twenty years in duration, of which one was for settled wages, and the other for no stipulated hire. They would not necessarily be continuous, and Dr. Kennicott arranges them as follows:—First, Jacob served Labon fourteen years for his two daughters; next, there was a long period of twenty years, during which he took care of Laban’s flocks, receiving from them maintenance for himself and family, but acquiring no separate wealth; finally, after Joseph’s birth, Jacob rebelled at this treatment, and determined to go back to his father, but was prevailed upon to remain, on the promise of receiving for himself all the speckled sheep and goats.

This explanation is confirmed by the curious phrase in Genesis 27:41 : “This (second) twenty years was for me in thy house.” The other twenty years were for Laban’s sole good, and made him a wealthy man; but the fourteen years for the two maidens, and the six for the cattle, were, Jacob says, “for me.” They were mine, spent in attaining to the fulfilment of my own purposes.

In the Speaker’s Commentary, the following table is given as a probable arrangement of the chief events in Jacob’s life:—

Years of Jacob’s life.

Twenty years’ unpaid service.

0 Jacob and Esau born.

40 Esau marries two Hittite wives, Genesis 26:34. F

57 Jacob goes to Padan-Aram, Isaac being 117.

58 Esau marries a daughter of Ishmael, Genesis 28:9.

63 Ishmael dies, aged 137, Genesis 25:17.

64 Jacob marries Leah and Rachel, Genesis 29:20-21; Genesis 29:27-28.

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah born of Leah.

Dan and Naphtali born of Bilhah.

71 End of fourteen years’ service.

Fourteen years’ service.

72 Beginning of twenty years mentioned in Genesis 31:38.

Gad and Asher born of Zilpah.

Issachar and Zebulun born of Leah. Dinah born.

91 Joseph born of Rachel.

92 Agreement made, Genesis 30:25-34.

Six year
service for

97 Flight from Padan-aram.

98 Benjamin born; Rachel dies.

108 Joseph, at seventeen, is carried to Egypt, Genesis 37:2.

120 Isaac dies, aged 180, Genesis 35:28.

121 Joseph, aged 30, governor of Egypt.

130 Jacob goes down to Egypt, Genesis 46:1.

147 Jacob dies, Genesis 47:28.

In this table there are only two dates to which I should venture to take exception. First, it is not probable that Dan and Naphtali were born during the seven years which followed upon Jacob’s marriages. Rachel would resort to an expedient so painful to a wife only in despair at her own barrenness, and in envy of her sister’s fruitfulness. The giving of Bilhah must have taken place during the twenty years of unpaid service. Next, Benjamin could scarcely have been born in the very year following the return from Padan-aram; for after the interview with Esau, Jacob goes to Succoth, and thence to Shechem, where he buys a plot of ground. We learn, nevertheless, that Jacob, when Dinah was wronged, had not been there long, from what Hamor and Shechem said to the citizens (Genesis 34:21-22). From Shechem, Jacob next goes to Beth-el, and “dwells there” (Genesis 35:1), but after some little stay, moves southward, towards the home of his father; and it was near Bethlehem that Benjamin was born. Most certainly Jacob would keep steadily in view his return to Isaac; but the events between the flight from Haran and Rachel’s death at Bethlehem, are too many to be crowded into a year. On the other hand, Rachel’s age warns us that Benjamin’s birth could not have happened long after her arrival in Canaan. If, then, we place it in the hundredth year of Jacob’s life, and the thirty-fourth of his marriage, two things follow—the first, that Rachel was very young at her marriage, and a mere child when Jacob first met her; the second, that Jacob must have spent about twenty years with Isaac at Hebron before the latter’s death.

Verse 3

(3) Thy quiver.—This word does not occur elsewhere, and is rendered in the Targum and Syriac a sword. As it is derived from a root signifying to hang, it probably means, like our word hanger, a sort of knife; but all that we can say for certain is that it was some sort of hunting implement.

Take me some venison.—The Heb. is hunt me a hunting. “Venison,” the Latin venatio, means anything taken by hunting.

Verse 4

(4) Savoury meat.—On the rare occasions on which an Arab sheik tastes flesh, it is flavoured with almonds, pistachio nuts, and raisins. It would thus not be easy for Isaac to distinguish the taste of the flesh of a kid from that of an antelope. As the Arabs always spare their own flocks and herds, the capture of a wild animal gives them the greater pleasure, and a feast thus provided seemed to the patriarch a proper occasion for the solemn decision which son should inherit the promises made to Abraham.

That my soul may bless thee.—We gather from the solemn blessing given to his sons by Jacob (Genesis 49) that this was a prophetic act, by which the patriarchs, under the influence of the Spirit, and in expectation of death, decided to which son should belong the birthright. Jacob when dying bestowed it on Judah (Genesis 27:8-12). But here Isaac resisted the Spirit; for the clear warning had been given that “the elder should serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). Isaac may have been moved to this act by indignation at the manner in which Esau had been induced to sell the birthright, and in annulling that sale he would have been within his rights; but he was not justified in disregarding the voice of prophecy, nor in his indifference to Esau’s violation of the Abrahamic law in marrying heathen women. And thus he becomes the victim of craft and treachery, while Jacob is led on to a deed which was the cause of endless grief to him and Rebekah, and has stained his character for ever. But had Jacob possessed the same high standard of honour as distinguished David afterwards, he would equally have received the blessing, but without the sin of deception practised upon his own father.

Verse 5

(5) Rebekah heard.—She was possibly present when Isaac gave the order, and he may even have wished her to know his determination to give the blessing to his favourite son. But the words filled her with dismay. She had, no doubt, treasured the prophecy of Jacob’s ultimate superiority, and now it seemed as if the father would reverse it. Had her faith been pure and exalted, she would have known that God would fulfil His word without her help; but all alike act from unworthy motives, and all have their meed of punishment. But here the fault began with Isaac, and Rebekah probably considered that she was preventing a grievous wrong.

Verse 7

(7) Before the Lord (Jehovah).—Rebekah has been accused of inserting words which Isaac had not used; but it is unreasonable to suppose that more is recorded of Isaac’s address to his son than the main sense. Still, these words had a meaning to Jacob which they did not bear to Esau. The latter cared for his father’s blessing, partly from natural affection, but chiefly because of the temporal benefits connected with it. To Jacob its value consisted in the covenant between Jehovah and the family of Abraham.

Verse 9

(9) Two good kids.—These would be about equal to one antelope or animal of the larger game. After Isaac had eaten of the flesh, so solemn an occasion would doubtless be marked by a feast for those, at least in the foremost tents, if not for all the household and followers of Isaac.

Verse 13

(13) Upon me be thy curse.—No curse followed upon their conduct; but, on the contrary, Isaac acknowledged the substantial justice of the act of Rebekah and her son, and confirmed Jacob in the possession of the blessing (Genesis 27:33). It seems strange, nevertheless, that neither of them had any scruples at the immorality of the deed, but apparently thought that as the end was right they were justified in using falsehood and treachery.

Verse 15

(15) Goodly raiment.—It has been supposed that the elder son held a sort of priestly office in the household, and as Isaac’s sight was growing dim, that Esau ministered for him at sacrifices. Evidently the clothing was something special, and such as was peculiar to Esau: for ordinary raiment, however handsome, would not have been kept in the mother’s tent, but in that of Esau or of one of his wives.

Verse 16

(16) The skins of the kids.—In hot countries the coats of animals are far less thick and coarse than in cold climates, and some species of Oriental goats are famous for their soft, silky wool. But in those cases in which men have their bodies covered with hair, it is by no means of a delicate texture. In Song of Solomon 4:1 Solomon’s hair is compared to that of a flock of goats.

Verse 19

(19) Arise . . . sit and eat.—The Hebrews at this time, and for centuries, sat at their meals (1 Samuel 20:25). It was from the Romans that they learned to recline at table, as we find was their custom in the Gospels. It is a mistake, moreover, to suppose that Isaac was a bedridden old man, for Jacob bids him arise and seat himself. Nor does he help him, though his sight was weak. It is only when commanded to draw near that he lets his father touch him.

Verse 20

(20) Because the Lord thy God brought it to me.—Jacob does not keep up his acting well here, for it was not in accordance with Esau’s character to see anything providential in his success in hunting. This may have helped to arouse Isaac’s suspicions, who immediately proceeds to examine him.

Verse 21

(21) Come near . . . that I may feel thee.—Besides the answer, in a style very different from Esau’s way of thinking, Isaac was surprised at the short delay in bringing the savoury meat; for the game had to be sought at a distance away from the cattle-pastures. Though, too, the voices of the twins had a certain degree of similarity, yet they would also have their peculiarities, and Isaac detected the difference. But the artifice of the kid-skins fitted, no doubt, cleverly to Jacob’s hands and neck saved him from detection; for after Isaac had passed his hands over him, his doubt entirely vanished.

Verse 26

(26) Come near now, and kiss me, my son.—This was the solemn preparation for the giving of the blessing. Isaac’s suspicions had now quite passed away. He had eaten and drunk, and the time had now come for the decision which son was to inherit the promise.

Verse 27

(27) As the smell of a field.—From the abundance of aromatic plants, the pastures of Palestine are peculiarly fragrant; but Isaac, deceived by the scent of Esau’s own garments, intended probably to contrast the pure sweetness of one whose life was spent in the open field with the less pleasant odour which Jacob would bring with him from the cattle-shed.

Verse 28

(28) Therefore God give thee.—Heb., And the Elohim give thee. Here, as not unfrequently is the case, the name Elohim follows immediately upon that of Jehovah. As the blessings of dew and fertile land are the gifts of the God of nature, the use of the title Elohim is in accordance with the general rule.

The fatness of the earth.—Heb., the fatnesses: that is, the fat places. In the countries where Esau and Jacob were to have their homes, the land varies from districts of extraordinary fertility to regions of barren rock and sterile sand. It was these rich fields which Isaac’s blessing conveyed to Jacob.

Wine.—Not the word used in Genesis 27:25, but tirosh, the unfermented juice of the grape. It thus goes properly with corn, both being the natural produce of the field.

Verse 29

(29) Let people serve thee.—Heb., peoples. Up to this point the blessing had been general, but now Isaac bestows the birthright, carrying with it widespread dominion, precedence over all other members of the family, and special blessedness. The phrases “thy brethren” and “thy mother’s sons” include all nations sprung from Abraham, and all possible offshoots from Isaac’s own descendants.

Cursed . . . and blessed.—This is a special portion of the blessing given to Abraham (Genesis 12:3); but Isaac stops short with this, and does not bestow the greater privilege that “in him should all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4). The reason for this may be that it was a blessing which God must grant, and not man; or he may have had misgivings that it was more than Esau was worthy to receive; or, finally, his whole conduct being wrong, he could see and value only the earthly and lower prerogatives of the birthright. Subsequently he bestows the Abrahamic blessing upon Jacob in general terms (Genesis 28:4); but this, its highest privilege, is confirmed to Jacob by Jehovah Himself (Genesis 28:14).

Verse 31

(31) He also had made.—Heb., he also made, Esau returned just as Jacob was leaving Isaac’s presence. There would still be some considerable delay before the captured game was made into savoury meat

Verse 33

(33) Isaac trembled very exceedingly.—This was not from mere vexation at having been so deceived, and made to give the blessing contrary to his wishes. What Isaac felt was that he had been resisting God. In spite of the prophecy given to the mother, and Esau’s own irreligious character and heathen marriages, he had determined to bestow on him the birthright by an act of his own will; and he had failed. But he persists no longer in his sin. Acknowledging the Divine purpose, he has no word of blame for Rebekah and Jacob, but confirms to him the possession of the birthright, and declares, “Yea, he shall be blessed.”

Verse 36

(36) Is not he rightly named Jacob?—In thus playing upon his brother’s name, Esau has had a lasting revenge; for the bad sense which he for the first time put upon the word Jacob has adhered to it, no doubt, because Jacob’s own conduct made it only too appropriate. Its right meaning is “one who follows close upon another’s heels.” (See Note on Genesis 25:26.)

Verse 38

(38) Hast thou but one blessing?—Only one son could inherit the spiritual prerogatives of the birthright, and the temporal lordship which accompanied it. And even lower earthly blessings would avail little if Esau’s descendants were to be subject to the dominion of the other brother’s race. With some mitigation, then, of his lot Esau must now be content.

Verse 39

Verse 40

(40) When thou shalt have the dominion.—This rendering of a rare and difficult Hebrew word is scarcely more than a guess made by two or three ancient Jewish commentators. Its real meaning here, and in Jeremiah 2:31, Hosea 11:12, is to toss the yoke—be restless and unquiet. The prophecy of Edom’s subjection to his brother was literally fulfilled, as Idumæa was for ages a mere dependency upon Judah; but in the days first of Joram, and then of Ahaz, it revolted, and recovered its freedom. It was again conquered by Hyrcanus, the nephew of Judas Maccabaeus; nor was its subject condition altered by the fact that the dynasty of the Herods was of Edomite extraction. In troubled times, then, it broke the yoke from its neck; but generally Edom served his brother.

Verse 41


(41) The days of mourning for my father are at hand.—Esau evidently expected that his father’s death was near, and such also was Isaac’s own expectation (Genesis 27:2); but he recovered, and lived for more than half a century. Perhaps on this account another translation has been suggested, namely, “Days of mourning for my father are at hand: for I will slay Jacob.” But there is no support for this in the Hebrew, and it represents Esau as utterly inhuman; whereas, with all his faults, he had a warm, loving heart. Genesis 28 ought to have begun here, as the break at the end of Genesis 27:46 is very injurious to the meaning.

Verse 42

(42) These words of Esau.—Though spoken “in his heart,” Esau had evidently made no secret of his evil purpose, and Rebekah therefore determines to send Jacob to her father’s house, not merely for safety, but that he might take a wife from among his own kindred. He was now formally acknowledged as the heir of the birthright and of the promises made to Abraham, and must therefore conform to the principle laid down in his own father’s case, and marry into the family of Nahor. “She sends, therefore, and calls him” to her tent, and takes secret counsel with him; and Jacob consents to take this distant journey. Thus the separation of mother and son, and long and painful travel, are the immediate result of their scheming.

Verse 44

(44) A few days.—Like Esau (Genesis 27:41), Rebekah expected that Isaac’s end was near. Really Jacob was absent for forty years, and while Isaac lived to see him return, Rebekah saw him again no more. Yet this was better than for Esau to slay him, and then, like another Cain, to be banished far away.

Verse 46

(46) Rebekah said to Isaac.—With this begins a new act. In the previous five verses we had the general results of Rebekah’s guile: we have now the special consequence of Jacob’s departure for Haran. Upon Rebekah’s communication to Isaac follows his decision in the next chapter. In the Hebrew there is no break from the beginning of Genesis 27 to the end of Genesis 27:9 of Genesis 28.


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Genesis 27:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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