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Genesis 27:3. Take some venison.] Heb. Hunt a hunt for me. “What this hunt should be except of the deer or gazelle, does not appear. And hence it is not surprising that kids of the flock answered the purpose when so cooked and flavoured as to make a savoury dish.” (Jacobus.)—
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 27:1-5
ISAAC IN THE NEAR PROSPECT OF DEATH
I. He has warnings of his approaching end.
1. His advanced age. He was now 137 years old. His son, Esau, had now been married 37 years; and his brother, Ishmael, had been dead 14 years. He himself thought, very naturally, that he was near his end, though, as it happened, he did not die till 43 years after this time. He felt that the world was going rapidly from him. Friend after friend was departing. The years of man’s age are like the milestones on the journey, we feel that we have not much further to go. Whatever we may put into life; however we may expand the measures of it by holy thoughts and deeds, or make it monstrous by wickedness, the length of it is a measured quantity. Our Lord has taught us that we cannot add a cubit to the length of our life’s journey (Matthew 6:27). And Job, long ago, speaking of man, the length of whose mortal day is appointed by his Maker, says, “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with Thee, Thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.” (Job 14:5.)
2. Signs of weakness and decay. Dim eyes, trembling limbs, loss of memory, a languid interest in present things and a tenacious clinging to the past are signs that life is wearing away and that the end is near. It is a merciful Providence that to most men death does not come suddenly to cut them off in the midst of high health, but their way to the dark house is by a gentle descent. God sends them reminders of their latter end, and the man says, “Behold now I am old, and I know not the day of my death.” Young men may die, old men must; they have one foot already in the grave.
II. He sets in order his worldly affairs. He feels now that the time has come for him to discharge any remaining duties towards the living. For soon the hour is coming when he can no longer work, and whatever has to be done must be done quickly.
1. Duties prompted by the social affections. There are those who have grown up around us, and who are associated with us by natural ties, to whom we owe certain duties. We are bound to show them kindness and regard. We have but a short time in which to discharge those obligations, for death will not stay. Isaac wishes to bestow his blessing upon his eldest son, and to receive a kindness from him for the last time. His fond affection would be gratified, and his son would receive honour thereby. He would discharge a debt of love and celebrate the satisfactions of his feelings by a joyful feast.
2. Duties regarding the settlement of inheritance and property. Life was uncertain, and therefore Isaac must contrive so that there may be no disputes after his death. He wishes to settle the position which his sons were to occupy in the family, according to his own notions of right. It is best for a man to arrange all such matters while his mind is clear, and before he is perplexed and confused by the last sickness. In this way he can dismiss the world, and secure for himself a tranquil time before the end. It is well to have some time to walk quietly and thoughtfully along the shores of eternity before we take our last voyage to the unknown scenes beyond life. The conduct of Isaac, at this time, shows a thoughtfulness and a calmness worthy of his reputation as a contemplative man. He is still able to enjoy a feast, and looks forward to some brief renewal of his vigour and spirits. In all this, surely, there is a gleam of immortality. He is about to do something which will take effect after his death. If this life be all, why should we consider the brief enjoyments and distinctions of those who must in a few short years sink with us into nothingness, as though we had never been! Surely the only attitude of mind which we could assume towards such a blank and ruined prospect would be that of despair! But man feels in the depths of his heart that he must have, in some way, an interest and inheritance in the future.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 27:1-2. Dimness, and even loss of sight, is more frequent in Palestine than with us.
Old age itself is a disease, and the sink of all diseases. “The clouds return after the rain.” A continual succession of miseries, like April weather, as one shower is unburdened, another is brewed, and the sky is still overcast with clouds. Lo, such is old age. And is this a fit present for God? Wilt thou give Him the dregs, the very last sands, thy dotage, which thyself and thy friends are weary of? “Offer it now to thy prince, will he be pleased with thee?” (Malachi 1:8.) But God will not be so put off. He is “a great king,” and stands upon his seniority (Malachi 1:14.)—(Trapp.)
Esau had been perverse and undutiful in marrying into the stock of Canaan, yet his father’s affection still clings to him. How strong is parental love to surmount the worst obstacles!
That the time of death should be uncertain is a benevolent provision, for a man is thereby enabled to continue his services to mankind until the last moment in which he can be useful. The knowledge of the exact time, as fixed and unalterable, would throw a disturbing and perplexing element into human affairs.
Genesis 27:3-4. Isaac’s inordinate love of the pleasures of appetite still clung to him. How strongly rooted are old habits and propensities!
The words of dying men are living oracles. It was the patriarch’s care, and it must be ours, to leave a blessing behind us; to seek the salvation of our children whilst we live, and to say something to the same purpose when we die, that may stick by them. So when we are laid in our graves, our stock remains, goes forward, and shall do till the day of doom.—(Trapp.)
Why was “savoury meat” required in order to the bestowment of the blessings? The design of it seems to have been not merely to strengthen animal nature, but to enkindle affection. Isaac is said to have loved Esau on account of his venison (Genesis 25:23): this therefore would tend, as he supposed, to revive that affection, and so enable him to bless him with all his heart. It seems however, to have been but a carnal kind of introduction to so Divine an act: partaking more of the flesh than of the Spirit, and savouring rather of that natural affection under the influence of which he at present acted, than of the faith of a son of Abraham.—(Fuller.)
It is probable that Isaac demanded something better than ordinary, because this was to be also a peculiar day. To all appearance it was a Divine providence through which Jacob gains time to obtain and bear away the blessing from him.—(Lange.)
Genesis 27:5. Isaac’s carefully calculated project is thwarted by a woman’s shrewdness. A carnal policy can always be met by its own weapons.
Rebekah overhearing this charge of Isaac to his son Esau, takes measures to direct the blessing into another channel. It was just that Esau should lose the blessing, for by selling his birth-right he had despised it. It was God’s design too that Jacob should have it. Rebekah also knowing of this design, from its having been revealed to her that “the elder should serve the younger,” appears to have acted from a good motive. But the scheme which she formed to correct the error of her husband was far from being justifiable. It was one of those crooked measures which have too often been adopted to accomplish the Divine promises; as if the end would justify, or at least excuse the means. Thus Sarah acted in giving Hagar to Abraham; and thus many others have acted under the idea of being useful in promoting the cause of Christ. The answer to all such things is that which God addressed to Abraham: “I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be Thou perfect.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 27:6-10
REBEKAH’S CUNNING PLOT IN FAVOUR OF JACOB
I. The human element in it.
1. The partiality of a fond mother. She tenderly loved this son, and was ready to sacrifice herself to promote his welfare and distinction.
2. Ambition. She wanted to see her favourite son raised to the highest honour. Yet her ambition was devoid of selfishness, for she asked nothing for herself, but only for Jacob. “But here is a trait of female character: it is a woman’s ambition, not a man’s, doing wrong, not for her own advantage, but for the sake of one she loved. It is a touch of womanhood.”—(Robertson.)
II. The religions element in it. We must remember that we are dealing here with the history of the Church of God. These persons are mentioned, and their acts related because they have to do with this history. We justly blame Rebekah, but we have to consider her conduct in the light of her circumstances and character. Her faith in God was placed in circumstances of great trial.
1. It seemed as if the oracle of God was likely to become void. The purpose of Isaac was known, and it was against God’s revealed purpose. The stubbornness of an old man forbade the thought that he would listen to argument, or set aside the claims of a long-cherished affection. The known will of God and the known will of her husband were at variance. It is a difficult matter to trust in God alone, and to forsake all leaning upon ourselves.
2. The crisis was urgent. Isaac had taken steps to carry out his intention. He supposes himself to be on his deathbed and, therefore, makes up his mind to impart the blessing, which when once bestowed was irrevocable. What in this emergency is the believing wife to do? It was of no use to try mild measures, for the mind of the old man was weak and his purpose too deeply seated. She ought to have left the matter with God, and to be content to be still, to trust, and to wait. But it is a hard trial to allow a great evil to happen when we have the means of preventing it. To work and scheme is more easy than to be silent. When we see the declared will of God likely to be thwarted, it seems as if any device of ours to prevent it becomes a justifiable, and even a pious necessity. The sin of Rebekah was of a complex nature. Hence how difficult it is to estimate human conduct if we only regard it from the outside. “We label sins as by a catalogue. We judge of man by their acts; but it is far truer to say that we can only judge the acts by the man. You must understand the man before you can appreciate his deed. The same deed, done by two different persons, ceases to be the same. Abraham laughed, and so did Sarah: one was the laugh of scepticism, the other the result of that reaction in our nature by which the most solemn thoughts are balanced by a sense of strangeness, or even ludicrousness. The Pharisees asked a sign in unbelief; many of the Old Testament saints, in faith. A fine discrimination is therefore needed to understand the simplest deed. A very delicate analysis of character is necessary to comprehend such acts as these and rightly apportion their turpitude and their palliations.”—(Robertson.)
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 27:6. She overheard what Isaac spoke secretly. Women will be listening; as Sarah behind the door, when she laughed, and little thought to be questioned for it.—(Trapp.)
Genesis 27:7-10. The sin of deceiving a man into what is right differs little from deceiving him into what is wrong. The effect of the sin may, indeed, be different; but its moral character in the eyes of Omniscience is substantially the same. The slightest deviation from the straightforward principles of integrity and honesty is contrary to the very genius and actings of a true faith; and though the event was overruled to good, yet this was no justification of the parties concerned. Evil ceases not to be evil because God makes it redound to His glory.—(Bush.)
God inclines the love of the mother to the younger, against the custom of nature, because the father loves the elder, against the promise. The affections of parents are divided; that the promise might be fulfilled, Rebekah’s craft shall answer Isaac’s partiality. Isaac would unjustly turn Esau into Jacob, Rebekah doth as cunningly turn Jacob into Esau: her desire was good; her means were unlawful. God doth oft-times effect His just will by our weaknesses; yet neither thereby justifying our infirmities, nor blemishing His own actions.—(Bp. Hall.)
Genesis 27:15. Goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau.] Heb. The desirable garments. The choicest garments belonging to Esau were put upon Jacob. From Genesis 27:27 it would appear that somewhat of the odour of the field clung to these garments. “They were probably best, or state garments of ‘my lord’ Esau, in which he sought the companies of his brother hunters, and redolent (Genesis 27:29) of the aromatic shrubs of the wilderness which they had hasted through.” (Alford.)—
Genesis 27:16. Skins of the kids of the goats.] These were the skins of the Syrian goat, the hair of which, though black, is long and soft. It looks and feels very much like human hair, whence the Romans employed it for wigs and other artificial coverings of the head.—
Genesis 27:20. The Lord thy God brought it to me. The name for the covenant God of the patriarchs is used. Heb. Made to meet before me. The meaning is, God hath brought it in my way by making circumstances to meet together for my success.—
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 27:11-24
REBEKAH’S CUNNING PLOT ACCEPTED AND CARRIED OUT BY JACOB
I. Reveals some qualities of Jacob’s character.
1. He was a weak and pliable man. He had little moral strength to resist temptation.
2. He lacked the power of self-determination. He had no skill of invention or contrivance. Hence he fell in with the designs of his mother.
3. He was fearful of consequences. He objects not to what is wrong in the proposed action, but to the risk he is running. (Genesis 27:12.) It is enough, if he can only be assured of success.
4. He could long indulge the thought of that which was forbidden. He had formed the steady purpose to complete the sin which he had committed against his brother in taking away his birthright. He had long meditated evil things, and to such a man the opportunity, sooner or later, will present itself. The ambition to obtain the coveted blessing was long cherished, and the hour of temptation came and secured him as an easy victim.
II. Reveals the gradual debasement of Jacob’s character. He did not intend to cast off all moral restraints, and to allow himself to fall into the ways of wickedness. But he had little strength to resist temptation, and almost unknown to himself his character degenerates, he loses his former simplicity and becomes an accomplished deceiver. He who was once so diffident now shrinks at nothing.
1. He overcomes difficulties in the way of sin. He was cool and thoughtful enough, at first, to see that he should run a risk, even with his blind father. (Genesis 27:12.) But if he can surmount the fear of consequences, he cares not for the sin.
2. He learns to act a falsehood. He covered himself with skins that he might appear hairy like his brother. (Genesis 27:16.)
3. He proceeds to the direct falsehood. (Genesis 27:19.) And in this he scruples not to make an impious use of the name of God. (Genesis 27:20.) When once a man has entered upon a course of evil, new difficulties arise and he is led into deeper guilt.
4. He allows himself to be led into sin under the idea that he is carrying out the purpose of God. He knew that the end he contemplated was according to the declared will of God, and therefore considered that any means used to attain it must be right. How many evils have been wrought in the course of human history under colour of devotion to some religious idea! But neither the wrath nor the craft of man can work out the righteousness of God.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 27:11-12. Sin is often feared, not for itself but for its consequences.
Our Heavenly Father will certainly feel us, and better feel us; and we shall feel Him, too, in His fatherly corrections before He bless us.—(Trapp.)
Genesis 27:13. We cannot help regarding with a sort of admiration her lofty appreciation of that result which she sought, and her self-forgetful devotion to her beloved son; but it is as we feel the same sort of admiration for Lady Macbeth—with full consciousness of, and never forgetting, her crime.—(Alford.)
There is a touch of womanhood observable in her recklessness of personal consequences. So that only he might gain, she did not care: “upon me be thy curse, my son.” And it is this which forces us, even while we most condemn, to compassionate. Throughout the whole of this revolting scene of deceit and fraud we never can forget that Rebekah was a mother; hence a certain interest in and sympathy with her are sustained. And we mark another feminine trait; her act sprang from devotion to a person rather than to a principle. A man’s idolatry is for an idea, a woman’s for a person. A man suffers for a monarchy, a woman for a king. A man’s martyrdom differs from a woman’s. Nay, even in their religion personality marks the one, attachment to an idea or principle the other. Woman adores God in His personality; man in His attributes; at least, that is on the whole the characteristic difference. Here we have the idolatry of the woman, sacrificing husband, elder son, her own soul for an idolized person. For this was properly speaking, idolatry. Rebekah loved her son more than truth, that is more than God. This was to idolize; and hence Christ says, “If any man love father or mother more than Me, he is not worthy of Me.”—(Robertson.)
There are persons who would romantically admire this devotion of Rebekah, and call it beautiful. To sacrifice all, even principle, for another; what higher proof of affection can there be? O miserable sophistry! the only true affection is that which is subordinate to a higher. It has been truly said that in those who love little love is a primary affection, a secondary one in those who love much. Be sure he cannot love another much, “who loves not honour more.” For that higher affection sustains and elevates the lower one, casting round it a glory which mere personal feeling could never give. Compare, e.g., Rebekah’s love with that of Abraham for his son. Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son to duty; Rebekah sacrificed truth and duty to her son. Which loved a son the most? Which was the nobler love? Even as a question of permanence, which would last the longer? For consider what respect this guilty son and guilty mother could retain for each other after this! Would not love dwindle into shame, and love itself in recriminations? For affection will not long survive respect, however it may protract its life by effort.—(Robertson.)
Genesis 27:14. Had his remonstrance arisen from an aversion to the evil, he would not so readily have yielded to her suggestions; but where temptation finds the heart fortified by nothing stronger than a regard to present consequences, it is very certain to prevail. Let us beware, however, how we are drawn by any authority whatever to the commission of evil. It will be of little avail to say, my adviser was my father or my mother; there is a plain path, from which no authority under heaven should induce us to swerve.—(Bush.)
Genesis 27:15. Some suppose that this was a priestly robe worn by the elder son as priest of the household (Genesis 49:3). But this is not implied in the text, though the terms used in the Greek are such as are applied to the holy garments of the priesthood, and may here denote the desirable robes of the birthright-son, kept in the tent as of sacred value. And though Isaac could not see them, he could identify them by the feeling.—(Jacobus.)
Genesis 27:16-17. He suffers himself without remonstrance to be arrayed in the skin borrowed from a senseless animal, and the robes stolen from an unwitting brother. And led by the false fondness of a mother into the chamber which the seeming approach of death, as well as the solemn transaction then on hand, should have hallowed with an awful reverence of truth and righteousness,—he heaps he upon he with unscrupulous effrontery; abuses the simple confidence of the blind old man; and almost, if we may so speak, betraying his father with a kiss,—steals from him the birthright-blessing.—(Candlish.)
Genesis 27:18. Jacob stands ready to do the mother’s bidding in this work of deception. How his soul must have quaked in consequence of the fraud he was practising upon his aged father! He will find the way of transgressors to be hard. Who art thou? Is he not already detected? How his heart sinks at such a question.—(Jacobus.)
Genesis 27:19. Here he utters three lies in a breath besides intituling God to that he did (Genesis 27:20), so taking that revered name in vain. This was his sin, and he smarted for it to his dying day; for he had scarce a merry hour after this; but God followed him with one sorrow upon another, to teach him and us what an “evil and bitter thing sin is” (Jeremiah 2:19), and how it ensnares us. The Scripture reckons a lie among monstrous sins (Revelation 21:8). Indeed, every lie is pernicious to ourselves or to others, or both; because flatly forbidden of God, and because it is against the order of nature, and for that “no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:21), but of the Devil, who began and still upholds his kingdom by lies. (John 8:44.) Contrarily, God is truth, and His children are such as will not lie. (Isaiah 63:8; Revelation 14:5.)—(Trapp.)
To act and speak a falsehood requires boldness and a readiness to plunge into deeper sin, for one lie requires another to maintain it.
Genesis 27:20. The answer is cunning but profane. Oh! how the man who undertakes to lie gets into deep water and mire, and must load his conscience with awful burdens of falsehood before he gets through! Here he must even bring in God Himself as having helped him to this result, when he knew that God must abhor the falsity. All this has come perhaps from a perverted conscience, supposing that because the birthright was his, of right, and his by Divine intent, therefore he could use wicked means to secure the end. As though God could not accomplish His own plan, or as though He was not to be trusted to do it.—(Jacobus.)
It is well to have God’s Word on our side, but we should not attempt to fulfil that word by acting contrary to the known laws of righteousness.
Many are alarmed when they find that some known truth of nature is likely to contradict some truth of Scripture, as if God’s Word were about to fail. They come forward with some scheme of their own to defend Divine truth, using all the arts and devices of special pleading. But God requires no man to act or speak wickedly for the vindication of His truth.
The answer intimates that his speedy success was owing to a particular Divine interference on his behalf! It is not easy to conceive a more daring piece of effrontery than this. It was bad enough to deal in so many gross equivocations, but to bring in the Lord God of his father in order to give them the appearance of truth was much worse, and what we should scarcely have expected but from one of the most depraved of men. But this was the natural result of a first wrong step. Jacob probably had no idea of going beyond a little stroke of dissimulation and fraud, yet here we find him treading upon the borders of absolute blasphemy, by making God Himself confederate in his sin!—(Bush.)
Genesis 27:21. There is something about falsehood which, though it may silence, yet will not ordinarily satisfy. Isaac is yet suspicious, and therefore desires to feel his hands; and here the deception answered.—(Fuller.)
Oh, what a thrill of horror must this have sent through the deceiver’s soul! Luther says, “I should probably have run away with horror and let the dish fall”—(Jacobus.)
Genesis 27:22. Now the cunning device of his mother proves a success. If this precaution had lacked, the whole scheme would have failed. If, like Abraham, Rebekah had possessed a faith that would have even lifted the knife to slay her son at the call of duty, trusting in God to raise him up, how much happier would have been the whole company? All of them suffer for this wrong. How the deceiver is recompensed by deceits practised upon him in the beautiful coat of Joseph! (Genesis 37:0).—(Jacobus.)
And now she wishes she could borrow Esau’s tongue as well as his garments, that she might securely deceive all the senses of him, which had suffered himself to be more dangerously deceived with his affection. But this is past her remedy: her son must name himself Esau with the voice of Jacob. It is hard if our tongue do not betray what we are, in spite of our habit. This was enough to work Isaac to a suspicion, to an inquiry, not to an incredulity. He that is good of himself, will hardly believe evil of another; and will rather distrust his own senses than the fidelity of those he trusted. All the senses are set to examine; none sticketh at the judgment but the ear; to deceive that, Jacob must second his dissimulation with three lies at one breath: I am Esau; as thou badest me; my venison. One sin entertained fetcheth in another; and if it be forced to lodge alone, either departeth, or dieth. I love Jacob’s blessing, but I hate his lie. I would not do that willingly which Jacob did weakly, upon condition of a blessing. (Bp. Hall.)
The hands, he thinks are Esau’s; but still it is mysterious, for “the voice is Jacob’s. Were it not for some such things as these, we might overlook the wisdom and goodness of God in affording so many marks by which to detect imposture, and distinguish man from man. Of all the multitudes of faces, voices, and figures in the world no two are perfectly alike; and if one sense fail us, the others are frequently improved.—(Fuller.)
Genesis 27:23. The deed was done and could not be revoked. It was not done at this instant, but after eating the venison. (Genesis 27:27.) We see how God works by various instruments; good and bad, and brings to pass His purposes by such strange links in the chain of events.—(Jacobus.)
Genesis 27:24. Thus one sin entertained fetcheth in another; a lie especially, which being a blushful sin, is either denied by the liar who is ashamed to be taken with it, or else covered by another and another lie, as we see here in Jacob, who being once over shoes will be over boots too, but he will persuade his father that he is his very son Esau.—(Trapp.)
The father still again puts the question, and in a most pointed way, as if his suspicions were not yet utterly quieted. There seems to him something doubtful in this voice and in all the circumstances. He would put the question so pointedly as to admit of no evasion. It would seem that he knew Jacob’s character for cunning; and when one has lost confidence—when he has forfeited his character for straightforward and honest and truthful conduct—it is hard to put away doubt, and every little item stirs the suspicion afresh.—(Jacobus.)
Here was nothing but counterfeiting; a feigned person, a feigned name, feigned venison, a feigned answer, and yet behold a true blessing; but to the man, not to the means. Those were so unsound, that Jacob himself doth more fear their curse, than hope for their success. Isaac was now both simple and old; yet if he had perceived the fraud, Jacob had been more sure of a curse, than he could be sure that he should not be perceived.—(Bp. Hall.)
Genesis 27:27. And blessed him.] The blessing (Genesis 27:27-29) is in the form of poetic parallelism.—
Genesis 27:28. The dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth.] In Palestine these are closely connected. The dews are copious, and make up for the lack of rain during several months of the year. The dew of Hermon, and the dew upon the mountains of Zion are spoken of by the Psalmist as an evidence of the Divine blessing. (Psalms 133:0; Deuteronomy 33:13; Deuteronomy 33:28.)—
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 27:25-29
ISAAC BLESSING JACOB
The father is at length satisfied, and expresses his paternal affection by a kiss. He accepts his son’s duty and favour in the providing and preparation of the last solemn meal. He then proceeds to bless his son.
I. With temporal blessings.
1. A fertile soil. To him was promised “the fatness of the earth.” This was fulfilled in the exceeding fertility of the Holy Land. (Deuteronomy 8:7-9.) This natural richness of the soil was to be replenished by “the dew of heaven,” one blessing answering to and requiring the other. There is a ministry of service and of mediation throughout all parts of God’s works, each department of nature deriving some aid and influence from every other. Hence it is that when God promises one blessing He intends to impart every other blessing which is necessary to complete it. The fatness of the earth shall be answered by the dew of heaven.
2. Abundance of provision. “Corn and wine.” These imply all the rest. All things are promised which are necessary to the sustenance and enjoyment of life.
3. Political pre-eminence. “Let people serve thee.” Here is a promise of universal dominion—lordship over foreign nations. It is also promised that Jacob shall preserve pre-eminence among his own kindred. “Be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee.” This was God’s election, that “the elder should serve the younger.” The greatness and importance of the nation were to be developed throughout the line of Isaac’s family.
II. With spiritual blessings. “Cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.” Though not expressed in such clear and full terms, this is virtually the same promise as that made to Abraham. The blessing conveyed to Jacob was—
1. The channel of spiritual blessing to mankind. The seed of Abraham was to proceed throughout history along this chosen line, and in that seed all the families of the earth were to be blessed. “Salvation is of the Jews,” i.e., it must spring forth from them. Also, this blessing was to be—
2. A test of character. A curse was pronounced upon those who should curse Jacob. All who should reject and despise the salvation provided through the seed of Abraham would bring condemnation upon themselves. The position men take up with regard to the salvation offered through the Messiah is a test of spiritual character. Christ was “set for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel.” And by men’s treatment of Him and His claims “the thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed.” The whole of the blessing here promised to Jacob is only realised fully in Christ. The possession of a fertile land, the expansion of the chosen family into a great nation, and the subjugation of other peoples are the prominent features in the promise made to Abraham, and they prefigured the glory and dominion which belong to Messiah’s kingdom.
“The beam that shines from Zion’s hill
Will lighten every land;
The King who reigns on Zion’s throne
Shall all the world command.”
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 27:25-26. The kiss was a sign of affection and reverence (Genesis 48:10; Psalms 2:12). His thus coming in contact with his father’s person would also afford a proof to the senses, from the peculiar scent of his apparel, in favour of his alleged identity. But it was deceiving, if not betraying, his father with a kiss.—(Bush.)
Genesis 27:27. The smell in this case was probably occasioned by the aromatic herbs which had been laid up with the clothes, both to prevent their being fretted by the moths, and to give them an agreeable odour. The Orientals are proverbially fond of perfumes. They sprinkle their clothes with scented oils or waters, or fumigate them with the incense from odoriferous woods, or carry such woods or fragrant herbs in a small bag or sewed up in their clothes.—(Bush.)
It is not common to salute, as in England, they simply smell each other; and it is said that some people know their children by the smell. The crown of the head is the principle place for smelling. Of an amiable man it is said, “How sweet is the smell of that man! the smell of his goodness is universal!”—(Roberts.)
Isaac believes, and blessed the younger son in the garments of the elder. If our heavenly father smell upon our backs the savour of our elder brother’s robes, we cannot depart from him unblessed.—(Bp. Hall.)
Genesis 27:28. It is probable that the language of the whole verses has a sense beyond that of the simple letter. “The dew of heaven” and the “fatness of the earth” shadow out to us the doctrines of the Gospel and the graces of the Holy Spirit shed forth upon men; in fine, the whole inventory of spiritual mercies which flow to the holy seed in virtue of the covenant made with Abraham. This is confirmed by the drift of the following among other passages—Deuteronomy 32:2; Hosea 14:6-7; Isaiah 25:6; Isaiah 8:8. Indeed, so clearly analogous is this in point of phraseology to the blessing pronounced upon Esau, that, unless we would make them almost equivalent, it would seem imperative upon us to affix some sense to the words over and above that conveyed by the mere letter.—(Bush.)
For Jacob the blessing is, “God give thee of the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth.” Here the earth is postponed to heaven; the blessings of this world to those of the world to come; the gifts of nature to the gifts of grace. But for Esau the blessing is, “Behold thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and the dew of heaven from above.” Here heaven is postponed to earth, the spiritual to the natural, the blessings of salvation to temporal prosperity.
Genesis 27:29. This is the only part of the blessing that directly comprises spiritual things, and even this is of a peculiar form. It is to be recollected that it was Isaac’s intention to bless Esau, and he may have felt that Esau, after all, was not to be the progenitor of the holy seed. Hence the form of expression is vague enough to apply to temporal things, and yet sufficiently comprehensive to embrace the infliction of the ban of sin, and the diffusion of the blessing of salvation by means of the holy seed.—(Murphy.)
Genesis 27:39. Thy dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above.] The preposition is here used in a privative sense, apart from the fatness of the earth, etc. “The opening words most likely signify the very contrary of that by which the A. V. renders them. Esau was to dwell in the barren land of Idumea, far off from the fertility of his brother’s lot. Travellers say that Edom is probably the most desolate and barren upland in the world. No words could more accurately describe the habits of its inhabitants than those of living by their sword, existing as robbers and free-booters.” (Alford.)—
Genesis 27:40. And it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.] “The Edomites were to be subjugated by Israel, but would in time assert their liberty and succeed in shaking off the yoke. This they did in the reign of Joram. (2 Kings 8:20.) They were brought under again by Amaziah’s. (2 Kings 14:7; 2 Chronicles 25:11.) In the latter days of the kingdom of Judah the Edomites were a cause of annoyance. (2 Chronicles 28:17.”) (Alford.)—
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 27:30-40
ESAU DISAPPOINTED OF HIS BLESSING
I. He is overwhelmed by a heart-rending sorrow. He had procured the savoury meat, brought it to his father, and prepared himself to receive the coveted blessing. When he found that his brother had already secured that blessing by treachery, “he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father.” His grief is so sudden and overwhelming that he cannot take in all the sad facts of his position. He vaguely hopes that there is some way of escape from the difficulty. Surely some blessing, at all risks, must be reserved for him!
II. He refers his wrongs to their true author. His brother Jacob, who had taken away his birthright, had now taken away his blessing. (Genesis 27:36.) It is true that Esau had freely bartered his birthright for pottage, still the transaction was wrong, for Jacob took advantage of his brother’s necessity. Poor Esau felt that he was the victim of a well-known and practiced deceiver.
III. He pleads pathetically with his father. “And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?” He felt that there must be some help for him—some depths of resource in his father’s heart which were still untried. This feeling is almost akin to that faith which is not daunted by impossibilities, and even hopes against hope.
IV. He is contented with an inferior blessing. The superior blessing had already been pronounced upon another, and was irrevocable. “Yea, and he shall be blessed,” said his father. Esau cannot now expect the highest blessing. He might have the crumbs from the table, but not the children’s bread. The blessing pronounced upon him by his father included many things good in themselves, but the highest and best things are absent. He was promised increase, prosperity, pre-eminence, and renown in war. But with this should be mingled the bitter portion of servitude to his brother. He would sometimes get the dominion and break the yoke from off his neck, but he would have only a brief victory, and must return again to subjection. (Genesis 27:39-40.) At best, the portion of Esau can only be described as God’s blessings without God. Nothing of heaven enters into it.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 27:30-32. Esau prepared the dish and brought it to his father, and claimed the blessing in very similar terms to those used by Jacob. Esau must have remembered how he had parted with his birthright to Jacob, and therefore in his conscience he could not be entirely unprepared for the discovery of his loss. Esau is too late. Isaac must have been smitten with a sense of his own sin in his carnal preference for Esau, contrary to all indications of the Divine pleasure. He felt, too, that this patriarchal blessing was as the Divine direction and not from any personal preference, and he found himself strangely controlled and overruled by the Divine hand.—(Jacobus.)
Genesis 27:33. His emotions were absolutely overwhelming. On the one hand, he could not but feel a degree of just indignation in view of the imposition which had been practised upon him, especially when he remembered the precautions he had taken against being thus deceived; yet, on the other, a moment’s reflection would convince him that the transfer of the blessing must have been “of the Lord,” and, consequently, that he had been all along acting against His will in trying to have it otherwise. Two such considerations rushing on his mind at once, like two impetuous counter-currents coming together, sufficiently account for his feelings, especially when we add his consciousness of the irrevocable nature of the blessing, and the momentous consequences annexed to it. But while he resents the subtlety of Jacob, and the unkindness of Rebekah, he acknowledges and acquiesces in the will of God. The blessing which he had unwittingly pronounced, and which he knows to be irrevocable, he deliberately and solemnly confirms: “I have blessed him, yea, and he shall be blessed.” His feelings would, perhaps, not be inaptly expressed by the language of Balaam, “God is not a man that he should lie,” etc. (Numbers 33:19-20). Hence the Apostle tells us, that “Esau found no place for repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears”—that is, he found no place for repentance, or change of purpose, in his father, He could not prevail upon him to reverse the word that had proceeded from his lips.—(Bush.)
If anything can excuse a departure from a promise, Isaac might have been excused in this case; for in truth he did not promise to Jacob, though Jacob stood before him. He honestly thought that he was speaking to his first-born; and yet, perhaps partly taught to be punctiliously scrupulous by the rebuke he had received in early life from Abimilech, partly feeling that he had been but an instrument in God’s hands, he felt that a mysterious and irrevocable sacredness belonged to his word once passed; and said, “Yea, and he shall be blessed.” Jesuitism amongst us has begun to tamper with the sacredness of a promise. Men change their creed, and fancy themselves absolved from past promises; the member of the Church of Rome is no longer bound to do what the member of the Church of England stipulated. Just as well might the king refuse to perform the promises or pay the debts of the prince whom he once was. Therefore, let us ponder over such texts as these. Be careful and cautious of pledging yourself to anything; but the money you have once promised, the offer you have once made is irrevocable, it is no longer yours, it is passed from you as much as if it had been given.—(Robertson.)
Though the words and actions of the parties in this transaction were built upon a falsehood, yet a true blessing was obtained. Through all the evil purposes and schemes of men God works out his great designs.
He trembled from the vivid apprehension suddenly flashing across his mind of the Lord’s presence and the Lord’s power, and not from anger, or anxiety, or terror, or blank dismay; though such emotions might well agitate his bosom. He had a startling sense of the interposition of that God without whose warrant he had set himself to perform the solemn prophetic act that was to close his patriarchal ministry, and against whose open and revealed will he had been, so far as his own intention could go, actually performing it. His whole frame receives a shock. The scales fell from his eyes—the eyes of his soul that had been blinded even more than the dim eyes of his body. He awakens as out of a sleep, and feels that surely the Lord is here, though he knew it not.—(Candlish.)
Genesis 27:34. When Esau sold his birthright he did not then know what he had lost, but now it is all brought home to him. Those who choose the present world for their portion and spurn the offer of eternal life do not know what they lose, but the time must come when they shall know to their sorrow.
Vengeance wakes up suddenly to startle men when the sin which brought it has been long forgotten.
Why did he not rather weep to his brother for the pottage than to Isaac for a blessing? If he had not then sold, he had not needed now to buy. It is just with God to deny us those favours which we were careless in keeping, and which we undervalued in enjoying. How happy a thing is it to know the seasons of grace, and not to neglect them! How desperate to have known and neglected them! These tears are both late and false.—(Bp. Hall.)
In the midst of all his regrets there was no real contrition, no godly sorrow at heart, but only disappointment and vexation at his loss. We find at the time no self-condemnation, no confession of his sin; but only a severe accusation of his brother, as if he only were to blame for what had happened. Neither does he give any evidence of having been a true penitent afterwards, for his heart was evidently full of rage and enmity towards his brother, under the influence of which he determines, on a fit opportunity, to put an end to his life. All this shows a state of mind at the widest possible remove from sincere repentance.—(Bush.)
He cried not for his sin in selling the birthright, but for his loss in missing the blessing; though having sold the birthright, he had no right to the blessing. This is the guise of the ungoldly. He cries, Perrii, not Peccavi. If he “howl” upon his bed (Hosea 7:14), it is for corn and oil, as a dog tied up howls for his dinner. It never troubles him that a good God is offended, which to an honest heart is the prime cause of the greatest sorrow.—(Trapp.)
The sinner cut off from the privileges of the Church can yet claim God as his Father. Repentance and prayer, and a way of return are still left to him.
Genesis 27:35-36. It cannot be denied that there was some ground for the reflections thus cast upon Jacob. He had, indeed, acted the part of a supplanter in a way altogether unjustifiable; still the statement was exaggerated. Esau was not warranted in saying, “He took away my birthright,” as though he robbed him of it, for the surrender was his own voluntary act. He parted with it because he practically depised it. But it is no unusual thing for men to act as if accusing others were the most effectual mode of justifying themselves.—(Bush.)
“Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?” is a prayer which those who have despised their birthright, and justly forfeited it, may still address to the Infinite Father.
Genesis 27:37. Isaac, in using this language is not to be considered as giving vent to a self-sufficient or self-complacent spirit, it is the ordinary prophetic style. Men speaking by inspiration are often said to do that which they merely announce shall be done.—(Bush.)
Genesis 27:38. These words, taken by themselves, without reference to the character of him who spoke them, are neither good nor evil. Had Esau only meant this: God has many blessings, of various kinds; and looking round the circle of my resources I perceive a principle of compensation, so that what I lose in one department I gain in some other; I will be content to take a second blessing when I cannot have the first: Esau would have said nothing which was not praiseworthy and religious. He would only have expressed what the Syro-Phœnician woman did, who observed that though in this world some have the advantages of children, whereas others are as little favoured as dogs, yet that the dogs have the compensatory crumbs. Superior advantages do not carry salvation nor moral superiority with them, necessarily; nor do inferior ones carry reprobation. But it was not in this spirit at all that Esau spoke. His was the complaining spirit of the man who repines because others are more favoured than he, the spirit of the elder son in the parable, “thou never gavest me a kid.” This character transformed outward disadvantages into a real curse. For, again I say, disadvantages are in themselves only a means to more lustrous excellence. But if to inferior talents we add sloth, and to poverty envy and discontent, and to weakened health querulousness, then we have indeed ourselves converted non-election into reprobation; and we are doubly cursed, cursed by inward as well as outward inferiority—(Robertson.)
Genesis 27:39-40. At length in reply to the weeping suppliant, he bestows upon him a characteristic blessing. The preposition is the same as in the blessing of Jacob. But there, after a verb of giving it had a partitive sense; here, after a noun of place, it denotes distance or separation (for example, Proverbs 20:3). The pastoral life has been distasteful to Esau, and so it shall be with his race. The land of Edom was accordingly a comparative wilderness (Malachi 1:3).—(Murphy.)
In this double blessing, of course the destinies of Israel and Edom are prefigured rather than the personal history of Jacob and Esau. For the predicted liberty of Edom, the breaking the yoke off the neck, did not take place till the reign of Jehoram, long after Esau’s death (2 Kings 8:22). So that when it is written, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated,” the selection of nations to outward privileges is meant, not the irrespective election of individuals to eternal life. In these blessings we have the principle of prophecy. We cannot suppose that the Jacob here spoken of as blessed was unmixedly good, nor the Esau unmixedly evil. Nor can we imagine that idolatrous Israel was that in which all the promises of God found their end, or that Edom was the nation on whom the curse of God fell unmixed with any blessing. Prophecy takes individuals and nations as representations for the time being of principles which they only partially represent. They are the basis or substratum of an idea. For instance, Jacob, or Israel, represents the principle of good, the Church of God, the triumphant and blessed principle. To that, the typical Israel, the promises are made; to the literal Jacob or Israel, only as the type of this and so far as the nation actually was what it stood for. Esau is the worldly man, representing for the time the world. To that the rejection belongs, to the literal Esau only so far as is he that. In prophecies therefore, such as these, we are dealing much more with the ideas of which such persons and nations are the type than with the persons or nations themselves.—(Robertson.)
Genesis 27:45. Why should I be deprived also of you both in one day? If Esau killed Jacob, she must lose them both, for the avenger of blood would punish Esau with death.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 27:41-46
I. It was carnal. There is a proper resentment which comes of righteous indignation against evil and wrong. It is a noble sentiment in us when we stand up for truth and the law of God, as against the errors and oppositions of unrighteous men. But Esau did not rise to this moral nobility. He only regarded his own personal interests. It was something done against himself that he resented, and not something done against the interests of God’s righteous rule in the world. Yet there was much apparent justice on Esau’s side of this conflict. He was the acknowledged firstborn; he had obeyed the last request of his father. Now there was a bold and heartless attempt to deprive him of his proper rights, against common usage and natural law. His right was unquestionable, and we may well suppose that any jury of his fellow men would support him in the assertion of it. He had his father’s real intention on his side, which might be supposed to cancel any foolish deed he had done in a moment of temptation. Why then should he patiently endure the opposition of his brother? But his conduct was altogether selfish. He had no large and generous views, no regard for the interests of God’s kingdom in the world. He was not seeking true repentance, for then he would have humbled himself for his sin. He would have humbly tried to know what the will of the Lord was, and have been willing to accept a share in the covenant blessing on any terms. The Old Testament regards all human conduct as having relation to the will and pleasure of God, and to be hereby estimated. In this light Esau’s conduct must be considered as carnal, and not spiritual.
II. It was overruled for good. Esau’s enmity against his brother had the effect of promoting the further separation between the church and the world. Jacob is preserved from alliance by marriage with the ungodly. He is put in the way of contracting a better marriage than Esau, such as would ensure the purity and nobility of the chosen race. Rebekah contrives not only to save Jacob from his brother’s anger, but also to save him from falling into the same sin of an ungodly marriage. Thus human passions, and the conflict of private and selfish interests are made to work out the designs of God.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 27:41. Whatever feeling of commiseration or sympathy we may hitherto have cherished for Esau in seeing him supplanted by the subtlety of Jacob, it is all banished from our bosoms when we behold him inwardly cherishing the most malignant passions, and cooly anticipating the time when he can imbue his hands in the blood of his brother. His guilt in this assumes an awfully atrocious character. His hatred was of the same nature as that of Cain towards Abel, and of Saul towards David, being directed against him, principally on account of his having been a special object of the Divine favour. Under these circumstances, the attempt to take Jacob’s life was virtually waging war with the high purposes of heaven, and an attempt to frustrate the decree of God by a stroke of his sword. The same spirit of hatred seems to have been perpetuated in his posterity against the seed of Jacob. As nothing but the death of Jacob could comfort Esau, so nothing could satisfy his descendants but to see Jerusalem “razed to its foundations.”—(Bush.)
He who cannot feel indignant at some kinds of wrong has not the mind of Christ. Remember the words with which He blighted Pharasaism, words not spoken for effect, but syllables of downright, genuine anger. Very different from this was Esau’s resentment. Anger in him had passed into malice; private wrong had been brooded on till it had become revenge, deliberate and planned vindictiveness. Turn once more to the life of the Redeemer; you find scarcely a trace of resentment for injury done merely to himself. Wrong and injustice he felt; but that it was done to Him added nothing to His feeling.—(Robertson.)
Jacob was held back by respect for his father, but he had no consideration for the grief of his mother.
Genesis 27:42. The unhappy mother begins to reap according as she had sown. The safety of her favourite can only be secured at the price of his banishment. We see from this that though their imposition succeeded, yet it was a success that embittered the whole life both of Jacob and his parents. Rebekah, the contriver of the fraud, was deprived of her favourite son, probably for the rest of her days. Instead of the elder serving the younger, Jacob was now a banished stranger, a wandering fugitive, in continual terror of his enraged brother. The retributive justice of Heaven is seen pursuing him at every step.
1. He who had imposed upon his father is himself imposed upon by his uncle in the circumstances of his marriage.
2. The continual jealousies and hatred between his wives must have reminded him of his own want of paternal affection.
3. Continual feuds prevailed among his own children.
4. He was himself the dupe of an imposture more successful even than that by which he had deceived his father. Joseph, his beloved son, was sold by his brethren, and stated to have been slain. The rest of the life of Jacob was signalised by scenes of domestic trouble and vexation, which had their origin in the unhappy step we are now considering.—(Bush.)
Genesis 27:43-44. These “few days” proved to be a period of twenty years. How little we can do towards the disposal of the times and events of our life!
Genesis 27:45. Rebekah’s repentance is changed into an atonement by the heroic valour of her faith.—(Lange.)
But why does Rebekah fear a twofold bereavement? It is indeed possible that she may have apprehended that a murderous attack from Esau upon his brother might arouse him in self-defence, so that it should be only at the expense of the aggressor’s life that he should lose his own. But a more probable explanation is the following:—If Esau had killed Jacob, he would have been liable either to have been punished with death, according to the law (Genesis 9:6), or to have been driven into exile like Cain, where he would have been virtually lost to her for ever.—(Bush.)
And he forgets what thou hast done to him. With this she both acknowledges Jacob’s guilt, and betrays a precise knowledge of Esau’s character. Let us not despair too soon of men. Are there not twelve hours during the day? The great fury and fiery indignation pass away with time.—(Luther.)
Genesis 27:46. It would appear that Rebekah was here framing an excuse for Jacob’s departure, and concealing the true cause. It was expedient before Jacob’s departure to obtain his father’s concurrence. But in order to do this, she passes over the true reason of the proposed journey in silence, knowing that he, as well as herself, had been grieved by Esau’s wives, she now pretends to fear that Jacob may form a similar connection, and makes this the ostensible reason why he should go immediately to Padanaram—viz., that he might take a wife from among their relations in that country. She does not propose it directly, but merely in the form of a bitter complaint of the conduct of Esau’s wives. But this policy completely answered its end, as is clear from the next chapter.—(Bush.)
How sagacious this pious woman: she conceals to her husband the great misfortune and affliction existing in the house, so as not to bring sorrow upon Isaac in his old age.—(Luther.)
IMPORTANT REFLECTIONS SUGGESTED BY THE FOREGOING NARRATIVE
I. The history furnishes an admonitory lesson to parents. Parents complain of their children when, perhaps, the fault is to be traced mainly to themselves. They have indulged an early partiality, founded upon no just reasons, which has been productive on both sides of the worst effects. Let them guard with anxious vigilance against the symptoms of a week favouritism towards their children. A wise Providence often points out the sin in the punishment, and teaches parents discretion in the discharge of their duties by setting before their eyes the bad effects which flow from the want of it.
II. We may learn from this history not to make the supposed designs of God the rule of our conduct. We say, “supposed designs,” because as to us they can be only supposed. It may please God to foretell future events, but it is not, therefore our duty by crooked means to bring them to pass. God does not give prophecy for a rule of action. He will accomplish His own purposes in His own way. We are to follow what is fair and just, and honourable, and leave the consequences to God.
III. We are reminded that the way to success and to prosperity in our undertakings is often not that which appears the shortest, or even the surest. Jacob was, indeed, for the time being, successful in his fraudulent device; but what fruits had he of his triumph? He sowed the wind, and reaped the whirlwind. Soon was he forced to fly from his brother’s wrath, and years of trouble followed his departure from the parental mansion. Had he permitted God to accomplish His declaration in His own way; had his conduct towards his brother been kind and affectionate, and free from guile, we cannot doubt that his history would have been far different. The true source of prosperity is the blessing of God, and this cannot be counted upon except in strict adherence to the principles of rectitude. A man is exposed to temptation; some great advantage offers itself; a little art or deceit in supplanting another is thought indispensable; excuses are not wanting to justify the act. But what, in general, is the result? Either his arts recoil against himself, and he is utterly disappointed of his aim; or if he apparently succeeds, his success is rather a curse than a blessing. Our highest wisdom and our surest safety lie in the course of plain, simple, undeviating integrity.
IV. We are taught that regret is often unavailing to restore an offender to the privileges of innocence. Esau, having sold the birthright and lost the blessing, discovered his error too late. The blessing once gone was gone for ever; and tears, and prayers, and exclamations were in vain employed to recover it. Let us learn, then, that however momentous the consequences depending upon a single wrong step, they may be irretrievable. Regret, however bitter; entreaty, however urgent, may come too late. In vain shall we look for our former peace of mind, the sweets of conscious innocence, and the fruits of pleasing hope. We may seek for them with tears, but they will not be found. Let us not by yielding to temptation, cast away our confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.—(Bush.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 27". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26