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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 27

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary



Thirty-six years have passed since Esau’s marriage, (Genesis 36:34,) and the twin brothers both remain in their father’s household at Beer-sheba. There seems no probability that the purchased birthright (Genesis 25:33) will be of any avail to Jacob, now seventy-seven years old and unmarried . Isaac has attained his one hundred and thirty-seventh year, the age at which his half-brother Ishmael died, (Genesis 25:17,) and perhaps that fact, together with a sense of old age and failing sight, impressed him with a feeling of approaching death, and a strong desire before his departure to bless his elder son . Unmindful of the prophecy, (Genesis 25:23,) and controlled by his partiality for Esau and love for the savoury game procured by his hunting, (Genesis 25:28,) he wilfully purposes to give the firstborn his dying benediction. But in all this he is strangely overruled by the power of God and the craftiness of Jacob and Rebekah. “There is,” says Kurtz, “something peculiar and mysterious about the blessing and the curse of parents. Each word of blessing and of curse into which the whole strength and fulness of the psyche, the seat of personality and of will, descends, has a kind of magic power. It is the magic attaching to the image of God in man, imparted to him in creation, and which sin has only weakened and darkened, but not wholly effaced, as language is the royal sceptre of man. The blessing or the curse of parents approximates the creative power from which this magic at first originated. For, as generation is a representation of the Divine creative power, so is education and the ruling of children of the Divine governing and judging power, and so long as the world shall continue will this word of the ancient sage prove true: ‘The blessing of the father establisheth the houses of children; but the curse of the mother rooteth out foundations.’ Sir 3:9 . But the blessing of the patriarchs in the chosen family leads us beyond the sphere of nature to that of grace. In virtue of the covenant relation, which in this case pervades and determines every thing, the pneumatic power of the Divine counsel of salvation is here joined with the psychical power of a father’s blessing or curse. Human freedom is here allied with Divine necessity. Here man is not suffered to act arbitrarily, but the capability of the human will, now purified, is endowed with the strength of Divine Omnipotence; and thereby the blessing or the curse becomes irrevocable and unchangeable.”

Verse 1

1. Isaac was old One hundred and thirty-seven years . This we ascertain from Jacob’s history, who was not born until Isaac was sixty years old .

Genesis 25:26. Jacob was one hundred and thirty when he went down into Egypt, (Genesis 47:9,) which occurred in the second year of the famine, (Genesis 45:6,) and seven years of plenty had gone before, (Genesis 41:53,) and Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh . Genesis 41:46. Hence Jacob must have been in his ninety-first year when Joseph was born, and this occurred fourteen years after the flight to Haran. Genesis 29:27, compared with Genesis 30:25-26. Jacob must, therefore, have been seventy-seven when he fled from Esau, and Isaac one hundred and thirty-seven.

Verse 2

2. Know not the day of my death He lived forty-three years after this . Genesis 35:28.

Verse 3

3. Take me some venison Hebrews, Hunt for me a hunting . The word does not necessarily mean venison, but any kind of edible game taken by hunting . See Proverbs 12:27.

Verse 4

4. That I may eat; that my soul may bless thee “There appears a singular mixture of the carnal and the spiritual in this . Isaac recognises his own character as that of the priestly and prophetic head of his house, privileged to bless as father and priest, and to foretell the fortunes of his family in succession to Abraham in his office of the prophet of God . Yet his carnal affection causes him to forget the response to the inquiry of Rebekah, “the elder shall serve the younger,” and the fact that Esau had sold his birthright and alienated it from him forever by a solemn oath . Moreover, that his heart may be the more warmed to him whom he desires to bless, he seeks to have some of that savoury meat brought to him such as he loved . ” Speaker’s Commentary .

Verse 8

8. Obey my voice Rebekah heard (Genesis 27:5) and spake (Genesis 27:6) on the subject pending with Isaac, for she, too, had a divine relation to the covenant blessing . And when she saw Isaac’s determination to go counter to what she knew to be the divine word, she has no hesitation in seeking to thwart his purpose .

Verse 9

9. Go now to the flock Isaac had said to Esau: “Go out to the field . ” Genesis 27:3. The flock was nearer at hand .

Two good kids A bountiful meal is provided . One kid would have been more than sufficient for Isaac, but the two made the feast a sort of covenant meal, and somewhat of the nature of a sacrifice on the part of him who was to receive the blessing.

I will make them savoury meat Rebekah knows how to cook and season kids that Isaac will not distinguish them from the game of Esau.

Verse 12

12. I shall seem to him as a deceiver Jacob is cautious and far-sighted; but his words show that he shrinks not from the proposed deception from a feeling that it would be wrong, but only from a fear of detection and a curse. Rebekah has no fear in this regard. Even if detected, she is willing to risk any curse likely to come from one who deliberately attempts to subvert prophecy. She looks at the end to be attained, and scruples not at the means to attain it.

Verse 15

15. Goodly raiment The costly festive robes of Esau . According to a rabbinical tradition the eldest son, in patriarchal times, had a priestly garment which he always put on when offering sacrifice, and this robe the rabbins suppose to have been the priestly robe .

Verse 16

16. Skins of the kids The hair of certain Oriental goats is said to resemble human hair, and Martial (Epig . 12:45) speaks of kid skin “covering the temples and crown of a bare scalp . ”

Verse 20

20. The Lord thy God brought it to me The bold and daring way in which Jacob utters his falsehoods here, and this use of the name Jehovah, is amazing . Isaac seems to have detected Jacob’s voice, and he became suspicious . But he probably mistrusted his own hearing as he did his eyesight . “The scene of the fraud,” says Kalisch, “is described with a psychological skill which rivets the interest, and excites the admiration of the reader . ”

Verse 22

22. Hands of Esau Isaac’s words are, literally: The voice is voice of Jacob, and the two hands hands of Esau . The old man is dubious; there is something about it inexplicable . So he proceeds to bless him; not, however, without asking him once more, 24 . Art thou my very son Esau Hebrews, Thou this my son Esau?

With an obduracy and boldness unparalleled the supplanter says, I am.

Verse 27

27. Kissed him With something of the nature of a Judas kiss . “But it is altogether a mistake to suppose, with Tuch, that Isaac demanded a kiss, in order thereby to distinguish the shepherd, who would smell of the flock, from the huntsman, who would smell of the field . After Isaac had partaken of the meal he has given up all distrust . The kiss is only the expression of paternal love, excited by having partaken of the savoury dish; it is the acme of his now overflowing emotions and the transition to the blessing.” Kurtz.

The smell of his raiment “Many parts of Arabia and Palestine exhale a most delicious odour. Herod., 3:113. After a refreshing rain especially, the air is perfumed with a fragrance inexpressibly sweet, (Plin., 17:5;) and the soil, furrowed by the ploughshare, emits often the balmy treasures hidden in its depths. Thus the garments of Esau, the man of the field, who roamed through hill and valley, were redolent of the scent of aromatic herbs; they called up in Isaac’s mind the pictures of freshness, health, and abundance; his spirit, moved and struck, assumed a prophetic elevation; and he began the blessing.” Kalisch. We render Isaac’s words as follows:

See, the odour of my son,

Like the odour of a field

Which Jehovah has blessed .

And the God shall give to thee

Of the dew of the heavens,

And of the fatness of the land,

And abundance of grain and sweet wine .

Nations shall serve thee,

And peoples bow down to thee .

Be lord to thy brethren,

And the sons of thy mother shall bow down to thee .

They that curse thee shall be cursed;

And they that bless thee shall be blessed .

Verse 28

28. Dew of heaven Of the greatest importance to the fruitfulness of a land like Palestine . Comp . Genesis 49:25; Deuteronomy 33:13; Deuteronomy 33:28; Hosea 14:6.

Fatness of the earth The fat portions of the land, or most fertile districts . Thus Isaac wills to this son the more desirable portions of the land of promise .

Corn and wine Representatives of the income of the fields .

Verse 29

29. People… nations Peoples and tribes of peoples .

Be lord This was fulfilled in the days of David, when the Edomites were subjected to Israel. 2 Samuel 8:14.

Thy mother’s sons This expression seems to carry with it a sense of putting Jacob, his mother’s favourite son, (Genesis 25:28,) in subjection to Esau .

Cursed… blessed See Genesis 12:3. “Isaac does not pronounce on Jacob that emphatic spiritual blessing which God himself had assured to Abraham twice (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18) and to Isaac once, (Genesis 36:4,) ‘In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed . ’ There was something carnal and sinful in the whole conduct of the persons concerned in the history of this chapter, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Esau; and it may have been this which withheld for the time the brightest promise to the family of Abraham; or perhaps it may have been that that promise should come only from the mouth of God himself, as it is given afterwards in Genesis 28:14. ” Speaker’s Commentary .

Verse 33

33. Isaac trembled very exceedingly Because of a fearful sense of having been overruled and frustrated in a daring attempt to push his own will before that of God . He acts the part of a conscience-smitten transgressor .

Who? where is he Or, who now is he? Who in the world is he? Language of surprise, confusion, and alarm . Here Isaac has his just punishment for his wrongdoing in the case .

He shall be blessed The word has gone forth and cannot now be changed . See note at beginning of the chapter .

Verse 34

34. Esau… cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry Here comes his penalty and sorrow for his part in the attempt to move against the prophecy and against the spirit of his own oath solemnly made to Jacob to yield him his birthright . There is something truly touching in his bitter cry, and yet we note that, like all the “profane,” he mourns not his sin or error, but the consequences . “He found no place of repentance,” no possibility or chance of repairing his loss by repentance, “though he sought it carefully with tears.” Hebrews 12:17.

Verse 36

36. Rightly named Jacob Literally, Is it that his name is called Jacob? and he has jacobed me these two times . Thus Esau points to the significancy of Jacob’s name . Comp . Genesis 25:26.

Verse 39

39. His father answered Isaac’s words now again take the form of prophecy, and, moved by the grief of his beloved son, and strong desire on his own part, he says:

Behold, of the fatness of the land shall be thy dwelling,

And of the dew of the heavens from above,

And upon thy sword shalt thou live,

And thy brother shalt thou serve,

And it shall be when thou shalt rove at large

That thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck .

The fatness… of the dew These expressions are precisely like those used in the blessing of Jacob, (Genesis 27:28,) only reversed as to their order. But many of the best interpreters explain the preposition מן , as here used in a privative sense, away from, afar from the fatness and the dew, etc . This would give the whole oracle a double or doubtful meaning, one common expression, meaning in Jacob’s case a blessing and in Esau’s a curse . We exceedingly doubt that any such double entente is to be found in the prophecies of the Bible. It would imply a sort of duplicity on the part both of Isaac and of God, who inspired him to prophesy. It is true that God laid waste the mountains and heritage of Esau, (Malachi 1:3,) but this is also true of the mountains and heritage of Israel at this day; so that we might argue a like double intente in Isaac’s words to Jacob . Genesis 27:28. But Esau as well as Jacob for a long time enjoyed the blessing of fertile lands and refreshing dews, so that, in part, the brothers received like favours .

Verse 40

40. By thy sword shalt thou live By war and rapine . Here note how different from Jacob, whose source of support is abundance of grain and of sweet wine. Genesis 27:28.

Shalt serve thy brother This is not a blessing, but a confirmation of the prophecy already uttered over Jacob.

When thou shalt have the dominion Rather, When thou shalt rove at large. Thus Gesenius, fittingly pointing to the roving character of the Edomites. Hengstenberg renders: when thou shakest; tossest thy head, like the wild ox. Either rendering more clearly sets forth the true thought than “when thou shalt have the dominion.” This was fulfilled in the days of Ahaz.

2 Kings 16:6; 2 Chronicles 28:17. The Edomites were, however, subsequently conquered by John Hyrcanus, and compelled to submit to circumcision. Josephus, Ant. 13: 9, 1; 15:7, 9. But afterwards they succeeded in establishing that Idumaean dynasty of the Herods, which continued until the Jewish state was utterly overthrown by the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

Verse 41


41. Esau said Esau was one of those ingenuous, open natures, which show themselves out spontaneously . He could not keep his dark purpose a secret .

Mourning for my father He loved his father and would not grieve his heart; so he purposes to defer his vengeance until after his father is dead . He seems to have no such care about grieving his mother, the partial friend of Jacob .

Verse 43

43. Obey my voice This is Rebekah’s standing formula with Jacob . Comp . Genesis 27:8; Genesis 27:13. Her commands and action in respect to her favourite son, she believes to be according to the divine oracle to her . Genesis 25:23.

Laban See Genesis 24:29; Genesis 24:50.

Haran See on Genesis 11:31.

Verse 44

44. Few days She would fain speak as tenderly as possible of the time he might be away . But those days proved to be twenty years . Genesis 31:38.

Verse 45

45. Both in one day If Esau slew Jacob, the avenger of blood would speedily arise, (Genesis 9:6,) and so both of them would perish as in a day . Or, perhaps, she refers to Isaac and Jacob both dying in a day .

Verse 46

46. Rebekah said to Isaac Her words show the emotionality of her temperament, (comp . Genesis 25:22,) and also the artfulness and tact by which she brings her husband to further the plans and desires of her heart .

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Genesis 27". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/genesis-27.html. 1874-1909.
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