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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Genesis 27

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XXVII.

Jacob, clothed in the garments of Esau, is blessed by Isaac. Esau, hearing of Jacob's action, is full of anger, and earnestly requests a blessing from his father. His father confirms the blessing given to Jacob, and foretells that Esau should be his servant, but that he should afterwards break his yoke from off his neck.

Before Christ about 1759.


Verse 1

Genesis 27:1. Was old, &c.— Bishop Kidder, from several passages of the history laid together, proves, that Isaac was now one hundred and thirty-six or one hundred and thirty-seven years old; when his faculties being much impaired, and apprehending the approach of death, (though he lived forty years after,) he determined to "impart the solemn Abrahamic benediction" to his eldest son Esau, in which channel most probably he conceived that it was to pass, though his wife Rebekah knew to the contrary. Some have imagined, that as Isaac lived so many years afterwards, he was hastened to this act of blessing his son by an indisposition which threatened his death, and rendered more agreeable to his sickly appetite the favourite food procured by his son. As there can be no question, that the imparting this benediction was a high religious act, and evidently prophetic, (as in the case of Jacob also, see ch. Genesis 49:1.) it is very reasonable to conclude, that something more than mere eating was intended; some religious ceremony, sacrifice, or feast; an opinion, for which, in the course of the chapter, we may probably find some countenance.


Verse 5-6

Genesis 27:5-6, &c. And Rebekah, &c.— Rebekah, acquainted with the Divine will concerning the channel in which the grand promise was to pass, resolved to do her part towards preventing the ill effects of Isaac's partial fondness for an eldest son, who had already indicated so unworthy a disposition. To which end she incites her son Jacob to an act of deceit, endeavouring to absolve him from all guilt or blame, if he consent: Upon me be thy curse, my son, Genesis 27:13.; as much as to say, I will warrant thee success, and will readily bear all the evil, if any happen.

REFLECTIONS.—Infirmities of age were come upon Isaac; and therefore, as his time was likely to be short, he resolves,

1. To bestow on Esau, as first-born, the blessing of the promised land and seed; perhaps, not understanding the prophecy, or not attending to it through natural affection and the rights of primogeniture. Note; Man proposes, but God disposes.

2. He communicates his resolution to Esau, who was still it seems his favourite, though he had displeased him by marriage; and bids him shew one instance of his affection in procuring him some venison, that he might eat, and bless him before he died. Note; (1.) Though children marry imprudently, parents must not be inflexible in their resentments. (2.) When we grow old, it is time to think of dying. (3.) All worldly concerns should be dispatched before that time: it is then work enough to die.

But Rebekah overhearing the conversation between Isaac and Esau, resolves immediately to put Jacob in his place, a thing, in many respects, utterly unjustifiable. Had she pleaded with Isaac the Divine command, simplicity had probably prevailed, and Jacob, without a cheat, had got the blessing: yea, it must have prevailed, because the truth and promise of God were pledged. But now she contrives the plot, and will have Jacob execute it.


Verse 9

Genesis 27:9. Two good kids Not that the old patriarch could eat two, but that she might select and dress the most exquisite parts of each. Kids were, of old time, reckoned very delicious food, and allowed to decayed, weak people, as excellent nourishment.


Verse 15

Genesis 27:15. Took goodly raiment of her eldest son, &c.— Some critics of very great name, as Bochart, Selden, Grotius, &c. are of opinion, that these were the sacerdotal garments, appropriated to the first-born, which seems very probable; and if so, we have a confirmation of what was suggested on Genesis 27:1. The Jews, who generally render the truth itself suspicious by their fabulous additions, pretend that these were the very garments in which Adam, Noah, and Abraham sacrificed and performed religious offices. It, however, certainly deserves observation, that the word rendered goodly, comes from a root חמד chamad, signifying to desire earnestly, to covet, and is applied to all sorts of sacred things, both of the true and false worship, which were to the respective parties eminently the objects of their desire and affections. See the Lexicographers. For the skins of kids, Genesis 27:16 it is remarked, that in the eastern countries, goats' hair very much resembles the human.


Verse 19-20

Genesis 27:19-20, &c. Jacob said, I am Esau, &c.— In this discourse of Jacob's with his father, there are many palpable falsehoods, which can neither be imitated without sin, nor justified without partiality. All attempts to do it are vain: though the intention and the circumstances may extenuate the crime, nothing can vindicate Jacob: and of this opinion are all the most eminent Critics and Divines. It is an eternal rule of right, that "we are not to do evil, that good may come."


Verse 26

Genesis 27:26. Come near now, and kiss me Many suppose this to have been another way, by which Isaac wished to satisfy himself that it was his son Esau; but it appears to have been a merely natural expression of the love wherewith he conferred this blessing.


Verse 27

Genesis 27:27. He smelled the smell, &c.— It is thought to have been the custom to scent their richer garments with odoriferous flowers and other perfumes, with which they could easily be supplied from Arabia, famed for aromatic herbs: though perhaps the common flowers and odoriferous herbs of the country were most in use: and in these it is not improbable those garments (the sacerdotal, as we suppose) were kept. Isaac, no stranger to the smell of them, thence concluded that they belonged to his son Esau; and from this circumstance of their odour, he takes occasion to begin his benediction. By See, the smell, &c. some suppose the old patriarch to express, that the smell of his son's garments was as grateful and pleasing as that of a field, which the Lord hath blessed; that is, hath made fertile in all useful produce. See Hebrews 6:7. While others again suppose that he asserts, See, the smell is, &c. i.e.. behold, the odour of my son's apparel resembles that of a field blest with fertility by the Lord, a field full of flowers and odoriferous herbs. By the word full, I refer to מלא male, which is found in the Samaritan, &c. and is much defended by Houbigant.


Verse 28

Genesis 27:28. God give thee, &c.— It is here foretold, and in Genesis 27:39 of these two brethren, that, as to situation and other temporal advantages, they should be much alike. It was said to Jacob, God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: and much the same is said to Esau, Genesis 27:39. Behold, thy dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above. The spiritual blessing, indeed, or the promise of the blessed Seed, could be given only to one; but temporal good things might be communicated to both. Mount Seir, with the adjacent country, was at first the possession of the Edomites: they afterwards extended themselves farther into Arabia, as they did also into the southern parts of Judea. But wherever they were situated, we find, in fact, that the Edomites, in temporal advantages, were for many ages little inferior to the Israelites. Esau had cattle, and beasts, and substance in abundance, and he went to dwell in Seir of his own accord: but he would hardly have removed thither with so many cattle, had it been such a barren and desolate country as some would represent it. (ch. Genesis 36:6-8.) The Edomites had dukes and kings reigning over them, while the Israelites were slaves in AEgypt. When the Israelites, in their return out of AEgypt, desired leave to pass through the territories of Edom, it appears that the country abounded with fruitful fields and vineyards; Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells, Numbers 20:17. If the country be barren and unfruitful now, so neither is Judea what formerly it was. The face of any country is much changed in a long course of years; and it is totally a different thing when a country is regularly cultivated by inhabitants living under a settled government, than when tyranny prevails, and the land is left desolate. It is frequently seen that God, as the Psalmist says, (Psalms 107:34.) turneth a fruitful land into barrenness for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.

The dew of heaven In those warm countries where rain commonly falls but at two seasons of the year, viz. about April and October, hence called the former and the latter rain, Deuteronomy 11:14 the copious fall of the morning and evening dews in a great measure supplied the place of rain; though the name dew may well be supposed to include rain, which is only a more copious dew. But as both are so necessary to fructify the earth, especially in thirsty climates, hence they are represented in Scripture as emblems of plenty, prosperity, and the blessing of God, Deuteronomy 13:18. Micah 5:7. Zechariah 8:12. And, on the other hand, the withholding of these denotes barrenness, distress, and the curse of God, 2 Samuel 1:21. Haggai 1:10.

The fatness of the earth What Homer calls ουθαρ αρουρης, and Virgil, uber glebae. Under this, therefore, and the former expression, Isaac wishes his son all the blessings which a plentiful country can produce. For, as Le Clerc observes, if the dews and seasonable rains of heaven fall upon a fertile soil, nothing but human industry is wanting to the plentiful enjoyment of all temporal good things. And this prophetic prayer was remarkably answered, by God's settling the Israelites in the possession of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey.


Verse 29

Genesis 27:29. Let people serve thee, &c.— However alike their temporal advantages were to be, the younger brother was to have the superiority in all spiritual gifts, was to be the happy instrument of conveying the blessing to all nations: In thee and in thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed: and to this are to be referred in their full force those expressions, let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee; cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee. The same promise was made to Abraham by the Lord, I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee, ch. Genesis 12:3. and it is here repeated to Jacob, and is thus paraphrased in the Jerusalem Targum, "He who curseth thee shall be cursed, as Balaam the son of Beor; and he who blesseth thee shall be blessed, as Moses the prophet, the lawgiver of Israel." It appears that Jacob was a man of much more religion, and believed the divine promises more than Esau. The posterity of Jacob likewise preserved the true religion, and the worship of the one true God, while the Edomites were sunk in idolatry. And of the seed of Jacob was born at last the Saviour of the world. This was the peculiar privilege and advantage of Jacob, to be the happy instrument of conveying these spiritual blessings to all nations. This was his greatest superiority over Esau; and in this sense St. Paul understands and applies the prophecy, the elder shall serve the younger, Romans 9:12. The Christ, the Saviour of the world, was to be born of some one family: and Jacob's was preferred to Esau's out of the good pleasure of Almighty God, who is certainly the best Judge of fitness and expedience, and hath undoubted right to dispense his favours as he shall see proper; for he saith to Moses, (as the apostle proceeds to argue, Romans 9:15.) I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. And when the Gentiles were converted to Christianity, the prophecy was fulfilled literally, Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee; and will more amply be fulfilled, when the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in, and all Israel shall be saved.


Verse 33

Genesis 27:33. Isaac trembled, &c.— It may appear extraordinary, that Isaac should be so exceedingly alarmed at this event, and yet confirm what he had done; not withdrawing the blessing, so deceitfully gained: I have blessed him, yea, and he shall be blessed. To the common answers taken from Isaac's being convinced of the Divine interposition, &c. I would add, that every attentive reader must discern, what a great difference in sense the signs of the future, shall or will, make in our language; a difference to which the future tense in other languages is a stranger: indeed very often much depends upon the proper application of these signs. In the present case, instead of shall, read will; and you must immediately observe, that the passage will have another, and a very just sense; yea, and he WILL be blessed. God will give him the blessing; it is his design, and I cannot reverse it. Shuckford is of opinion, that the prophetic Spirit of God at that moment enlightened Isaac's mind, and shewed him God's will.


Verse 36

Genesis 27:36. Is not he rightly named Jacob i.e.. A supplanter. There is something very affecting in this scene between Esau (who was now, as Le Clerc computes, past his seventieth year) and his blind and aged parent. But his instant accusation of Jacob for taking away his birth-right, when he parted with it so freely and so profanely, gives one no high idea of his character, unless perhaps the petulance of sorrow may be allowed to plead a little for him. See Hebrews 12:17 where you read, that though Esau sought the blessing with tears, he could not gain it, for he found no means to change his father's mind, to induce him to repent of bestowing it on Jacob. This, and not what is read in our version, is the true sense of the passage.


Verse 39

Genesis 27:39. Behold, thy dwelling, &c.— See notes on Genesis 27:28.


Verse 40

Genesis 27:40. By thy sword shalt thou live, &c.— The elder branch, it is here foretold, should delight more in war and violence, but yet should be subdued by the younger; and by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother. Esau himself might be said to live much by the sword, for he was a cunning hunter, a man of the field, ch. Genesis 25:27. He and his children got possession of mount Seir by force and violence, by destroying and expelling thence the Horites, the former inhabitants, Deuteronomy 2:22. We have no account, and therefore cannot pretend to say, by what means they spread themselves farther among the Arabians: but it appears, that upon a sedition and separation, several of the Edomites came and seized upon the south-west parts of Judea during the Babylonish captivity, and settled there from that time. Both before and after this, they were almost continually at war with the Jews: upon every occasion they were ready to join with their enemies; and when Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, they encouraged him utterly to destroy the city, saying, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof, Psalms 137:7. And even long after they were subdued by the Jews, they still retained the same martial spirit: for Josephus in his time gives them the character of "a turbulent and disorderly nation, always erect to commotions, and rejoicing in changes, beginning war at the least adulation of those who beseech them, and hasting to battles as it were to a feast." And a little before the last siege of Jerusalem, they came to assist the enemies of the Jews, committed unheard-of cruelties, and barbarously murdered Ananus the high-priest.

And it shall come to pass, &c.— It is here foretold that there was to be a time when the elder should have dominion, and shake off the yoke of the younger; And it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck. The word which we translate have dominion, is capable of various interpretations. Some render it in the sense of laying down, or shaking off, as the Septuagint and Vulgar Latin, and it shall come to pass, that thou shalt shake off, and shalt loose his yoke from off thy neck. Some again render it in the sense of mourning, or repenting as the Syriac, but if thou shalt repent, his yoke shall pass from off thy neck. But the most common rendering is, when thou shalt have dominion: and it is not said, or meant, that they should have dominion over the seed of Jacob, but simply, have dominion, as they had, when they appointed a king of their own. The Jerusalem Targum thus paraphrases the whole; and it shall be "when the sons of Jacob attend to the law, and observe the precepts, they shall impose the yoke of servitude upon thy neck; but when they shall turn away themselves from studying the law, and neglect the precepts, behold, then thou shalt shake off the yoke of servitude from thy neck." It was David who imposed the yoke, and at that time the Jewish people observed the law; but the yoke was very galling to the Edomites from the first: and towards the latter end of Solomon's reign, Hadad, the Edomite of the blood-royal, who had been carried into AEgypt and kept there from his childhood, returned into his own country, and raised some disturbances, 1 Kings 11:14-25. but was not able to recover his throne, his subjects being overawed by the garrisons which David had placed among them: but in the reign of Jehoram, the son of Jehoshophat, king of Judah, the Edomites revolted from under the dominion of Judah, and made themselves a king. Jehoram made some attempts to subdue them again, but could not prevail; so the Edomites revolted from under the hand of Judah unto this day, says the author of the Books of Chronicles, 2 Chronicles 8:10 and hereby this part of the prophecy was fulfilled about nine hundred years after it was delivered.

Thus we have traced in our notes on this and the 25th chapter, the accomplishment of this prophecy from the beginning, and we find that the nation of the Edomites has, at several times, been conquered by, and made tributary to the Jews, but never the nation of the Jews to the Edomites: and the Jews have been the more considerable people, more known in the world, and more famous in history. We know indeed little more of the history of the Edomites than as it is connected with that of the Jews: And where is the name or nation now? They were swallowed up and lost, partly among the Nabathaean Arabs, and partly among the Jews: and the very name was abolished and disused about the end of the first century after Christ. Thus were they rewarded for insulting and oppressing their brethren the Jews, and hereby other prophecies were fulfilled, viz. of Jeremiah 49:7; Jeremiah 49:39. of Ezekiel 25:12; Ezekiel 25:17. of Joel 3:19 of Amos 1:11; Amos 1:15 and of Obadiah: and at this day we see the Jews subsisting as a distinct people, while Edom is no more: for agreeably to the words of Obadiah Obo_1:10 for thy violence against thy brother Jacob, shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever: and again, Obadiah 1:18 there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau, for the Lord hath spoken it.

When thou shalt have the dominion These words, Mr. Mann observes, being part of Isaac's prediction, addressed to Esau, concerning the future state of his posterity compared with that of his brother Jacob, seem to carry a sense in our translation, which it is not likely the prophet would endeavour to convey. For to say, that when the Edomites shall get the upper-hand of the Israelites, they will be no longer subject to the Israelites, would have been a truth which Esau would have scarcely taken for inspiration. The word תריד tarid, may indeed signify thou shalt have the dominion: but it appears so improper here, that the learned Louis Capel thought it would be more adviseable to follow the Targum of Onkelos, in substituting for תריד tarid, (thou shalt have the dominion,) פריד parid (he shall rebel,) when he shall rebel, or apostatize, thou shalt break his yoke, &c. The correction is ingenious, but surely not necessary; for תריד tarid, the word in the text, has in the Chaldee and the Syriac another sense, amend, or repent; and if you will allow the Syriac version and the Greek of Symmachus, תריד כאשׁר casher tarid, should be rendered, when thou shalt be reformed, or amended, thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck, which was effected about eight hundred and sixty-five years after this. 2 Kings 8:20.

REFLECTIONS.—We have in the foregoing verses,

1. The deception put upon Isaac. Jacob appears, with assurance answers his father's inquiries, produces his venison, brings in God for his helper, removes the just suspicions of his voice by producing his hands; and thus, after repeated asseverations, confirms his father in the identity of his person as Esau; herein committing a very great sin, or rather a complication of sins, which, however God might over-rule them for the good of his church in general, is noted to his shame. Learn here, (1.) How soon lying is learnt. (2.) When a man is entangled in one lie, he is led of course to forge many more to support himself in it. (3.) The simplest-hearted have much need to watch against being overtaken in this sin. (4.) The voice which imposes upon Isaac, cannot impose upon God.

2. The blessing obtained by it. Isaac kissed him in token of his regard: he blessed him as the blessed of the Lord, and solemnly puts him in possession of the government of his brethren and the neck of his enemies, and therein conveys to him the generation of the promised Seed. They who take wrong means, may obtain their ends for the good of the church through God's over-ruling providence; but they themselves will suffer, as Jacob did, for the indirect steps they have used.

And now, Esau, big with the expectance of the blessing, hastes to his father with the savoury meat: but how amazed, how shocked, to find his hopes disappointed, and the benediction already bestowed! Observe,

1. His bitter sorrow. Note; It is too late to grieve for the consequences of sin, when we have neglected to grieve for the cause of them. He now sought importunately the privilege he had slighted. The day is near, when they who make light of God's covenant, shall seek in vain for the promises of it.

2. Isaac's steadiness. Though struck at first with amaze, and trembling with surprise, he is convinced it was God's determination, and he confirms it. No place was found for repentance, though Esau sought it diligently with tears. Hebrews 12:17.

3. Esau's reproaches of Jacob. Instead of repenting of his own sin, he abuses his brother for a supplanter. With such a temper, no wonder his intreaties are vain, and his prayers rejected. Note; It is too late when sentence is passed to cry for pity or pardon.

4. His importunity for a blessing also. Though he may not have the best, he may have some. Note; Many are desirous of happiness, who never take the way which leads to it.

5. Isaac yields to his request. He bestows upon him a good land, a plentiful dwelling: and confirms his subjection to his brother, with the hope, however, in time, of shaking off his yoke: all which we shall see fulfilled in their season. Note; There are common blessings, which are shared by the evil and good; and many times, the wicked are most favoured with them: but all, without Christ, are scarce a crumb cast to a dog.


Verse 41

Genesis 27:41. The days of mourning are at hand In this however he was mistaken, as Isaac lived forty years after: he was also happily prevented from executing his wicked purpose by his mother's care, who sent away her son Jacob to Laban, designing soon to fetch him back from thence, Genesis 27:45 though in this she was disappointed, Jacob continuing with Laban above twenty years. She seems to have been a very tender mother, anxious for the welfare of her sons, though most engaged to Jacob, probably by the goodness and humanity of his behaviour, as well as the knowledge she had of the Divine preference of him. Houbigant translates לךֶ מתנחם mithnachem leca, thinks, or meditates concerning thee to kill thee: which he thinks much more natural than doth comfort himself, and which he avers is more agreeable to the Hebrew.


Verse 46

Genesis 27:46. I am weary, &c.— See notes on ch. Genesis 26:34, &c. The writers of the Universal History remark, that whosoever narrowly observes Jacob's life, after he had obtained his father's blessing, will own, that it consisted in nothing less than in worldly felicity, of which he enjoyed as little perhaps as any man whatever. Forced from his home into a far country, for fear of his brother; deceived and oppressed by his own uncle, and forced to fly from him after a servitude of twenty-one years; in imminent danger either of being pursued and brought back by Laban, or murdered by an enraged brother: these fears are no sooner over, but the baseness of his eldest son in defiling his couch; the treachery and cruelty of the two next to the Shechemites; and, lastly, the loss of his beloved wife, and supposed untimely end of his son Joseph: all these overwhelmed him with fresh successions of grief; and, to complete all, his being forced by famine to descend into AEgypt, and to die in a strange land; these, and many more, are sufficient proofs that his father's blessing was of a quite different nature, and consisted chiefly in these two particulars; viz. the possession of the land of Canaan, in right of primogeniture, which his brother had sold him, and which rather belonged to his posterity than to himself; the other and more glorious one was, that of the Messiah's being born of his race, and not of that of Esau.

REFLECTIONS.—Observe, 1. The natural effects of disappointed pride appear in Esau's hatred and revenge. Though loth to grieve his aged father, and draw down his curse, he however thinks he has not long to wait, and then Jacob shall pay dearly for his cunning. Note; (1.) He is not the last wicked son, who is pleased with the hopes of his father's death. (2.) Marvel not, if brother rise against brother, when religion is concerned: it was so from the beginning.

2. Rebekah resolves to disappoint his purposes. She admonishes Jacob of his danger, and advises him to give way by yielding and absence. Note; Distance of time and place wears off, or weakens the impressions of resentment. She justly fears lest she should be deprived of both sons at once, by the murder of one and the execution of the other. The thought of a son a murderer must needs be shocking to every parent.

3. She conceals from Isaac Esau's purpose, but finds a very urgent reason for his consent to her design, by pleading the danger of Jacob's marrying a Canaanite, and that such a step would make her life miserable. Note; (1.) Parents are greatly interested in the settlement of their children. (2.) Where one child hath settled wrong, they should be doubly careful of those who remain.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 27:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/genesis-27.html. 1801-1803.

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Saturday, August 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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