Summary: Isaac asked his son Esau to prepare a special dinner. Several things happened, though, that changed the family dynamic forever.
Introduction: At the time of this incident, Isaac was considered an old man, and he was afraid he was going to die soon. He asked Esau, his oldest son, to prepare him some food from game Esau would hunt in the fields. The rest of this story is a classic of deceit, in that a family was torn apart based on taking advantage of an old man. Isaac was fooled, once, but he found out the truth before he could be fooled again.
1 Isaac had a desire
Text, Genesis 27:1-4, KJV: 1 And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I. 2 And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death: 3 Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison; 4 And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.
This episode of Isaac’s life took place late in his life. By way of review, he was 40 years old when Rebekah became his wife and he was 60 when his sons, Esau and Jacob, were born. There is no record of any other children. Each son was old enough now to basically take care of himself, so Isaac may have been close to 100 years of age.
Believing he didn’t have much time left before he died, Isaac asked Esau to basically hunt some wild game for a special meal. Esau and Jacob, even though twin brothers, were probably about as different as they could be: Moses wrote in Genesis 25:17 that Esau was “a cunning hunter, a man of the field” but “Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents”. The clearest example of their differences might be seen in Genesis 25:29-34, where Esau came in from hunting and was so hungry that he sold his birthright to Jacob, who had been doing some cooking, for some “bread and pottage of lentiles (sic)”. How much of this transaction Isaac and Rebekah knew is never recorded, but it’s likely they would not have been happy about it.
Now, Isaac is hungry for some of his favorite food and sends his favorite son (Gen. 25:28) to bring him back something he really desired. Isaac added, that he wanted Esau to do this in order to bless him before Isaac died (remember, he thought he didn’t have long to live at this time).
Something that I found interesting, by the way, is Isaac’s mention that Esau take his “quiver and bow” on the hunt. As far as I can tell, this is only the second mention of archery or bow and arrow in the Bible. Ishmael, son of Abraham by Hagar, became an archer after he and his mother were forced out of Abraham’s household (Genesis 21). Whoever taught Ishmael or Esau the fundamentals of archery may never be known.
With that charge or request from his father, Esau gathered his weapons and went off to find some “venison (KJV)” or suitable food for Isaac. But he wasn’t the only one making plans for Isaac.
2 Isaac was deceived
Text, Genesis 27:5-10, KJV: 5 And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it. 6 And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying, 7 Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the LORD before my death. 8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee. 9 Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth: 10 And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death.
Isaac had requested Esau to hunt and prepare him a meal of “venison (KJV)” or game, as it would be called today. Frankly, I’ve had a few pieces of venison and if the meat found around Beersheba tasted anything like the venison prepared (!) here in the USA, Isaac would be welcome to my share, too! But in all fairness, it seems domestic livestock like cattle or sheep wasn’t used for food very often—witness the special treatment Abraham gave to the Three Visitors in Genesis 18. There was no restriction on wild game, though, in those days, especially before the Law of Moses was enacted many years later.