Summary: Jacob finds out the hard way that sin has built-in consequences.
Deception carries some built-in consequences. One beautiful Sunday morning a deacon decided to skip church and play a round of golf. The fifth hole was the most challenging of the entire course, but nonetheless the deacon, to his delight, made a hole-in-one. An angel observing this turned to God and asked, “Lord, why would You reward such conduct?” God smiled and replied, “Who is he going to tell?”
Isaac tries to overturn God’s will. Esau is eager to comply. Jacob deceives his own father to gain the patriarchal blessing. His mother Rebekah is a major part of the scheme. A devious family, for sure.
We might ask, “What’s the big deal about a blessing?” We should all “bless” our children, envisioning for them God’s best and doing what we can to see our blessing come to pass. Madeline L’Engle notes: “We take blessings and cursings too casually. We bless those who sneeze because that’s ‘what you say’ and we damn because we’re annoyed. But to bless or damn someone is serious business.” In observant Jewish homes on Friday night, both parents place their hands on their children’s heads and recite a blessing. The children in turn feel secure in their parents’ love and confident in themselves. The covenantal, patriarchal blessing of Abraham’s son Isaac carries a prophetic pronouncement of God’s favor, foretelling a prosperous destiny.
Isaac claims here that he’s near death, but that was hardly the case. His vision was gone, but he was otherwise healthy. He meets secretly with his favored son Esau to plot the bestowal of his blessing. If Isaac knew of God’s pronouncement to Rebekah (that Jacob will be the favored son) he chooses to ignore it. Did Isaac know that Esau had sold his birthright to Jacob? Again, we don’t know. As he secretly schemes, Isaac makes a critical mistake, similar to Esau’s in chapter 25: he lets his appetite get in the way. He sends Esau out to hunt for game, unaware that Rebekah is listening in. And she swiftly turns the tables to preserve the blessing for her favored son Jacob. She “moves the men around her like chess pieces” (Niditch). She obviously didn’t think God was capable of carrying out His promise without her help.
Jacob needs his father’s blessing to make his receipt of the birthright binding (without this the birthright alone is meaningless). He seems to like Rebekah’s plan, but he’s afraid that if found out, he will receive a curse from his father rather than a blessing. He doesn’t seem to fear displeasing God. He’s more concerned about getting caught than doing right. His mother Rebekah is prepared; maybe she saw this coming. In an elaborate ruse, she has Jacob wear a freshly skinned goat’s hide and bring the meat to Isaac, prepared as he liked it…and lie follows lie. Like Judas, Jacob betrays with a kiss. I think he inadvertently reveals his inner spiritual condition when he says to his father in verse 20, “The Lord your God gave me success.” Not “my” God but “yours.” And Jacob was not blindly obeying his mother; he was old enough (27) to know that this was a conspiratorial scheme designed to deceive.
Isaac’s doubts persist; Jacob wasn’t able to impersonate his brother’s voice. But the goatskin does the trick; he feels and smells like Esau! So reassured, Isaac pronounces his blessing. What he confers is a destiny well-thought-out. The brother being blessed will dominate the other. The son he blesses will have from God prosperity, preeminence, and protection.
When Esau returns with freshly caught and prepared game for his father, we’re told that Isaac “trembled” (verse 33). He must’ve thought, “What have I done!” There is but one possible suspect as to who could’ve impersonated Esau. Isaac now realizes that, though he try, he cannot hinder the plan of God. What Isaac hoped to accomplish by secrecy has been compromised by trickery.
After realizing too late what has happened, Isaac accepts the inevitable. The blessing he gave cannot be cancelled or transferred to another. It was a verbal last will and testament and cannot be revoked. Isaac understands that the blessing he mistakenly gave Jacob has divine sanction.
Esau, however, isn’t exactly prepared to quietly or stoically accept the outcome. Jacob has truly lived up to his name, which means “heel-grasper”, or “deceiver”. First he cheated Esau out of his birthright, and now his blessing. Esau bitterly protests and begs his father to give him some sort of blessing, which Isaac does, though it’s barely a blessing, and not nearly what he gave Jacob. There’s not much left for Esau. His lesser blessing is more of a prophetic description of the struggles he and his people will endure. Esau despised his birthright but fully appreciated the value of the blessing he has lost. But he’s not the only loser…