Genesis 27: Jacob takes Esau’s blessing, and flees
In Genesis 25, we read about Esau selling his inheritance to Jacob for a meal. In this chapter, Jacob takes his blessing, too. (With a little help from Rebekah.)
The chapter starts out with Isaac already so old that “his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see” (verse 1). He doesn’t know how long he’s going to live, so he figures he’d better give Esau his blessing now, while he still has the chance. Remember that Esau is still technically the older brother, even though he and Jacob were twins, so he was only the older by a few seconds or minutes.
Because Esau is a hunter, Isaac tells him to go out and hunt for some game, and come back and prepare it just the way Isaac likes it. He will then give Esau his blessing. However, as he is giving Esau these instructions, Rebekah is listening to the conversation; Esau is hardly out the door, to go hunting, before she’s calling to Jacob, with a plan:
…Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the LORD before I die.’ Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.” (verses 6–10)
This way, Jacob and Rebekah will have the food prepared for Isaac before Esau can even return from his hunting. Jacob isn’t fully sold on this plan, though; he’s worried that his father will realize it’s him, not Esau, because Esau is very hairy, and Jacob isn’t. In fact, he’s worried that if his father realizes what has happened, he’ll end up cursing Jacob, instead of blessing him. But Rebekah has it all figured out; Jacob will dress in Esau’s clothes, and cover his hands with goatskins, to make them seem hairy.
So Rebekah prepares the food, Jacob puts in the skins and clothes, and he goes in to his father. His father, however, is a bit cautious; he can’t seem to believe that it’s Esau. In fact, at one point he even asks “How did you find [the game] so quickly, my son?” and Jacob replies blasphemously “The LORD your God gave me success” (verse 20). Finally, Isaac asks him to come closer, and touches him, and is convinced. “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau” (verse 22).
So Isaac blesses Jacob:
So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,
“Ah, the smell of my son
is like the smell of a field
that the LORD has blessed.
May God give you of heaven’s dew
and of earth’s richness—
an abundance of grain and new wine.
May nations serve you
and peoples bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.
May those who curse you be cursed
and those who bless you be blessed.”
So Jacob leaves his father, and has “scarcely left his father’s presence” (verse 30) when Esau returns from hunting. He prepares the food, and brings it in to his father, who is perplexed.
His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”
“I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.”
Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”
This reduces Esau to tears. He also does a bit of rewriting of history: “He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” (verse 36) It’s true, Jacob has tricked Esau out of his blessing, but Esau has nobody to blame but himself for giving away his birthright.
Isaac tells Esau “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?” (verse 37) But Esau is so intent—and crying so hard—that Isaac does what he can for him:
His father Isaac answered him,
"Your dwelling will be
away from the earth’s richness,
away from the dew of heaven above.
You will live by the sword
and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,
you will throw his yoke
from off your neck.”
Doesn’t seem like a great blessing, but you takes what you can gets.
The chapter ends with Jacob fleeing, because Esau holds a grudge against him, and he’s afraid for his life. Rebekah tells him to go to her brother Laban, and that she will send for him when Esau is no longer planning to kill him. The chapter ends with her excuse, as to why Jacob is leaving:
Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.” (verse 46)
It’s not fully clear why Rebekah is so intent on getting Jacob the blessing that was supposed to be Esau’s. At least, it’s not clear to me. I’m wondering if Genesis 26:35 had anything to do with it, when Esau married Judith and Basemath, who were “a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah”. Or it could just be as simple as the fact that Jacob is her favourite.
In any event, keep in mind that a “blessing”, in Old Testament times, has more significance than we understand, in modern times. It seems to me that a blessing, in this context, is something closer akin to a prophecy, but I freely admit that I don’t understand it properly. But notice also that Jacob was worried that his father would curse him, instead of blessing him, so “cursing” had more significance as well. (He obviously doesn’t just mean that his father will cuss him out…)
Finally, notice the brutal honesty in verse 20, when Jacob says to Isaac “The LORD your God gave me success”. Jacob knows that he doesn’t have any kind of relationship with God.