Isaac prepares to bless esau. — V.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. Isaac was by this time one hundred and thirty-seven years old, and the infirmities of old age were beginning to show themselves in his failing eyesight; literally, in his eyes becoming weak away from seeing. He now, in a formal and solemn manner, called for Esau, his favorite son. V.2. And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death. As a matter of fact, he lived another forty-three years, but the preparations which he made showed the prudence which characterized him. Every believer should set his house in order betimes and be ready to meet death when it comes. V.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; V.4. and make me savory meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die. It was not the sudden whim of an old man which was here revealed, but a carefully prepared plan, according to which Esau was to obtain some game by chase and then to prepare the meat in a way of which he knew that it pleased his father. In spite of the divine utterance before the birth of the children, which was undoubtedly known to him, and the careless and almost contemptuous disposal of his birthright by Esau, in spite, also, of the latter’s objectionable marriage to the Canaanitish woman, Isaac persisted in his preference for Esau, even in the very important matter of transmitting the Messianic promise. Even in believers the weakness of the flesh will often grow into a sulky obstinacy in ignoring God’s manifest guidance.
Rebekah arranges to have jacob blessed first. — V.5. And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau, his son. This overhearing of Isaac’s plan by Rebekah was due to the dispensation of God. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it. V.6. And Rebekah spake unto Jacob, her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau, thy brother, saying, V.7. Bring me venison, and make me savory meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the Lord before my death. Rebekah made Jacob her confederate by making known to him all that she had found out. V.8. Now, therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee. V.9. Go now to the flock, which included goats as well as sheep, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats, an ample supply being needed in order to represent venison; and I will make them savory meat for thy father, such as he loveth, for Rebekah was also familiar with Isaac’s tastes and knew in what form he preferred his roast venison. V.10. And thou shalt bring it to thy father that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death. Thus Jacob was given to understand what role he was to play in Rebekah’s plan. V.11. And Jacob said to Rebekah, his mother, Behold, Esau, my brother, is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man; v.12. my father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing. This was partly prudence, partly the voice of conscience which told him that he would be making himself a scoffer in the eyes of his old blind father, one making sport of the latter’s infirmity, and the discovery would result in his bringing away a curse instead of a blessing. Out of respect for his mother Jacob does not refer to the wrong itself, but to its dangerous consequences. V.13. And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son; only obey my voice, and go fetch me them. Both the blame and the curse which might strike Jacob Rebekah was willing to shoulder, for with her to plan meant to act, to pursue her course to the finish. V.14. And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother; and his mother made savory meat, such as his father loved. V.15. And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob, her younger son. They were garments of preciousness, and Rebekah planned to have both the touch and the odor of the garments-deceive Isaac. V.16. And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck. It seems that Angora goats are here referred to, whose long, silky wool resembled human hair. V.17. And she gave the savory meat and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob. Thus Rebekah had taken the matter of the patriarchal blessing into her own hands. She had in mind, of course, the promise which she had received, but her rashness caused her to identify her plan with the plan of God. She felt that she must come to the aid of the divine dispensation, but her manner of acting had neither God’s command nor His promise. It was the mercy of the Lord which afterward turned her human machinations for the best.
Isaac blesses jacob. — V.18. And he came unto his father, and said, My father; and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son? V.19. And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau, thy first-born; I have done according as thou badest me; arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me. Jacob here became guilty of his mother’s deceit in deed as well as in words and intent, for he was not Esau, nor was the meat which he was bringing venison. So far as he was concerned, he was trying to obtain his father’s blessing under false pretenses. V.20. And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the Lord, thy God, brought it to me. Upon Isaac’s surprised question: How is this? Thou wast quick to find; — Jacob piously refers the supposed luck of his chase to a special blessing of the Lord. V.21. And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not. Isaac’s surprise changes into suspicion at the sound of Jacob’s voice and at the indefinite answer which was so unlike Esau’s blunt manner. But it was here that Rebekah’s stratagem proved its worth. V.22. And Jacob went near unto Isaac, his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. Isaac was much nearer being convinced, but his suspicions were not yet allayed altogether. V.23. And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. Isaac did not know and recognize Jacob for the person who he really was, the hairiness of his wrists making him inclined to think him Esau, so he made ready to bless him, the act being anticipated by the author. V.24. And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am. This bold answer settled the doubts of Isaac to such an extent that he was ready for the meal. V.25. And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat; and he brought him wine, and he drank. Thus Jacob gained his first step. V.26. And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son. It was the kiss of the father which was to introduce the blessing. V.27. And he came near, and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his raiment which the strategy of Rebekah had placed on him, since their odor was that of the fields and of the chase; and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed. Isaac’s blessing consisted of inspired utterances looking into the future and transmitting the special blessing of the Lord to Jacob. V.28. Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. These were temporal gifts, of great importance in the country which Jacob and his children were to possess. The quantity of the dew, especially during the dry season, determined the fruitfulness of the land. The fat, productive fields of the earth were to be his, the result being a rich yield of grain and new wine. V.29. Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee; be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee; cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee. This part of the blessing describes the position of influence and power which the descendants of Jacob were to occupy. Not only over his brethren, over the people of his own race, including the children of his brother, he was to be lord, but also over strange people and nations. The idea of a world dominion is thus brought out, culminating in the promise that men would be judged according to their attitude toward him and his descendants. Thus the blessing looks forward to the Messiah, the touchstone of the ages, for to this day the right answer to the question: What think ye of Christ? decides the fate of every person in the world.
Esau returns and receives the younger son’s blessing. — V.30. And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac, his father, that Esau, his brother, came in from his hunting. It was just as Isaac had finished his blessing upon Jacob and the latter had just barely stepped out of the room that Esau returned from the chase. v.31. And he also had made savory meat, and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s venison that thy soul may bless me. Esau, for once, was serious, and therefore lost no time in preparing the game which he had shot and taking it in to his father, with the humble request for the promised blessing. V.32. And Isaac, his father, said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy first-born, Esau. V.33. And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? Where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? Yea, and he shall be blessed. Esau’s simple statement, so obviously the truth, caused the greatest agitation in Isaac’s manner; literally, he trembled a great trembling very exceedingly, and then broke out into various questions as to the identity of the person who had so cleverly obtained the chief blessing from him. But even before Isaac pronounces the name of Jacob, he must state that the blessing of the Lord will remain with him. It was not for him to withdraw the blessing which was in fact that of the Lord, and Isaac now realized that his fleshly preference for Esau could not be defended in the sight of God. No matter in what manner the blessing had been obtained, God had guided the affair so that Jacob now actually was the bearer of the patriarchal succession. V.34. And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. He now realized, when it was too late, what he had lost, what he had formerly foolishly despised. His words seem to indicate that he thought the blessing could still be divided. V.35. And he said, Thy brother came with subtlety, and hath taken away thy blessing. That was the human side of the happening, the deception, the error and sin which had crept into the business. V.36. And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob (heel-catcher, supplanter) ? For he hath supplanted me these two times; he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. Esau was now in a state of mind which prevented his proper repentance, for there was no excuse for his selling his birthright. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me? Just as though Isaac was able to set aside such blessings at will. V.37. And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him; and what shall I do now unto thee, my son? This was an attempt to explain the situation to Esau, to make it clear to him that there was only one patriarchal blessing, which included both the promise of the land of Canaan in its most fruitful form and the special lordship with its culmination in the person of the Messiah. V.38. And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice and wept. It is to this scene that Heb. 12, 17 refers, for Esau could not persuade his father to reconsider his decision, although he made the effort with tears. His were in this case not tears of true repentance over his sin, but merely of bitterness over the result of his folly. This fact Isaac now understood. V.39. And Isaac, his father, answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth and of the dew of heaven from above. Of the fatness of the earth and of the dew of heaven would Esau’s dwelling place be, that is, away from the fruitful and fat fields of Canaan. There are some fertile valleys in the northeastern part of Idumea, where Esau and his descendants lived, but the greater part of Idumea is one of the dreariest and most sterile deserts in the world. V.40. And by thy sword shalt thou live, war, pillage, and robbery being almost necessary in the barren land which would be his habitation, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck. History shows that this prophecy was fulfilled. “Edom was at first strong and independent as compared to Israel, slower in its development (Num. 20, 14). Saul first fought against it victoriously (1 Sam. 14, 47); David conquered it (2 Sam. 8, 14). Then followed a conspiracy under Solomon (1 Kings 11, 14), whilst there was an actual defection under Joram. On the other hand, the Edomites were again subjected by Amaziah (2 Kings 14, 7; 2 Chron. 25, 11) and remained dependent under Uzziah and Jotham (2 Kings 14, 22; 2 Chron. 26, 2). But under Ahaz they liberated themselves entirely from Judah (2 Kings 16, 6; 2 Chron. 28, 17). Finally, however, John Hyrcanus subdued them completely, and incorporated them into the Jewish state and people, whilst the Jews themselves, however, after Antipater, became subject to the dominion of an Idumean dynasty, until the downfall of their state.”
Esau’s hatred of jacob. — V.41. And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him; and Esau said in his heart, the days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob. Having failed in his attempt to change his father’s mind in the matter of the patriarchal blessing, the hatred of Esau turned against Jacob, and he planned to revenge himself by murdering his brother. During the lifetime of his father he did not want to execute this threat, in order not to grieve Isaac. But after the death of Isaac, which seemed to be near, and after the days of mourning for his father, he would have no more scruples in carrying out his design. V.42. And these words of Esau, her elder son, were told to Rebekah; and she sent and called Jacob, her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee. So Esau, in carrying out his purpose of revenge, planned to get satisfaction for himself; he thought he would feel better after having murdered his brother. V.43. Now, therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban, my brother, to Haran; v.44. and tarry with him a few days, until thy brother’s fury turn away; v.45. until thy brother’s anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him; then I will send, and fetch thee from thence. Rebekah tries to encourage Jacob and to comfort herself by intimating that it would be a matter of only a few days, of a very short time, until the wrath and anger of Esau would die down and be forgotten. Why should I be deprived also of you both in one day? If Jacob should be murdered, the avenger of blood would be set on Esau’s tracks, and he also would thus be lost to his mother. Cp. chap. 9, 6; 2 Sam. 14, 6. V.46. And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me? The wives of Esau were a bitterness of spirit not only to Rebekah, but also to Isaac, chap. 26, 35, and therefore the mention of this unbearable condition at this time was intended to pave the way for her plan of having Jacob sent to Mesopotamia, out of harm’s way. That the children of God are persecuted by the children of the world is a common experience, but God holds His sheltering and protecting hand over those that are His.