Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Genesis Chapter 27 ~ Jacob Deceives, is Blessed, and Flees

Genesis Chapter 27

Isaac is now old, and there is a descriptor here that his eyes were dim, so he couldn't see so well. He asked Esau to get him some delicious meat so he could eat delicious food since he could die any day, and so that he could bless Esau before he died. Rebekah overheard this, and when Esau went to hunt for food she told Jacob about Isaac and Esau's conversation. She told Jacob to go and kill some of their livestock so that she could make some of the food Isaac loved. Then she told him to bring it to Isaac. Jacob was concerned that he would be found out because Esau is hairy (and smelly as we'll see) and he was "smooth". He was concerned that if he was found out that Isaac would curse him instead of blessing him. It's interesting to note that Jacob had no problem with the deception and lies. He was more concerned about getting away with it! Jacob did what his mother, Rebekah, asked. So she made the food Isaac loved, and she put Jacob in some of Esau's best garments that she had at her place. She also put the skins of the young goats they had killed for the meat on Jacob's hands and neck, and she gave Jacob the food.

So Jacob went to Isaac and pretended to be Esau, he even said, "I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me." (Gen. 27:18) Isaac was suspicious and asked him a question, and then asked to feel him. So Jacob went forward and Isaac felt him then said, "The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau," (Gen. 27:20) and he didn't recognize him, because his hands were hairy. Isaac asked Jacob if he was Esau at this point and Jacob lied saying, "I am." (Gen. 27:24) So he asked him to bring the food to him so that he could bless him. Jacob did this and Isaac ate and drank wine. Isaac then said, "Come near and kiss me, my son," (Gen. 27:26) and Jacob complied. As he came near Isaac smelled Esau's smell on Jacob's clothes. Remember if Esau was always in the fields and hunting he probably would have been a smelly, sweaty man. I could be wrong, but I doubt they had deodorant in those days. Smelling Esau's odor was the final impetus he needed to then bless him. This is what Isaac said to Jacob:
“See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed! May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!” (Gen. 27:27-29)
After this, Jacob left and shortly after Esau came to Isaac. He prepared a meal too and brought it to him to eat and then bless him. Isaac said, "Who are you?" and he answered, "I am your son, your firstborn, Esau." (Gen. 27:32) Then Isaac trembled very violently asking who the earlier person was who came to him and whom he blessed. Esau heard this and cried out with a great bitter cry and begged for a blessing too, but Isaac said, "Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing." (Gen. 27:35) Esau responded telling of how Jacob's name is fitting because he cheated him two times: Jacob (1) took his birthright and (2) his blessing. Esau asked again if Isaac had a blessing for him, and Isaac said, "I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?" (Gen. 27:37) Esau begged for a blessing though, and lifted his voice and wept. So Isaac said:
“Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be, and away from the dew of heaven on high. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow restless you shall break his yoke from your neck.” (Gen. 27:39-40)
Esau hated jacob because of the blessing he stole, and Esau said, "The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob." (Gen. 27:41) These words were told to Rebekah, so she relayed the message to Jacob of what Esau said, and said to flee to her brother Laban in Haran and stay there until Esau's fury turned away, and he forgets what Jacob had done to him. Her reasoning was, "Why should I be bereft of you both in one day?" (Gen. 27:45) Then Rebekah said to Isaac that she loathed her life because of the Hittite women (daughters of Heth), and that if Jacob married a Hittite woman her life will not have been of any good.

The layers of deception and sin in this chapter are many. First, there's almost no doubt that Isaac was aware of what the LORD said about who would be the heir of their house and of the covenant with God. Remember Genesis 25:23 when the LORD spoke to Rebekah, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger"? Yet, Isaac still played favorites by loving Esau more than he loved Isaac. We even read at the end of Genesis 26 that Esau and his wives Judith and Basemath, both Hittites, made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah. Then here in our chapter for today we see that Isaac still was showing partiality to Esau. He most likely knew that God's favor was going to pass to Jacob, and yet he tried to do what he preferred.

Second, notice that Isaac wasn't the only one showing favoritism to one of their twin boys. Rebekah loved Jacob more than she loved Esau. Her preference was in line with the son that God was choosing to continue His covenant with, but this doesn't justify the actions and seeming intentions in them. She almost certainly had mixed/sinful motives in all of these events, but they seem more defensible because they are in alignment with what the LORD spoke to her when she was still pregnant. As I mentioned in commenting on Genesis 25 this kind of favoritism is not justifiable in a family.

While Isaac appears to take it upon himself to go against God's revealed will, Rebekah takes it upon herself to fulfill what God has clearly revealed. Both actions appear to be coming from a position of unbelief. These sins are so much like what we so often do. We either outrightly disagree with God's will and we actively seek to fulfill the plan that we think would be better, just like Isaac was trying to do with Esau; or we discount that the LORD can accomplish His will through righteous means, yet we take it upon ourselves to fulfill God's plans through deceptive and sinful means.

Third, notice Jacob's involvement in all of this. He willfully goes along with what Rebekah asks him to do in order to receive Esau's blessing from Isaac. He outrightly lies multiple times as he stands before Isaac. The text makes it clear that Isaac was deceived to believe he was actually Esau; however, it almost seems like he knew what was going on. He was probably suspicious because he knew of what God said about the boys and their future. We know, at least, that he was suspicious of him when he mentioned it was Jacob's voice, but it was Esau's hands. When we heard God's pre-determined will for Jacob and Esau in Rebekah's womb that the younger would rule over the older, we (the readers) had no clue that it would be brought about through the muck and mire of these many layers of sinful intentions and actions. God's pre-ordination is unstoppable, and by His grace He even works through our sinful means to accomplish His will.

Fourth, Esau, while clearly the victim here, is not merely innocent. He despised his birthright, remember? He showed dishonor to God and the role it would be to be the heir of the covenant. He showed contempt for the restriction to not marry women from Canaan, and for God's design for marriage to one woman (he married Judith and Basemath). Yes, he probably knew of the concubines his grandfather Abraham had, but he took it a few steps further and seems to actually have contracted two marriages independently, and further to Canaanites. Further, he made life bitter for Isaac and Sarah as we saw in chapter 26.

One question lingers from all of this, why didn't Isaac just take back the blessing he inadvertently gave to Jacob and bestow it on Esau? Taking it back really isn't an option to Isaac, because his blessing seems to be function very much like an oath in the presence of the almighty God (Gen. 27:7). His blessing wasn't just between him and his son, but before the LORD. This blessing in many ways is a prophetic oracle and he understands that this is in alignment with God's will and is made in the presence of God; it must not be rescinded. Genesis 27:37 shows that he understands this to be unrevocable. A few other passages regarding oaths come to mind (I saw these in Victor Hamilton, 226 in footnote 25).

First, Numbers 30:3-5:
“If a woman vows a vow to the Lord and binds herself by a pledge, while within her father's house in her youth, and her father hears of her vow and of her pledge by which she has bound herself and says nothing to her, then all her vows shall stand, and every pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. But if her father opposes her on the day that he hears of it, no vow of hers, no pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. And the Lord will forgive her, because her father opposed her."
One is bound by his or her oath, and it seems that Isaac understands that the LORD, his heavenly Father, is in agreement with his prophecy. Therefore, it must stand.

Second, the story of Jephthah's vow in Judges 11:30-35 comes to mind. This is when he vows to kill whomever is the first to come to his door, and it is his daughter. I don't like that story at all, but it tells us of how binding an oath may be. Also, it appears that Jephthah believes that his LORD is in agreement with his oath (but this is never really specified, although He may be because in His providence He allows it to come to pass).

You can see that this is another reason why Jesus spoke so strongly about swearing oaths in Matthew 5:33-36:
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil."
Well, Isaac's oath/prophecy/oracle/blessing made in the presence of the LORD to Jacob is binding, and cannot be revoked. Unlike the meaninglessness of so much speech these days, and the promises we often make and never seek to fulfill, these words could not be retracted, and the weight of the promise of salvation and the fulfillment of God's promises lay in them. These words were a big deal, and Jacob knows it (Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau do too!). It's as if he gives up going against God by preferring Esau at this point (
after the truth of Jacob's deception comes to light), and sees that in God's providence the covenant blessings have passed on to Isaac in spite of his desires and best efforts to do otherwise.

So God's covenant promises now pass on to Jacob.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great work on Genesis!!