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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 27

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-4

Abraham’s life ended with happiness, success, and a strong character. In contrast, physical and spiritual decay marked Isaac’s old age. [Note: Meir Sternberg, Poetics of Biblical Narrative, p. 350. See Bruce K. Waltke, "Reflections on Retirement from the Life of Isaac," Crux 32 (December 1996):4-14.]

"In this the infirmity of his [Isaac’s] flesh is evident. At the same time, it was not merely because of his partiality for Esau, but unquestionably on account of the natural rights of the firstborn, that he wished to impart the blessing to him, just as the desire to do this before his death arose from the consciousness of his patriarchal call." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 1:274.]

". . . Isaac’s sensuality is more powerful than his theology." [Note: Wenham, Genesis 16-50, p. 206.]

Verses 1-5

Isaac’s blessing 27:1-28:5

Here we have the third round of Jacob’s battle with Esau. The first was at birth (Genesis 25:21-28) and the second was over the birthright (Genesis 25:29-34). [Note: See Mathews, Genesis 11:27-50:26, pp. 418-19, for clarification of the difference between a birthright and a blessing.] In all three incidents Jacob manipulated his brother-unnecessarily, in view of God’s promise (Genesis 25:23).

"This chapter [27] offers one of the most singular instances of God’s overruling providence controlling the affairs of sinful men and so disposing of them that the interests of God’s kingdom are safeguarded. Usually the guilt of Jacob is overemphasized, and Esau is regarded as relatively or entirely the innocent party in the transaction. This traditional view requires modification and correction." [Note: Leupold, 2:735.]

"This chapter portrays an entire family attempting to carry out their responsibilities by their physical senses, without faith. . . .

"All the natural senses play a conspicuous part-especially the sense of taste in which Isaac prided himself, but which gave him the wrong answer. Reliance on one’s senses for spiritual discernment not only proves fallible, but often fouls up life unduly.

"Most importantly, however, the story is about deception." [Note: Ross, "Genesis," pp. 72, 73.]

An oral blessing was as legally binding as a written will in the ancient Near East. [Note: See Davis, p. 239.]

"As in modern society, inheritance under Nuzi law was effected by testamentary disposition, although the [Nuzi] tablets indicate that such a testament was often made orally. One of the tablets tells of a lawsuit between brothers concerning the possession of their late father’s slave girl, Sululi-Ishtar. The youngest of three brothers, Tarmiya, was defending his elder brothers’ claim to Sululi-Ishtar and the tablet sets out his testimony:

’My father, Huya, was sick and lay on a couch; then my father seized my hand and spoke thus to me. "My other sons, being older, have acquired a wife; so I give herewith Sululi-Ishtar as your wife."’

"In the end result the Court found in favour of Tarmiya, upholding his father’s oral testamentary disposition.

"It also appears from another Nuzi tablet that even an oral testament commenced with an opening introductory statement such as: ’Now that I am grown old . . . .’ which was the legal phraseology to indicate that what was to follow constituted a testamentary disposition. In similar manner, Isaac indicated to his elder son Esau that he wished to bestow upon him his testamentary blessing: ’Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death’ (Genesis 27:2)." [Note: West, p. 71. See also Ephraim Speiser, "’I Know Not the Day of My Death,’" Journal of Biblical Literature 74 (1955):252-56.]

Verses 5-17

It seems consistent with the character of Rebekah as presented elsewhere in Genesis to interpret her actions here as predictable, if not commendable. A sincere desire to make sure that Isaac’s blessing went to the divinely chosen, more responsible of her sons apparently motivated her. While her motive seems to have been good, her method evidenced lack of faith in God. [Note: See Sharp, pp. 164-68.] She tried to "pull the wool" over Isaac’s eyes.

"Jacob is clearly less concerned with the rightness, the morality, of his mother’s suggestion than he is with what happens to him if his disguise is discovered and his impersonation revealed." [Note: Hamilton, The Book . . . Chapters 18-50, p. 216.]

People used the black, silk-like hair of the camel-goat of the East (Genesis 27:16) as a substitute for human hair as late as the Roman period. [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 1:275, n. 1.]

Verses 18-29

The response to Isaac’s blessing in Genesis 27:23 is proleptic; it refers to the blessing in Genesis 27:27-29, not another blessing that preceded that one.

Jacob’s kiss recalls another deceptive show of affection, namely, Judas’ kiss of Jesus (Matthew 26:48-49).

Isaac uttered his blessing (Genesis 27:27-29) in poetic language and God’s Spirit doubtless inspired it since it proved to be prophetic (cf. Genesis 49:1-27; Deuteronomy 33; et al.). It was an oracle.

The writer mentioned two of the elements in the Abrahamic promises specifically here: possession of the land, and numerous descendants. He generalized the third element, the blessing of the nations, in Genesis 27:29 c.

"Since the intention to give the blessing to Esau the firstborn did not spring from proper feelings toward Jehovah and His promises, the blessing itself, as the use of the word Elohim instead of Jehovah or El Shaddai (cf. xxviii. 3) clearly shows, could not rise to the full height of the divine blessings of salvation, but referred chiefly to the relation in which the two brothers and their descendants would stand to one another, the theme with which Isaac’s soul was entirely filled. It was only the painful discovery that, in blessing against his will, he had been compelled to follow the saving counsel of God, which awakened in him the consciousness of his patriarchal vocation, and gave him the spiritual power to impart the ’blessing of Abraham’ to the son whom he had kept back, but whom Jehovah had chosen, when he was about to send him away to Haran (xxviii. 3, 4)." [Note: Ibid., 1:276-77.]

Verses 30-45

Isaac evidently knew that he had been resisting God’s will and finally accepted defeat submissively (Genesis 27:33). Besides in that culture a paternal blessing, much more a divine oracle, such as the one Isaac had uttered, was irrevocable. [Note: See A. C. Thiselton, "The Supposed Power of Words in the Biblical Writings," Journal of Theological Studies NS25:2 (October 1972):294.]

"By showing that the blessing was irrevocable, even by the father who gave the blessing, the writer underscores an important feature of the blessing-its fulfillment is out of human hands." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 191.]

Perhaps Isaac did not withdraw the blessing he had given Jacob because he realized that God had overruled his carnal preference for Esau (Genesis 27:39-40).

Isaac’s prophecy to Esau was no true blessing. At best he introduced a disturbing element into the blessing he had given Jacob because Jacob had used deception to obtain it.

The mountains of Edom are some of the most desolate and barren of any on earth today. They stand to the southeast of the Dead Sea. Esau’s descendants would subsist by hunting people, just as Esau had subsisted by hunting game.

The Edomites served, revolted from, and were conquered by the Israelites repeatedly during their history. Saul defeated them after they enjoyed a long period of independence (1 Samuel 14:47). Then David made them his vassals (2 Samuel 8:14). They tried to revolt under Solomon but were unsuccessful (1 Kings 9:14 ff.). The Edomites were subject to Judah until King Joram’s reign when they rebelled successfully. In Amaziah’s reign Judah again subjugated them (2 Kings 14:7). They finally achieved permanent freedom from Judah during Ahaz’s reign (2 Kings 16:6). John Hyrcanus conquered Edom about 129 B.C., forced the Edomites to submit to circumcision, and incorporated them into the Jewish nation. Later through Antipater and Herod they established the Idumean dynasty over Judah that lasted until the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The writing prophets sometimes used the Edomites as the epitome of Israel’s enemies.

Rebekah feared the loss of both her sons as a result of her plot (Genesis 27:45). Esau might have killed Jacob, and Esau then might have fled, or the avenger of blood might have slain him (cf. Genesis 9:6).

Rebekah used her dislike for Esau’s wives as an excuse to gain Isaac’s permission for Jacob to go to Paddan-aram. Paddan-aram was the area around Haran. [Note: See the map "Abraham’s Travels Outside the Promised Land" under my comments on 11:27-32 for its location.] Evidently Rebekah had kept Esau’s hatred for Jacob from his aged father because she believed Isaac was near death (Genesis 27:41). Rebekah’s deceit secured the blessing for Jacob, but it resulted in his having to flee from his home. As far as Genesis records, Rebekah never saw him again.

". . . her broaching the subject of Jacob’s marriage was a masterstroke: it played equally on Isaac’s self-interest and his principles. The prospect of a third Hittite daughter-in-law and a distracted wife would have unmanned even an Abraham." [Note: Kidner, p. 157.]

"Rebekah’s manipulative language to spare Jacob again displays the poverty of Isaac and Rebekah’s relationship. As demonstrated by the previous deception, Isaac and Rebekah do not seem able to communicate honestly with one another on important spiritual matters." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 382.]

Isaac evidently realized that his desire to give the blessing to Esau was not God’s will, so having given it to Jacob (Genesis 27:27-29) he blessed him further (Genesis 28:1-4). [Note: Concerning Isaac’s desire that Jacob marry someone from outside the Promised Land, see the note at 24:3-4.]

This account is another remarkable demonstration of God’s ability to use the sins of men and women to accomplish His purposes and at the same time punish the sinners for their sins.

"What man intends for evil God utilizes for good." [Note: Davis, p. 238. Cf. Romans 8:28.]

Many years later the aged Jacob blessed Joseph’s younger son Ephraim rather than his older brother Manasseh (Genesis 48:14-19). He must have remembered how he had deceived his father Isaac to get his blessing. Joseph’s approach to Jacob on that occasion was honorable by contrast, and his life was free of the consequences of deceit. This was not true of Jacob’s life.

Jacob reaped what he sowed (Galatians 6:7). Laban later deceived him, and later still his own sons (in the case of the sale of Joseph) did so even more cruelly than he deceived Isaac. [Note: For some helpful insights into Jacob’s character, see R. Paul Stevens, "Family Feud," His 42:3 (December 1981):18-20.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Genesis 27". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/genesis-27.html. 2012.
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