Bible Commentaries
Genesis 27

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 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.

When Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim. He was in his 137th year; and apprehending death to be near, he prepared to make his last will-an act of the gravest importance, especially as it included the conveyance, through a prophetic spirit, of the patriarchal blessing. It may be thought that a lamb or a kid from his own flocks could have served that purpose as well, besides being sooner obtained. But Eastern nomads are proverbially abstemious in the use of flesh, subsisting chiefly on bread, milk, butter, and dates; and they seldom or never provide any animal food for their own or their family consumpt. But they are particularly fond of dishes made from the flesh of animals taken in hunting. And all their animal food, of whatever kind, is besmeared with melted butter and highly spiced, or acidulated with pomegranate or lemon juice, onions and garlic being frequently added to complete the seasoning (Shaw's 'Travels;' Russell's 'Aleppo').

Isaac, as a feeble, chronic invalid, had a fastidious taste; and, besides a longing desire he felt for the fresh flavour of game, he asked perhaps, for a new proof of his oldest son's affection in his eager haste to fetch what would gratify his father's appetite. In addition to all these reasons, he might wish for venison, the rather as 'eating and drinking' being used on all solemn religious occasions, he could not convey the right of patriarchal inheritance until he had eaten of the meat provided for the purpose by him who was to receive the blessing (Adam Clarke).

Verses 2-3

And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 4

And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.

Make me savoury meat [ mat`amiym (H4303), or feminine, mat`amowt (H4303). Proverbs 23:3; Proverbs 23:6, where the word is rendered "dainties"]

That I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die - literally, while I shall not yet die; i:e., before I die. He seems to have apprehended the near approach of dissolution (but he lived forty-three years longer, Genesis 35:28). And believing that the conveyance of the patriarchal benediction was a solemn duty incumbent upon him, he was desirous of stimulating all his energies for that great effort, by partaking, apparently for the last time, of a favourite dish which had often refreshed and invigorated his wasted frame.

It is difficult to imagine him ignorant of the divine purpose (cf. Genesis 25:23). But natural affection, prevailing through age and infirmity, prompted him to entail the honours and powers of the birthright on his oldest son; and perhaps he was not aware of what Esau had done (Genesis 25:34). The deathbed benediction of the patriarchs was not simply the last farewell blessing of a father to his children, though that, pronounced with all the fullness and energy of concentrated feeling, carries in every word an impressive significance which penetrates the inmost parts of the filial heart, and is often felt there long after the tongue that uttered it is silent in the grave. The dying benediction of the patriarchs had a mysterious import: it was a supernatural act, in performing which they were free agents in deed; still mere instruments employed by an overruling power to execute His purposes of grace. It was, in fact, a testamentary conveyance of the promise, bequeathed with great solemnity in a formal address, called a BLESSING (Genesis 27:30; Genesis 27:36; Genesis 22:17-18 [Greek, Eulogeese]; Hebrews 11:20), which, consisting partly of prayers and partly of predictions, was an authoritative appropriation of the covenant promises to the person who inherited the right of primogeniture. Abraham, indeed, had not performed this last ceremony, because it had been virtually done long before his death, on the expulsion of Ishmael (cf. Genesis 21:1-34), and by the bestowment of the patrimonial inheritance on Isaac (Genesis 25:5), as directed by the oracle (cf. Genesis 17:21 with Genesis 21:12, last clause). But Isaac (as also Jacob) had more than one son in his family, and, in the belief of his approaching death, was animated by a sacred impulse to do what was still unperformed, and his heart prompted as right-that of transmitting the honours of primogeniture to his older son.

Verse 5

And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 6

And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying,

Rebekah spake unto Jacob - she prized the blessing as invaluable-she knew that God intended it for the younger son; and in her anxiety to secure its being conferred on the right object-on one who cared for religion-she acted in the sincerity of faith, but in crooked policy-with unenlightened zeal, on the false principle that the end would sanctify the means.

Verses 7-10

Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the LORD before my death.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verses 11-12

And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man:

Jacob said ... Esau ... a hairy man. It is remarkable that his scruples were founded not on the evil of the act but the risk and consequences of detection.

Verses 13-17

And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them.

And his mother said ... Upon me be thy curse. His conscience being soothed by his mother, preparations were hastily made for carrying out the device; consisting, first, of a kid's flesh, which, made into a ragout, spiced with salt, onions, garlic, and lemon-juice, might easily be passed off on a blind old man, with blunted senses, as game; secondly, of pieces of goats' skin bound on his hands and neck, its soft silken hair resembling that on the cheek of a young man; thirdly, of the long white robe-the vestment of the first-born, which, transmitted from father to son, and kept in a chest among fragrant herbs and perfumed flowers, used much in the East to keep away moths-his mother provided for him. [ Beged (H899), plural bªgaadiym (H899);] - the wide-flowing outer garment of the Orientals, generally a costly robe (Genesis 41:42; 1 Kings 22:10; 1 Chronicles 18:9). [ Hachªmudot (H2532), goodly; margin, desirable; Septuagint, teen stoleen teen kaleen. Stolee denotes the elegant upper garment of the higher classes (Mark 12:38; Luke 15:22).] Blunt considers the "goodly raiment" put upon Jacob on this occasion was the sacerdotal robe of the family, appropriated to the first-born; and in support of this view, shows that the two words used in the original are applied, though not exclusively, yet for the most part, to priests and sacred things - "raiment" (Exodus 35:19; Leviticus 10:6; Leviticus 21:10; Deuteronomy 29:5) and "goodly" (2 Chronicles 36:10; Isaiah 64:11; Lamentations 1:10).

Verses 18-27

And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son?

He came unto his father. The scheme planned by the mother was to be executed by the son in the father's bed-chamber: and it is painful to think of the deliberate falsehoods, as well as daring profanity, he resorted to. The disguise, though wanting in one thing, which had nearly upset the whole plot, succeeded in misleading Isaac; and while giving his paternal embrace, the old man was roused into a state of high satisfaction and delight.

Verse 27. The smell ... is as ... of a field. The aromatic odours of the Syrian fields and meadows often impart a strong fragrance to the person and clothes, as has been noticed by many travelers. This may have been the reason for besmearing the "goodly raiment" with fragrant perfumes. It is not improbable, that in such a skillfully-contrived scheme, where not the smallest circumstance seems to have been omitted or forgotten that could render the counterfeit complete, means were used for scenting the clothes with which Jacob was invested, to be the more like those of Esau-newly returned from the field.

"See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed: Therefore, God give thee of the dew of heaven, And the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine:

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 everyone that curseth thee, And blessed be he that blesseth thee."

Verse 28

Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:

God give thee of the dew. To an Oriental mind this phraseology implied the highest flow of prosperity. The copious fall of dew is indispensable to the fruitfulness of lands which would be otherwise arid and sterile through the violent heat; and it abounds most in hilly regions, such as Canaan, hence, called the fat land (Nehemiah 9:25; Nehemiah 9:35).

The fatness of the earth - i:e., fat fields, fertile regions.

Plenty of corn and wine. Palestine was famous for vineyards, and it produced varieties of grain-namely, wheat, barley, oats, and rye. Grain and wine (vine) are specified, because they are the two most generous plants raised by human culture, and which are closely connected with the primitive history of man.

Verse 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.

Let people serve thee - fulfilled in the discomfiture of the hostile tribes that opposed the Israelites in the wilderness, and in the pre-eminence and power they attained after their national establishment in the promised land. This blessing was not realized to Jacob, but to his descendants; and the temporal blessings promised were but a shadow of those spiritual ones which formed the grand distinction of Jacob's posterity. Be lord over thy brethren. This did not take effect in the person of Jacob; but it was amply verified in the experience of his posterity in the time of David. [ Hªweey (H1933), be, the imperative of the obsolete form, haawaah, for haayaah (H1961), to be, is used only in poetry, which delights in archaic modes of expression].

Cursed be everyone that curseth thee ... This was a repetition of the general expression used at first in the call to Abraham, and did not convey the definite and far higher idea unfolded in subsequent revelations to that patriarch, that through the medium of his posterity the blessings of salvation should be imparted to the nations. Earthly blessings alone are promised-the possession of a fertile country, the enjoyment of national prosperity, and an extensive dominion. Isaac's view seems to have been mainly occupied with the relative position of the heir to his brother; and hence, with a mind governed by the undue and blinding influence of strong natural feeling, his spiritual perceptions were obscured, and he lost sight of that which was the most distinguished and invaluable privilege of the Abrahamic family-namely, "that through their seed all the families of the earth should be blessed."

Verses 30-35

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.

Esau ... came in from his hunting. Scarcely had the former scene been concluded, when the fraud was discovered. The emotions Isaac, as well as Esau, may easily be imagined-the astonishment, alarm, and sorrow of the one, the disappointment and indignation of the other. But a moment's reflection convinced the aged patriarch that the transfer of the blessing was "of the Lord," and now irrevocable. The importunities of Esau, however, overpowered him; and as the prophetic afflatus was upon the patriarch, he gave utterance to what was probably as pleasing to a man of Esau's character as the honours of primogeniture would have been.

`Behold, thy dwelling shall be far from (outside) the fatness of the earth, And far from (outside) the dew of heaven from above; But by thy sword shalt thou live, 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.'

There is a paranomasia, or play of words, in the framing of these two addresses, arising from the different use of the preposition [ min (H4480)], which is used (Genesis 27:38) in a partitive sense, but (Genesis 27:39) in a privative sense, signifying 'without,' as it frequently does in poetry (2 Samuel 1:22; Job 11:15). This translation, which is different from that in the King James Version, gives a meaning both in better accordance with the context and at the same time exactly descriptive of the physical character of Idumea. The first part of the address predicts that Esau and his descendants should be settled in a region 'without the fatness of the earth, or the dew of heaven;' and such is the state of Edom; because though some portions in the eastern division of it are watered and productive, the whole of the western district along the Arabah is the most arid and sterile that can be imagined. The second part of the prediction refers to the roving life of hunting freebooters, which he and his descendants should lead. Though Esau was not personally subject to his brother, his posterity were tributary to the Israelites from the time of David (2 Samuel 8:14) until the reign of Joram, when they revolted, and established a king of their own (2 Kings 8:20; 2 Chronicles 21:8-10), but were subdued a second time by Amaziah (2 Kings 14:7; 2 Chronicles 25:11), and continued to be subject under Uzziah and Jotham (2 Kings 14:22; 2 Chronicles 26:2). It was not until the reign of Ahaz they succeeded in finally throwing off the yoke of the Jews (2 Chronicles 28:17).

We are informed, on apostolic authority Hebrews 11:20), that Isaac "blessed" both his sons "concerning things to come, by faith" - faith grounded on the promise to his posterity made by the Word of God; and he considered himself called instrumentally to convey the precious legacy by a solemn benediction to his heir. He erred, indeed, through the weakness of nature, in assigning it to a wrong individual, but by the secret overruling providence of God was guided unconsciously to a right conclusion; because his warrant was derived from the revealed Word, and the direct inspiration of the Faithful Promiser qualified him for the extraordinary act of conveying it to his chosen successor. In the case of Esau he acted by faith also; because although that benediction referred only to temporal things, and did not rest upon any special promise, yet it was the fruit of earnest prayer, and contained predictions which he received by divine revelation.

Verses 36-40

And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 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.

Esau hated Jacob. It is scarcely to be wondered at that Esau resented the conduct of Jacob, and vowed revenge.

The days of mourning for my father - a common Oriental phrase for the death of a parent. It very frequently happens in the East that brothers at variance wait for the death of their father to avenge among themselves their private quarrels.

Verses 42-45

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.

Words of Esau ... were told to Rebekah. Poor woman, she now early begins to reap the bitter fruits of her fraudulent device; she is obliged to part with her son for whom she planned it, never, probably, seeing him again; and he (Jacob) felt the retributive justice of heaven fall upon him heavily in his own future family.

Why should I be deprived ... of you both? This refers to the law of the Go'el (H1352), by which the nearest of kin would be obliged to avenge the death of Jacob upon his brother.

Verse 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?

Rebekah said to Isaac. Another pretext her cunning had to devise to obtain her husband's counsent to Jacob's journey to Mesopotamia; and she succeeded by touching the aged patriarch in a tender point, afflicting to his pious heart-the proper marriage of their younger son.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Genesis 27". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.