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And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old,—according to the generally accepted calculation, in his one hundred and thirty-seventh year. Joseph, having been introduced to Pharaoh in his thirtieth year (Genesis 41:46), and having been thirty-nine years of age (Genesis 45:6) when his father, aged one hundred and thirty (Genesis 47:9), came down to Egypt, must have been born before Jacob was ninety-one; consequently, as his birth occurred in the fourteenth year of Jacob's sojourn in Mesopotamia (cf. Genesis 30:25 with Genesis 29:18, Genesis 29:21, Genesis 29:27), Jacob's flight must have taken place when he was seventy-seven. But Jacob was born in Isaac's sixtieth year (Genesis 25:26); hence Isaac was now one hundred and thirty-seven. There are, however, difficulties connected with this reckoning which lay it open to suspicion. For one thing, it postpones Jacob's marriage to an extremely late period. Then it takes for granted that the term of Jacob's service in Padan-aram was only twenty years (Genesis 31:41), whereas it is not certain whether it was not forty, made up, according to the computation of Kennicott, of fourteen years' service, twenty years' assistance as a neighbor, and six years of work for wages. And, lastly, it necessitates the birth of Jacob's eleven children in the short space of six years, a thing which appears to some, it not impossible, at least highly improbable. Adopting the larger number as the term of Jacob's sojourn in Mesopotamia, Isaac would at this time be only one hundred and seventeen (vide 'Chronologer of Jacob's Life,' 31.41)—and his eyes were dim,—literally, were failing in strength, hence becoming dim (1 Samuel 3:2). In describing Jacob's decaying vision a different verb is employed (Genesis 48:10)—so that he could not see,—literally, from seeing; מִן with the inf. constr, conveying the idea of receding from the state of perfect vision—he called Esau his eldest son,—Esau was born before his twin brother Jacob (Genesis 25:25)—and said unto him, My son:—i.e. my special son, my beloved son, the language indicating fondness and partiality (Genesis 25:28)—and he (Esau) said unto him, Behold, here am I.
And he (i.e. Isaac) said, Behold now, I am old, and know not the day of my death. Isaac had manifestly become apprehensive of the near approach of dissolution. His failing sight, and probably the recollection that Ishmael, his half-brother, had died at 137 (if that was Isaac's age at this time; wide supra), occasioned the suspicion that his own end could not be remote, though he lived forty-three or sixty-three years longer, according to the calculation adopted, expiring at the ripe age of 180 (vide Genesis 30:28).
Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons,—the word "weapon" signifying a utensil, vessel, or finished instrument of any sort (cf. Genesis 14:1-53; Genesis 31:37; Genesis 45:20). Here it manifestly denotes weapons employed in hunting, and in particular those next specified—thy quiver—the ἅπαξ λέγομενον, תְּלִי: from תָּלָה to hang, properly is "that which is suspended;" hence a quiver, φαρέτραν (LXX.), pharetram (Vulgate), which commonly depends from the shoulders or girdle (Aben Ezra, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, et alii), though by some it is rendered "sword" (Onkelos; Syriac)—and thy bow (vide Genesis 21:16), and go oat to the field,—i.e. the open country inhabited by wild beasts, as opposed to cities, villages, or camps (cf. Genesis 25:27)—and take me some venison—literally, hunt for me hunting, i.e. the produce of hunting, as in Genesis 25:28.
And make me savory meat,—"delicious food," from a root whose primary idea is to taste, or try the flavor, of a thing. Schultens observes that the corresponding Arabic term is specially applied to dishes made of flesh taken in hunting, and highly esteemed by nomad tribes—such as I love (cf. Genesis 25:28, the ground of his partiality for Esau), and bring it to me, that I may eat;—"Though Isaac was blind and weak in his eyes, yet it seem-eth his body was of a strong constitution, seeing he was able to eat of wild flesh, which is of harder digestion" (Willet)—that—the conjunction בַּעֲבוּר followed by a future commonly expresses a purpose (cf. Exodus 9:14)—my soul may bless thee—notwithstanding the oracle (Genesis 25:23) uttered so many (fifty-seven or seventy-seven) years ago, Isaac appears to have clung to the belief that Esau was the destined heir of the covenant blessing; quoedam fuit coecitatis species, quae illi magis obstitit quam externa oeulorum caligo (Calvin)—before I die.
And Rebekah (who, though younger than Isaac, must also have been old) heard when Isaac spake—literally, in the speaking of Isaac; בְּ with the inf. forming a periphrasis for the gerund, and being commonly rendered by when (Genesis 14:1-30; Genesis 31:18), the subordinated noun being changed in translation into the subject of the sentence—to Esau his son (to which the "her son" of Genesis 27:6 stands in contrast). And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison,—literally, to hunt hunting. (vide on Genesis 27:3) and to bring it—i.e. "the savory meat" or "delicious food," as directed (Genesis 27:4).
Genesis 27:6, Genesis 27:7
And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son,—i.e. her favorite, in contrast to Esau, Isaac's son (Genesis 27:5)—saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying, Bring me venison (vide on Genesis 27:3), and make me savory meat, that I may eat (literally, and I shall eat), and bless thee—the lengthened form of the future in this and the preceding verb (cf. וְאֹכֵלָה in Genesis 27:4) is expressive of Isaac's self-excitement and emphatic determination—before the Lord. The word Jehovah, by modern criticism regarded as a sign of divided authorship, is satisfactorily explained by remembering that Rebekah is speaking not of the blessing of God's general providence, but of the higher benediction of the covenant (Hengstenberg). The phrase, though not included in Isaac's address to Esau, need not be regarded as due to Rebekah's invention. She may have understood it to be implied in her husband's language, though it was not expressed (cf. Genesis 14:20). That it was designedly omitted by Isaac in consequence of the worldly character of Esau appears as little likely as that it was deliberately inserted by Rebekah to whet her favorite's ambition (Kalisch). As to meaning, the sense may be that this patriarchal benediction was to be bestowed sincerely (Menochius), in presence and by the authority of God (Ainsworth, Bush, Clericus); but the use of the term Jehovah rather points to the idea that Rebekah regarded Isaac simply "as the instrument of the living and personal God, who directed the concerns of the chosen race (Hengstenberg). Before my death. Since Rebekah makes no remark as to the groundlessness of Isaac's fear, it is not improbable that she too shared in her bed-ridden husband's expectations that already he was "in the presence of" his end.
Now therefore, my son,—Jacob at this time was not a lad, but a grown man of mature years, which shows that in the following transaction he was rather an accomplice than a tool—obey my voice according to that which I command thee. We can scarcely here think of a mother laying her imperative instructions on a docile and unquestioning child; but of a wily woman detailing her well-concocted scheme to a son whom she discerns to be possessed of a like crafty disposition with herself, and whom she seeks to gain over to her stratagem by reminding him of the close and endearing relationship in which they stand to one another.
Genesis 27:9, Genesis 27:10
Go now to the flock, and fetch me—literally, take for me, i.e. for my purposes (cf. Genesis 15:9)—from thence two good kids of the goats. According to Jarchi kids were selected as being the nearest approach to the flesh of wild animals. Two were specified, it has been thought, either to extract from both the choicest morsels (Menochius), or to have the appearance of animals taken in hunting (Rosenmüller), or to make an ample provision as of venison (Lunge), or to make a second experiment, if the first failed (Willet). And I will make them—probably concealing any difference in taste by means of condiments, though Isaac's palate would not be sensitive in consequence of age and debility—savory meat for thy father, such as he loveth (vide Genesis 27:4): and thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat (literally, and he shall eat), and that he may bless thee—בַּעֲבֻר אֲשֶר, in order that, from the idea of passing over to that which one desires to attain; less fully in Genesis 27:4—before his death. Clearly Rebekah was anticipating Isaac's early dissolution, else why this indecent haste to forestall Esau? There is no reason to surmise that she believed any connection to subsist between the eating and the benediction, though she probably imagined that the supposed prompt obedience of Isaac's son would stimulate his feeble heart to speak (Rosenmüller).
And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man (vide Genesis 25:25) and I am a smooth man—חָלָק, smooth (opposed to שָׂעִיר," hairy); the primary idea of which is to cut off the hair. Cf. χαλκός χάλιξ κόλαξ γλυκός, γλοῖος γλίσχρος; glacies, glaber, gladius, glisco; gluten, glatt, gleiten, glas—all of which convey the notion of smoothness.
My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver;—literally, shall be in his eyes as a scorer (Keil, Lange), with the idea of mocking at his aged sire's infirmities—ὡς καταφρονῶν (LXX.); or as a deceiver, an imposter, one who causes to go astray (Vulgate, Rosenmüller, Ainsworth, Murphy); though perhaps both senses should he-included, the verb תָּעע, to scoff, meaning primarily to stammer, and hence to mislead by imperfect speech, and thus to cause to wander or lead astray, תָּעָה,—and I shall bring a curse—קְלָלָה—(from קָלַל, to be light, hence to be despised) signifies first an expression of contempt, and then a more solemn imprecation—upon me, and not a blessing.
And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son (cf. Genesis 43:9; 1Sa 25:24; 2 Samuel 14:9; Matthew 27:25). Tempted to regard Rebekah's words as the utterance of a bold and unscrupulous woman (Aben Ezra), we ought perhaps to view them as inspired by faith in the Divine promise, which had already indicated that of her two sons Jacob should have the precedence (Willet, Calvin, Lange), and that accordingly there was every reason to anticipate not a malediction, but a benediction. Only obey my voice (i.e. do as I direct you, follow my instructions), and go fetch me them—or, go and take for me (sc. the two kids I spoke of).
And he went (sc. to the flock), and fetched,—or, rather, took (sc. the two kids as directed) and brought them (after slaughter, of course) to his mother: and his mother made savory meat, such as his father loved. All this implies that Rebekah reckoned on Esau's absence for a considerable time, perhaps throughout the entire day.
The stolen blessing: a domestic drama.
1. Issac and Rebekah, or plotting and counterplotting.
I. THE SCHEME OF ISAAC.
1. Its sinful object. The heavenly oracle having with no uncertain sound proclaimed Jacob the theocratic heir, the bestowment of the patriarchal benediction on Esau was clearly an unholy design. That Isaac, who on Mount Moriah had evinced such meek and ready acquiescence in Jehovah's will, should in old age, from partiality towards his firstborn, or forgetfulness of Jehovah's declaration, endeavor to thwart the Divine purpose according to election affords a melancholy illustration of the deceitfulness of sin even in renewed hearts, and of the deep-seated antagonism between the instincts of nature and the designs of grace.
2. Its secret character. The commission assigned to Esau does not appear to have been dictated by any supposed connection between the gratification of the palate, the reinvigoration of the body, or the refreshment of the spirit and the exercise of the prophetic gift, but rather by a desire to divert the attention of Rebekah from supposing that anything unusual was going on, and so to secure the necessary privacy for carrying out the scheme which he had formed. Had Isaac not been doubtful of the righteousness of what he had in contemplation, he would never have resorted to maneuvering and secrecy, but would have courted unveiled publicity. Crooked ways love the dark (John 3:20, John 3:21).
3. Its urgent motive. Isaac felt impelled to relieve his soul of the theocratic blessing by a sense of approaching dissolution. If it be the weakness of old men to imagine death nearer, it is the folly of young men to suppose it farther distant than it is. To young and old alike the failure of the senses should be a premonition of the end, and good men should set their houses in order ere they leave the world (Genesis 25:6; 2 Kings 20:1; Isaiah 38:1).
4. Its inherent weakness. That Isaac reckoned on Rebekah's opposition to his scheme seems apparent; it is not so obvious that he calculated on God's being against him. Those who meditate unholy deeds should first arrange that God will not be able to discover their intentions.
II. THE STRATAGEM OF REBEKAH.
1. The design was legitimate. Instead of her behavior being represented as an attempt to outwit her aged, blind, and bed-ridden husband (for which surely no great cleverness was required), and to stealthily secure the blessing for her favorite, regard for truth demands that it should rather be characterized as an endeavor to prevent its surreptitious appropriation for Esau.
2. The inspiration was religious. Displaying a considerable amount of woman's wit in its conception and execution, and perhaps largely tainted by maternal jealousy, Rebekah's stratagem ought in fairness to be traced to her belief in the pre-natal oracle, which had pointed to Jacob as the theocratic heir. That her faith, however mixed with unspiritual alloy, was strong seems a just conclusion from her almost reckless boldness (Genesis 27:13).
3. The wickedness was inexcusable. Good as were its end and motive, the stratagem of Rebekah was deplorably wicked. It was an act of cruel imposition on a husband who had loved her for well-nigh a century; it was a base deed of temptation and seduction, viewed in its relations to Jacob—the prompting of a son to sin against a father; it was a signal offence against God in many ways, but chiefly in the sinful impatience it displayed, and in the foolish supposition that his sovereign designs needed the assistance of, or could be helped by, human craft in the shape of female cunning.
III. THE RIVAL ACCOMPLICES.
1. The confederate of Isaac. The guilt of Esau consisted in seeking to obtain the birthright-when he knew
(1) that it belonged to Jacob by Heaven's gift,
(2) that he had parted with any imaginary title he ever had to expect it,
(3) that he was utterly unqualified to possess it, and
(4) that he was endeavoring to obtain it by improper means.
2. The tool of Rebekah. That Jacob in acting on his mother's counsel was not sinless is evinced by the fact that he
(1) perceived its hazardous nature (Genesis 27:11, Genesis 27:12),
(2) discerned its criminality, and yet
(3) allowed himself to carry it through.
1. The wickedness of trying to subvert the will of Heaven—exemplified in Isaac.
2. The sinfulness of doing evil that good may come—illustrated by the conduct of Rebekah.
3. The criminality of following evil counsel, in opposition to the light of conscience and the restraints of Providence—shown by the conduct of both Esau and Jacob.
And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau,—literally, the robes of Esau her son the elder—the desirable, i.e. the handsome ones. The בֶּגֶד was an outer garment worn by the Oriental (Genesis 39:12, Genesis 39:13, Genesis 39:15; Genesis 41:42),—στολὴ, LXX.,—and was often made of beautiful and costly materials (cf. 1 Kings 22:10). That the clothes mentioned as belonging to Esau were sacerdotal robes possessed by him as heir of the patriarchal priesthood (Jewish Rabbis), though regarded by many as a probable conjecture (Ainsworth, Bush, Candlish, Clarke, Wordsworth, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Inglis), is devoid of proof, and may be pronounced unlikely, since the firstborn did not serve in the priesthood while his father lived (Willet, Alford). They were probably festive garments of the princely hunter (Kalisch)—which were with her in the house,—not because Esau saw that his wives were displeasing to his parents (Mercerus, Willet), or because they were sacred garments (Ainsworth, Poole), but probably because Esau, though married, had not yet quitted the patriarchal household (Kalisch)—and put them upon Jacob her younger son. The verb, being in the hiphil, conveys the sense of causing Jacob to clothe himself, which entirely removes the impression that Jacob was a purely involuntary agent in this deceitful and deeply dishonorable affair.
And she put the skins of the kids of the goats—not European, but Oriental camel-goats, whose wool is black, silky, of a much finer texture than that of the former, and sometimes used as a substitute for human hair (cf. So Genesis 4:1); vide on this subject Rosenmüller's 'Scholia,' and commentaries generally—upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck—thus cautiously providing against detection, in case, anything occurring to arouse the old man's suspicions, he should seek, as in reality he did, to test the accuracy of his now dim sight and dull hearing by the sense of touch.
And she gave the savory meat and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob—who forthwith proceeded on his unholy errand.
And he came unto his father,—by this time a bed-ridden invalid (vide Genesis 27:19)—and said, My father. If he attempted to imitate the voice of Esau, he was manifestly unsuccessful; the dull ear of the aged patient was yet acute enough to detect a strangeness in the speaker's tone. And he said, Here am I who art thou, my son? "He thought be recognized the voice of Jacob; his suspicions were aroused; he knew the crafty disposition of his younger son too well; and he felt the duty of extreme carefulness" (Kalisch).
And Jacob (either not observing or not regarding the trepidation which his voice caned, but being well schooled by his crafty mother, and determined to go through with what perhaps he esteemed a perfectly justifiable transaction) said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn. A reply for which laborious excuses have been invented; as that Jacob spoke mystically, meaning not that he individually, but that his descendants, the Church, were Isaac's firstborn; or figuratively, as importing that since he had already bought Esau's birthright, he might justly regard himself as standing in Esau's place (Theodoret, Aquinas). It is better not to attempt vindication of conduct which to ordinary minds must ever appear questionable, but rather to hold that "Jacob told an officious lie to his father" (Willet). I have done according as thou badest me. If the former assertion might be cleared of mendacity, it is difficult to see how this can. By no conceivable sophistry could he convince his conscience that he was acting in obedience to his father, while he was knowingly implementing the instructions of his mother. This was Jacob's second lie.—Arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison. Lie three. One lie commonly requires another to support or conceal it. Few who enter on a course of deception stop at one falsehood. That thy soul may bless me. It was the blessing of the Abrahamic covenant he craved.
Genesis 27:20, Genesis 27:21
And Isaac (still dissatisfied, but still resolving to proceed with caution) said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? Giving expression to a natural surprise at the speedy success which had attended Esau's hunting expedition; an interrogation to which Jacob replied With daring boldness (Murphy), with consummate effrontery (Bush), not without perjury (Calvin), and even with reckless blasphemy (Kalisch, Alford). And he said, Because the Lord thy God brought it to me. Literally, caused it to come before me; by the concurrence, of course, of his providence; which, though in one sense true, yet as used by Jacob was an impious falsehood. Solemn as this declaration was, it failed to lull the suspicions or allay the disquiet of the aged invalid. And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son,—the very thing which Jacob had suggested as likely to happen (Genesis 27:12)—whether thou be my very son Esau (literally, this, my son Esau) or not.
Genesis 27:22, Genesis 27:23
And Jacob (with a boldness worthy of a better cause) went near unto Isaac his father; and he (i.e. Isaac) felt him (i.e. Jacob), and said, The voice is Jacob's voice, but (literally, and) the hands are the hands of Esau. And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau's hands: so he blessed him. Isaac must either have forgotten the heavenly oracle which announced the destinies of his sons at their birth, and distinctly accorded the precedence to Jacob, or he must not have attached the same importance to it as Rebekah, or he may have thought that it did not affect the transmission of the covenant blessing, or that it did not concern his sons no much as their descendants. It is hard to credit that Isaac either did not believe in the Divine announcement which had indicated Jacob as the heir of the promise, or that, believing it, he deliberately allowed paternal partiality to interfere with, and even endeavor to reverse, the will of Heaven.
And he said (showing that a feeling of uneasy suspicion yet lingered in his mind), Art thou my very son Esau? Luther wonders how Jacob was able to brazen it out; adding, "I should probably have run away in terror, and let the dish fall;" but, instead of that, he added one more lie to those which had preceded, saying with undisturbed composure, I am—equivalent to an English yes; upon which the blind old patriarch requested that the proffered dainties might be set before him. Having partaken of the carefully-disguised kid's flesh, and drunk an exhilarating cup of wine, he further desired that his favorite son should approach his bed, saying, Come near now, and kiss me, my son—a request dictated more by paternal affection (Keil, Kalisch) than by lingering doubt which required reassurance (Lange).
And he came near, and kissed him. Originally the act of kissing had a symbolical character. Here it is a sign of affection between a parent and a child; in Genesis 29:13 between relatives. It was also a token of friendship (Tobit 7:6; 10:12; 2 Samuel 20:9; Matthew 26:48; Luke 7:45; Luke 15:20; Acts 20:37). The kissing of princes was a symbol of homage (1 Samuel 10:1; Psalms 2:12; Xenoph; 'Cyrop.,' 7. 5, 32). With the Persians it was a mark of honor (Xenoph; 'Agesil.,' 5. 4). The Rabbins permitted only three kinds of kisses—the kiss of reverence, of reception, and of dismissal. The kiss of charity was practiced among disciples in the early Christian Church (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1Th 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14; vide Kitto's' 'Cyclopedia,' art. Kissing). And he smelled the smell of his raiment,—not deliberately, in order to detect whether they belonged to a shepherd or a huntsman (Tuch), but accidentally while, in the act of kissing. The odor of Esau's garments, impregnated with the fragrance of the aromatic herbs of Palestine, excited the dull sensibilities of the aged prophet, suggesting to his mind pictures of freshness and fertility, and inspiring him to pour forth his promised benediction—and blessed him (not a second time, the statement in Genesis 29:23 being only inserted by anticipation), and said,—the blessing, as is usual in elevated prophetic utterances, assumes a poetic and antistrophical form (cf. Esau's blessing, verses 39, 40)—See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field—the first clause of the poetic stanza clearly connects with the odor of Esau's raiment as that which had opened the fount of prophetic song in Isaac's breast, so far at least as its peculiar form was concerned; its secret inspiration we know was the Holy Ghost operating through Isaac's faith in the promise (vide Hebrews 11:20)—which the Lord hath blessed. The introduction of the name Jehovah instead of Elohim in this second clause proves that Isaac did not mean to liken his son to an ordinary well-cultivated field, but to "a field like that of Paradise, resplendent with traces of the Deity—an ideal field, bearing the same relation to an ordinary one as Israel did to the heathen—a kind of enchanted garden, such as would be realized at a later period in Canaan, as far as the fidelity of the people permitted it" (Hengstenberg).
Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven,—literally, and the Elohim will give thee, with an optative sense; i.e. and may the—Elohim give thee! The occurrence of הָאֱלֹהִים in what is usually assigned to the Jehovist (Tuch, Bleek, Davidson) is not to be explained as a special Jehovistic formula (Colenso), or as a remnant of the fundamental Elohistic writing (Kalisch), or as indicating that the personal God, and not Jehovah, the God of the covenant, was the source of the blessing (Keil, Gosman in Lange), or as intimating a remaining doubt as to whether Esau was the chosen one of Jehovah (Lange); but as identifying Jehovah with Elohim, the art. being the art. of reference, as in Genesis 22:1. The blessing craved was substantially that of a fertile soil, in Oriental countries the copious dew deposited by the atmosphere supplying the place of rain. Hence dew is employed in Scripture as a symbol of material prosperity (Deuteronomy 33:13, Deuteronomy 33:28; Zechariah 8:12), and the absence of dew and rain represented as a signal of Divine displeasure (2 Samuel 1:21; 1 Kings 17:1; Haggai 1:10, Haggai 1:11)—and the fatness of the earth,—literally, of the fat-nesses, or choicest parts, of the earth (Genesis 45:18)—and plenty of corn and wine—i.e. abundance of the produce of the soil (cf. Deuteronomy 33:28).
Let people serve thee (literally, and will serve thee, peoples; at once a prayer and a prophecy; fulfilled in the political subjection of the Moabites, Ammonites, Syrians, Philistines, and Edomites by David; the thought being repeated in the next clause), and nations bow down to thee (in expression of their homage): be lord over thy brethren,—literally, be a lord (from the idea of power; found only here and in Genesis 27:37) to thy brethren. Imminence among his kindred as well as dominion in the world is thus promised—and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee (a repetition of the preceding thought, with perhaps a hint of his desire to humble Jacob, the favorite of Rebekah): cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee—framed on the model of the Abrahamic benediction (Genesis 12:3); but not so full as that, either because Isaac felt that after all Esau was not to be the progenitor of the holy seed (Murphy), or because, not being actuated by proper feelings towards Jehovah and his promises, the patriarch could not rise to that height of spiritual benediction to which he afterwards attained—Genesis 28:3, Genesis 28:4 (Keil), or because the prerogative of pronouncing the Abrahamic blessing in all its fullness Jehovah may have reserved to himself, as in Genesis 28:14 ('Speaker's Commentary').
The stolen blessing: a domestic drama.-2. Isaac and Jacob, or the successful stratagem.
I. JACOB'S DECEPTION OF ISAAC. Jacob's impersonation of Esau was—
1. Deftly prepared. The ingenious Rebekah, having dressed him in the fragrant festal robes of the princely hunter, covered his smooth skin with the soft, silky hide of the camel-goat, and put into his hand the simulated dainty dish which she had cooked. It is a melancholy thing when either woman's wit or man's sagacity is prostituted to unholy ends.
2. Boldly avowed. Entering his father's tent, and approaching within easy reach of the invalid's couch, at the same time imitating Esau's intonations, the heartless impostor calls upon his aged parent to arise and eat of his son's venison, in response to his father's inquiry also openly declaring himself to be Esau; in which was a fourfold offence—against his venerable father, against his absent brother, against himself, and against God. Never is a lie, and seldom is a sin of any kind, single or simple in its criminality. That scheme cannot be a good one of which the first act is a lie.
3. Persistently maintained. In the face of his father's searching interrogation, careful examination, and manifest trepidation, Jacob brazens out the imposture he had begun, covering his first falsehood by a second, and his second by a third, in which he Verges on the limits of blasphemy, allowing himself to be handled by his aged parent without betraying by a word or sign the base deception he was practicing, and at length capping his extraordinary wickedness by a solemn asseveration of his identity with Esau that carried with it in the hearing of Isaac much of the impressiveness and weight of an oath,—"I am thy very son Esau!" It is amazing to what depths of criminality those may fall who once step aside from the straight paths of virtue.
4. Completely successful. Critical as the ordeal was through which he passed, he was not detected So God sometimes allows wicked schemes to prosper, accomplishing his own designs thereby, though neither approving of the schemes nor holding the schemers guiltless.
II. ISAAC'S BENEDICTION Or JACOB. The patriarchal blessing which Isaac uttered was—
1. Divinely inspired as to its origin. It was not within the power of Isaac to either conceive or express it in any arbitrarily selected moment, or in any particular way or place that he might determine. Least of all was it the production of -Isaac's ordinary faculties under the physical or mental impulse of delicious viands or paternal affection. It was the outcome of an unseen afflatus of the Divine Spirit upon the venerable patriarch's soul (Hebrews 11:20).
2. Providentially directed as to its destination. Intended for the firstborn, it was pronounced upon the younger of his sons. Had Rebekah and Jacob not interposed with their miserable trick, there is reason to suppose that God would have discovered means of defeating the misguided patriarch's design; perhaps by laying an embargo upon his lips, as he did on Balaam (Numbers 22:38); perhaps by miraculously guiding his speech, as afterwards he guided Jacob's hands (Genesis 48:14). But nonetheless is the Divine finger discernible in carrying the heavenly blessing to its predestined recipient, that he does not interfere with Rebekah's craft, but allows it, beneath the guidance of his ordinary providence, to work out its appropriate result.
3. Richly laden as to its contents embraced—
(1) Material enrichment, represented by the dew, corn, and wine, which may also be regarded as symbolic of spiritual treasures;
(2) personal advancement in the world and the Church, foreshadowing both the political supremacy and ecclesiastical importance to which Israel should afterwards attain;
(3) spiritual influence, emblematic of the religious priesthood enjoyed first by the Hebrew people as a nation, and latterly by Christ, the true Seed of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob.
4. Absolutely permanent as to its duration. Though Isaac subsequently learnt of the deception which had been practiced towards him, he felt that the words he had spoken were beyond recall This was proof decisive that Isaac spake not of himself, but as he was moved by the Holy Ghost. His own benediction, uttered purely by and from himself, might, and, in the circumstances, probably would, have been revoked; the blessing of Jehovah transmitted through his undesigned act he had no power to cancel.
1. That those who attempt to deceive others are not infrequently themselves deceived.
2. That those who enter on a sinful course may speedily sink deeper into sin than they intended.
3. That deception practiced by a son against a father, at a mother's instigation, is a monstrous and unnatural display of wickedness.
4. That God can accomplish his own designs by means of man's crimes, without either relieving them of guilt or himself being the author of sin.
5. That the blessing of God maketh rich and addeth no sorrow therewith.
6. That the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
And it came to pass (literally, and it was), as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out—literally, and it was (sc. as soon as, or when) Jacob only going forth had gone; i.e. had just gone out (Ewald, Keil), rather than was in the act of coming out (Murphy), since the narrative implies that the brothers did not meet on this occasion—from the presence of Isaac his father, that (literally, and) Esau his brother came in from his hunting.
And he also had made savory meat (vide Genesis 27:4), and brought it unto his father, and said unto him, Let my father arise, and eat of his son's venison—compared with Jacob's exhortation to his aged parent (Genesis 27:19), the language of Esau has, if anything, more affection in its tones—that thy soul may bless me. Esau was at this time a man of mature age, being either fifty-seven or seventy-seven years old, and must have been acquainted with the heavenly oracle (Genesis 25:23) that assigned the precedence in the theocratic line to Jacob. Zither, therefore, he must have supposed that his claim to the blessing was not thereby affected, or he was guilty of conniving at Isaac's scheme for resisting the Divine will. Indignation at Jacob's duplicity and baseness, combined with sympathy for Esau in his supposed wrongs, sometimes prevents a just appreciation of the exact position occupied by the latter in this extraordinary transaction. Instead of branding Jacob as a shameless deceiver, and hurling against his fair fame the most opprobrious epithets, may it not be that, remembering the previously-expressed will of Heaven, the real supplanter was Esau, who as an accomplice of his father was seeking secretly, unlawfully, and feloniously to appropriate to himself a blessing which had already been, not obscurely, designated as Jacob's? On this hypothesis the miserable craft of Jacob and Rebekah was a lighter crime than that of Isaac and Esau.
And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? The language indicates the patriarch's surprise. And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau. The emphatic tone of Esau's answer may have been dictated by a suspicion, already awakened by Isaac's question, that all was not right (Inglis). Esau's claim to be regarded as Isaac's firstborn, after having bartered away his birthright, is considered by some to be unwarranted (Wordsworth); but it is doubtful if Esau attached the importance to the term "firstborn" which this objection presupposes.
And Isaac trembled very exceedingly,—literally, feared a great fear, to a great degree; shuddered in great terror above measure (Lange). The renderings ἐξέστη δὲ Ἰσαάκ ἔκστασιν μεγάλην σφόδρα (LXX.), Expavit stupors, et ultra quam credi potest admirans (Vulgate), "wondered with an exceedingly great admiration" (Onkelos), emphasize the patriarch's astonishment, the first even suggesting the idea of a trance or supernatural elevation of the prophetic consciousness; whereas that which is depicted is rather the alarm produced within the patriarch's breast, not so much by the discovery that his plan had been defeated by a woman's wit and a son's craft—these would have kindled indignation rather than fear—as by the awakening conviction not that he had blessed, but that he had been seeking to bless, the wrong person (Calvin, Willet)—and said, Who? where is he—quis est et ubi est? (Jarchi); but rather, who then is he? (Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Lange)—that hath taken venison,—literally, the one hunting prey—that hunted, or has hunted, the part having the force of a perfect—and brought it me, And I have eaten of all before thou earnest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed—thus before Jacob is named he pronounces the Divine sentence that the blessing is irrevocable (Lange).
And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry—literally, he cried a cry, great and bitter exceedingly; expressive of the poignant anguish of his soul (Kalisch, Bush), if not also of his rage against his brother (Philo, Eusebius), of his envy of the blessing (Menochius, Lapide), and of the desperation of his spirit (Calvin). Cf. Hebrews 12:17—and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. A proof of Esau's blind incredulity in imagining it to be within his father's power to impart benedictions promiscuously without and beyond the Divine sanction (Calvin); a sign that he supposed the theocratic blessing capable of division, and as dependent upon his lamentations and prayers as upon the caprice of his father (Lange); an evidence that "now at last he had learned in some measure adequately to value" the birthing? (Candlish); but if so it was post horam.
And he (i.e. Isaac) said, Thy brother came with subtlety,—with wisdom (Onkelos); rather with fraud, μετά δόλου (LXX.)—and hath taken away thy blessing—i.e. the blessing which I thought was thine, since Isaac now understood that from the first it had been designed for Jacob.
And he (Esau) said, Is he not rightly named Jacob?—literally, is it that one has called ha name Jacob? הֲכִיְ being employed when the reason is unknown. On the meaning of Jacob cf. Genesis 25:26—for (literally, and) he hath supplanted me (a paronomasia on the word Jacob) these two times—or, already twice; זֶה being used adverbially in the sense of now. The precise import of Esau's exclamation has been rendered, "Has he not been justly (δικαίως, LXX.; juste, Vulgate; rightly, A.V.) named Supplanter from supplanting?" (Rosenmüller). "Is it because he was named Jacob that he hath now twice supplanted me?" (Ainsworth, Bush). "Has he received the name Jacob from the fact that he has twice outwitted me?" (Keil). "Shall he get the advantage of me because he was rims inadvertently named Jacob?" (Lange). "Has in truth his name been called Jacob?" (Kalisch). All agree in bringing out that Esau designed to indicate a correspondence between Jacob's name and Jacob's practice. He took away my birthright;—this was scarcely correct, since Esau voluntarily sold it (Genesis 25:33)—and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. Neither was this exactly accurate, since the blessing did not originally belong to Esau, however he may have imagined that it did. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me? The question indicates that Esau had no proper conception of the spiritual character of the blessing which his brother had obtained.
And Isaac answered and said unto Esau (repeating the substance of the Messing already conferred on Jacob), Behold, I have made him thy lord,—literally, behold, a lord (vide on Genesis 27:29) have I constituted him to thee; Isaac hereby intimating that in pronouncing the words of blessing he had been speaking under a celestial impulse, and therefore with absolute authority—and all his brethren have I given to him for servants (for the fulfillment vide 2 Samuel 8:14), and with corn and wine have I sustained him:—i.e. declared that by these he shall be sustained or supported (cf. Genesis 27:28)—and what shall I do now unto thee, my son?
And ESAU said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? Not as desiring either the reversal of the patriarchal sentence upon Jacob, which he appears to have understood to be irrevocable, or an extension of its gracious provisions, so as to include him as well as Jacob; but as soliciting such a benediction as would place him, at least in respect of temporalities, on a level with the favorite of Rebekah, either because he did not recognize the spiritual character of the covenant blessing, or because, though recognizing it, he was willing to let it go. Bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept (cf. Hebrews 12:17). "Those tear expressed, indeed, sorrow for his forfeiture, but not for the sinful levity by which it had been incurred. They were ineffectual (i.e. they did not lead to genuine repentance) because Esau was incapable of true repentance" (vide Delitzsch on Hebrews 12:17).
And Isaac his father (moved by the tearful earnestness of Esau) answered and said unto him,—still speaking under inspiration, though it is doubtful whether what he spoke was a real, or only an apparent, blessing—(vide infra)—Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above. Literally, from (מִן) the fatnesses (or fat places) of the earth, and from the dew of area; a substantial repetition of the temporal blessing bestowed on Jacob (Genesis 27:28), with certain important variations, such as the omission of plenty of corn and wine at the close, and of the name of Elohim at the commencement, of the benediction (Vulgate, Luther, Calvin, Ainsworth, Rosenmüller, 'Speaker's Commentary'); though, by assigning to the preposition a privative rather than a partitive sense, it is readily transformed into "a modified curse"—behold, away from the fatnesses o/the earth, &c; shall thy dwelling be, meaning that, in contrast to the land of Canaan, the descendants of Esau should be located in a sterile region (Tuch, Knobel, Kurtz, Delitzseh, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy). In support of this latter rendering it is urged
(1) that it is grammatically admissible;
(2) that it corresponds with the present aspect of Idumaea, which is "on the whole a dreary and unproductive land;"
(3) that it agrees with the preceding statement that every blessing had already been bestowed upon Jacob; and
(4) that it explains the play upon the words "fatness" and "dew," which are hero chosen to describe a state of matter exactly the opposite to that which was declared to be the lot of Jacob. On the other hand, it is felt to be somewhat arbitrary to assign to the preposition a partitive sense in Genesis 27:28 and a privative in Genesis 27:39. Though called in later times (Malachi 1:3) a waste and desolate region, it may not have been originally so, or only in comparison with Canaan; while according to modern travelers the glens and mountain terraces of Edom, covered with rich soil, only want an industrious population to convert the entire region into "one of the wealthiest, as it is one of the most picturesque, countries in the world."
And by thy sword shalt thou live,—literally, upon thy sword shalt thou be, i.e. thy maintenance shall depend on thy sword; a prediction that Esau's descendants should be a warlike and tumultuous people of predatory habits (cf. Josephus, B. 1; 4. 4)—and shalt serve thy brother;—a prediction afterwards fulfilled (of. 1Sa 14:47; 2 Samuel 8:14; 1 Kings 11:16; 2 Kings 14:7-10; 2 Chronicles 20:22-25)—and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck. The verb רוּד, used of beasts which have broken the yoke and wander freely about (Gesenius, Furst), appear to hint at an incessant restlessness on the part of Edom while under Israel's yoke which should eventually terminate in regaining their independence. The exact rendering of the clause is obscure, but perhaps means that when Edom should roam about as a freebooter (Lange), or should revolt (Alford), or should toss, shake, or struggle against the yoke (Vulgate, Keil, Hengstenberg, 'Speaker's Commentary), he should succeed. Other renderings are, when thou shalt bear rule (Kimchi), when thou shalt repent (Jarchi), when thou shalt be strong (Samaritan), when thou prevailest (Murphy), when thou shalt truly desire it (Kalisch), when thou shalt pull down (LXX.); because thou art restless (Havernick).
The stolen blessing: a domestic drama.-3. Isaac and Esau, or the hunter's lamentation.
I. Isaac's STARTLING DISCOVERY.
1. Unexpectedly made. The return of Esau from the hunting-field with a dish of venison was a sudden and most unpleasant revelation to the aged patriarch, showing that in some inexplicable manner he had been out-maneuvered, and, as it were, constrained against his will to bestow the blessing upon Jacob. So in common life it is not infrequently seen that the unexpected is that which happens, that wicked schemes prove abortive, that the deceiver is himself deceived—"the engineer hoist on his own petard,"—and that men are often made the involuntary and unconscious instruments of furthering the will of Heaven.
2. Tremblingly received. Apprehending what had taken place, the blind old invalid "feared a great fear exceedingly," saddened with an inward horror, not through disappointment at the failure of his scheme, or indignation at the wicked craft and heartless duplicity of Rebekah's favorite, but alarm at his own sinful intention which God had thus manifestly seen and thwarted. It is well when the soul trembles at a discovery of its own wickedness. Gracious souls dread nothing "Thy more than standing on the verge of sin."
3. Pathetically acknowledged. Thy brother came with subtlety, and hath taken away thy blessing;" and, "I have blessed him: yea, and he shall be blessed." It becomes parents to commiserate their children's misfortunes, and especially to sorrow if they miss the blessings of salvation. They who lack these, even when they do not wish to obtain them, are objects of profoundest pity.
4. Meekly acquiesced in. Recognizing the hand of God in the remarkable transaction in which he had been an actor, with true humility and faith the venerable patriarch bowed before the will of the Supreme. Neither Esau's prayers and tears, nor his own paternal affections, could stimulate so much as a wish to undo what had been done. To a truly pious heart the will of God is final. "Thy will be done" is the language of faith.
II. ESAU'S SINGULAR BEHAVIOUR.
1. His bitter lamentation for himself. Esau's "great and exceeding bitter cry" was expressive not of heartfelt grief for his sinful levity in parting with the birthright, or guileful behavior in attempting to secure the blessing; but
(1) of deep mortification at being over-reached by his crafty brother;
(2) of remorseful chagrin at not recovering the blessing he had practically surrendered in the sale of the birthright;
(3) of earnest desire to induce Isaac to revoke the words he had spoken. The repentance which he sought carefully with tears (Hebrews 12:17) was not his own change of heart, but his father's change of mind.
2. His wrathful indignation against his brother. "Is he not rightly named Jacob for he hath supplanted me these two times. A statement not quite accurate; but angry men are seldom remarkable for accuracy of statement; a statement also expressive of hatred against Jacob, and incensed brothers often call each other bad names. Good men should be angry and sin not. Indignation, even when righteous, should be restrained.
3. His tearful request to his father. "Bless me, me also, O my father!" Having lost the blessing of the covenant, he was still desirous of possessing some sort of blessing. Wicked men often covet the material advantages of religion who have no desire to share in its spiritual enrichments.
III. ISAAC'S SOLEMN DECLARATION.
1. Of Esau's subjection to Jacob. "Behold, I have made him thy lord." A prediction of
(1) political subordination, afterwards fulfilled in the conquests of Israel; and
(2) of possible salvation to Esau and his descendants through believing recognition of the spiritual ascendancy of Jacob and his seed.
2. Of Esau's portion from God.
(1) A fat soil. God appoints to all men, individuals and nations, the bounds of their habitation. Inhabitants of fertile regions have a special call to thankfulness.
(2) A roving life. Though the warlike character of Esau's descendants was of God's appointment and permission, it is no just inference that savage tribes are as useful as those of settled and improved habits, or that God does not desire the diffusion of civilization and the elevation of the race.
(3) Ultimate independence. Though some nations have been placed in subjection, it is God's will that all should aspire to freedom. Revolt, rebellion, insurrection are sometimes a people's highest duty. Lessons:—
1. The blessing of the covenant is not of him that willeth or of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.
2. Those who despise God's salvation in youth cannot always obtain it in manhood or age.
3. Those who finally come short of eternal life will have no one to blame but themselves.
4. No one need sue in vain for Heaven's favor, since the blessing is not now for one, but for all.
5. There is a difference between penitence and remorse.
6. Though no man can hope to change the mind of God, it is within the power of all men to desire and to effect a change upon their own hearts.
7. The prediction of a nation's or a person's future does not interfere with the free operation of the human will
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
Jacob's deceit, Esau supplanted.
In this familiar narrative the following points may be distinguished:—
I. ISAAC'S ERROR—connecting a solemn blessing with mere gratification of the senses, neglect of the Divine word, favoritism towards the son less worthy.
II. JACOB'S SUBTILTY and selfishness. The birthright had been sold to him; he might have obtained the blessing by fair agreement. His fear of Esau lay at the root of his deceit. One sin leads on to another. Those who entangle themselves with the world are involved more and more in moral evil.
III. REBEKAH'S AFFECTION was perverted into unmotherly partiality and unwifely treachery to Isaac. The son's guilt rested much on the mother's shoulders, for she laid the plot and prepared the execution of it. All were sad examples of self-assertion destroying the simplicity of faith. And yet—
IV. THE COVENANT GOD over-rules the weakness and error of his people. The blessing was appointed for Jacob. Although pronounced by an instrument blind, foolish, sinful, deceived, it yet is the blessing, which, having been lodged in Isaac, must pass on to the true heir of Isaac, who, according to the promise and prediction, is Jacob.
V. The lower character and standing of Esau and his inferior blessing represents the distinction between THE CHOSEN PEOPLE AND THOSE WHO, WHILE NOT INCLUDED IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF ISRAEL, may yet by connection and intercourse with it derive some portion of the Divine benediction from it. Both in pre-Christian and Christian times there have been nations thus situated.
VI. The LATE REPENTANCE Of the supplanted Esau. He found no possibility of averting the consequences of his own error (Hebrews 12:17), no place where repentance would avail to recover that which was lost. The "great and exceeding bitter cry" only reveals the shame, the blessing taken away. Those who, like Esau, despise their place in the family of God are driven out into the fierce opposition of the world; "by their sword" they must live and "serve their brethren."
VII. THE END OF DECEIT IS HATRED, passion, fear, flight, individual and family disorder and suffering. Yet again the merciful hand interposes to over-rule the errors of man. Jacob's flight from Esau's hatred is his preservation from ungodly alliance with heathen neighbors, and the commencement of a wholesome course of discipline by which his character was purged of much of its evil, and his faith deepened and developed—R.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
Unfaithfulness in believers.
"Is not he rightly named Jacob?" Jacob, Israel—how widely different the thoughts suggested by the two names. Both tell of success. But one is the man of craft, who takes by the heel to trip up. The other, as a prince of God (cf. Luke 1:15), prevails through believing prayer. Yet Jacob became Israel, and Israel had once been Jacob. The plant of faith has often to struggle through a hard soil. To understand the lessons of his life, remember—
1. In contrast to Esau, he was a man of faith. His desire was for a future and spiritual blessing. He believed that it was to be his, and that belief influenced his life. But—
2. His faith was imperfect and partial in its operation, and this led to inconsistencies (cf. Matthew 14:29, Matthew 14:30; Galatians 2:12). Naturally quiet, his life was passed chiefly at home. Godly influences undisturbed by outward life taught him to worship God, and to prize his promise. But he had not proved his armor (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:12); and, as often happens,- the object of his faith was the means of his trial. His father's purpose in favor of Esau shook his faith (cf. 1 Peter 4:18). He yielded to the suggestion to obtain by deceit what God had promised to give (Isaiah 49:1), and earned his brother's taunt, "Is not he rightly named Jacob?" Yet it does not appear that he was conscious of having failed in faith. Consider—
I. THE DANGER OF SELF-DECEIVING (cf. Ezekiel 13:10). One brought up among godly influences may seem to possess faith. Ways of faith, hopes of faith, may be familiar to him. He may really embrace them, really desire a spiritual prize. But not without cause are we warned (1 Corinthians 10:12). Some plan of worldly wisdom, some point of self-seeking or self-indulgence, attracts him; only a little way; not into anything distinctly wrong. Or he falls into indolent self-sufficiency. Then there is a shrinking from close walk with God. Formality takes the place of confidence. All may seem outwardly well; but other powers than God's will are at work within. And if now some more searching trial is sent, some more distinct choice between God and the world, a self-satisfying plea is easily found. And the self-deceit which led to the fall makes it unfelt. And the path is lighted, but not from God (Isaiah 1:11).
II. THE HARM DONE TO OTHERS BY UNFAITHFULNESS OF-CHRISTIANS (cf. Romans 2:24; Romans 14:16). The world is quick to mark inconsistencies of believers. They form an excuse for the careless, a plea for disbelieving the reality of holiness. And for weak Christians they throw the influence of example on the wrong side (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:9). Deeds have more power than words; and the course of a life may be turned by some thoughtless yielding. Nor can the harm be undone even by repentance. The failure is visible, the contrition and seeking pardon are secret. The sins of good men are eagerly retailed. The earnest supplication for pardon and restoration are known to few, and little cared for. The man himself may be forgiven, and rise stronger from his fall; but the poison in the soul of another is still doing its deadly work.
III. THE WAY OF SAFETY. Realize the living Christ (Ephesians 3:17). Rules of themselves can do little; but to know the love of Christ, to bear it in mind, is power.—M.
And Esau hated Jacob—a proof that he was not penitent, however disappointed and remorseful (cf. Obadiah 1:10, Obadiah 1:11; 1 John 3:12, 1 John 3:15)—because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him:—notwithstanding the fact that he too had received an appropriate benediction; a display of envy as well as wrath, another proof of his ungracious character (Galatians 5:21; James 4:5)—and Esau said in his heart,—i.e. secretly resolved, though afterwards he must have communicated his intention (vide Genesis 27:42)—The days of mourning for my father are at hand. The LXX. interpret as a wish on the part of Esau that Isaac might speedily die, in order that the fratricidal act he contemplated might not pain the old man's heart; another rendering (Kalisch) understands him to say that days of grief were in store for his father, as he meant to slay his brother; but the ordinary translation seems preferable (Rosenmüller, Keil, Murphy, et alii), that Esan only deferred the execution of his unholy purpose because of the near approach, as he imagined, of his father's death. Isaac, however, lived upwards of forty years after this. Then will I slay my brother Jacob. That which reconciled Isaac and Ishmael (Genesis 25:9), the death of a father, is here mentioned as the event which would decisively and finally part Esau and Jacob. Esau's murderous intention Calvin regards as a clear proof of the non-reality of his repentance for his sin, the insincerity of his sorrow for his father, and the intense malignity of his hate against his brother.
And these (literally, the) words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah:—not likely by revelation, but by some one to whom he had made known his secret purpose (Proverbs 29:11)—and she sent and called Jacob her younger son (to advise him of his danger, being apprehensive lest the passionate soul of the enraged hunter should find it difficult to delay till Isaac's death), and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee. Literally, behold thy brother Esau taking vengeance upon thee (the hithpael of נָחַם meaning properly to comfort oneself, hence to satisfy one's feeling of revenge) by killing thee. The translations ἀπειλεῖ (LXX.) and minafur (Vulgate), besides being inaccurate, are too feeble to express the fratricidal purpose of Esau.
Now therefore, my son, obey my voice;—i.e. be guided by my counsel; a request Rebekah might perhaps feel herself justified in making, not only by her maternal solicitude for Jacob's welfare, but also from the successful issue of Her previous stratagem (vide on Genesis 27:8)—and arise, flee thou—literally, flee for thyself (of. Genesis 12:1; Numbers 14:11; Amos 7:12)—to Laban my brother to Haran (vide Genesis 11:31; Genesis 14:1-29); and tarry with him a few days,—literally, days some. The few days eventually proved to be at least twenty years (vide Genesis 31:38). It is not probable that Rebekah ever again beheld her favorite son, which was a signal chastisement for her sinful ambition for, and partiality towards, Jacob—until thy brother's fury turn away; until thy brother's anger turn away from thee,—the rage of Esau is here described by two different words, the first of which, חֵמָה, from a root signifying to be warm, suggests the heated and inflamed condition of Esau's soul, while the second, אֲף, from אָנַף, to breathe through the nostrils, depicts the visible manifestations of that internal fire in hard and quick breathing—and he forget that which thou hast done to him,—Rebekah apparently had conveniently become oblivious of her own share in the transaction by which Esau had been wronged. Then will I send, and fetch thee from thence—which she never did. Man proposes, but God disposes. Why should I be deprived also of you both in one day? I.e. of Jacob by the hand of Esau, and of Esau by the hand of the avenger of blood (Genesis 9:6; cf. 2 Samuel 14:6, 2 Samuel 14:7; Calvin, Keil, Rosenmüller, Kalisch), rather than by his own fratricidal act, which would forever part him from Rebekah (Lange).
And Rebekah said to Isaac (perhaps already discerning in the contemplated flight to Haran the prospect of a suitable matrimonial alliance for the heir of the promise, and secretly desiring to suggest such a thought to her aged husband), I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth:—referring doubtless to Esau's wives (cf. Genesis 26:35)—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? Literally, for what to me life, i.e. what happiness can I have in living? It is impossible to exonerate Rebekah altogether from a charge of duplicity even in this. Unquestionably Esau's wives may have vexed her, and her faith may have perceived that Jacob's wife must be sought for amongst their own kindred; but her secret reason for sending Jacob to Haran was not to seek a wife, as she seems to have desired Isaac to believe, but to elude the fury of his incensed brother.
The stolen blessing: a domestic drama.-4. Rebekah and Esau, or fratricide frustrated.
I. THE MURDEROUS DESIGN OF ESAU.
1. The ostensible reason. "Because of the blessing wherewith his father had blessed Jacob." No argument can justify willful and deliberate homicide; least of all an excuse so lame and feeble as that of Esau. The blessing Jacob had obtained was one which he himself had formerly despised and practically sold; If Jacob had been guilty of stealing it from him, as he imagined, it was only what he had been attempting to do with reference to Jacob. Besides, in so far as the blessing was an object of desire to Esau, viz; for its material advantages, he had himself received a blessing not greatly dissimilar. There was therefore no sufficient cause for Esau's hostility towards his brother.
2. The impelling motive. "Hate"—the essential spirit of murder (Matthew 5:22; 1 John 3:15). Esau's causeless hatred of Jacob was typical of the world's enmity against the Church: in its ground, the Church's enjoyment of the blessing; in its spirit, bitter and implacable; in its manifestation, persecution and oppression (1 John 3:13).
3. The decorous restraint. "The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother." Wicked men who resist all the influences of piety are not always able to surmount the barriers of public opinion. Though Esau had no scruples on the score of conscience as to killing Jacob, he had some scruples on the ground of decency as to doing it while his father lived. Persons who have no religion not infrequently do homage to the appearance of religion.
4. The providential discovery. Though Esau originally resolved on Jacob's murder in secret, he appears to have inadvertently disclosed his purpose to another, who forthwith communicated his intention to Rebekah. Those who have secrets to keep should tell them to no one; but Divine providence has wisely and mercifully arranged that guilty secrets should be ill to keep. "Murder will out."
5. The inglorious defeat. The information brought to Rebekah enabled her to counterwork Esau's design, and thus a second time was Esau outwitted by a woman. It is obvious that some sons are not so clever as their mothers.
II. THE PRUDENT COUNSEL OF REBEKAH.
1. Hastily formed. The shrewd sagacity of Isaac's wife at once perceived an outlet from the snare. The woman's wit that had cheated Isaac was not likely to be baffled with blustering Esau. Calling Jacob from the herds, she told him of his brother's murderous design, and detailed her own scheme for his protection.
2. Clearly explained. He should immediately betake himself to Haran, and seek shelter for a season beside his uncle Laban and his cousins. Though Rebekah does not mention the propriety of looking for a wife, it is apparent that the possibility of Jacob's finding one was present to her thoughts.
3. Skillfully urged. Arguments were not long in coming to Rebekah's aid.
(1) His brother's anger would soon burn out.
(2) His absence accordingly would not require to be long.
(3) If he did not go he was certain to be killed, in which ease Esau would fall a victim to judicial retribution, and she, a heart-broken mother, would be deprived of both her sons in one day.
(4) She was his mother, and her advice should be received with filial reverence and submission.
4. Adroitly carried through. Securing her son's compliance, there was still the difficulty how to obtain the assent of Isaac. This she does by leading Isaac himself to suggest the propriety of Jacob's going north to Padan-aram in search of a wife; and to this she turns the thoughts of Isaac by expressing the hope that Jacob will not imitate his brother by marrying daughters of the land, a calamity, she informs her husband, which would render her already miserable life scarcely worth retaining. It was prudent in Rebekah to direct the mind of Isaac to the propriety of getting Jacob married, but there is not wanting a trace of that craftiness which was Rebekah's peculiar infirmity.
1. That the world's hostility to the Church is wholly unreasonable and unjustifiable.
2. That wicked devices against God's people are sure eventually to be overturned.
3. That bad men sometimes wear a semblance of religion.
4. That good mothers grieve for the wickedness of bad, and work for the safety of good, sons.
5. That while wicked matches in their children are a burden to gracious parents, it should be a parent's aim to secure pious wives for their sons, and Christian husbands for their daughters.
HOMILIES BY F. HASTINGS
Rebekah, the disappointed.
"What good shall my life do me?" Rebekah as a mother doubtless promised herself much joy in her children. They grew up. Esau becomes wayward, Jacob becomes a wanderer. Rebekah yielded to favoritism (Genesis 27:13), and schemed to carry her point. She cherished a treacherous spirit, and led Jacob to sin. She was ambitious not for herself, but for Jacob. This is like woman; she lives in others. She was reckless as to results, but when they came she found them bitter. "She loved Jacob more than truth, more than God." This was idolatry. No wonder she utters the exclamation, "What good shall my life do me?" She was a disappointed woman. Her favorite son was in hiding from the wrath of a wronged brother, and Esau was indifferent towards her and angry. If life is not to be a disappointment we must beware of—
I. UNSCRUPULOUS SCHEMING.
II. AFFECTIONS THAT CARE MORE FOR HAPPINESS THAN HONOR
III. OF IDOLATRY, COVETOUSNESS, AND NEGLECT OF GOD'S CLAIMS.
IV. OF IGNORING THE RIGHTS OF OTHERS.
V. OF IGNORANCE AS TO THE TRUE ELEMENTS OF SUCCESS.
Rebekah began well. Her advent unto the encampment was a "comfort" to Isaac. She seems to have been "weary of life," and asks "what good it shall do her." Some who ask at this day "whether life is worth living" may find a suggestion in Rebekah's conduct as to the reason wherefore they ask the question.—M.P
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 27". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany