The Word Made Fresh
1Isaac grew old, and his sight was failing. He summoned his oldest son, Esau. When Esau came, Isaac said, 2“I am old and have no idea how much longer I will live. 3I want you to take your bow and a quiver of arrows and go out into the countryside and hunt wild game for me. 4Then roast it for me, seasoned the way I like, and bring it to me for my dinner, and then I will make you officially my heir before I die.”
5Rebekah overheard Isaac speaking to Esau. When Esau left to hunt for game to roast, 6she said to Jacob, “I overheard your father tell Esau 7to bring him some wild game, roasted and seasoned to his taste, and then he will reward Esau before he dies. 8Now listen to me, my son, and do exactly as I say. 9Go to the flock of goats and bring me two healthy young kids. I will roast them and season them the way your father likes. 10Then you take it to your father for his dinner, and, instead of Esau, he will make you his primary heir before he dies.”
11“But Esau is a hairy fellow,” said Jacob, “and I am smooth-skinned. 13What if my father touches me? He’ll think I’m making fun of him and bring trouble on me instead of rewarding me.”
13“I’ll handle your trouble,” said his mother. “Just do what I tell you. Go!”
14So, Jacob went and selected the kids and brought them to his mother, and she roasted them the way his father enjoyed. 15Then she took some of Esau’s best clothes which she had in the house and put them on Jacob. 16She wrapped his hands and the back of his neck with the kid skins. 17Then she gave Jacob the cooked and seasoned meat along with some bread she had prepared.
18Jacob went to his father. “Father?” he called.
“I’m here,” Isaac answered. “Which of my sons are you?”
19Jacob answered, “I am Esau, your eldest son. I have done as you asked. Sit up and eat some of my game so you can name me your heir.”
20But Isaac said, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?”
“The LORD your God,” he answered, “granted me success.”
21Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come closer. Let me touch you so I can be sure you are really my son Esau or not.” Jacob went to his father, and Isaac felt him and said, “You sound like Jacob, but these are Esau’s hands,” 23not recognizing him because his hands felt hairy like his brother Esau’s hands.
And that is how Isaac came to give Jacob the reward of the first-born son.
24He said, “Are you really my son Esau?”
“Yes, I am.”
25“Bring me the food. Let me eat it, and then I’ll reward you.” So, he brought him the roasted kid and Isaac ate it. He brought some wine as well, and Isaac drank that. 26Then Isaac said, “Come, give me a kiss, my son.” 27Jacob went to him and kissed him, and Isaac smelled his clothing and gave him the inheritance of the eldest son, saying, “Ah, my son has the scent of the countryside favored by the LORD. 28May God grant you the freshness of the air and the fatness of the ground, along with plenty of grain and wine. 29May other families be your servants, and entire clans be subservient to you. And may you be above your brothers and may your mother’s other sons be obedient to you. Whoever curses you will be cursed! And whoever rewards you will be rewarded!”
30As soon as he received the status of eldest son Jacob left; and he was barely out of the house when Esau arrived. 31Esau had also prepared game and seasoned it and brought it now to his father. He said, “Sit up, father! Enjoy your son’s game and then officially make me your heir.”
32Isaac said, “Who are you?”
“I am your firstborn son, Esau!”
33Then Isaac started shaking uncontrollably. He said, “Then who was it that hunted game and brought it to me? And yes, I ate it! All of it! Before you got here! And I made him the primary heir! And primary heir he now is!”
34Esau cried out loudly and bitterly and said to his father, “Reward me too, father!”
35But Isaac said, “Your brother came. He tricked me, and he has taken your place in the inheritance of my estate.”
36Esau said, “Jacob (supplanter) is well-named! He has cheated me twice. He took my birthright and now he has claimed my inheritance.” Then he cried, “Haven’t you kept a reward for me?”
37Isaac said, “I have put him over you. I have given him all his brothers as servants. I’ve promised him an abundance of grain and wine. What is left for me to give you, my son?”
38Esau begged, “Do you only have one reward, father? Give me something, too, father!” And he began to cry.
39Then Isaac said this: “Look, the richness of the earth shall be your home and you will have the dew from heaven above. 40You shall live by the sword and you will serve your brother, but when you break free, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.”
41After this Esau hated Jacob because of his lost inheritance, and he said to himself, “My father will die soon. Then I will kill Jacob.”
42But someone told Rebekah what Esau was planning, so she called Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is soothing his wounds by planning to kill you. 43Listen to me, son, run away to my brother Laban in Haran, 44and stay there until your brother’s rage subsides 45and he forgets what you’ve done to him; then I will send for you and you can come back. Otherwise I’ll surely lose both of you.”
46Then Rebekah went to Isaac. “I am so sick and tired of these Hittite women. If Jacob should marry one of these Hittites, my life won’t be worth living!”
1-4: Isaac wants to give Esau his blessing before he dies. Esau is the oldest son and therefore entitled to the blessing, which is a way of passing on the authority of head-of-family and was of great legal value in the world of that day. He asks Esau to kill some wild game and prepare it, and perhaps to insure the fulfillment of the request, promises to give Esau his blessing when he completes the task.
5-17: But Rebekah has other plans, at least partly because of Esau’s Hittite wives. She cooks up a plan for Jacob to receive the blessing. She tells him to kill a couple of goat kids, and she will prepare the meat in such a way that Isaac will think it is Esau’s wild game. Jacob is not at all sure of the scheme, but Rebekah says she will bear the blame if their scheme is uncovered. She cooks the meat and dresses Jacob in Esau’s clothes.
18-29: It is an almost comic scene. Isaac is suspicious from the very beginning. He recognizes Jacob’s voice, but wonders how the hunt went so quickly. He feels Jacob’s arm to see if they are hairy like Esau’s. He asks him to kiss him so he can smell him. Some of the old rabbis believe that Isaac knows all along it is Jacob, but blesses him anyway because he realizes that Jacob is the more capable of the two, and they surmise that he prefers Jacob to Esau now because Esau is married to those contentious women. So, he allows the ruse to succeed.
30-38: Esau arrives just as Jacob is leaving, and the deceit is discovered by Esau and Isaac. But Isaac will not reverse his position. He claims that once the blessing is given it cannot be taken back. Well, okay then, let it be, but bless Esau, too! Ah, but Isaac insists that he cannot give Esau the family blessing and the authority that goes with it. Esau is distraught and begs his father for a blessing. It is a sad sight to see; a grown man crying because his father will not bless him.
39-40: So, Isaac “answers” him, but does not bless him. The pronouncement recorded here is hardly a blessing, but at least it ends on a hopeful note. The point of the story, of course, is that Israel (Jacob) receives the blessing of the land, not Edom (Esau). In the centuries to come those two peoples will live in constant opposition.
41-46: Esau utters murderous threats and Rebekah is informed, as she always seems to be. She tells Jacob to go to Haran to her brother Laban and stay until Esau’s anger is passed. Then she complains to Isaac about Esau’s wives and hints very strongly that it will be a disaster if Jacob marries one of the local girls.
It is a bit disturbing that God’s plan – that Jacob’s line will inherit the Promised Land – is being fulfilled by out-and-out chicanery on the part of Rebekah and Jacob. But God has always been able to use the failing of us humans toward divine ends. Perhaps that is why God is always more ready to forgive than we are to ask.