Commentary on Genesis 27

Last updated: September 26, 2009

English Translation (ESV)

1When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called Esau his older son and said to him, “My son”; and he answered, “Here I am.” 2He said, “Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. 3Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me, 4and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.”

5Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, 6Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, 7‘Bring me game and prepare for me delicious food, that I may eat it and bless you before the LORD before I die.’ 8Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you. 9Go to the flock and bring me two good young goats, so that I may prepare from them delicious food for your father, such as he loves. 10And you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.” 11But Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Behold, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. 12Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing.” 13His mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, bring them to me.”

14So he went and took them and brought them to his mother, and his mother prepared delicious food, such as his father loved. 15Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her older son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. 16And the skins of the young goats she put on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17And she put the delicious food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.

18So he went in to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” 19Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.” 20But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the LORD your God granted me success.” 21Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 22So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands. So he blessed him. 24He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” 25Then he said, “Bring it near to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.” So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank.

26Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” 27So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said,

“See, the smell of my son

is as the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed!

28May God give you of the dew of heaven

and of the fatness of the earth

and plenty of grain and wine.

29Let peoples serve you,

and nations bow down to you.

Be lord over your brothers,

and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.

Cursed be everyone who curses you,

and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

30As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, Esau his brother came in from his hunting. 31He also prepared delicious food and brought it to his father. And he said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.” 32His father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” He answered, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.” 33Then Isaac trembled very violently and said, “Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.” 34As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” 35But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.” 36Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” 37Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Behold, I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?” 38Esau said to his father, “Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.

39Then Isaac his father answered and said to him:

“Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be,

and away from the dew of heaven on high.

40By your sword you shall live,

and you shall serve your brother;

but when you grow restless

you shall break his yoke from your neck.”

41Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” 42But the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son and said to him, “Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you. 43Now therefore, my son, obey my voice. Arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran 44and stay with him a while, until your brother’s fury turns away— 45until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him. Then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereft of you both in one day?”

46Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?”

Notes

1 When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called Esau his older son and said to him, “My son”; and he answered, “Here I am.”

Isaac lives for many more years (31:18, 38, 41; 35:28) but senses death may be near (vv 2, 4). Perhaps his blindness or some illness prompts him to bless his son at this time. Isaac’s blindness makes it possible for him to be deceived.

2-4 He said, “Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me, and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.”

It is strange that Isaac intends to bless only Esau. Normally all the close male relatives of the patriarch would be blessed (Genesis 49; 50:24-25).

5-10 Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me game and prepare for me delicious food, that I may eat it and bless you before the LORD before I die.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you. Go to the flock and bring me two good young goats, so that I may prepare from them delicious food for your father, such as he loves. And you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.”

The conflict in the family can be seen by the fact that Esau is called “his son” while Jacob is called “her son.” Rebekah adds the words “before the LORD” to Isaac’s statement to highlight the importance of this blessing.

11-12 But Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Behold, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing.”

Jacob appears more concerned with the consequences of the act than with the morality of the act.

13 His mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, bring them to me.”

Rebekah’s confidence comes from the oracle she received in 25:23 that said the older son was destined to serve the younger son.

20 But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the LORD your God granted me success.”

Jacob invokes God’s name in an outright lie. But he may have spoken better than he knew for it was God’s will that he would get the blessing.

25 Then he said, “Bring it near to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.” So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank.

The meal was another test of the son’s identity for Isaac favored Esau because of the game he caught and cooked (25:28; 27:4).

27-29 So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said, “See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed! May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

Verse 28 refers to agricultural prosperity. Since Rebekah is not known to have had any other sons, “mother’s sons” must either be a poetic convention or a reference to relatives (e.g., Genesis 24:27; Proverbs 19:17; Ezekiel 11:15).

30 As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, Esau his brother came in from his hunting.

The suspense continues as Esau arrives right on the heels of Jacob (an intriguing reversal from their birth, but the text gives no indication that it is aware of it).”1 In light of Esau’s rage in verse 41, one wonders whether this near miss saved Jacob’s life. What would Esau have done if he had caught Jacob in the act?

33 Then Isaac trembled very violently and said, “Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.”

Isaac is overwhelmed with consternation but then realizes that, irrespective of the circumstances, the blessing he has uttered is beyond recall. According to the conception of the times, it now has a potency and dynamism all its own, and the destiny that has been solemnly conferred upon his younger son is irreversible (v. 37). For this reason, Esau does not ask his father to rescind the blessing, only to bless him as well.2

36 Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”

Esau reinterprets the name Jacob (yaakov) as deriving from the root ‘-k-v, meaning “to supplant.”3 There is also a pun on birthright (bekhorah) and blessing (berakhah).4 Note that Esau thinks of the birthright and the blessing as two separate things.

39-40 Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: “Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be, and away from the dew of heaven on high. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow restless you shall break his yoke from your neck.”

Esau receives an anti-blessing. The Edomites were made vassals of the Israelites during the reign of David but successfully revolted during the reign of Jehoram (2 Kings 8:20-22; 2 Chronicles 21:8-10).

41 Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

The phrase “said to himself” means his mind was made up, not that he kept his thoughts to himself (v 42).

42-45 But the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son and said to him, “Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice. Arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran and stay with him a while, until your brother’s fury turns away— until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him. Then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereft of you both in one day?”

Ironically, one day Jacob will flee from Laban (31:20, 22). Rebekah’s “a while” turned into twenty years (31:41). “Her plan never materializes, however, for it is not Rebekah but God who beckons Jacob to return home (31:3, 13), and it is not the subsiding of Esau’s wrath but the anger of Laban and his sons that prompts Jacob to leave (31:1-2). Upon his return to Canaan, he reconciles with ‘his father Isaac’ (35:27), but there is no mention of Rebekah except her burial (49:31). She does in a sense lose both her sons on that regretful day.”5

46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?”

Rebekah realizes that, for his own safety, Jacob must be sent away at once. But how can this be achieved? She needs her husband’s agreement, yet she dare not divulge the true reason – both because she wishes to spare him further anguish and because she fears that her own involvement in the deception might thereby be exposed. She hits upon the pretext of his need to get married.

The persuasiveness of her argument is decisive because, as 26:34-35 has already informed us, Esau’s union with the local women has become an intolerable torment to his parents. Implicit in Rebekah’s words seems to be a subtle rebuke to Isaac for his unmerited favoritism of Esau, a rebuke that is also calculated to allay any lingering uneasiness about his unwitting blessing of Jacob.6

Bibliography

Mathews, Kenneth A. Genesis 11:27-50:26. The New American Commentary Volume 1B. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005.

Sarna, Nahum M. JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis. 1st ed. Jewish Publication Society of America, 1989.

Walton, John H. Genesis. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.

1Walton, Genesis, 556.

2Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis, 193-194.

3Ibid., 194.

4Ibid.

5Mathews, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 437-438.

6Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis, 195.

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