Esau lacked discernment, was indifferent to spiritual principles, had a blatant disregard for his birthright and had married two Canaanite wives in defiance of his parent’s wishes. God had not chosen him as the covenantal heir; Esau’s character confirmed that he was an unsuitable candidate. Yet, Isaac determined to bestow the covenantal blessing upon his firstborn twin. The timely intervention by his wife Rebekah prevented him from making a grave mistake.
GENESIS 27:30-33 (emphasis added)
Now it happened, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. He also had made savory food, and brought it to his father, and said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that your soul may bless me.”
And his father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?”
So he said, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.”
Then Isaac trembled exceedingly, and said, “Who? Where is the one who hunted game and brought it to me? I ate all of it before you came, and I have blessed him—and indeed he shall be blessed.”
Esau’s arrival soon after Isaac had blessed Jacob underscores the urgency demonstrated by Rebekah as she quickly acted to thwart her husband’s misguided plan. The redundant Hebrew syntax emphasizes how closely Esau’s arrival followed Isaac’s blessing of Jacob. Literally: Jacob left the presence of Isaac and even as he was exiting, Esau arrived with the wild game meal requested by his father. If Esau had arrived only minutes earlier, the plan would have failed.
Isaac and Esau grasped the situation immediately; their responses, however, were quite different.
Isaac trembled uncontrollably realizing the gravity of the error he had nearly committed. He visibly shook with terror (Heb. Hasad). (1)
Isaac knew God’s prophecy to Rebekah; yet, he determined to bless Esau contrary to it.
Had Rebekah and Jacob not intervened, Isaac would have bestowed the covenantal blessing on the wrong son. Isaac was terrified that God had overruled his attempt to bestow the covenantal blessing on Esau and caused him to bless Jacob as prophesied.
Since the blessing was conveyed by God and not a product of Isaac’s subjective affection, it was irrevocable. When Isaac realized what had happened, he declared, “I have blessed him [Jacob]—and indeed he shall be blessed” (Gen. 27:33).
Esau’s response was a combination of fury and extreme disappointment. The text reveals, “he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, ‘Bless me—me also, O my father!’”(v. 34). The repetition, “bless me—me also” underscores the desperate nature of Esau’s plea.
Isaac had already conveyed the covenantal blessing; he could not bestow it on another. God, however, composed the words Isaac subsequently pronounced over Esau:
“Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth,
And of the dew of heaven from above.
By your sword you shall live,
And you shall serve your brother;
And it shall come to pass, when you become restless,
That you shall break his yoke from your neck.” (vv. 39-40)
The blessing pronounced over Esau although similar in some respects was weighted with significance. Isaac’s blessing promised Jacob the dew of heaven and fatness of the earth in reference to the land of Canaan.
Rather than imparting the fatness of the earth and the dew of heaven as promised to Jacob, Isaac’s words actually communicated the opposite using a play on words. Employing a privative rather than a partitive form of the Hebrew preposition “mish” (מַנֵּ֤י) that conveys the idea “away from,” the context of Isaac’s words suggest that Esau and his descendants would be separated from the fatness of the earth and the dew of heaven associated with blessing in the land of Canaan. Indeed, Esau’s dwelling (the land of Edom) in the Sinai desert south east of the Dead Sea was mountainous and characteristically barren.
The blessing ordered by God and pronounced by Isaac captured the essential elements of Esau’s character and his progeny. Esau and his descendants would not only live by the sword as a way of life, but would engage in a continual and unsuccessful struggle with the descendants of Jacob (v. 40).
Then, emphasizing a negative connotation of his brother’s name, Esau claimed Jacob was a deceiver who had stolen both his birthright and his blessing. He chided his father for not taking proper precautions to prevent such an outcome.
Conveniently forgetting that he had relinquished his birthright to Jacob in exchange for an expedient meal of red lentil stew, Esau went on a rampage and vowed to murder his brother. Esau declared his intention to kill Jacob as soon as the days of mourning for his father were completed believing Isaac’s death was imminent.
In the end, Esau demonstrated his unsuitability to lead the family from which God’s chosen nation would emerge.
God would have undoubtedly used another method to keep Isaac from conferring the covenantal blessing on Esau had Rebekah and Jacob not intervened. The outcome was crucial to the future of human history. Rebekah and Jacob were committed to the unfolding of God’s covenantal promises and acted decisively when Isaac’s actions jeopardized the plan.
1) Bible opened to Isaiah. By, Ken Horn, [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
2) Esau seeks a blessing from Isaac, c. 1383. By Bertram of Minden (1345 – 1415), [PD-US, PD-Art], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.