Genesis 26:34 - 28:9 ~ 2008 02 17 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

Today we're going to look at a very dysfunctional family. This is a family where there is no open communication between all members – everybody is talking behind everybody else's back. The dad is totally negligent on his responsibilities as head of the home. He seems to have just given up, and all he really cares about any more is satisfying his taste buds. He's blatantly disobedient to God's commands and secretly doing things his own way. The mom is sneaky and deceptive. She's eavesdropping on everybody else's conversations and she is manipulative and controlling and will lie and cheat and steal to get her own way. She makes it appear on the surface that everything is in order, but she's really running everything from the back seat. Both parents have their own favorite son, and they are each training their favorite to be just like them. One son has total disregard for spiritual things and lives for the moment without thinking about consequences. All he thinks about is satisfying his cravings. When he feels he is wronged, he is quick to blame someone else for the consequences of his own action, and even willing to murder to get even. The other son is crafty and deceptive has no concern for what is right or wrong other than that he doesn't want to get caught or have consequences for his actions. Neither of these boys have proper honor for their parents, and nobody is willing to stand up and do what's right when others are going in the wrong direction. This is a mess. We might be tempted to pick our favorite or sympathize with one, but the bottom line is that:

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18)

We're in Genesis 27. Were talking about Isaac, Abraham's child of the promise, the one who willingly obeyed his father even to the point of laying down his own life. The one who we saw in the last chapter persevering when he was being persecuted, and rather than retaliating, he patiently endured being pushed around and trusted in his God. And his wife Rebekah, who was this woman of virtue that Abraham's servant went to get from Abraham's extended family in Aram Naharaim. She was the one who was generous and hospitable and offered to water this stranger's ten camels, then agreed to go on a journey 400 miles through the desert to marry a man she had never met. And it says that Isaac loved Rebekah. Rebekah was barren, but Isaac took their problem to God and prayed for her and she became pregnant. Here we are, about 40 years later and this family is in a state of disaster! We can see the conversations criss-cross if we look at the layout of the chapter:

[26:34-35 Esau marries to two Hittite women]

27:1-4 ...Isaac-----------------------Esau

27:5-17 ..............Rebekah-----------------------Jacob

27:18-29 Isaac----------------------Jacob (as Esau)

27:30-40 Isaac----------------------Esau

27:41-45 .............Rebekah-----------------------Jacob

27:46 .....Isaac-----Rebekah

28:1-5 ....Isaac--------------------------------------Jacob

[28:6-9 Esau marries an Ishmaelite woman]

What happened?

Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:21 They all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

26:34 When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, 35 and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.

We are introduced to the beginning of Esau's family. Esau married two Hittite women. And we are told that they brought grief of soul to Isaac and Rebekah. We are not told much about these two, but any parent can imagine what kind of daughter in law would bring grief of soul. And Esau should have known better. When God made his promises to grandpa Abraham, he had promised to give the land of the Hittites to him and to his descendants (Genesis 15:18-21), and they were categorized as a wicked people who would later be totally destroyed from the land. What I don't understand is what Isaac was doing while all this was going on. Was he just standing by biting his nails? His dad had gone to great lengths to secure him a wife from his relatives. Why didn't Isaac do the same for his favorite son? Why didn't he at least try to instill in him discretion and wise judgment? Or was he so interested in eating wild game that he excused his son's immoral behavior? Was Isaac so concerned that Esau think he was a cool dad that he neglected to discipline and instruct him? Maybe we should give Isaac the benefit of the doubt that he tried and Esau was just a stubborn rebellious son who refused correction. Whatever the case, Isaac's action in the next verses when put in this context seems totally irrational:

27:1 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.” 2 He said, “Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. 3 Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me, 4 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.”

Isaac is old, he is bed bound and blind. He thinks he might die any day. When a father was near death, it was customary to gather the whole family and let his wishes be known as to who got what of the estate – kind of like a last will and testament. This took on even more significance because Isaac was the son who would inherit the promise that God gave to Abraham, and now Isaac was poised to pass on this spiritual blessing to the next generation. But rather than do this in an honest public way, he privately calls in his favorite son and instructs him to prepare his favorite meal as if that would block out the grief he had caused so he could bless him. We had already seen that Isaac had a weakness for tasty food:

Genesis 25:28 Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

And we saw that Esau had betrayed his character as one who had no interest in spiritual things: he despised his birthright. And he disregarded the wishes of his parents by his choice in marriage and brought them grief. But if Esau's character weren't enough of an indicator that he had forfeited his right to the blessing, Isaac had God's word on the issue. God had spoken that 'the older shall serve the younger'. Isaac was going against the word of God when he attempted to pass the blessing to Esau. Esau had sold his birthright for a bowl of soup; and now Isaac is willing to sell the blessing for a meal of wild game.

But Rebekah has been listening:

5 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, 6 Rebekah 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.’ 8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you. 9 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. 10 And you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.” 11 But Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Behold, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. 12 Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing.” 13 His mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, bring them to me.” 14 So he went and took them and brought them to his mother, and his mother prepared delicious food, such as his father loved. 15 Then 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. 16 And the skins of the young goats she put on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17 And she put the delicious food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.

Things just get messier. Rebekah also knew the promise of God and she wasn't about to let Isaac bless the wrong son. But rather than going and reasoning with her husband, she comes up with this deceitful plan. While Esau is out hunting, Jacob will lie and pretend to be him and get the blessing by trickery. And Jacob's moral character really shines through in this story – he knows what they're doing is wrong. But he doesn't say 'mom, this isn't right. It just doesn't seem right to rip off a blind guy – and my own father at that. How 'bout we go talk to him and maybe he'll understand?' no, instead he says 'I'm ok with lying to dad. But if he realizes that I'm lying, he might be really upset and there might be consequences. I just don't want to have any consequences for my evil behavior'. Understand that this is not repentance. Repentance is a change of heart about your sin. I no longer want to do what is evil. That is a very different thing from saying I don't want to get caught for my evil behavior, so if I have to stop sinning to avoid the consequences, I will, but I'd rather keep on sinning and just figure out a way to avoid the consequences. That's not repentance. Jacob is wicked through and through. When his mom offers to take his consequences, he's more than happy to go through with their wicked plan.

18 So he went in to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” 19 Jacob 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.” 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.” 21 Then 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.” 22 So 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.” 23 And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands. So he blessed him. 24 He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” 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. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” 27 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! 28 May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine. 29 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!”

So Jacob pulls it off. He deceives his blind dad. Notice the sequence:

1. first, he addresses him as 'My father' (Abba); 2. then he says 'I am Esau, (lies about identity); your firstborn, (lies about position); I have done as you told me; (lies about obedience); eat of my game' (lies about meal); 3. Isaac expresses doubt – how did you hunt and kill and prepare a meal so quickly? ; Jacob's answer to this question is shocking and demonstrates the depth of his depravity; 'The LORD your God granted me success'; his lie has now been amplified into taking God's name in vain, claiming the assistance of divine providence. 4. Isaac expresses his doubt – caused by hearing; his ears are telling him that 'the voice is the voice of Jacob'; 5. in confirmation of Jacob's lie is his sense of touch - feel; the hairy goat skins; 6. He states his doubt in a question: Are you really my son Esau? Jacob answers boldly: 'I am'; 7. Another confirmation of Jacob's lie comes through his taste buds - taste; eat of the goats Rebekah prepared; 8. The final confirmation comes through his nose – his sense of smell; he smelled the smell of Esau's garments.

Isaac was blind, so he had to rely on his other senses. His sense of touch, taste, and smell all agreed that it was Esau; but his sense of hearing told him that it was Jacob. He shouldn't have let his other senses override his hearing (don't trust your feelings – trust the word!)

Isaac is intentionally violating the divine prophesy; God had said that the elder would serve the younger, yet Isaac, thinking he is blessing the older says 'be lord over your brothers, and may your mother's sons bow down to you'.

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.

(I wonder if they crossed paths at this moment – Esau is dragging his fresh kill into camp, just as Jacob comes running out of his father's tent with a bunch of dirty dishes – Why is Jacob dressed up in my clothes... and why does he have goatskins all over his body?)

31 He 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.” 32 His father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” He answered, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.” 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.” 34 As 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!” 35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.” 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?” 37 Isaac 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?” 38 Esau 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. 39 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. 40 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.”

What a scene! We have the original two – the father and his favorite son who had schemed this plan to secretly pass the blessing on without the rest of the family knowing. Now they are back together realizing that they had been duped and their plans had been frustrated. Isaac appears to be having a panic attack. Esau is reduced to a sniveling whining begging 40 year old victim who refuses to take responsibility for his own sins but is quick to blame others. Yes, Jacob was deceitful, yes, Jacob cheated him of the blessing. And yes, Jacob was less than hospitable or fair to his brother when he demanded the exchange of birthright for a bowl of soup. But Esau had agreed to that bargain. Esau had despised his birthright. And now, when he wanted the connected blessing he found no chance to repent. That's what Hebrews tells us:

Hebrews 12:16-17 See to it that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears

Repentance would have been to acknowledge that he was wrong to treat the birthright as worthless and confess his own sin. Instead, he played the victim and blamed all his problems on somebody else. In fact, he demonstrated that spiritually he was a descendant of Cain who killed his brother; and of the serpent who was a murderer from the beginning; he comforted himself with the thought of killing his own brother:

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.” 42 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. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice. Arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran 44 and stay with him a while, until your brother’s fury turns away–– 45 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?”

So Rebekah again is eavesdropping and again takes matters into her own hands and whips up another scheme to save her favorite son. She plans to send him away for a while and then bring him back. As the story unfolds, we will find out that she will never see him again. But notice what she says to her husband in the only instance that the two of them actually communicate:

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?”

She doesn't bring up the fact that Jacob is fleeing for his life. She doesn't mention the fact that she and Jacob conspired to trick the blind old man. She points to their common frustration with Esau's wives. She slyly makes a comment which causes Isaac to come up with the idea of sending Jacob away to Paddan-Aram as if it were his own:

28:1 Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women. 2 Arise, go to Paddan–aram to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father, and take as your wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother. 3 God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. 4 May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham!” 5 Thus Isaac sent Jacob away. And he went to Paddan–aram, to Laban, the son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.

We've looked at Isaac and Rebekah's sinful favoritism; we've seen Esau and Jacob's depraved character and actions. But there's one other actor in this drama that we haven't yet paid much attention to. In fact his name barely shows up in this narrative, and only in passing. But he is really the main actor on the stage. We have the people running back and forth attempting to further their own agendas and sinning to do so, but over it all we have the sovereign God who proclaimed before the boys had been born or done anything good or bad that 'the older shall serve the younger'. And God's purpose always stands, in spite of the Isaac's who try to thwart it; in spite of the Rebekah's who try to accomplish God's purpose by their own means; in spite of the Jacob's and Esau's who run headlong into the sins of their parents. That's why Isaac shook violently when he realized what had happened – he knew what he was doing was wrong and he realized God had had the final word. He acknowledged in verse 33 that 'I have blessed him- Yes, and he shall be blessed.' He recognized that it was God at work accomplishing his own purposes in spite of all their sinful behavior.

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

It's interesting that Isaac shows up in Hebrews 11 as a man of faith:

Hebrews 11:20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.

This is almost bewildering until we recognize that faith is believing God is who he says he is and will do what he says he will do. Through this episode, Isaac recognized that God is indeed in control, and that he is able to keep his word, regardless of what we do to thwart his plans. Isaac acknowledged that God had indeed blessed Jacob for his own good purposes, and rejected Esau, and he did not try to nullify the blessing because it was gained deceitfully; rather he affirmed that it would happen, and he voluntarily re-confirmed the blessing God gave to Abraham on Jacob before he sent him away. And like bookends to the story, we see Esau taking another wife, demonstrating his lack of spiritual discernment.

6 Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan–aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan–aram. 8 So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, 9 Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth.

I think we can all identify with one of the sinners in this story. We can see our own self-seeking sinful agendas reflected by the characters. And hopefully we can recognize that we are all sinners deserving of judgment and we all need God's free and sovereign grace to set us free from ourselves and save us. And in this passage there is hope and warning. Warning in Esau, that if we persist in undervaluing and rejecting God's gift, then there may come a time when we find ourselves hardened to the point of not being willing or able to repent of our sins and turn to God. There is warning but there is hope – hope in Jacob, that God can take an undeserving heel grabber like me and rescue him and change his character so that he becomes a man who brings honor to our great God! Hope and confidence that God can accomplish his purpose in spite of what sinners do to frustrate his plan.

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.