GENESIS - CHAPTER 27
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
27:1. “And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I.”
Since literal blindness is used in Scripture to portray spiritual blindness, the lesson here is that it is possible for a believer to become spiritually blind, i.e., lose his spiritual discernment.
It is significant that this follows on the heels of Esau’s having married two Hittite women, marriages which as noted already, depict the activity of the old nature in the spiritual sphere. The fact that this was the activity of Isaac’s firstborn rather than of his second born, emphasizes that it is a picture of the activity of the old nature in the believer’s spiritual life.
Undoubtedly Isaac protested before Esau contracted these marriages, but it is significant that Scripture does not record any such protest. It was very different with Abraham when he sought a bride for Isaac, and warned the servant, “Thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites ... but thou shalt go ... to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son” (Ge 24:3-4).
In Ge 25:28 we read, “And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison,” and the lesson there was that the old nature in the believer is no different from the old nature in the unbeliever: it yearns for what the venison represents - the things of the world.
Isaac’s preference for Esau, and his determination to bless him in spite of the God-dishonoring marriages, all point to a believer’s indulging the old nature, and it is instructive to note how little is recorded of Isaac’s life after the reopening of the well at Beer-sheba. The believer who indulges the old nature produces little spiritually that is worthy of record.
The lesson of the divine silence in regard to the years between the reopening of the well at Beer-sheba, and this description of Isaac, old and blind, is one we do well to heed. Man’s judgment will be in proportion to the light he has had, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! ... for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented.... But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre ... at the day of judgment, than for you” (Mt 11:21-22). “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God....” (Heb 10:29). Isaac, beside Beer-sheba’s open well represents the believer with God’s open Word before him, but the old blind man brought before us here for the last time (except for the mention of his death in chapter 35) represents the believer who has refused that Word’s instruction, and who has chosen rather to indulge the lusts of the flesh. Similar judgment follows similar folly in the life of any believer.
The last worthy thing recorded of Isaac is that he had had his servants reopen the well of Beer-sheba, which, as has been noted, represents the Word. He stands there as the picture of a believer with the water of the Word available to him, but the silent years between that moment and this present description of him, bespeak a life in which that Word was little consulted or heeded. The result was that there was nothing in his life that was spiritually worth recording, and now, old and blind, he is found ready to pronounce a blessing on one who had forfeited his right to that blessing, and in spite of the pronouncement of God to Isaac that the elder would serve the younger. There is no record of any communication between him and God during those years. In contrast with his father Abraham, Isaac presents a sorry spectacle as he sits blind and feeble, catering to the son who represents the old nature. In proportion to a man’s light so is his judgment!
That Isaac in the earlier years of his life is a beautiful type of Christ, no one will deny, but the clue to the meaning of the latter part of his life is given in Ge 25:28, “Isaac loved Esau.” As a type of the believer, he portrays the man who allows the old nature to control his life. Inasmuch as all of this failure occurred when he was old, we should not miss the lesson God would teach relative to our own lives. It is possible in our latter years to indulge the desires of the flesh, and thereby undo all the good that may have marked the beginning.
It is emphasized that Esau was “his eldest son.” The firstborn always represents the old nature, which God must reject.
”... and said unto him, My son.” Jacob was no less his son, yet there is no record of his addressing Jacob as “my son.” His heart was twined around Esau, as the heart of the believer may be twined around the old nature. It was different with Abraham. He also loved his firstborn, but at God’s command he sent Ishmael away. Every man of faith is commanded to put away what the firstborn represents: the old nature. Isaac, instead of dismissing Esau, calls him near, intending to bless him. Too often we are guilty of the same folly spiritually. We keep the old nature close to us and indulge its every whim.
27:2. “And he said, Behold now, I am old, and I know not the day of my death.”
There is uncertainty as to Isaac’s age at the time of this incident, but if it followed immediately after Esau’s marriages, then he was a hundred years old, for he was sixty when Esau and Jacob were born (Ge 25:26), and Esau was forty years old when he married Judith and Bashemath. Isaac therefore, had another eighty years to live, for he was one hundred and eighty when he died (Ge 35:28). It would appear that he was indeed “blind” spiritually as well as physically. Out of touch with God apparently, and with his life only half lived, he spoke as though his life was ready to end. The same hopeless despair is always the inevitable companion of disobedience.
The Scriptural silence regarding those eighty years, plus whatever time elapsed between the reopening of the well of Beer-sheba and his hundredth year, is a tragic commentary on a life that began with such promise. There was nothing apparently in all those years worth recording. That silence is the record of a wasted life, and we should remember that “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” (Ro 15:4). Spiritual wisdom will take the lesson to heart.
27:3. “Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison.”
Everything here speaks of evil. Hunting, in Scripture, always has a bad connotation. Nimrod, the great rebel against God, was “a mighty hunter” (Ge 10:19), and it is significant that Ishmael, who also represents the old nature, was also an archer (Ge 21:20). The activity of the hunter produces death. The field, as already noted, represents the world; and venison, the things of the world that cater to the lusts of the flesh.
The spiritual picture is of a believer out of touch with God, near what he thinks is the end of his life, yet he craves what would minister only to the flesh, and appeals to the son who represents the fleshly nature, to provide what will gratify that craving.
27:4. “And make me savory meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.”
On the night of their redemption from Egypt’s bondage, God commanded His redeemed people to eat roast lamb accompanied by bitter herbs (Ex 12:8). That lamb represents Christ. Believers are to feed on Him, not on what venison represents - the things of the world that cater to the lusts of the flesh.
Savory meat means tasty, and implies the addition of other ingredients like herbs and spices to the meat to make it tastier. This stands in sharp contrast with the Passover lamb. It was to be simply roasted, accompanied only by bitter herbs. What the world furnishes for the satisfaction of the old nature is always made “savory” by Satan in his attempt, all too often successful, to induce believers to choose “venison” rather than the “roast lamb.”
”... that my soul may bless thee before I die.” A sadder spiritual picture is difficult to imagine, for in Isaac, old, blind, ignoring the son who represents the new nature, while seeking to bless him who represents the old, craving savory venison from the hand of Esau, we have a picture of a disobedient believer, feeble and blind spiritually, with death his only expectation, craving what will gratify the lusts of his old nature, ignoring the spiritual, and concerned only with ensuring the well-being of the flesh. And all of this in connection with a man, who in his early life, was a beautiful picture of Christ!
The tragedy may repeat itself in the life of any of us. “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition.... Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Co 10:11-12).
27:5. “And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it.”
Rebekah, as Isaac’s wife, represents the expression of his spiritual life, and while Isaac here is a type of the believer living under the control of the old nature, his spiritual life knows no such bondage, though it will be affected by it. Rebekah’s hearing when Isaac spoke to Esau reminds us that every activity of the old nature is known to the new, and as Rebekah refused to stand idly by while Isaac bestowed upon Esau the blessing that rightfully belonged to Jacob, neither will the spiritual nature acquiesce in the promotion of the flesh. While Esau, who represents the old nature, went to the field (the world) to hunt for venison (the things of the world), Rebekah (the representative of the expression of the new life) prepared to secure the blessing for Jacob, who represents the believer as a physical entity, just as his other name Israel represents the believer as a spiritual creature.
27:6. “And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying,”
In verse 5 Esau is spoken of as Isaac’s son, while here Jacob is referred to as Rebekah’s son. The flesh can produce only an Esau, but the Spirit produces Jacob, who after time in God’s school, becomes Israel, meaning a prince of God.
”I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother.” Here God would remind us that while Jacob might be spoken of as Rebekah’s son, he was no less Isaac’s son, and he was Esau’s brother. The miracle of conversion is that the man who is the “father” of the old nature, becomes also the “father” of the new, and those two natures, as opposite as were Esau and Jacob, dwell together as brothers, not because of any affinity between them, but because the same man has control of both, the one resulting from natural birth, and the other from the new, the supernatural. The divine ideal is that the firstborn should be “cast out” as was Ishmael. That ideal, however, is seldom realized, and as in the present instance, when the firstborn is not cast out, the result is that the old nature will continually assert itself, and seek to appropriate for itself what belongs only to the new.
27:7. “Bring me venison, and make me savory meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the Lord before my death.”
Since the spiritual lesson of this verse has been discussed in verse 4, it need not be repeated here.
27:8. “Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee.”
If Esau is sent forth by Isaac to bring that which will secure him the blessing, Jacob is sent forth by Rebekah to bring that which will secure the blessing for him. Even as born-again men, we tend to cater to the old nature. It is only the Spirit within us Who will seek the promotion and well-being of the new.
“Obey my voice.” It must be remembered that the godly wife represents, not the new spiritual life itself, but the expression of that life. The new life itself is perfect, but the expression of it is all too often anything but perfect, as here, hence the Spirit’s faithful recording of flaws in the lives of even such godly women as Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel.
27:9. “Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savory meat for thy father, such as he loveth.”
The blessing is not to be secured by the wild thing found in the field (the world), and which must be hunted for its life, but by that which the domestic flock provides, requiring no hunter’s skill to take it, yielding its life willingly for man’s benefit. These kids speak of Christ. It is by His death that men are blessed. As those kids unresistingly yielded themselves to death, so did Christ, and as their deaths secured the blessing for Jacob, so does the death of Christ secure blessing for all who are willing to trust Him.
Their being goats points to Christ as the One Who willingly presented Himself as every man’s Sin offering, for the goat is the animal most frequently used for the Sin offering, “For He (God) hath made Him (Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Co 5:21). The twofold character of Christ’s sacrifice is emphasized in there being two kids. Christ’s offering of Himself was first for God’s glory, and then for man’s redemption.
”...and I will make them savory meat for thy father.” As Isaac would associate the blessing of Esau with the venison, so would Rebekah associate the blessing of Jacob with the kids, but she was just as wrong as was Isaac, for she should have had faith to believe that what God had promised He would accomplish, and He had said, “The elder shall serve the younger.” Whatever other lessons may be connected with this, one at least presents itself. As the believer, represented here by Isaac, caters to the flesh (Esau), the functioning of his spiritual life, of which Rebekah is the expression, will be hindered and marred. Rebekah’s wrong conduct is the demonstration of this truth.
27:10. “And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death.”
The honest, simple, direct activity of faith, unmarred by the working of the flesh, stands in sharp contrast with the devious scheming recorded here. Jacob had bought the birthright. It belonged to him. Much sorrow would have been avoided for all had he simply informed Isaac of this fact, and then left his case in God’s hands. But where the flesh is indulged there will be corresponding weakness of faith, and a resorting to fleshly means to secure what a more vibrant faith would enjoy without recourse to unworthy methods.
27:11. “And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man.”
Jacob sought to dissuade Rebekah from this wrong course, but as noted already, where the flesh rules in a believer’s life, the spiritual life must be affected adversely.
Esau ... is a hairy man.” In Scripture hairiness seems to be used to depict the sinful state of the old nature, for Esau means shaggy: hairy: goat-like, and the goat was the animal most often used for the Sin offering. In contrast with the hairy Esau who represents the old man, Jacob, who represents the believer, was a smooth man.
27:12. “My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing.”
Of the five senses, touch is probably the most elemental, for it involves physical contact. It is significant therefore, that it should be the one singled out by Jacob as that which Isaac was likely to use to verify the identity of the son he intended to bless. The senses of seeing, hearing, and smelling operate apart from physical contact, but are dependent rather on the air for their operation. But the air is itself the realm of the Spirit (wind, in fact, being one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit, e.g., Jn 3:8 “The wind bloweth where it listeth ... so is every one that is born of the Spirit”). Isaac did use hearing and smelling in an attempt to verify that it was Esau, but it was upon the sense of touch that he ultimately based his wrong conclusion. A type of the believer living according to the flesh rather than the Spirit, blind Isaac received no convincing proof from the two senses that related more to the spiritual than the physical. With his sight already gone, and with hearing and smelling conveying only contradictory messages, he was reduced to making his decision on the evidence of touch, and of a deceived sense of smell.
Disobedience destroys spiritual discernment, and leaves the man dependent on the discernment of the flesh which he has chosen to indulge.
27:13. “And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice and go fetch me them.”
Wrongdoing will affect the spiritual life, and mar the perfection of its expression, but nothing can touch the believer himself. If the scheme was discovered, and a curse pronounced, it would fall upon Rebekah, not Jacob.
The anomaly of the new nature’s being under the control of the flesh is what might be expected in the life of the man, who though a believer, allows the old nature to rule. God’s order is that the new nature should be in control, and the conduct of the spiritual life ought to be the demonstration of that control. Where the new nature rules there will be no devious scheming, but rather a calm implicit trust in God.
27:14. “And he went and fetched, and brought them to his mother, and his mother made savory meat, such as his father loved.”
Jacob’s protest indicates that his obedience was not without some measure of trepidation. Be that as it may, the fact remains that he did obey his mother, and the deception that was calculated to secure him the blessing, proceeded.
27:15. “And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son.”
Had faith been operating as it should, none of this duplicity would have been necessary. Isaac, in a right relationship with God, would have known that Jacob was to receive the blessing; Rebekah would have been under no necessity to resort to crooked methods to accomplish a worthy end; and Jacob himself would not have had to flee to escape the consequences of his deceit against his father. When the believer caters to the old nature everything in his life is wrong.
Part of the deceit was to put Esau’s clothing on Jacob, but clothing is to the body what habits are to the life, and in Scripture, clothing represents righteousness, either man’s worthless self-righteousness, which is likened by God to filthy rags, or the spotless garment of Christ’s righteousness which clothes the believer.
Certainly Isaac couldn’t see the raiment, but it had about it the smell of Esau, and it was that smell that led him to believe that it was Esau he was blessing. Righteousness apart from Christ, always has the “smell” of earth about it, and when the believer breaks his communion with God by indulging the flesh, the result is that the righteous deeds which the new nature ought to be producing, will be replaced by the earthy garment of the old nature’s weaving.
No such change of garments would have been possible in Abraham’s house, for his eldest son Ishmael had been sent away at God’s command. But Esau dwelt in Isaac’s house, and his garments “were with her (Rebekah) in the house.” He who indulges the flesh, and keeps its “garments” (habits or ways) in the “house” will find those earthy garments placed many times upon the reluctant “younger son” (the new man), i.e., earthy ways, rather than spiritual, will mar the life.
27:16. “And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck.”
It was those skins, furnished by the deaths of the two kids, that secured Jacob the blessing. It is the death of Christ that secures every blessing to the believer, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that Jacob had had the faith to buy that which validated his claim to the blessing. Christ’s death can bring blessing to no one apart from faith. Faith must appropriate that death.
The skins were placed upon Jacob’s hands and neck, and God has something to teach us in this. The hand in Scripture represents the deeds of the life, and in regard to man’s deeds God has declared, “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart only evil continually” (Ge 6:5). “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Ge 8:21). Had Isaac felt those hands without the covering of the skins of the slain kids, Jacob would certainly have been cursed rather than blessed. It is only as our “hands” are covered with the “skin” of our perfect Sin offering that the curse we deserve is transmuted into blessing.
The skins were placed also upon Jacob’s neck, and in Ex 13:13 it is written, “And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck; and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem.” The ass is a picture of man, “For vain man would we wise, though man be born like a wild ass’s colt” (Job 11:12). Unless redeemed by the death of a lamb, the firstling of an ass must have its neck broken. By natural birth man is the “firstling (firstborn) of an ass.” The skin of the slain kid saved Jacob’s “neck” in every sense of the word, and secured him the blessing. The man who dares to stand before God without the “skin” of Christ the Sin offering upon his “neck” will have that rebellious neck broken. He will die.
27:17. “And she gave the savory meat and the bread which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.”
That savory meat speaks of Christ, for it consisted, not of venison, the flesh of the wild creature, but of the two slain kids. The bread is also a familiar type of Christ. Isaac was only the human (and in this case, the unwitting) agent whom God used to pronounce the blessing upon Jacob, and that blessing was secured by the presentation of the things that speak of Christ. It will never be otherwise. Apart from faith in a slain and resurrected Christ, there is no blessing for man.
27:18. “And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son?”
It isn’t difficult to imagine the apprehension with which Jacob must have approached his father. Would the disguise be discovered? Would discovery result in his being cursed instead of blessed? Would Esau return suddenly before the blessing was pronounced?
Sin blights everything it touches. Jacob must have been uneasy and frightened; Isaac confused and uncertain as to whether he was indeed bestowing the blessing on the son he wanted to enrich. How different it would have been had Isaac been in touch with God! Then there would have been no occasion for Rebekah and Jacob to scheme and deceive. It would have been the happy occasion it should have been with the blessing being given to the man designated by God.
27:19. “And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me.”
A problem is presented by this deliberate deception practiced by Jacob. If he represents the believer, how then is this lie explained? The answer is that as Jacob, he represents the believer as a physical entity: a man still in the body, but it is as Israel that he represents the believer as a spiritual creature. The believer, as a man still in the body, is capable of very grievous sin.
27:20. “And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the Lord thy God brought it to me.”
Notice that the Holy Spirit has been careful to emphasize the relationship between Isaac and Jacob. Isaac may have preferred Esau, but Jacob cannot be denied. He also is Isaac’s son, because as a believer, though out of touch with God, Isaac has a new nature represented by Jacob, just as he has an old nature represented by Esau, and in spite of all that is wrong in Jacob the man, he is to be blessed, just because as Isaac’s secondborn son he does represent that new nature.
We are blessed, not because we are worthy, but because of what we are in Christ..
Isaac’s question indicates that he was suspicious, and Jacob, having begun to weave a web of intrigue, must continue that weaving to prevent his being discovered. How easily does the liar become entrapped in the web of his own construction!
Jacob replied, “... thy God brought it to me.” He dare not say “my God,” for God will not permit Himself to be associated with sin, and there are few things more abhorrent to God than lies, as it is written, “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue....” (Pr 6:16-17).
27:21. “And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not.”
For the significance of Isaac’s attempting to verify by touch the identity of the one who professed to be Esau, see the comments on verse 12.
27:22. “And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”
We have already noted that the hands symbolize the deeds, and here the deeds contradict the profession of the lips. The same contradiction is found in the life of every disobedient believer. In James chapters 2 and 3 we are warned against this contradiction. The deeds must verify the profession of the lips, “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty” (Jas 2:12). Jacob’s hands, disguised to resemble those of his hairy brother, were at that moment employed in work completely appropriate to their disguised hairy state: they were yielded up to the service of sin. “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (Jas 3:10).
27:23. “And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands: so he blessed him.”
The functioning of all five senses seems to portray fullness of spiritual discernment. Isaac’s spiritual state therefore, may be gauged by the fact that he made his judgment on the basis of the evidence of only one sense, and that one the most elemental.
But this incident provides us also with an example of God’s operating according to divine foreknowledge. In His perfect foreknowledge, He acted, not according to what Jacob was that day, but according to what He knew Jacob would become in response to divine discipline. In spite of Isaac’s determination to bless Esau, and in spite of Rebekah and Jacob’s deceitful scheming, God blessed Jacob that day, though long years of discipline must elapse before there could be appropriation of that blessing.
Surely the lesson isn’t difficult to read. We are blessed, not because we are worthy, but because God sees us as we are in Christ, and as we shall actually be one day. And as with Jacob, so with us: it is the need for discipline that delays enjoyment of the blessing.
“... so he blessed him.” It is instructive to note the contrast between this and the almost similar situation when the time came for Jacob to bless Joseph’s sons, Ge 48:10-19. Jacob too, had become old and blind, and when his grandsons were presented before him, with Manasseh the firstborn opposite his right hand, he deliberately crossed his hands so that the right hand of blessing rested on the head of Ephraim the younger. Unlike his father Isaac, Jacob (now become Israel) had no need of natural sight. His years in God’s school hadn’t been wasted. The evening time of life found him, no longer Jacob supplanter, but Israel a prince of God, and what he lacked in natural vision was more than made up in the keenness of his spiritual perception.
The obedient believer finds that in proportion as his eyes are filled less with the things of earth, they will be able to perceive more clearly the things that belong to heaven, for he walks by faith, not by sight, 2 Co 5:7.
27:24. “And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? and he said, I am.”
Isaac’s wavering uncertainty is typical of the carnal believer, as it is written, “For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (Jas 1:6). No such wavering marked Jacob (become Israel) when he, also become blind, but having the assurance of God’s guidance, confidently crossed his hands (so that his right hand, the hand of power, rested on the head of Joseph’s secondborn) when the time came to bless Joseph’s sons.
27:25. “And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank.”
We can’t read this section without being impressed with the emphasis laid upon the link between Isaac’s being given venison to eat, and his intention to bestow the blessing on the son he expected to provide the venison. All of this points to a catering to the lusts of the flesh, and a determination to promote the old nature at the expense of the new. This is what marks the carnal believer, and the tragedy of his folly is that in proportion as he enriches the old nature, which must soon pass away, he robs the new nature which will endure for ever. He is a wise man who lives his life in the light of 2 Co 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body.” “Be not deceived: God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Ga 6:7-8).
”... and he brought him wine, and he drank.” wine is the Scriptural symbol of joy, but in this instance, connected as it is with the venison, it speaks of earthly joy, and seems to confirm that in the aged and blind Isaac we have a picture of a believer out of touch with God, finding his joy in the things of earth rather than heaven.
27:26. “And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son.”
We can almost detect in this request an attempt on Isaac’s part to have all his uncertainty banished, a pathetic hope that if this were Jacob and not Esau, he would stop short of carrying deception to the point of prostituting the symbol of filial love to the service of scheming deceit. Jacob, however, caught in the toils of his own making, dare not retreat now lest exposure bring curse instead of blessing. Deceit has a strange way of leading us on to a slippery precipitous path that will carry us, unwillingly, to depths of sin and trouble never envisaged. Had Rebekah and Jacob been able to foresee the end of their deceit it is unlikely that they would ever have resorted to it. Jacob’s deceitful kiss surely reminds us of a similar one given the Lord by the traitorous Judas. The injunction of 2 Co 13:12, “Greet one another with an holy kiss” is given to guard against our seeking to mask deceit under the guise of sincerity and love.
27:27. “And he came near, and kissed him, and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed.”
His final suspicion apparently lulled by Jacob’s kiss, and deceived by the smell of the raiment that belonged to Esau, Isaac pronounced the blessing. Everything emphasizes his dependence on earthly rather than spiritual things for guidance. The field we have seen to be a type of the world, and the lesson being taught is that the “garments” of the old nature always smell of the world. To the carnal believer that smell is always pleasant, even though it is abhorrent to God, and it is the more abhorrent when that smell rises from the life of a believer. God finds pleasure only in that which is of heaven, and if we would please Him, then we will be careful to ensure that there is no odor of earth clinging to our “garments.”
27:28. “Therefore, God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine.”
Since Jacob is the one whom God is going to bless, He is careful to ensure that even though that blessing is pronounced by carnal lips, it is pronounced in proper language. Though Isaac apparently found his pleasure in earthly things, the first words of the blessing upon Jacob have to do with heaven, not earth, “The Lord give thee of the dew of heaven.”
The Scriptural references to dew seem to indicate that it is either a type of the Holy Spirit, or of the blessings that come from His ministry. Spiritual blessings head the list of the things with which Jacob is to be enriched, and then follows the list of earthly things.
What was true of Jacob-Israel is true also of the nation that has sprung from him: the earthly blessings of the millennial kingdom will be enjoyed only after that nation has received God’s spiritual blessing by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. And the same order applies also to spiritual Israel, the Church. After receiving God’s spiritual gift of eternal life, and in sharing for a little while the rejection Christ knew here on earth, we shall reign with Him over the whole creation.
27:29. “Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be everyone that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.”
It is clear that the blessing goes far beyond its individual application to Jacob and to the nation of which he is the father. In his foretold position of exaltation, Jacob is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is he whom people will serve, and nations bow down to. It is He who will be Lord over the redeemed, those whom He deigns to call “My brethren.” “For both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren” (Heb 2:11-12).
”Let they mother’s sons bow down to thee....” It was the nation of Israel that brought forth Christ, and in that capacity she is His “mother.” His mother’s sons therefore clearly have reference to individual Israelites, and this is a prophetic declaration that in a coming day they will bow down to the One they once rejected and crucified. (Several Scriptures present the nation of Israel as the “mother” of Christ, e.g., Re 12:4-5, “... and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron.”
”Cursed be everyone that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.” Like much of prophecy, this may have had partial fulfillment throughout history, but complete fulfillment will be in the Millennium. It is significant that the attitude of an individual’s heart towards God is frequently disclosed by his attitude towards God’s people. It is clear that in the Tribulation the treatment accorded the Jew will disclose the condition of men’s hearts towards God, see Mt 25, where in verse 40 the Lord declares, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” And as always, what relates to Israel relates also to spiritual Israel, the Church. Believers are commanded to love one another, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.... By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (Jn 13:34-35). The condition of the heart is revealed by the attitude towards those who are spiritual Israelites, our brethren, and also Christ’s. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 Jn 4:20).
27:30. “And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting.”
It is emphasized that there was practically no time between Jacob’s going out from Isaac’s presence with the blessing, and Esau’s coming in to discover that he had come too late. But a moment may separate eternal gain from eternal loss, and the joy that might have been will give place to eternal sorrow. The sad lament of those who had missed blessing is recorded in Jer 8:20, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
Esau came in from his hunting in the field only to discover that all his work had been useless. The lesson isn’t difficult to read. The world (the field) can never furnish anything that will profit man spiritually. As Esau came in from the field, bringing with him the venison he had so diligently hunted and carefully prepared, he presents us with a picture of the man who comes to the end of his earthly life “coming in from the field” with what he hopes will procure him eternal blessing. Multitudes have followed Esau’s foolish footsteps. After having spent their lives pursuing the things of the world, they find that they must “come in from the field” to stand in the presence of God having nothing to present except “venison,” when the only thing God will accept is “the Lamb” the Lord Jesus Christ. It was not the deer that had to be hunted out in the field, but the little kid right outside his tent door, that ensured the blessing to Jacob. “The word (Christ) is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is the word of faith which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Ro 10:8-9). The same ready availability of the lamb is declared in Ge 4:7, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin (or sin offering) lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”
27:31. “And he also had made savory meat, and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s venison, that they soul may bless me.”
This savory meat, so carefully prepared, speaks of man’s own works, and as it failed to procure the blessing for Esau, so will good works also fail to procure blessing for the man who has nothing but works to offer God. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9). “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Tit 3:5). Esau hoped to “buy” the blessing with the venison, but divine blessing can’t be bought. It is available only as a gift to those who trust in Christ as Savior.
The thread of prophecy appears frequently in this section, for Esau’s futile attempt to secure blessing by means of what his own skill had procured in the field, is also a picture of the nation of Israel. They too, sought to be blessed on the basis of good works apart from faith in Christ, and in Esau’s bitter lament we may detect an echo of the bitter sorrow that has followed unbelieving Israel scattered and hated amongst the nations for the past two thousand years.
27:32. “And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau.”
Esau might present every claim that would commend him to Isaac, but nothing could alter the purposes of God. Esau was a firstborn, and since the firstborn represents what man is in his natural unregenerate state, he cannot be heir to that blessing which belongs only to the man who has been born again through faith in Christ.
As a firstborn, Esau is a type, not only of unregenerate man, but also of the unbelieving nation of Israel, for in Ex 4:22 it is written, “Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn.” that unbelieving “firstborn” nation, like firstborn Esau, forfeited blessing through unbelief. It is the “secondborn” nation of Israel, yet to emerge from the womb of the Tribulation as a repentant, believing nation, that will inherit millennial blessing.
27:33. “And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed.”
In regard to Isaac’s trembling, the literal rendering is “He trembled with a great trembling greatly.” That he should have been disappointed or angry we can easily understand, but why should he have trembled? Is it possible that the realization finally dawned upon him that in his futile attempt to bless Esau he had been acting as an opponent of God? Did he see then what he had failed to see before, that he who undertakes to thwart the purposes of God has espoused a hopeless cause, and placed himself in very great danger of making himself the object of divine wrath?
Whatever the cause of his trembling, he acknowledged the impossibility of subverting God’s purposes, and was made to confess “Yea, and he shall be blessed.” Nothing Isaac or Esau could do could procure the blessing for the man who had displayed his lack of faith by selling the birthright, nor could the scheming of Rebekah and Jacob have obtained it for the latter had he himself not had the faith to buy the birthright, and thus qualify himself to inherit its blessings. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Heb 11:6).
We should note here the relationship between God’s foreknowledge, and the believer’s free will. God’s announcement that the younger would be blessed, was according to His foreknowledge; but it was by a act of his own free will that Jacob bought the birthright, and thus qualified himself to inherit the promised blessing. No one is predestinated to be saved, nor is anyone predestinated to be lost. Men are saved only through faith, God in His omniscience foreknowing those who will exercise that faith.
27:34. “And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father.”
This is a vastly different Esau from the one seen in chapter 25:32-34 saying, “What profit shall this birthright do to me? ... and he sold his birthright ... thus Esau despised his birthright.” In Heb 12:16-17 he is described as a profane person, i.e., one who is impious, “Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”
Esau stands as a warning for all time against the folly of living only for the things of this world, and despising the things that belong to the world to come. His shortsightedness in failing to appreciate the value of the birthright adumbrates the folly of valuing only the things of time, and living as though there were no heaven, no hell, no eternity. The “great and exceeding bitter cry” that went up to heaven that day will be taken up, and prolonged for all eternity by those who discover, too late, that their rejection of Christ has cost them their souls, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mk 8:36-37).
“Bless me, even me also....” He who could have had fullness of blessing now pleads for any blessing. Ex 12:32 records a similar experience of the once haughty Pharaoh. He who had arrogantly refused God’s command to release the Hebrews, now bereft of his firstborn, pleads with Moses, “Bless me also.” The same is recorded of the rich man who was “clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day” (Lk 16:19). From the torment of hell, his plea to Abraham was, “... have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Lk 16:24).
The worthlessness of what he lived for, and the incalculable worth of what he has irretrievably lost, will be comprehended fully only by the man, who like Esau, despises his “birthright” and sells it for a “mess of pottage,” and then discovers, too late, that he has lost his soul.
27:35. “And he said, Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing.”
Scripture is careful to record here that it was not the birthright, but the blessing that had been taken by subtilty. The birthright had been legitimately purchased.
Subtilty here means “deceit.” No one would question that Jacob had practiced deceit, but what is often overlooked is that Esau had been equally deceitful. When sent to fetch venison in verse 3 he had been careful to make no mention of the fact that he had sold that birthright, and had therefore forfeited his claim to the blessing. The birthright wasn’t stolen from him, and the meager price he had accepted for it simply reflects his estimate of its value. It was something he despised as a worthless thing, just because its benefits weren’t immediately available to him. Every man’s spiritual “birthright” is to receive God’s gift of eternal life, but multitudes indicate their appraisal of its worth by their rejection of Christ as Savior. A soon-coming day will reveal the error of their appraisal. What the many see as a worthless thing, which they sell for “a mess of pottage,” the few see as priceless, and buy it by faith, in anticipation of the day when they will enter into the enjoyment of its blessings. “Buy the truth, and sell it not” (Pr 23:23).
27:36. “And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?”
In a welter of self-pity, Esau attempted to cast Jacob in the role of a thief, but as we have noted already, Jacob had bought the birthright, and was legitimately entitled to its blessings. Whatever condemnation of his methods may be justified, there can be no denying the legitimacy of his claim. And it is the same in regard to every believer: whatever condemnation of our acts may be justified, there can be no question as to the validity of our claim to blessing - it is assured to us by the death of the One whose blood covers all our sins, and places us eternally beyond condemnation. We will be blessed, not because of what we are in ourselves, but because of what we are in Christ. God blessed Jacob in anticipation of the day when the supplanter would become Israel, the prince.
Esau’s plea for blessing, any blessing, was repeated, but what blessing can there be for him who has despised the birthright which alone conveyed title to blessing?
27:37. “And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son?”
This declares more than simply the literal content of Jacob’s blessing: it declares also the true state that should exist between the new nature and the old: it is God’s intention that the new rule over the old, and the believer will be spiritual only as he makes this a reality in his life. Well might Isaac ask, “What shall I do now unto thee?” Anything given must pale into insignificance compared with what had been bequeathed to Jacob. There is no blessing for the old nature which Esau represents.
27:38. “And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept.”
Heb 12:17 reminds us, however, that, “... he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” Once a man has crossed the invisible line that separates God’s mercy from His wrath, he has taken an irrevocable step. There may be weeping and sorrow for riches eternally lost, but there will be no repentance, and without repentance there is no remedy.
27:39. “And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above.”
The sense here is obscured by the KJ translation which seems to indicate that the blessing pronounced now upon Esau was little different from that pronounced on Jacob in verse 28. Other translations, e.g., Grant’s Numerical Bible, and The New English Bible render this verse more accurately and clearly, “Behold, apart from the fatness of the earth shall be thy dwelling, and from the dew of heaven from above; but by thy sword shalt thou live” (Grant); “Your dwelling shall be far from the richness of the earth, far from the dew of heaven above. By your sword you shall live” (NEB).
Esau was to dwell far from all that constituted Jacob’s blessing. The distance that separates the old nature and the new is as great as that which separates east and west. Unbelief and faith cannot enjoy the same things. It is significant too, that even in the declaration of the riches which cannot be his, the earthly is put before the heavenly: the opposite of the order employed in the designation of Jacob’s blessings in verse 28.
27:40. “By thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother: and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.”
Isaac’s words were literally fulfilled, for Esau moved into the mountainous wilderness which for much of Biblical times bore his name, Edom. History confirms that for generations he and his descendants did indeed live by the sword, and as we might expect, history confirms also that there was bitter hatred between the Edomites and the Israelites, that hatred of course being itself symbolic of the hatred that must always exist between the old and the new nature.
“... and shalt serve thy brother.” This also had a literal fulfillment, for the descendants of Esau, the Edomites, were with a few exceptional intervals, subservient to the Israelites.
”... thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.” This continues to illustrate the enmity between the flesh and the spirit, but the foretold intervals when Esau would slip out of the yoke, illustrate also that the flesh never abandons its attempt to elude the control of the Spirit, breaking that control when opportunity presents itself.
27:41. “And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.”
In continuing to emphasize Esau’s hatred of Jacob, God would warn believers of the unrelenting hatred of the flesh against the spirit, and warn them of the necessity to maintain a vigilant guard against its every activity.
But these words had also a literal fulfillment. That day when unbelieving Israel slew Christ, this threat of Esau was carried out. The “firstborn” slew the “younger.” It is significant, however, that Esau’s threat was never carried out against Jacob, and there are lessons in this we shouldn’t miss. Jacob represents the believer as a man still in the body of flesh, but having within him the new nature, the very nature of God, which can never die. The believer can never lose his spiritual life.
Secondly, Esau imposed a time condition. He would kill Jacob after Isaac was dead, and clearly he anticipated that Isaac’s death was near. He was wrong, however, for as we have noted already, Isaac’s life seems to have been prolonged for what appears to have been another eighty years. There is in this an oblique suggestion of resurrection. In verse 2 Isaac himself seems to have felt that his death was imminent, and certainly here in verse 41 Esau entertains the same expectation. Whether Isaac was ill at this time, and not expected to recover, we aren’t told, but the fact remains that he didn’t die, and in fact, lived on for another eighty years, eighty being a multiple of eight, which is the Biblical number of a new beginning. Those additional eighty years given Isaac were typically a new beginning, a life that guaranteed, as it were, the life of Jacob. When the time did come for him to die, Esau apparently had abandoned his plan to slay his brother, nor would he have been able to carry it out even if he had desired, since Jacob by then had become the stronger.
What lessons does God have for us in this? The believer, carnal though he may be, as represented here in Isaac, will never die, for after the death of the body there is the assurance of resurrection, typically portrayed in the additional eighty years granted to Isaac. Because the believer will live for ever, the new nature will also endure eternally, and bitter as the hatred of the old nature is against the new, it is powerless to touch that which is the very life of God himself.
27:42. “And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee.”
The assurance that the old nature cannot destroy the new, should not be construed, however, as also the assurance that there is no need for vigilance against its hatred. Esau certainly couldn’t kill Jacob, but his murderous intent drove Jacob away from the comfort of home to the twenty years of bitter servitude under Laban in Haran. We recognize of course that Jacob’s wrongdoing provided Esau with an excuse, and in this God would teach us that we need to be constantly on guard against furnishing the old nature with any opportunity to exercise power over us. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God” (2 Co 10:3-4). “And if a man also strive for mastery, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully” (2 Tim 2:5). Spiritual work cannot be done through fleshly methods. Rebekah and Jacob should have left their cause with God. There are times when we are not to fight, but to rest in God’s assurance, “be still, and know that I God” (Ps 46:10). When Israel found themselves in a position from which their own strength could not deliver them, they were commanded, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord ... the Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Ex 14:13-14).
27:43. “Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran.”
Rebekah, who as his wife represents the expres-sion of Isaac’s spiritual life, took prudent measures to protect the life of the son who represents the new man of faith. The perfection of the new life may be marred by sin in our lives, and the working of the new nature similarly obscured, but the fact remains that the new nature, just because it is the very nature of God, cannot die, nor can its perfection be obscured for ever. Jacob may have to flee for a while, but when divine discipline has done its perfect work, he will return, not as Jacob (supplanter), but as Israel (prince of God).
The prophetic line is easily discerned here. As Jacob, due to his own faithless scheming, was to be away from his homeland for twenty years, so has the nation he founded been away from its homeland for twenty centuries. The factors of twenty are two and ten, the number of witness and divine government, respectively. As the return of Jacob (become Israel) was the testimony of the perfect results of that government in the life of a man, so will the returned nation of Israel, repentant and converted, be the witness to the perfection of that government in the life of a nation. The principles of divine government are the same with nations as they are with individuals.
Laban means white; and Haran as a personal name, their mountain: but as a place name, their burning. We have noted in our study of chapter 24:29 that Laban seems to represent the righteousness of mere moral reformation, rather than the righteousness of true faith. In chapter 11:27 we noted that Haran, Lot’s father, seems to represent the principle of pride and ambition. In the present instance we are concerned with Haran, the place, rather, than Haran the person, but the lesson is virtually the same, for pride and burning ambition, of which the mountain here seems to speak, dwell together.
In Jacob’s going to dwell with Laban at Haran we are being told symbolically of his going spiritually to dwell with what Laban and Haran represent: the self-righteousness of mere morality in the place ruled by pride and worldly ambition. It is in just such a school that a believer has to learn the worthlessness of these things. It was to “Laban” and “Haran” that the nation of Israel went spiritually when their sin made it necessary for God to drive them out of their land two thousand years ago. Religious complacency and worldly ambition mark the Jews to this very day.
27:44. “And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother’s fury turn away.”
What Rebekah expected to be only a few days turned out to be more than twenty years. Sin is a terrible thing, having consequences more far-reaching than any of us can imagine. Nor does the enmity of the flesh against the spirit ever abate: it is inveterate.
27:45. “Until thy brother’s anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him; then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?”
It is clear from this that Rebekah also loved Esau, though less than she did Jacob. This emphasizes what we have already considered: when the believer indulges the flesh, the spiritual life of that believer must in some measure reflect that preference.
“... then I will send, and fetch thee.” This good intention was never fulfilled, for we never read that Rebekah did send for Jacob, nor did she apparently ever see him again. He would return only when he had completed the necessary time in God’s school, and then God would send him back. This is the repetition of the truth we have already discussed: the new nature is not to be under the control of the life: it is the life that is to be under the control of the new nature. The life of even the most godly believer is a mixture of good and evil, for both the old and new natures display themselves in his life, but the divine ideal is that the new nature alone should be in control.
Because she had subverted God’s purposes by making Jacob (the new man) act like Esau (the old man), Rebekah lost, not Jacob (he still lived), but his fellowship, and she was left with only the fellowship of Esau. When we refuse to permit the new nature to function according to its true character, we are also deprived of its fellowship, and are left only with that of the old.
“... why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?” While he is here on earth the believer will never be deprived of both natures, but he cannot enjoy the fellowship of both at the same time. As he enjoys the fellowship of the new nature by being obedient to its impulses, he will lose the fellowship of the old, and as he enjoys the fellowship of the old by obeying its impulses, he will lose the fellowship of the new. The happy believer is he who walks in unbroken fellowship with his new nature.
Rebekah’s desire to hold on to both is the demonstration of a spiritual impossibility. We must choose the fellowship of the one or the other, but we cannot have both.
27:46. “And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the land, what good shall my life do me?”While Rebekah may have been using this as a pretext for sending Jacob away, there can be little doubt that she was also declaring the truth when she said, “I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth.” What the representative of the old nature had linked himself with in marriage, must indeed have been “a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah” (Ge 26:35). The activity of the old nature can never bring anything but grief to the believer.