Genesis 26:34-28:9 “The Case of the Purloined Blessing, Pt.2”
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Bryan E. Walker
Read Gen. 26:34-28:9
Introduction: Last time we met we began our study of this very memorable Bible story, and, since this week is the last time we shall meet before our summer recess until Aug.28, we need to finish this story today! I want you to remember that the main idea of this story is the passing on of the blessing to God’s elect, Jacob, and a very important side note of the importance of having a wife from the broader family of Abraham for God’s elect. The story is framed by accounts of Esau’s obtaining wives from without the covenant community and includes the sending off of Jacob to Padan-aram in search of a wife from the ancestral home. WE need to keep in mind that the people and events in this story are real, historical figures. One of the purposes of Moses relating this event could be to encourage his people to not marry out of the faith. God uses sinful people for his gracious purposes and the covenant with Abraham gets passed down to the third generation.
- I. A. Outline
- 1. 26:34-35 Esau’s Hittite Wives
- 2. 27:1-4 Isaac Denies God’s Word
- 3. 27:5-17 Rebekah Tries to do God’s Will Her Way
- 4. 27:18-29 Jacob Receives the Blessing Through Deception
- 5. 27:30-40 Esau Laments His Loss
- 6. 27:41-45 Danger to the Bearer of the Covenant
- 7. 27:46-28:5 Isaac, Recognizing God’s Will, Blesses Jacob
- 8. 28:6-9 Esau Marries Wrongly Yet Again
- II. Exposition
- A. 26:34-35 Esau’s Hittite Wives
- 1. Intro- This verse does not just provide the front bookend that matches 28:6-9 to frame the story. This verse relates back to 26:1-11 and another problem involving marriage, Isaac’s ploy to pass off Rebekah as his sister, which in turn refers back to Abraham’s attempts to do the same in 20:1-7 and12:10-20. It can also be seen to relate to the Hagar episodes, especially since a foreign wife was involved. There is a contrast between Isaac and Esau in this regard since Isaac’s wife was taken from the ancestral homeland while Esau compromised the faith by marrying from the Canaanites. Mathews writes, p.415, “Strong prohibitions against marrying Canaanite women, showing indifference to their religion, occurred in Israelite custom (e.g., Deut. 7:3-4; 1Kings 11:2; Ezra9:12; Neh.13:25).”
- 2. Apply- 1Cor.6: 14 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God;” Why is it not a good idea to marry outside the faith? What can we do for our children to help them avoid this?
- 3. Kidner, p.155, “There is more in this notice (26:34,35) than meets the eye, for it underlines Isaac’s folly in still favouring Esau for the family headship (cf.35 with 24:3), and it prepares the ground for Jacob’s dispatch in 27:46ff. to his cousins at Paddan-aram.”
- 4. “When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith…” Isaac was 40 years old when he and Rebekah were married.
- 5. There is a problem with the names of Esau’s wives. See 36:2-3. People can sometimes have two names or can change names. In this instance we do not have a good, clear answer.
- 6. Esau showed extreme disregard for the covenant when he sold Jacob his birthright, and now, by choosing wives from outside the covenant family, he continues to place himself outside of the covenant, thus confirming the oracle at his birth.
- A. 26:34-35 Esau’s Hittite Wives
B. 27:1-4 Isaac Denies God’s Word
- 1. “When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim…” He is at least 100 yrs old at this point since the twins were born when he was 60 and Esau married when he was 40. Isaac would live at least another 20 years so he is not on his deathbed despite vv.10, 41 and the choosing to give his blessing now. It could be that he was ill and thought he was about to die. His blindness may be a subtle hint by Moses of his spiritual condition at this point, since he is insisting on giving the blessing to Esau, despite knowing of the oracle at his birth and, presumably, knowing of the purchase of the birthright by Jacob.
- 2. What appears to be Isaac’s motivation for wanting to bless Esau? His love for Esau’s cooking and the wild game. This is shown back in 25:28, carefully positioned immediately prior to Esau’s selling of his birthright.
- 3. Kidner, p.156, “All five senses play a conspicuous part, largely by their fallibility, in this classic attempt to handle spiritual responsibilities by the light of nature. Ironically, even the sense of taste on which Isaac prided himself gave him the wrong answer, Rebekah had not the slightest doubt that she could reproduce Esau’s gastronomic masterpiece- had she often smarted under this?- in a fraction of Esau’s time. But the real scandal is Isaac’s frivolity: his palate had long since governed his heart (25:28) and silenced his tongue (for he was powerless to rebuke the sin that was Esau’s downfall); he now proposed to make it his arbiter between peoples and nations (29). Unfitness for office shows in every act of this sightless man rejecting the evidence of his ears for that of his hands, following the promptings of his palate and seeking inspiration through- of all things- his nose (27). Yet God put these very factors to work for Him.”
- 4. Apply- This illuminates how someone who had enjoyed the blessings of the covenant with God can fall into sin over the years. Isaac knew God had chosen Jacob over Esau but allowed his stomach to lead him astray into trying to thwart God’s will. We can likewise allow our preferences to supersede what we know to be God’s will from God’s Word. It takes discipline and stamina to keep the faith by a loving obedience over the long haul.
- 5. Notice the reference in v.3 to Esau’s bow. This points us back to Ishmael in21:20, who was also outside the covenant.
C. 27:5-17 Rebekah Tries To Do God’s Will Her Way
1. Do God’s people ever try to do His will through vain and sinful means? That is what Rebekah is doing here. The good news in the story is that it appears that at least Rebekah remembered the oracle and understood the danger of Esau’s marrying outside the covenant. That does not excuse her conduct here, however.
- 2. Notice that Jacob hesitates to follow his mother’s plan, not because it is sinful, but out of fear of being caught and receiving a curse rather than blessing.
- 3. Apply- how much of our obedience is not out of faith, love, or thanksgiving, but rather out of fear of the consequences? That is not necessarily a bad thing, to consider the consequences, but it is not the best thing either.
- 4. In vv.5-6 notice how Esau is “his son” and Jacob is “her son”. This highlights the divisions in the family.
- 5. Rebekah adds the phrase, “before the LORD” when she is quoting her husband, thus indicating, perhaps, again her awareness of the spiritual implications of the blessing and the covenant.
- 6. Have you ever know preaching/sermons to be manipulative? Can churches sometimes try to accomplish thekingdom ofGod with worldly means?
- 7. In v.11 the word for smooth can also describe lying lips, says Mathews, p.429, pointing to Psalm 12:3-4 and Prov.5:3.
- D. 27:18-29 Jacob Receives the Blessing Through Deception
- 1. In vs. 18 we see, “My father” which causes us to remember trusting little Isaac onMt.Moriah asking his father Abraham about the sacrifice in 21:7, but now it is deceitful Jacob lying to blind, rebellious Isaac.
- 2. Jacob even uses the LORD’s name in vain in v.20, saying that the LORD provided the meat. Jacob uses the term “your God” until he returns fromHaran in ch.33 (Waltke, p.379), see 28:20-21. This is really a 20 year long conversion process before we reach 35:3.
- 3. Notice that Isaac is deceived by his sense of touch and smell, and taste, even when his ears told him it was Jacob. He had rejected God’s Word and now he refuses to listen and believe. He really wanted to bless Esau and eat! We are to HEAR the word of God- Deut.4:12; 6:4; Rom.10:14; Heb.2:1;
- 4. vv.27-28 pronounces blessings upon the land, harvests, abundance of food and wine. The second part of the blessing is for peoples to serve him and for him to be lord over his brothers. The final part of the blessing sounds like Gen. 12:3 with blessings upon those who bless him and curses upon him who curses him.
- 5. Application- Again we see the threat of curses upon those who curseIsrael and blessings upon those who bless Israel/Jacob. In light of Pres. Obama’s speech this past week, can we make any application of this text?
- 6. Vss 26-27 A traitor’s kiss. See Matt.26:48-49.
- 7. vs. 28 “brothers”? Since Rebekah is not known to have had any other children, nor Isaac to have had any other wives, this is likely a poetic convention (Mathews, p.433).
- E. 27:30-40 Esau Laments His Loss
- 1. The drama and the pathos of this story match anything the famed Greek poet Sophocles did in his Oedipus plays.
- 2. Literally, we have Jacob exiting stage left and Esau entering stage right. God’s Providence includes perfect timing and Isaac’s plans are shattered.
- 3. Yes, and he shall be blessed- for us, we would immediately say something like, well, Jacob got the blessing through deception so it doesn’t count and then give it all to Esau, or we would hire a lawyer. To the Hebrews, the power of speech is binding and even creative. God back to Gen. 1 and see, “And God said…” All throughout the Bible the words or Word of God is powerful, and what people speak is powerful and cannot be revoked. The blessing cannot be undone here. Waltke writes, p.380, “The word mediating the divine blessing is as irrevocable as a vow made to God”.
- 4. This is similar in concept to the Charismatic’s approach in the Word of Faith movement, but, the Charismatics have some faulty theology that essentially tries to use God and their spoken words as magic. Sound theology would lend us to be more like Matt.5:33-37; 12:34; 15:11-18; Lk.6:45; James 3:1-12. Kidner, “33 Isaac’s yea, and he shall be blessed expresses more than mere belief that the spoken word is self-fulfilling: he knows he has been fighting against God, as Esau has, and he accepts defeat.”
- D. 27:18-29 Jacob Receives the Blessing Through Deception
- 5. “Bless me, even me also, O my father” This “exceedingly great and bitter cry” is one of the most mournful laments in all of Scripture and reaches in and grabs us with its pathos. We feel the shock and agony of the soul of Esau.
- 6. But both Esau and Isaac fail to understand that he, Esau, had despised his birthright earlier and they both ignored the birth oracle from God. Did Jacob lie, deceive, steal and blaspheme God, in order to get the blessing? Yes. But Isaac and Esau were also trying to take what rightfully belonged to Jacob as well. Waltke writes, p.381, “He refuses to accept his culpability even as Adam blamed the woman.”
- 7. Does God use evil, and human sin, for his purposes?
- 8. In vss.39-40 Isaac gives Esau and “anti-blessing”. It seems to be similar to the prophecy given about Ishmael in ch.16:12. The prophecy/blessing of Esau is fulfilled in Israel’s history in 2Kings 8:20-22.
- 9. Kidner, p.157, “Isaac pronounces over Esau the appropriate destiny of the ‘profane person’: the freedom to live unblessed (39) and untamed (40).”
- F. 27:41-45 Danger To the Bearer of the Covenant
- 1. Esau’s murderous heart compares him with Cain and Lamech, and again emphasizes that he is outside the covenant, in fact, a seed of the serpent.
- 2. flee- the covenant bearer must flee for his life. Being in the covenant does not make one immune to danger.
- 3. until your brother’s anger turns away- At their reunion in ch.33 Jacob is repentant and Esau is genuinely glad to see his brother.
- 4. Then I will send and bring you from there. We never hear from Rebekah again after this episode but do hear of her nurse, Deborah, dying in 35:8 and we see that Rebekah was buried with Isaac in Abraham’s tomb in 49:31.
- G. 27:46-28:5 Isaac, Recognizing God’s Will, Blesses Jacob
- 1. v.46 “if Jacob marries one of the Hittite women…” Like Sarah provided for Isaac by sending Hagar and Ishmael away, so Rebekah provides for Jacob by sending him away.
- 2. Again, however, Rebekah does not discuss the issue with Isaac so much as she manipulates him. They have a dysfunctional marriage. Also, she is the one who correctly perceives that Jacob needs a pure wife to pass on the covenant.
- 3. In 28:1-5 Isaac finally comes around and gives Jacob the blessing of Abraham, the patriarchal blessing.
- 4. You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women– he understands his spiritual responsibility now. He has failed with Esau.
- H. 28:6-9 Esau Marries Wrongly Yet Again
- 1. Too late by far, Esau recognizes that his Hittite wives are a problem. He attempts to smooth things over by marrying a daughter of Ishmael…but this does not work either. See Psalm 83
83:1 O God, do not keep silence;
do not hold your peace or be still, O God!
2 For behold, your enemies make an uproar;
those who hate you have raised their heads.
3 They lay crafty plans against your people;
they consult together against your treasured ones.
4 They say, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation;
let the name of Israel be remembered no more!”
5 For they conspire with one accord;
against you they make a covenant—
6 the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
Moab and the Hagrites,
7 Gebal and Ammon and Amalek,
Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;
8 Asshur also has joined them;
they are the strong arm of the children ofLot. Selah
9 Do to them as you did to Midian,
as to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,
10 who were destroyed at En-dor,
who became dung for the ground.
11 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb,
all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
12 who said, “Let us take possession for ourselves
of the pastures of God.”
13 O my God, make them like whirling dust,
like chaff before the wind.
14 As fire consumes the forest,
as the flame sets the mountains ablaze,
15 so may you pursue them with your tempest
and terrify them with your hurricane!
16 Fill their faces with shame,
that they may seek your name, O Lord.
17 Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever;
let them perish in disgrace,
18 that they may know that you alone,
whose name is the Lord,
are the Most High over all the earth.
- 2. The joining of Esau (Edomites) and Ishmael against Israel is what we see today in the news is it not?
Conclusion: Why include this sordid tale? Why preach it toIsrael in the Wilderness? Why preach it today? God’s plan of redemption is carried on while graciously using people who are deceptive, controlling and contriving, who blaspheme, plot murder in their hearts, etc. In short, this is the gospel for sinners like us. God’s sovereign plan does not depend on our faithfulness, we will constantly fail. But God saves us nonetheless, by his powerful grace. This story emphasizes the mercy and grace of God.
What are the results? While the covenant is passed down to Jacob and his descendants, Isaac lives the rest of his life without significance, Rebekah dies with no memorial, Esau lives outside the covenant, and Jacob is deceived by Laban and then by his own sons. For us, we must realize that while God calls us to holiness and to a perfect standard, we remain sinners and are saved by grace alone. We try and we fail, but God somehow uses our efforts to build his kingdom.
Kidner, Derek. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Genesis: an Introduction and Commentary. Inter-Varsity Press:Downers Grove,ILL. 1967 (pp.155-158.)
Mathews, Kenneth A. The New American Commentary, vol.1B Genesis 11:27-50:26. Broadman&Holman:Nashville, TN 2005 (pp.414-441.)
Ross, Allen P. Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis. Baker Academic:Grand Rapids, MI. 1996 (pp.471-482.)
Sailhamer, John H. The NIV Compact Bible Commentary. Zondervan:Grand Rapids, MI.1994 (pp.40-41).
Waltke, Bruce K. Genesis: A Commentary. Zondervan:Grand Rapids,MI 1991 (pp.373-385.)
Wenham, Gordon J. Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 2, Genesis 16-50. Word Books:Dallas,TX 1994 (pp.197-216.)