How do you react when you face deception, bitterness, favouritism, or hatred?
The Bible is about Jesus. Every book, every chapter, dare I say, every verse exists for the purpose of pointing us eventually to the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ. He was born of a virgin. He fulfilled many prophecies. He lived a perfect life. He died on a cross, taking the judgment of God for the sin of the world. It’s God’s rescue plan; its the gospel.
There is a reason for every story that we read in the Bible. The account of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 27-28 is no exception. It’s a story of a family that was supposed to be living according to God’s promise, to His plan. But yet, it is a story of selfishness, deception, favouritism, hatred, and bitterness. Yet in spite of the sinfulness of this family, God’s plan was not thwarted.
Genesis 27 (NKJV)
1 Now it came to pass, when Isaac was old and his eyes were so dim that he could not see, that he called Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.” And he answered him, “Here I am.” 2 Then he said, “Behold now, I am old. I do not know the day of my death. 3 Now therefore, please take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me. 4 And make me savory food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.”
Isaac is old and blind, but he is not near death as he thought. He would go on to live many more years. He wants to bless Esau. He sends him out into the field to hunt for him and bring back some tasty game. When he comes back, Isaac thought, “I will bless him and then we will have a feast, a BBQ.” This was not God’s will.
It is a classic case of parental favourtism. Isaac loved Esau more than he loved Jacob. God had chosen Jacob. Isaac had chosen Esau. Isaac is doing wrong here. He should have known better. Isaac is not clued into what God wants him to do. He’s doing what he thinks is best, not what God thinks is best. God wanted to do it one way; Isaac wanted to do it his own way.
5 Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt game and to bring it. 6 So Rebekah spoke to Jacob her son, saying, “Indeed I heard your father speak to Esau your brother, saying, 7 ‘Bring me game and make savory food for me, that I may eat it and bless you in the presence of the Lord before my death.’ 8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to what I command you. 9 Go now to the flock and bring me from there two choice kids of the goats, and I will make savory food from them for your father, such as he loves. 10 Then you shall take it to your father, that he may eat it, and that he may bless you before his death.”
Rebekah overhears Isaac speaking to Esau. She understands that this would be the wrong thing to do. But instead of speaking to her husband, or confronting Esau, instead of crying out to God for help, she takes matters into her own hands. She tells Jacob to go to the flock, get two goats. She makes some food for Isaac and then tells Jacob to take it to him so he can get the blessing that Isaac wanted to give Esau.
11 And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Look, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth-skinned man. 12 Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.” 13 But his mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.” 14 And he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and his mother made savory food, such as his father loved. 15 Then Rebekah took the choice clothes of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. 16 And she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17 Then she gave the savory food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.
What a crazy plan! Rebekah made Jacob an Esau costume! It was a very risky plan. Even if they got away with it, it would only be a matter of time before Isaac and Esau would realize they had been deceived. Then what?
18 So he went 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 just as you told me; please arise, sit 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?” And he said, “Because the Lord your God brought it to me.” 21 Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 22 So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, and he 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 Then he said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He said, “I am.” 25 He said, “Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s game, so that my soul may 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 now and kiss me, my son.” 27 And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him.
Jacob, wearing his Esau costume, takes the food into his father. Isaac asks him, “Who are you, my son?” Jacob lies, “I am Esau.”
“How do you find it so quickly?”
“The Lord gave me success.”
He’s is bringing the Lord into his sin.
In verse 21, Isaac tells him to come near “that I may feel you, …whether you are really my son Esau or not.” I get the feeling that this isn’t the first time Isaac was being deceived.
He feels him. “You sound like Jacob, but you feel like Esau.”
“Are you really my son Esau?”
Jacob lies again, “I am.”
Isaac says, “Bring me the food, let me eat of it.” Jacob comes near, but Isaac smells Esau because he’s wearing Esau’s clothes.
He smells Esau, he eats some food, he drinks some wine. Jacob was probably thinking, “Hurry up and eat dad!” Finally, it’s time for the blessing.
Why did Rebekah go to such lengths to secure this blessing for Jacob?
First, understand what the blessing is.
The word “bless” in these two chapters occurs in varying forms some 29 times. What is it about this blessing that is so desirable? In the Old Testament “blessing” means: “to endue with power for success, prosperity, longevity.” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament). Blessing is “having God’s approval”. What is happening here is akin to sort of a last will and testament. In this culture, this type of oral testament of passing on the familial headship would be legally binding.
Rebekah knew that Esau was not the one chosen by God. Esau was a godless man, he did not love God, he was not a potential spiritual leader of the family. If he were to be blessed by Isaac and receive this special position in the family, it would be disastrous for the future, as Rebekah saw it. So she deemed at whatever cost, she would make sure that the right son, the spiritual son, the one whom God wanted blessed, Jacob, would be blessed, even if it involved deceiving her husband. It is interesting that Scripture never rebukes Rebekah and Jacob for this. It was wrong for them to deceive and lie, but by God’s providence, the result was consistent with what God desired.
Here’s Isaac’s blessing to Jacob:
“Surely, the smell of my son Is like the smell of a field Which the Lord has blessed. Therefore may God give you Of the dew of heaven, Of the fatness of the earth, And plenty of grain and wine…
The first part of the blessing is material in nature: real estate, provisions, and supplies such as food.
29 Let peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, And let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, And blessed be those who bless you!”
This is position, governmental authority, international supremacy.
When Isaac uses the phrase “brother’s sons bow down to you” he is going completely against what God had said to Rebekah about the boys, “the older will serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). Keep in mind Isaac thinks that he is blessing Esau! Isn’t it interesting that Isaac is willing to do what God doesn’t want him to do, yet in the process, he fulfills God’s plan!
This prophecy can be applied to the nation of Israel, which descended from Jacob. Today you could certainly say that they have been blessed with the “dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth”. It is a thriving country agriculturally. They are a world-leader in developing technologies to feed the world. (Check out some of the articles in my research files.)
Part of this prophecy is “cursed be everyone who curses you, blessed be those who bless you.” This has great application for us who live in North America. Those who bless Israel will be blessed; those who curse Israel will be cursed. Today many nations want to curse Israel. Joel Rosenberg recently reported on the Palestinian “Unity” Government that is receiving global support and yet is united against Israel. (See articles in the research files.)
30 Now it happened, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. 31 He also had made savory food, and brought it to his father, and said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that your soul may bless me.” 32 And his father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” So he said, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.” 33 Then Isaac trembled exceedingly, and said, “Who? Where is the one who hunted game and brought it to me? I ate all of it before you came, and I have blessed him—and indeed he shall be blessed.”
Like a good suspense movie, as soon as Jacob leaves, Esau comes in. He made for his dad savoury food, he brings it to Isaac and says, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that your soul may bless me.”
Isaac says, “Who are you?”
“Well I am Esau, of course, your firstborn son.”
And Isaac trembled exceedingly. It’s a wonder that he didn’t at this point have a heart attack!
He realized in a moment that he had been had; he had been deceived.
He thought that he was going to get away with it. But God’s plan would not be thwarted.
34 When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me—me also, O my father!” 35 But he said, “Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing.” 36 And Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!” And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”
Esau wanted to be blessed. How many boys want to be blessed by their dad? How many boys are looking for approval from dad? How many boys are crying out “Bless me, O my father.”
There are thousands and thousands of boys now grown to men that have been robbed of a healthy, solid, manly relationship with their dad. They have suffered emotionally, sexually, and most importantly spiritually, because their dad never blessed them.
Isaac favoured Esau. How ironic that the son he favoured, he now crushed. The son he loved more, he now hurt deeply. Isaac is certainly not a good model for us as parents.
37 Then Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Indeed I have made him your master, and all his brethren I have given to him as servants; with grain and wine I have sustained him. What shall I do now for you, my son?”
These are tough words for Esau to hear: “I have made him your master, I have given him servants and possessions.”
38 And Esau said to his father, “Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me—me also, O my father!” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept. 39 Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: “Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, And of the dew of heaven from above. 40 By your sword you shall live, And you shall serve your brother; And it shall come to pass, when you become restless, That you shall break his yoke from your neck.”“
Esau is the father of the Edomites; they became a people group that was at constant odds against Israel.
After this incident, as you could imagine, Esau hated his brother. As many differences as they had, this deceitful stealing of the blessing was the last straw for Esau. From this time on, Esau was looking for an opportunity to kill his brother. He expected his dad to die soon, which did not happen, and then he would take Jacob’s life. He was filled with hatred. Jesus teaches us that having anger in our hearts receives the same judgement as murder. Esau should have repented and forgiven.
Word gets to Rebekah that Esau is planning Jacob’s murder so she sends Jacob away. She tells him to go to her brother’s house, Laban. This is the same place where Abraham’s servant went to find Rebekah as a wife for Isaac. Rebekah’s plan was for Jacob to stay there a few days and then she would send for him when Esau cooled off. So she tells Isaac to send Jacob away to find a wife. She had hoped that Jacob would only be gone a few days. But, in reality, this would be the last time that Jacob would see her. Her plan didn’t go the way she intended. Jacob never got word to come back and he ended up being gone for many years.
Jacob was part of a dysfunctional family: a dominating mother, a weak father, a worldly, bitter, hate-filled brother. Of course, he was no angel either!
So Isaac calls Jacob and sends him to Padan Aram, to his uncles house to find a wife. He blesses him again:
3 “May God Almighty bless you, And make you fruitful and multiply you, That you may be an assembly of peoples; 4 And give you the blessing of Abraham, To you and your descendants with you, That you may inherit the land In which you are a stranger, Which God gave to Abraham.”
So Isaac, perhaps, realized that he was wrong to try to bless Esau. He realized, that even though his wife’s actions were wrong, her motivation was right. She knew God’s plan; she knew whom God had chosen. She saw her husband going in the wrong direction, she tried to do something about it. God used her, in her weakness, to prevent him from making a big mistake. She could have done it a different way; she could have sought the Lord; she could have pleaded with God. She could have spoken to Isaac; she could have tried to reason with Esau.
But now this blessing given by Isaac to Jacob takes us back to Genesis 12, where God tells Abraham, “I will bless you…”
The Bible also brings this blessing of Abraham to us through Christ (Galatians 3:13-14)
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.Galatians 3:13–14
Esau sees all this go down. He see his mom and dad send Jacob away to get a wife that is a godly woman. They tell him that they don’t want him to take a wife from the people of the land where they are living, the Canaanites. Esau had already married a couple ladies from there. They were nothing but grief to his parents. He sees his brother leave to get a wife from his mom’s family. So Esau decides to get a wife from Uncle Ishamael’s family. He’s trying to win his parents approval. It’s too little too late. Instead of winning the approval of man and dad, he should have sought the approval of his Creator.
Jacob heads out. The sun is going down; he’s getting tired. So he decides to stop for the night. He was alone. Keep in mind, he is not the outdoors type of guy like his brother Esau. This may have been his first time away from home. Was he lonely? Scared? Uncertain about the future? Missing his mom? Reeling from deceiving his dad? Wondering what all this means now that he has received the blessing? How is God’ plan going to be fulfilled in his life? It sure is not getting off to a good start. After all, his dad didn’t even want to bless him; did his dad even really mean it? But yet he knew that God was calling him. Why couldn’t his dad be more like Grandpa Abraham?
As the sun is going down, he finds a place to lay down and sleep. As he is sleeping, he has a dream.
and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. 14 Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”
Jacob falls asleep under the vast expanse of the nighttime sky. He dreams of a vast ladder going from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending the ladder. The ladder communicated to Jacob access to God; it communicated supernatural activity in his life as he sees angels ascending and descending. God is telling him, “I am in your life Jacob. I have chosen you, Jacob. I am going to work in you and through you. I am yours and you are mine. My angels are ministering to you.”
It is often in lonely times when God brings us a word of encouragement. It is those times when we feel forsaken by others, that God reminds us that He has not forsaken us.
As part of his dream, Jacob hears God give him the same promise He gave to Abraham and Isaac. That God would be with him and give him the land and make his descendants more numerous than the stars or the sand. It is at this change in Jacob’s life, this new season that God spoke to him and reminded him of his destiny.
He is overwhelmed by this. He is overwhelmed by a sense of God’s presence and by a holy fear. He deems the place where he had slept to be a holy place. He builds a type of altar. It’s an act of worship. He consecrates the place by pouring oil on it. He calls it “Bethel” which means house of God. This is a defining moment in Jacob’s life. He meets God.
Jacob realizes that in spite of everything that has been through – favouritism, betrayal, deceit, hatred, lying – he is right in the centre of God’s plan.
You might have regret or disappointment in your life. You may be bummed out and broken because your mom and dad messed you up. You may have siblings that don’t talk to you and wish you weren’t around and can’t wait until you’re gone. You may be lonely. You may have regret because you made some bad decisions. You just want to serve the Lord, but you feel like your life got flipped around and messed up. If only you would have done this, if only she would not have done that, then you would be in the right place of ministry.
This is why his story is so important for us.
In spite of what you have done, in spite of what others have done to you, you are not disqualified, God is not through with you. He still has a plan.
Jacob’s mother conspired with him to deceive dad. His dad went against God and almost messed up his son’s life, his brother hates him and wants to kill him. He lied to his dad, and practically stole something that his dad didn’t think was his. He had to leave home.
But God said, “Jacob, I am with you. I am going to bless you, I am going to give to you, I am going to use you.”
Jacob responds with a vow.
A vow is a very serious promise. Think of a marriage vow.
It is an act of worship, a promise, a dedication. It is completely voluntary. We need to be careful about making vows to the Lord. We don’t see much about them in the New Testament. Really, our whole life is to be a vow to the Lord. Our whole life is to be a serious promise and dedication to the Lord. We are not our own; we are His.
20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
Notice seven aspects of this vow paralleled with our Christian lives
- God will be with him. “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
- God will guide him. John 16:13 says that the Spirit will guide us into all truth.
- God will provide for him. In Matthew 6, Jesus declares how our heavenly Father will take care of our needs.
- God will give him peace. Jesus said in John 14: “Peace I leave you, My peace I give you…Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
- The Lord shall be his God. After Jesus Resurrection, one of his disciples, Thomas, knelt before Him and said, “My Lord and My God.” Jesus is our God.
- “This stone I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house.” Part of our promise to the Lord should include being with other believers on a regular basis. We call this church:
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24–25)
- Tithing. “and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” This is a way for us to worship the Lord; See Malachi 3:8-10.
Have you experienced deception, favourtism, bitterness, or hatred? Have you made decisions you regretted? Trust in the Lord. His plan to use you has not been laid aside!