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.
Isaac was old. - Joseph was in his thirtieth year when he stood before Pharaoh, and therefore thirty-nine when Jacob came down to Egypt at the age of one hundred and thirty. When Joseph was born, therefore, Jacob was ninety-one, and he had sojourned fourteen years in Padan-aram. Hence, Jacob's flight to Laban took place when he was seventy-seven, and therefore in the one hundred and thirty-sixth year of Isaac. "His eyes were dim." Weakness and even loss of sight is more frequent in Palestine than with us. "His older son." Isaac had not yet come to the conclusion that Jacob was heir of the promise. The communication from the Lord to Rebekah concerning her yet unborn sons in the form in which it is handed down to us merely determines that the older shall serve the younger. This fact Isaac seems to have thought might not imply the transferrence of the birthright; and if he was aware of the transaction between Esau and Jacob, he may not have regarded it as valid. Hence, he makes arrangements for bestowing the paternal benediction on Esau, his older son, whom he also loves. "I am old." At the age of one hundred and thirty-six, and with failing sight, he felt that life was uncertain. In the calmness of determination he directs Esau to prepare savory meat, such as he loved, that he may have his vigor renewed and his spirits revived for the solemn business of bestowing that blessing, which he held to be fraught with more than ordinary benefits.
And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death:
Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison;
And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.
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 forms a plan for diverting the blessing from Esau to Jacob. She was within hearing when the infirm Isaac gave his orders, and communicates the news to Jacob. Rebekah has no scruples about primogeniture. Her feelings prompt her to take measures, without waiting to consider whether they are justifiable or not, for securing to Jacob that blessing which she has settled in her own mind to be destined for him. She thinks it necessary to interfere that this end may not fail of being accomplished. Jacob views the matter more coolly, and starts a difficulty. He may be found out to be a deceiver, and bring his father's curse upon him. Rebekah, anticipating no such issue; undertakes to bear the curse that she conceived would never come. Only let him obey.
The plan is successful. Jacob now, without further objection, obeys his mother. She clothes him in Esau's raiment, and puts the skins of the kids on his hands and his neck. The camel-goat affords a hair which bears a great resemblance to that of natural growth, and is used as a substitute for it. Now begins the strange interview between the father and the son. "Who art thou, my son?" The voice of Jacob was somewhat constrained. He goes, however, deliberately through the process of deceiving his father. "Arise, now, sit and eat." Isaac was reclining on his couch, in the feebleness of advancing years. Sitting was the posture convenient for eating. "The Lord thy God prospered me." This is the bold reply to Isaac's expression of surprise at the haste with which the dainty fare had been prepared. The bewildered father now puts Jacob to a severer test. He feels him, but discerns him not. The ear notes a difference, but the hand feels the hairy skin resembling Esau's; the eyes give no testimony. After this the result is summarily stated in a single sentence, though the particulars are yet to be given. "Art thou my very son Esau?" A lurking doubt puts the definite question, and receives a decisive answer. Isaac then calls for the repast and partakes.
And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying,
Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the LORD before my death.
Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee.
Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth:
And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death.
And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man:
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.
And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them.
And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made savoury meat, such as his father loved.
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:
And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck:
And she gave the savoury meat and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.
And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son?
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.
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.
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.
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.
And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau's hands: so he blessed him.
And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am.
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.
And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son.
He gives the kiss of paternal affection, and pronounces the benediction. It contains, first, a fertile soil. "Of the dew of heaven." An abundant measure of this was especially precious in a country where the rain is confined to two seasons of the year. "Of the fatness of the earth;" a proportion of this to match and render available the dew of heaven. "Corn and wine," the substantial products, implying all the rest. Second, a numerous and powerful offspring. "Let peoples serve thee" - pre-eminence among the nations. "Be lord of thy brethren" - pre-eminence among his kindred. Isaac does not seem to have grasped the full meaning of the prediction, "The older shall serve the younger." Third, Prosperity, temporal and spiritual. He that curseth thee be cursed, and he that blesseth thee be blessed. This is the only part of the blessing that directly comprises spiritual things; and even this of a special form. It is to be recollected that it was Isaac's intention to bless Esau, and he may have felt that Esau, after all, was not to be the progenitor of the holy seed. Hence, the form of expression is vague enough to apply to temporal things, and yet sufficiently comprehensive to embrace the infliction of the ban of sin, and the diffusion of the blessing of salvation by means of the holy seed.
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:
Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:
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 every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.
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.
Esau's blessing. Esau comes in, but it is too late. "Who then?" The whole illusion is dispelled from the mind of Isaac. "Yea, blessed he shall be." Jacob had no doubt perpetrated a fraud, at the instigation of his mother; and if Esau had been worthy in other respects, and above all if the blessing had been designed for him, its bestowment on another would have been either prevented or regarded as null and void. But Isaac now felt that, whatever was the misconduct of Jacob in interfering, and especially in employing unworthy means to accomplish his end, he himself was culpable in allowing carnal considerations to draw his preference to Esau, who was otherwise unworthy. He knew too that the paternal benediction flowed not from the bias of the parent, but from the Spirit of God guiding his will, and therefore when so pronounced could not be revoked. Hence, he was now convinced that it was the design of Providence that the spiritual blessing should fall on the line of Jacob. The grief of Esau is distressing to witness, especially as he had been comparatively blameless in this particular instance. But still it is to be remembered that his heart had not been open to the paramount importance of spiritual things. Isaac now perceives that Jacob has gained the blessing by deceit. Esau marks the propriety of his name, the wrestler who trips up the heel, and pleads pathetically for at least some blessing. His father enumerates what he has done for Jacob, and asks what more he can do for Esau; who then exclaims, "Hast thou but one blessing?"
And he also had made savoury meat, and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son's venison, that thy soul may bless me.
And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau.
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.
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.
And he said, Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing.
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?
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?
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.
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;
At length, in reply to the weeping suppliant, he bestows upon him a characteristic blessing. "Away from the fatness." The preposition (מי mı̂y) is the same as in the blessing of Jacob. But there, after a verb of giving, it had a partitive sense; here, after a noun of place, it denotes distance or separation; for example, Proverbs 20:3 The pastoral life has been distasteful to Esau, and so it shall be with his race. The land of Edom was accordingly a comparative wilderness (Malachi 1:3). "On thy sword." By preying upon others. "And thy brother shalt thou serve." Edom was long independent; but at length Saul was victorious over them 1 Samuel 14:47, and David conquered them 2 Samuel 8:14. Then followed a long struggle, until John Hyrcanus, 129 b.c., compelled them to be circumcised and incorporated into Judaism. "Break his yoke." The history of Edom was a perpetual struggle against the supremacy of Israel. Conquered by Saul, subdued by David, repressed by Solomon, restrained after a revolt by Amaziah, they recovered their independence in the time of Ahab. They were incorporated into the Jewish state, and furnished it with the dynasty of princes beginning with Antipater. Esau was now exasperated against his brother, and could only compose his mind by resolving to slay him during the days of mourning after his father's death.
And 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.
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.
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.
Rebekah hearing this, advises Jacob to flee to Laban her brother, and await the abatement of his brother's anger. "That which thou hast done to him." Rebekah seems not to have been aware that she herself was the cause of much of the evil and of the misery that flowed from it. All the parties to this transaction are pursued by a retributive chastisement. Rebekah, especially, parts with her favorite son to meet him only after an absence of twenty years, if ever in this life. She is moreover grievously vexed with the connection which Esau formed with the daughters of Heth. She dreads a similar matrimonial alliance on the part of Jacob.
- Jacob's Journey to Haran
3. קהל qâhāl, "congregation."
9. מחלת māchălat, Machalath, "sickness, or a harp."
19. לוּז lûz, Luz, "almond."
The blessing of his sons was the last passage in the active life of Isaac, after which he retires from the scene. Jacob now becomes the leading figure in the sacred history. His spiritual character has yet come out to view. But even now we can discern the general distinction in the lives of the three patriarchs. Abraham's is a life of authority and decision; Isaac's, of submission and acquiescence; and Jacob's, of trial and struggle.
Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran;
And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother's fury turn away;
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?
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 daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?