It’s Not Deja Vous
Introduction: The story we’ve been looking at is hard for us to accept unless we look carefully into what happened and why. Before Jacob and Esau were born, God knew the outcome. He looked at the hearts of the two boys and made His divine choice as to who would receive the birthright and the blessing.
As with all things in the Bible, faith is the key. Let me give you an example to think about.
If you have two employees, and a long term plan of what you want accomplished, which would you prefer to have? You make a list of things you want done daily which will keep the employees busy, but you also give to them insights into the long term vision.
The first person does exactly what he is told to do but without any regard to the ultimate goal. He is so concerned about fulfilling the details that the final objective has no relevance in his daily actions.
The second is obedient, but may miss the mark occasionally. However, his eyes are constantly on the end goal of the company. It is his one main objective. He understands the need for the daily tasks, but they don’t consume him, they guide him to the goal.
Which is the better choice and why? Think about that for a while.
Text Verse: “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult. 18 “And Edom shall be a possession; Seir also, his enemies, shall be a possession, While Israel does valiantly. 19 Out of Jacob One shall have dominion, And destroy the remains of the city.” Numbers 24:17-19
It never ceases to amaze me what God has done in His beautiful creation and in His plan of redemption. And His word is such a treasure because everything about it keeps pointing to Jesus. God in His wisdom gave twins to Rebekah and determined that one would serve the other.
That prophecy has come to pass just like everything in the Bible either has or will come to pass. We have a sure word and a hope grounded in the surety of the truth of God and so… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. The Missed Blessing
As we’ve seen in the past sermons about Jacob and Esau, they prefigure Christ and Adam. Last week, we saw that Christ came as a Man and prevailed over Adam’s transgression and this was pictured in the blessing of Jacob instead of Esau.
As I said then, what Jacob did was deceptive, but God recorded it to show us the pattern of what would occur – not the deception, but that Christ really came as a Man. It isn’t a 1 for 1 picture.
What Jesus did was without deception, but so that we can see the patterns of Adam and Christ, we have been given this story. We now continue on with the account.
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.
No sooner does Jacob leave Isaac’s tent, then Esau comes into it. There is a repetition in the verse which commentators look at as this being as close as it gets – Ya’akov v’hi akh yaso yasa – Jacob came and was yet gone gone…
The Jewish scholar Jarchi sees the doubling of the word yaso yasa or “gone gone” as the one going out and the other coming in at the same time.
No matter whether they stopped to talk about the weather, just waved as they passed each other, or just missed each other by a breath, it was exceedingly close and points directly to the hand of God upon this entire thing.
Esau was hunting and God provided an animal at the exact spot and time where he would be back, have it prepared, and brought in at this exact moment. There is no chance in this account, but the deliberate timing and foreknowledge of God.
Jacob, who is Israel, was to receive the blessing and through him and his people would come Jesus. Nothing is left to chance and nothing happened apart from God’s infinite wisdom.
Whether Rebekah and Jacob’s actions were right in our eyes doesn’t change what we are to learn – God made and oversaw the selection of both the birthright and the blessing.
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.”
Right at the beginning of this chapter, Isaac said this to Esau –
“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.”
Esau has done exactly what he was asked to do and this verse repeats it. Esau didn’t skip anything and he was completely obedient and yet he missed out on the blessing. In this, we can see many people in the world today, crossing all the “t’s” and dotting all the “i’s” and yet they lack the faith God seeks.
God gives us His word, the Bible, and in it are all kinds of do’s and don’ts – things anyone can do and many spend their whole life doing, and yet they will be excluded from the prize. Paul explains why in Romans 9 –
What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
This isn’t limited to Jews alone, but to anyone who pursues God’s favor through works apart from faith. Jacob may have been cunning in how he obtained his father’s blessing, but he had faith in what he did.
Esau followed his father’s instructions, but God saw his heart. He was working his deeds in order to be blessed instead of living by faith in order to be blessed. The tastiest food in the world is no substitute for the loving mother’s hand who prepares the simplest meal, and the favor of God rests only on those who live by faith.
32 And his father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” So he said, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.”
Isaac must have thought he was hearing things or confused in his head because the recognizable voice of Esau is speaking, but he’s just had a meal and blessed who he thought was Esau. “I’ve done this before.” No Isaac, it’s not deja vous.
Imagine you’re talking to someone and then realize they aren’t the person you thought you were talking to. When that happens, you have a moment of stupor and you try to sort things out. This is where Isaac is and to help him along, Esau responds in a way which is truthful but at the same is not correct.
He says “I am your son.” This is correct, but then he says, “I am your firstborn.” This is truthful, but it’s not exactly correct. He sold his birthright to Jacob and so even though he is technically the firstborn, he no longer has the rights of the firstborn, including the right to claim he is the firstborn, even though he is. Confused?
And he finishes with “Esau.” He gives his name as he received it when he was born, not as it was changed when he sold his birthright. What he is saying is literally the truth, but it is deceptive none the less.
We can see the same concepts running through the people of Israel and those who are the true sons of God. In Exodus 4 we read this –
Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. (vs. 22)
Afterward, however, God gave Israel the law which included circumcision, but there was more than just circumcision. In order to be considered a true member of the faith, more was necessary. Paul explains this in Romans 2 –
For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
Both Deuteronomy and Jeremiah speak of the circumcision of the heart, Paul is building on what the law already says. A Jew cannot claim the title without bearing what goes along with the title.
Likewise Esau couldn’t legitimately bear the title because he no longer bore what went along with it. And if he couldn’t bear the title, then he really wasn’t entitled to the blessing either.
33 Then Isaac trembled exceedingly, and said, “Who?
The Hebrew here says that Isaac “trembled with a great trembling greatly.” He was so confused and so overwrought that he literally shook violently at what occurred. This is the same word used to describe the trembling of the people at Mount Sinai and even the quaking of the mountain itself in Exodus 19 –
Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.
Just as with the events at Sinai for the people of Israel, Isaac’s trembling came from astonishment at the divine sign. We know because of what he will says in the continuation of verse 33…
33 (con’t) 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.”
With sudden clarity, Isaac sees completely what has just happened. The people at the foot of Sinai received no greater insight into the work of God than Isaac has now seen. The food was received, the blessing was given, and indeed Jacob shall be blessed.
The heavens have opened Isaac’s dead eyes to the fulfillment of the plan of God which was prophesied while the two boys were still in Rebekah’s womb. What his physical eyes missed because of blindness, his spiritual eyes have now comprehended.
With lucidity of mind, he has come to realize that the blessing isn’t subject to his affection for Esau, but is a right which was entrusted to him by God’s grace, just as it was to his father before him. Because it is of divine Source it is transferred by divine choice.
He has been impelled by a higher authority to pass on what he received to the son chosen by the One who originally bestowed it. The will of man was excluded in this transfer and therefore man could not randomly choose to withdraw it; Isaac can’t take it back.
Isaiah 14 shows us that this is true. All things come about by the sovereign will and purpose of God –
For the Lord of hosts has purposed, And who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, And who will turn it back?” (vs. 27)
The particular special note for us today is that of all of the things that Isaac could have been remembered for in the great Hall of Faith which is recorded in Hebrews chapter 11, the blessings upon these two men is what was chosen. There it says –
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. (vs. 20)
Isaac realized that the blessing he had pronounced rightfully belonged to Jacob and so he said to Esau, “I have blessed him—and indeed he shall be blessed.” What I have spoken I have spoken and the blessing will remain upon Jacob.
God looked at his words here and credited it to him in His own word for all time as righteousness – “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau.” There was no going back and there was only the determination that what had occurred was by divine guidance.
Edom gave up his rights and Jacob stepped in and claimed them. Likewise, Adam made his choice and gave up paradise. Jesus came and received it back. Now Adam’s children can accept what Jesus has done or they can remain in Adam.
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!”
Isaac trembled with a great trembling and now Esau cries with an exceedingly great and bitter cry. The emotional level is probably as high as in any room ever in human history. The Latin Vulgate says Esau roared. It is as if he were a lion in the anguish of hunger.
Barakheni gam-ani avi (0:600 min) “Bless me—me also, O my father!” Unfortunately by the divine Providence the blessing had been given and what was spoken could not be reversed. Once again, as with a jillion other examples in the Bible, when God’s divine will is spoken, what comes is done for all time.
As sad as this is for Esau, we can take comfort in exactly this fact. When God seals a believer in His Son, it is done for all time. His will can never be thwarted. Salvation is, by necessity, eternal. What Esau lost in his blessing is done. The same is true in Christ for all who call on Him as Lord – it is done.
II. Words Have Meaning
35 But he said, “Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing.”
Isaac in his clear thinking puts less blame on Jacob than he is excusing his actions to Esau. If two people were out and there was an accident, the response to the police would be different based on their relationship.
If they weren’t friends, the one talking to the cop might say, “He was driving way too fast. Because of his recklessness, we had an accident.” But if they were friends, he might say, “My friend was tying to get me to work and I was pressuring him to get me there.”
The difference in how we present an argument is based on who the affected parties are and the circumstances that brought about the case. Isaac is excusing his actions to Esau more than blaming Jacob. This is clear based on a word used in the next verse.
36 And Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob?
Young’s literal translation of the Bible gives us the best sense of what I think Esau says, “And he saith, ‘Is it because one called his name Jacob that he doth take me by the heel these two times?’” In other words, “Is he doing this because of the name he was given?” He isn’t sure of the reason behind the action.
If Isaac had blamed Jacob directly, Esau would have responded as many translations state it, in an affirmative way. But instead, he is asking it from a state of unknowing and reaching for an answer. “Why? And is this the answer – because of his name?”
But we’ve already looked at why. Earlier, in verse 31 I said, “Esau followed his father’s instructions, but God saw his heart. He was working his deeds in order to be blessed instead of living by faith in order to be blessed.”
Paul, speaking about the promises of God to Abraham apart from works of the law shows us how this works in Romans 4 –
“For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect,…”
Esau wasn’t under the law, but he was seeking the promise in the same way. He was doing exactly what Isaac had ordered but without faith in what the promise signified. Let me ask you something similar to what I asked you earlier –
Which will God be pleased with? The first is a person who follows every detail of the Bible scrupulously, but doesn’t believe what the Bible says. Rather, he is doing it because as a priest, he gets a great salary, great benefits, and a light workload.
The second is a guy who is absolutely in love with Jesus, reads and cherishes his Bible, does what he can to be a good and obedient Christian, but falls short of what the Bible expects time and time again – making errors and then asking God to forgive him and change him so that he is pleasing to God.
The fact is, God has no respect for the first and has great and tender care for the latter, such as David and Paul. It is faith and an obedient heart that God desires rather than scrupulous attendance to the precepts while not believing the intent behind them.
The first is Esau. The latter is Jacob. Esau was living life and doing what was necessary to get to the next meal, but he never saw any use for what lay ahead. Dad’s promise of a blessing was met with complete obedience to the tasks, but with no regard to the ultimate goal that the blessing would provide.
Jacob missed the mark by being a deceiver, but it was with the intent and goal of the promised blessing. And he allowed himself to be prompted along by his mother who carried the prophecy, just as we are to allow ourselves to be prompted by the word of the Bible and the Spirit who likewise carry for us God’s direction.
36 (con’t) For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!”
In an attempt to answer his own question as to why, Esau now states two inaccuracies. The first is that Jacob took away his birthright, which in fact he sold for soup. The second is that he took away the blessing, which in fact now belonged to Jacob because of the birthright.
Also, Jacob didn’t take it away. Instead Isaac gave it away to Jacob, even if it was done under false pretenses. But because of his perceived wrongs, he says Jacob supplanted him and uses a word which is the same root as “Jacob” and means “to grasp the heel.”
36 (con’t) And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”
This is an obvious question and Isaac’s answer may seem all the more surprising when we see that Jacob would later make pronouncements over all 12 of his sons and two of his grandsons as well. “Isn’t there more than one blessing in your tent for me dad?”
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?”
Jacob will bless two of his grandsons and make pronouncements over all of his sons, but he will do it in a way which will make distinctions between them and which will find a fulfillment in each one of them individually. We’ll see this in Genesis 48 and 49.
However, Isaac’s blessing on Jacob was an all-encompassing bestowal of the good things to be found leading to the Messiah as well as authority over his brothers, and other earthly and spiritual blessings. Because of this, his question is obvious, “What shall I do now for you, my son?”
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.
The words of Hebrews chapter 12 ring forth from this verse in Genesis –
14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
There is a godly way to walk and an ungodly and profane way to walk. Esau chose the ungodly way and in the end, it cost him. We can go back and ask ourselves – “Did God’s prophecy about Esau serving Jacob before he was born cause this or did it simply look forward and see the outcome of Esau’s choices?”
The answer is clear. Esau made his choices and God knew what they would be. Likewise, God gives us freewill to make our own choices. Choose wisely as they may have eternal consequences.
III. Esau’s Blessing
39 Then Isaac his father answered and said to him:
Before we finish this verse and read the blessing, I want you to note that it never mentions that Isaac ate the meal brought to him by Esau. To Isaac, the meal was as important as the intended blessing. Only after eating and drinking was Jacob blessed.
If you think it through, Esau sold his birthright for a meal, but he received his blessing without there being a meal. It’s a great picture of us and our relationship with the Lord, or our lack of it. The spiritual significance of Jacob’s blessing is lacking from Esau’s.
Despite this and despite what is said in his blessing, which is as much a curse as it is a blessing, Esau probably went away pleased. To a person like him, the act meant more than the substance.
39 (con’t) “Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth,
And of the dew of heaven from above.
The first thing to note which is different from Jacob’s blessing is that Isaac says nothing about his smell. When he blessed Jacob, he said, “Surely, the smell of my son Is like the smell of a field Which the Lord has blessed.”
If the personal smell of Esau was what Isaac loved, he would have said this again, but he doesn’t. This confirms the thought about the garments that Rebekah placed on Jacob. They were priestly garments which smelled of incense used in conducting rituals.
The second important thing to note is the translation of what Isaac says here. Let me read it again and then compare it to the NIV –
Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, And of the dew of heaven from above.
Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above.
One says his dwelling will be of the earth’s riches and one says it will be away from the earth’s riches. In this case, translations like the KJV and the NKJV are literally right, because he gives the same blessing using the same words, but they are actually wrong.
Isaac blessed Jacob beginning with the dew of heaven and then the fatness of the earth. He began his blessing to Esau with the fatness of the earth and then the dew of heaven. This establishes a contrast. Therefore the words he uses are in a contrasting sense.
“From the dew of heaven” can mean either getting from the dew of heaven or being away from the dew of heaven. His blessing to Jacob is the first and his blessing to Esau is that latter. This portion of Esau’s blessing is in contrast to what Jacob received. The NIV is a better translation here. History bore it out in where Esau lived. The next verse shows us this.
40 By your sword you shall live,
And you shall serve your brother;
Jacob got the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth which resulted in “plenty of grain and wine.” Esau doesn’t get either and that results in living by the sword and being subject to Jacob. The reason why I’m being detailed about this is because differences in translations are important.
If you stick with one translation, you very well may miss what God really intends for you to see. Translators do the best they can, but they bring their preconceptions with them. This is the same as commentaries and preachers.
We all have ideas about what God is telling us and it’s based on our personal thoughts about Him or our relationship with Him. Esau will live away from the riches of heaven and earth and will live by the sword and under the rule of Jacob.
40 (con’t)And it shall come to pass, when you become restless,
That you shall break his yoke from your neck.”
This final portion of the blessing on Esau is hard to pin down directly to one period in time. The Edomites were subjected to Israel starting with Saul the first king. They rebelled several times and they finally shook them off under King Ahaz in 2 Kings 16.
However, the ancient Jewish Historian Josephus says that about 129 BC John Hyrcanus –
“subdued all the Idumeans; and permitted them to stay in that country, if they would circumcise their genitals, and make use of the laws of the Jews; and they were so desirous of living in the country of their forefathers, that they submitted to the use of circumcision, and of the rest of the Jewish ways of living; at which time therefore this befell them, that they were hereafter no other than Jews.”
They were assimilated into the Jewish people but even then Herod, the king at the time of Jesus was from Edom and they continued to be in rule until the Jews were dispersed in AD70.
What I see as the ultimate fulfillment of this portion of his blessing is that breaking Jacob’s yoke from their neck is pointing directly to Jesus. We all have yokes on us and we all are in some type of bondage as humans. Directly its bondage to sin because of Adam.
Indirectly we may be in bondage to a bank, an agreement, or whatever. There is only one place of real freedom and that is when we get restless with the things of this world and look forward instead to the things of eternity.
Edom was subjected to Israel who was the steward of the law. But Paul in the New Testament calls the law bondage. It is a yoke of submission which he tells us to not get enslaved in. There is one way to be free from its constraints and that is found in Jesus. Let me explain this concept to you…
Closing Verse: Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
Next Week: Genesis 27:41-46 (The Brother’s Anger, A Picture of Church Reformation)
You Shall Serve Your Brother
Now it happened as soon as Isaac had finished Jacob’s blessing
And Jacob had scarcely gone out from Isaac his father
That Esau his brother came in from hunting and food dressing
He had made savory food and brought it to dad, it was no bother
And he said to his father, “Arise and eat of his son’s game”
Do this dad so that your soul may bless me
And his father Isaac said to him, “Who are you? What’s your name?”
So he said, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau, you see”
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, yes it’s true
I have blessed him and indeed he shall be blessed abundantly
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, with another
How could this have happened, I need to know why
But Isaac said, to Esau his son, yes he was confessing
“Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing
And Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob?’ as he shook
For he has supplanted me these two times
He took away my birthright and now just look
He has taken away my blessing… I can’t believe these crimes
And he said to his father quite pitifully
Have you not reserved a blessing for me
Then Isaac answered and to his son Esau he said
Indeed I have made him your master, you see
And all his brethren I have given to him as servants, he is the head
With grain and wine I have sustained him abundantly
What shall I do now for you, my son
I have given him my blessing, my only one
And Esau said to his father in an excited state
Have you only one blessing my father, just one?
Bless me-me also, O my father; make me also great
And Esau lifted up his voice and wept at what had been done
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.
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.”
And so ends the story of how the blessing did pass
From Esau to Jacob in Isaac’s tent
And from the account we see how Jacob did surpass
His older brother thus meeting God’s intent
Each of us can also receive an eternal blessing
By calling out on the Lord Jesus’ name
And by donning white garment as our dressing
In heaven’s scroll will be written our name
Praises and honor to our glorious Lord above
Who has showered us with His eternal love
And so to Him we lift our voices in praise
And so let us walk in His light all of our days
Hallelujah and Amen…