A Blessing in the Face of Death
Introduction: If you’ve ever looked at a book of the stories of the Bible, maybe you’ve seen a picture of Jacob deceiving Isaac. Without a doubt, you’ll see an old man in a bed with a long white beard and a young boy there at his side attempting to imitate his older, hairier brother.
I have to tell you how wrong that picture is and you’ll see why in a while. Although pictures of Bible stories are fun and interesting to look at, they’re often as wrong as right. Have you ever seen a picture of the Israelites marching around Jericho with the ark?
If so, you can see the congregation, the priests, the poles, and the ark with its gold covering and the little cherubim on top of it. That’s wrong too. Does anyone know why? The reason is found in the book of Numbers chapter 4 –
“When the camp prepares to journey, Aaron and his sons shall come, and they shall take down the covering veil and cover the ark of the Testimony with it. 6 Then they shall put on it a covering of badger skins, and spread over that a cloth entirely of blue; and they shall insert its poles.”
The ark was never to be seen by anyone except the high priest and that only once a year. If it was to be moved, only the priests could look at it and only for the purpose of covering it.
Details like these help us mentally keep the biblical narrative in focus and sharpen our awareness of what really is going on in the Bible. May our mental images of the Bible be based on the truth contained there. Only then can we understand the reality of what God is conveying to us in His word.
Text Verse: With Him are strength and prudence.
The deceived and the deceiver are His. Job 12:16
If we see deception in the world, we may ask why God allows it to happen. In the case of Jacob and Esau, it came about to meet God’s purposes, which He spoke of even before their birth.
So let us understand that both the deceived and the deceiver are His and in the end His plans will come to pass exactly as they should. And so… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. Preparation for a Blessing
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.”
We have to do some backdating to know when this most likely happened and how old Isaac is. Joseph was thirty when he stood before Pharoah and that means that he was about 39 when Jacob came to Egypt. He was right around 130 years old.
So when Joseph was born, Jacob was about 91, which was after he had spent 14 years in Padan-aram. That means that Jacob and Esau are 77 at this time and it makes Isaac 136. Therefore, this is about the year 2245AM and its 61 years after Abraham died.
The ages of these people are significant for several reasons. We know that Isaac’s eyes are dim now at 136 and he will live until he’s 180. So he lives with blindness for over 40 years. Another important point is that even though he’s 77, Jacob hasn’t married.
And another thing to think about is that what happens here isn’t something between a couple of young children, or teenagers, and their mother, but between two well aged men and a mother who is even older than they are.
If she was 15 when she got married (and that’s just a guess) and then she had to wait 20 years to have children, then she has to be at least 112 and maybe older. This wasn’t a fight between two teenagers which was prompted by a young impulsive mother – by any stretch of the imagination.
Isaac is very old and his eyes aren’t working and so he calls for Esau, his firstborn. It’s important to note that none of what is going to occur would have happened if Isaac’s eyes weren’t dim and therefore, behind the scenes we see God’s hand guiding the story.
When Moses died it says this about him in Deuteronomy 34:7 – “Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished.” God is in control of every aspect of our life, even to our illnesses.
2 Then he said, “Behold now, I am old. I do not know the day of my death.
Here is Isaac stuck in his tent with bad eyes and he probably felt as if life were coming to a close. Because of this, he wants to put his house in order even though his death is more than 40 years away.
This is something that the wise have been doing and continue to do 4000 years later. If we’re planning on being here forever, we have very mistaken plans. As Adam Clarke says, “He who lives not in reference to eternity, lives not at all.”
3 Now therefore, please take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me.
If you look at this verse in the right way, it is an amazingly touching thing. Isaac is the patriarch of an entire camp with dozens and maybe hundreds of servants, plus warriors, and their family members and more. Plus he probably has thousands of animals of every kind available.
What Abraham possessed has been increased by Isaac. And yet, he calls for his son who is in his 70s and asks him to get his things together and go out and hunt game for him. This is as personal as it gets. It would be like flying home for the holidays just because you wanted a meal prepared by mom and for no other reason.
The wild game would have its own taste and the fact that it was hunted by Esau would make it all the more endearing to him. The blessing he was going to offer was to be special and so he wanted what preceded it to be special as well.
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.”
Although he’d lost his sight, he hadn’t lost his taste. And so he asks for something tasty before he would bestow the blessing. Some scholars look at this verse and see in it a connection to a religious ritual where a meal is participated in before, or when, the rite is conducted.
There’s no reason to doubt that and it goes along with the biblical theme of meals in conjunction with important events, such as the Passover, the Lord’s Supper, and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Isaac is participating in an ancient tradition and is ready to bestow a blessing upon his son.
A lot of people castigate him here for intending to bless Esau instead of Jacob because of the prophecy that was given to Rebekah which said the older would serve the younger. Their claim is that he has either ignored this or forgotten about it.
But it could be that Rebekah never even told him. We can’t know and the Bible doesn’t say. It also doesn’t rebuke him in any way. In this case, we simply see a father wanting to bless his firstborn before he dies. The fact that he is unable to see is what shows us God’s intentions are being met in this story.
II. The Faith of Rebekah
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.
Rebekah, whether we agree with the actions she’s going to take or not, is an important part of what happens and its effect on the world we live in. It was to her that the word was spoken about the older serving the younger. And it is she who is close enough to Isaac to hear what he intends to do.
And right or wrong from our perspective, it was the Lord who directed her to be married to Isaac, who kept her from becoming pregnant for 19 years, who caused twins to be conceived in her womb, and who molded her into the person she is in every way we can conceive.
In other words, everything about her has been shaped and has led her to this moment where her decisions will direct the outcomes. She hears Isaac’s words to Esau and so she acts, first by telling Jacob what she heard…
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.’
There is a difference between what Isaac said and what Rebekah says. In verse 4, Isaac said to Esau “that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.” But here it says, “that I may eat it and bless you in the presence of the Lord before my death.”
The differences are big and it isn’t just her adding in something that Isaac said but wasn’t recorded. The words for “before my death” are different than “before I die” even in the Hebrew.
When Isaac spoke to Esau, he used the term beterem, which means “before” in time. But when Rebekah speaks to Jacob, she uses the term liphnay which means before as in the presence of something – liphnay literally meaning “in the face of.”
She also says “in the presence of the Lord” rather than “that my soul may bless you.” I can only think that she is seeing this as the Messianic blessing that she knew belonged to Jacob because the Lord had told her.
What I think she is saying by using the term liphnay is that this promise was to come to Jacob not before Isaac’s death in time – “I need to give this before I die,” but before Isaac’s death which was a result of the fall – “I need to give this because I will die; my death is in the presence of the Lord.”
The blessing then, as Rebekah understands it, is for the reversal of the curse of death upon mankind – a blessing she knows must go to Jacob. What is always perceived of as evil intent on the part of Rebekah, is, as I see it, is an act of faith even if it is deceptive.
This follows the theme of the women of faith we’ve already seen and will continue to see. Lot’s daughters slept with their father in the faith that they were bringing in the Messiah – which in fact they did. Rebekah is acting in faith by ensuring the younger son receives the blessing the Lord had told her about.
Rahab the harlot acted in faith in rescuing the spies at Jericho. Ruth acted in faith by moving to Israel with her mother in law. And Mary acted in faith, accepting her role as the mother of the Messiah. Rebekah is acting in the same manner as these other great women who exercised their faith in God’s unfolding plans.
8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to what I command you.
Rebekah is so determined about what she intends, that she uses two terms to convince Jacob. The first is obey and the second is command. Just imagine your own mother saying, “I want you to listen very carefully and I want you to do exactly what I say.” This is the intent and force of her words to Jacob now…
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.
The question for this verse is, “Why would she tell Jacob to get two kids of the goats?” That is a lot more than Isaac could eat in several meals. The actual reason is that the kid of the goat apparently tastes somewhat like a young roe or fawn.
By taking two of them she could cut out the choicest pieces from both to make the whole meal appear like it was from one deer. Then by adding in seasoning, someone who knew how to cook could make it a truly deceiving meal.
So Isaac is going to be deceived in more ways than one. However, there is a spiritual reason for the Bible to mention the two goats. As I said last week, throughout the Bible the number two signifies a difference – usually of things at enmity with each other.
There are two testaments, one based on law and one on grace. One shows fallen man, the other man restored. There is day and there is night. There is Jesus and there is Barabbas. The Bible includes the fact that Rebekah asked for two kids because in this there is a contrast.
There is deception, but there is the fulfillment of God’s plan. As EW Bullinger says about this sort of thing “…One excludes all difference, and denotes that which is sovereign. But Two affirms that there is a difference there is another; while One affirms that there is not another!”
This is what is going on here. God has made a choice in Jacob, but He has allowed the fulfillment of that choice through Rebekah and Jacob who are going against His immediate will (don’t deceive) but fulfilling His ultimate will (the older shall serve the younger).
If you can see this, then your eyes are seeing the amazing work of God as His plans are being fulfilled through fallen people. Jacob’s son Joseph explains this immensely well in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
10 Then you shall take it to your father, that he may eat it, and that he may bless you before his death.”
Once again Rebekah uses the same term that she used before. Instead of “before his death” meaning before the time of his death, she says “before his death” or “in the face of his death” meaning the blessing is to be given as a result of his death – the fall of man and the coming of the Messiah to reverse that.
She is a woman of faith looking forward to her Savior and the prospect of eternal life, just as so many faithful and yet misunderstood people have done already in Genesis. Where we want to look for fault, we actually find faith.
As I said, we saw it in Lot’s daughters and we found it in Abraham, we’ll come across it in the harlot Rahab and in others. We’ve seen it in modern times too. Corrie ten Boom broke the law by hiding Jews, but her deceit served a more important purpose.
11 And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Look, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth-skinned man.
This reminds us of Genesis 25:25 – “And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau.”
Not only was Esau born hairy, he stayed hairy his whole life. This affliction, known as hypertrichosis, can be so bad in some cases that it’s called werewolf syndrome.
As twins, this malady surprisingly didn’t affect them both, but only Esau. But there is a reason for this. As I said in a sermon a few weeks ago, hair in the Bible indicates an awareness of things. The goat is used as the sin offering and it is known as sa-ir. It is given as an awareness of sin committed.
A Nazirite is someone who made a vow or was consecrated to the Lord. During the time of that vow, they were never to cut their hair. The hair was a reminder of their vow and of their separation to God. Esau’s hair is mentioned because it is more than just a physical affliction. It is a reminder of the state of fallen man; Esau is a picture of Adam.
Jacob, the son of promise is instead a smooth skinned man. The difference in their physical makeup is a picture of their spiritual heritage. But what is interesting is that in order to receive the blessing, Jacob will need to emulate his older brother who is hairy.
Isn’t this then a picture of Jesus in itself? The sinless Son of God who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. He became like us so that we could become like Him. All of this beautiful symbolism in this story!
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.”
It’s funny that Jacob is less concerned about the act of deceit than he is about being caught. But it shows that he had an awareness of the wrong that he was committing, even if the intentions of Rebekah were faithful ones.
Deuteronomy 27:18 speaks in terms which are similar to this – “Cursed is the one who makes the blind to wander off the road.”
Although this is a spiritual and not a literal road, it is still an intentional deceit of the blind and he understands that a curse, rather than a blessing could be the result.
An important consideration though is recorded in Numbers – “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?” (23:8) Rebekah already knows the blessing will come upon Jacob.
Once again we see a portion of the gospel here. Jesus took on our sin and our curse just as Jacob took on Esau’s likeness, the hair which symbolizes the awareness of sin, but God the Father blessed Jesus, just as Isaac will bless Jacob.
III. Jacob the Deceiver
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.”
I have to remind you of what I said earlier. Rebekah is well over 100 years old and she has known since her pregnancy that Jacob is the son of promise. A mother won’t ever forget this type of thing and she is so certain that she knows the outcome that she says, “Let your curse be on me.”
As the Geneva Bible says about this verse – “The assurance of God’s decree made her bold.”
In the book of Luke it says concerning the things that occurred at the time of Jesus’ birth that Mary kept those things and pondered them in her heart. Rebekah has kept and pondered the oracle given to her for many long years and she is determined to see it fulfilled.
14 And he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and his mother made savory food, such as his father loved.
We can’t miss the fact that two animals died in order to make the meal for Isaac. The blessing only comes after the meal and the meal is proof of the death. When we take the Lord’s Supper, Paul says “We proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”
Only after we take the meal is the blessing bestowed. It is an implication that He died so that we can live. This is the reason why it makes absolutely no sense for a person to take the Lord’s Supper if they don’t believe in Christ. If you believe that He died for your sins and then was resurrected, you’d be a fool to not accept that.
If you don’t believe it, then the meal has no point or purpose. Rebekah is preparing a tasty meal for Isaac in hopes of the resurrection and of the blessing on Jacob that will lead to that day.
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.
There is a speculation about this verse which I’ll share. Rebekah puts choice clothes belonging to Esau on Jacob. The term is ha-khamudot, meaning “the precious.” Some people have taken this to mean that they are special garments for ministry.
Because Esau was the oldest son, he would perform the priestly functions in the house as Isaac was blind. The ancient Greek translation of this verse uses the term teen stoleen which is the same words they use to describe the garments of the high priest along with the word “holy” in Exodus 28.
If this is right, then it would explain why she had them instead of Esau’s wives after 37 years of marriage and it would also explain why she chose these for him to wear. The blessing of the Messiah would be appropriate for one wearing priestly garments, a picture of the coming High Priest. (See Zechariah 3:1-5)
It would also explain the words of Isaac when he gives the blessing after his meal which we will see next week.
16 And she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck.
Rebekah shows the cunningness of a lady. She not only makes the deceiving meal and gets out clothes to deceive, but she uses the hair of the goats she had just cooked to cover Jacob. The camel-goat of the mid-east has black, silk-like hair and was used as a substitute for human hair even by the Romans.
It’s so convincing in this manner that we have a great parallel passage in the time of David in 1 Samuel 19 –
Saul also sent messengers to David’s house to watch him and to kill him in the morning. And Michal, David’s wife, told him, saying, “If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” 12 So Michal let David down through a window. And he went and fled and escaped. 13 And Michal took an image and laid it in the bed, put a cover of goats’ hair for his head, and covered it with clothes. 14 So when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, “He is sick.”
In the use of these two goats on Jacob we see a picture of the Day of Atonement recorded in Leviticus 16. The high priest of Israel, wearing his priestly robes (like Jacob), came before the Lord with two goats, just as Jacob is – one as a sacrifice of atonement and one as a scapegoat to carry the sins from the camp.
Jacob is coming before his father wearing the priestly robes of Esau and the skins of two goats. He is here picturing Jesus our Substitute and High Priest, and yet He is the Son of promise who will receive the blessing.
17 Then she gave the savory food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.
This is now the fifth of six times that the term “savory food” has been used in this chapter and it’s only used two other times in the Bible, both of which are in Proverbs 23 and both have a similar connection. Here is the first time from Proverbs 23 –
“When you sit down to eat with a ruler, Consider carefully what is before you; 2 And put a knife to your throat If you are a man given to appetite. 3 Do not desire his delicacies, For they are deceptive food.”
I can tell you that it took one meal by my wife for me to decide she is the one I wanted to marry. She wasn’t being deceptive but I can guarantee you that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Apparently, the way to spiritual blessings follows the same path.
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.”
Let’s not make the error that I think that what Rebekah and Jacob have done was the right thing for them to do. Jacob lies directly by claiming to be Esau. He lies that he has done exactly as Esau was told because he has goats belonging to Isaac and not a deer which came from the wild. So his lies are also mixed with false actions.
He also deceives by wearing Esau’s clothing and by hiding his own hairless nature with goat’s skins. What he has done, as prompted by his mother, is wrong. Having said that, the purposes of God came about exactly as God knew they would.
Clarke’s commentary reflects what most commentaries state – “It was the design of God that the elder should serve the younger, and he would have brought it about in the way of his own wise and just providence; but means such as here used he could neither sanction nor recommend.”
This is nonsense. This is exactly how it was intended to come about before the foundation of the world. The pictures point to Jesus.This doesn’t mean that God caused it, but that He knew this is how it would transpire. So in this account we see the amazing work of God.
He told Rebekah that the older would serve the younger before they were ever born. Because of this, certainly because of this, she came up with the plan which is given us in the account today. And yet God isn’t to blame even though He is the One who led her to do these things by telling her the outcome before it came about.
Anyone that can’t see the free-will of man and yet the divine direction of God in the Bible is nuts. God is guiding human history and everything that comes about is because He intends for it to come about. And yet when evil is a part of what happens, it in no way was brought about by Him. (See my early Genesis sermons).
Anyone of us who thinks we can do something wrong and then blame God is deluding themselves. And yet anyone who thinks that God is somehow unaware of every evil thing we have done or will do is similarly deluded. We live in the presence of pure holiness and absolute greatness.
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.”
The question Isaac asks is obvious. Jacob sounds like Jacob and Esau sounds like Esau. His eyes may be dim, but his hearing is fine. Here we see God’s providence all over the account. His eyes are bad so he can’t tell which son is there. But his taste buds and his hearing are fine.
His taste is what prompted him to send Isaac out for wild meat. This wouldn’t have happened if his taste buds were bad. His good hearing will lead him to feel Jacob to see if it is really Him, thus proving that he is sufficient for the blessing. And this points to Jesus. He was convincingly like Adam because He came as a man.
Isaac’s curiosity is aroused enough to question how he found an animal so quickly. The voice and the early lunch have him wondering. Of all of the deception so far, this is the worst. Jacob doesn’t just lie that he was fortunate to find an animal, but he invokes Lord’s name – “…the Lord your God brought it to me.”
Saying “The Lord your God” though doesn’t imply anything on the part of Jacob. He is neither trying to hide from Jehovah, nor is this implying that Esau wasn’t a believer in Jehovah.
The term is used 403 times in the Bible – by the Lord Himself, by believers, and by non-believers. It is a standard way of speaking which people use even today. It is simply an acknowledgement that the person being spoken to is a follower of Jehovah.
This might seem like a peculiar point to stop today’s sermon, but stop we will. I want you to remember a few things though. Despite her deceit, Rebekah was a woman of faith and was acting in faith. Her deceit and Jacob’s deceit was wrong, but it was wrong that the Lord worked out for good.
And so a lesson for you is to consider the wrong you’ve done in your life and which you hopefully feel guilty about. If you have called on Jesus and been saved by His blood, He’s forgiven you and He has used it to bring you to where you are now.
You’re going to fall again and when you do, understand that the Lord will be using that too. However, let’s not intentionally do wrong to help make the Lord look good. Paul warns us about that attitude in Romans 3 and we’ll close with that.
But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world? 7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?…
If you’ve never understood the magnitude of your sins before God and how you can have them forgiven and cleansed, let me tell you what God would have you to do today…
Closing Verse: But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:13-15
Next Week – Genesis 27:21-29 (The Dew of Heaven and the Fatness of the Earth)
Poem – In the Face of Death Comes a Blessing
Now it came to pass, when Isaac was old
And his eyes were so dim he couldn’t see
That he called Esau his older son and so he told
Yes he said to him, “My son, please hear me
And he answered him, “Here I am.”
Are you in need, are you in a jam?
Then he said, “Behold, I am old, I know not my death’s day
Now then, please take your weapons your quiver and your bow
And go to the field and hunt game for me, do as I say
And make savory food, such as I love – I like it tasty you know
Bring it to me that I may eat, yes be a good guy
That my soul may bless you before I die
Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke
To Esau his son and her heart was glad
And Esau went to the field, he was no slow poke
He went to hunt game and to bring it to his dad
So Rebekah spoke to Jacob her son quietly
Indeed I heard your father speak to Esau saying
Bring me game and make savory food for me
That I may eat it and bless you, for this I am praying
I will bless you in the presence of the Lord
Before my death, now you have my word
“Now therefore my son, obey my voice in what I command
Go now to the flock and bring me the things that I demand
Two choice kids of the goats are what I need
Go and I will make savory food for your father with speed
I will make them for your father these nummy numms
Then you shall take it to your father that he may eat
And that he may bless you before his death comes
And upon you will be the Lord’s blessing so sweet
And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother
Look Esau my brother is a hairy man
I am smooth, we don’t resemble one another
Perhaps my father will see through this plan
And if he feels me I shall seem a deceiver to him
And I shall bring a curse down upon myself
The chances of a blessing would become rather slim
This could turn out bad, like rotten cheese on a shelf
But his mother said, “Let your curse be on me my son
Only obey my voice and go get them for me so we can be done
So he went and got them and brought them to his mother
And she made savory food such as his father loved
Then Rebekah took choice clothes of her elder, Esau his brother
Which were in her house and put them on Jacob, her beloved
And she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands
And also on the smooth part of his neck too
Then she gave the savory food and the bread, all part of her plans
Which she had prepared into the Jacob’s hands, it’s true
So he went to his father and said, “My father”
And he said, “Here I am. Who are you my son?”
Jacob said, “I am Esau your firstborn. I hope it’s not a bother.”
Just as you told me, so I have done
Please arise, sit and eat of my game
That your soul may bless me just the same
But Isaac said, “How is it that you found it so quickly?”
And he said, “Because the Lord your God brought it to me.
This story has a moral and a purpose for us
And although it contains intrigue and lies
Ultimately through what happened came Jesus
And understanding what happened will make us wise
Every word of God is glorious and pure
And will establish for us a foundation so sure
And so let us carefully consider the story
And reflect on how it shows us God’s glory
Hallelujah and Amen…