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“Jacob answered his mother Rebekah, “Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man and I am a smooth man.  “Perhaps my father will feel me, then I will be as a deceiver in his sight, and I will bring upon myself a curse and not a blessing.” But his mother said to him, “Your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.””  – Gen. 27:11-13

Rebekah has just laid out her plan to assist Jacob in obtaining the blessing instead of Esau.  Jacob does not appear to be opposed to this plan at all, surprisingly, but rather, as I mentioned in my previous post, his main concerns are not getting caught, and tarnishing his reputation with his father Isaac, if he is found out.  Rashi points out that the sages teach that their voices were similar (they are, after all, twins) which may explain why Jacob’s main concern is not the obvious – that his voice would give him away.

This scene, together with the scene regarding the birthright, shows us that Jacob vehemently desired the favored and sacred position of firstborn in the family, and was even willing to do questionable things to attain this.

Rebekeh’s response is likewise fascinating.  Now that she knows Jacob understands her plan, and is on board with it aside from these reservations, she appeases her son by stating she will take the blame, even the curse, if they are caught.  In essence, Jacob would be guilty of ‘obeying his mother’s voice’ – which in itself is an honorable thing to do.

The oracle concerning her sons’ birth – that the older will serve the younger – may have given Rebekah the confidence to move forward with this plan.  Though, Everett Fox points out that after this chapter, Rebekah eerily disappears from the narrative, and her death is not specifically mentioned in the scriptures.  We may have a small inkling as to her death, as when her nurse, Deborah, dies in Genesis 35:8, and it refers to her being buried underneath an oak tree which was referred to as the ‘tree of weepings’ (plural).  Some scholars believe that Rebekah was buried at the same time as Deborah.

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“Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to his son Esau.  So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game to bring home, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Behold, I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, saying, ‘Bring me some game and prepare a savory dish for me, that I may eat, and bless you in the presence of the LORD before my death.’  “Now therefore, my son, listen to me as I command you.  “Go now to the flock and bring me two choice young goats from there, that I may prepare them as a savory dish for your father, such as he loves. “Then you shall bring it to your father, that he may eat, so that he may bless you before his death.””  Gen. 27:5-10

When read closely, Genesis 27 reveals many near-truths and half-lies.  Familiarity with the story causes this to go almost completely unnoticed, but as with many passages in scripture, careful attention is warranted for us to get a full picture of the personalities of those involved.  In this passage, several neutral or ambiguous statements are made and it is up to the hearer to understand what the motive is.   First we see this with Rebekah, and later with Jacob.

When you read the verses above, Rebekah does not actually say anything indicating a deceitful plan.  Read plainly, the narrative simply states:

Your father just asked your brother Esau to go hunt some food to prepare a meal for him, so your father can bless him before he dies.  Go get me two goats, and I will cook them up.  Then you can give them to your father, so he can [also] bless you before he dies.

In saying these things, she likely hoped Jacob would obey her without question; it is up to Jacob to infer the ramifications of what she intends to do.  She even began her request with “my son, listen to me as I command you.” (v. 8)

Jacob, however, has shown himself to be more shrewd than what we originally learn of him (Gen. 25:27) such as in the case with commandeering the birthright (25:31).  Jacob knows that Esau was technically the firstborn, and that he would be first in line for the blessing; Jacob also knows that Esau is favored by Isaac, whereas Jacob is favored by Rebekah (25:28)  This causes Jacob to know his mother is up to something.

The very next words Jacob utters indicate not only that he understands the full extent of the plan his mother has concocted, but also that he is all-in.  Surprisingly, his only concern is getting caught, and what that would cause his father to think of him.

““Now then, please take your gear, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me; and prepare a savory dish for me such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die.””  Gen. 27:3-4

We are aware from Genesis 25:28 that Isaac favors Esau over Jacob because Isaac loved the taste of game, and appeared to take pride in his son’s ability to hunt skillfully.  So now Isaac charges Esau to hunt him some food to prepare.

Often the original Hebrew contains words with implications, and sometimes these come through in modern translations, other times they do not.  For example in this passage, Isaac instructs Esau to “hunt game for me”, but some English translations specify to hunt “wild game”, or I’ve also seen “hunt me some hunted game”.  This may sound repetitive, but some rabbis understand this to mean that Isaac was not completely trustful of Esau, and he was being specific to warn Esau that whatever he brought him should be an animal with no owner, to eliminate the possibility Esau may steal someone’s animals if his hunt was  not successful.

It is worth noting that when Jacob, pretending to be Esau, came in with food prepared, Isaac asked him “How do you have it so quickly, my son?” (v. 20)  He may well have been concerned that Esau was bringing stolen food.

Interestingly, Jacob’s answer practically gives away his identity, as Jacob says that “God caused it to happen”.  Jacob was known as the son who cared for the things of God – this would not have been part of Esau’s everyday speech.

“Isaac said, “Behold now, I am old and I do not know the day of my death.””  

~ Gen. 27:2

Isaac would have been about 123 years old at this point.  Certainly his health was beginning to fail; his eyesight was already going if not gone completely, and the text tells us he had to rise up to eat, which may indicate he was bedridden to some extent – we do not know for sure.

Ever since the flood had occurred, life spans began to reduce rapidly.  A Midrash tells us that children do not necessarily expect to reach the age their parents did, which was likely part of Isaac’s concern.  Abraham lived to 175 years, however Sarah only lived to 127.  In reality, Isaac lived another 57 years and died at age 180 (Gen. 35:28-29)

“Now it came about, when Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see, that he called his older son Esau and said to him, “My son.” And he said to him, “Here I am.””  Gen. 27:1

Genesis 27 is a fascinating chapter because we see history change as the narrative unfolds.  Isaac is old and thinks he may be near death, and so decides it is time to bestow his blessing.  We are told he is near blind, and as such gets tricked into blessing Jacob rather than the intended son Esau, even though Isaac tries to rely on all five senses.

Several elements mentioned earlier in Genesis will come into play in this chapter:  The parent-child favoritism between Isaac and Esau, and Rebekah and Jacob;  The implications of the sale of the birthright from Esau to Jacob; and ultimately, the oracle  given to Rebekah when the twins were yet in her womb.

Ultimately passages such as this can be puzzling to the reader, leaving us wonder if Isaac was really deceived, if Jacob, or even Rebekah are ultimately guilty of lying, or if God’s hand was at work the whole time, steering the events through even questionable means to accomplish His purpose with the blessing.

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