Stolen Blessing, Part I

Week 3, Day 1

Genesis 27. 1-4

1 When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called his elder son Esau and said to him, ‘My son’; and he answered, ‘Here I am.’ 2 He said, ‘See, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. 3 Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me. 4 Then prepare for me savory food, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may bless you before I die.’

The saga of Jacob and Esau begins, as twin sibling rivalries often do I suppose, I their mother’s womb. Before their birth the two fight like cat and dog, causing poor Rebekah untold grief.

After their 9 month battle, the first-born son comes out all hairy and red. He is named Esau (a name meaning “Red”). The second born emerges grasping his brother’s heel, looking for all the world like he wants to trip his brother and cause him to fall. He is called Jacob. His name means “the Supplanter”, or we might say the Trickster.

The two could not be more different in temperament or personality. Esau becomes a man of the fields and a skilled hunter. Jacob grows to be “a quiet man, living in tents”.

This introduction of Jacob and Esau ends with this line—words that set this family up for all the dysfunction and deception that follows. “Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob”. (See Genesis 25. 19-28)

The story of Jacob takes up a good chunk of the book of Genesis. He, even more than Abraham perhaps, is seen as the founding father of Israel—his name, in fact is changed to Israel at one point in the story. His new name means “One who strives with God (and wins)”. His life is a fast-paced and fascinating tale of family intrigue and deception with generous portions of grace and blessing sprinkled throughout. His story runs from Genesis 25.19 through chapter 37 and, after a short interlude in which some of his kids misbehave, continues from chapters 42-49.

When today’s story begins (chapter 25) Isaac is feeling old. And even though he will live for another 20 years or so, he knows that none of these years are guaranteed to him. His eyes are “dim so he could not see”, his brain doesn’t function with the clarity it once had and he’s tired.

It’s interesting, however, that here near the end of his life, what he is thinking about is the future. Not his future, so much, but the future for Esau—his firstborn, wild living son. Esau had been a disappointment to his mother, Rebekah. He lived too close to the edge, for her taste—married the wrong women (two of them, in fact, when he discovered how upset his mother was over the first marriage), ignored the traditions, had little respect for her past or her family.

But Isaac loved the boy—admired his strength and, of course, his skill with the bow and the good, red meat he brought home. Maybe Esau was the manly-man Isaac always wanted to be. Isaac and Rebekah played favorites with their boys. A course that almost certainly brought tensions into their marriage. It is interesting that when the time came for passing on the patriarch’s blessing—an event that might have been cause for a great family celebration, Isaac quietly sends Esau on a hunt to prepare a savory dish just for the two of them.

If Rebekah had not been (suspiciously, perhaps) eavesdropping on her husband, Isaac’s scheme would have gone off as planned and her boy Jacob, the more deserving son, in her eyes, would have come away un-blessed.

Bad things—sometimes dangerous things happen when trust breaks down in relationships. People will connive, undermine and deceive. Families and communities can be torn apart. Watch how this develops over the course of this week.

Read the story of Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Esau as a cautionary tale for all families and communities.

Prayer: Life is complicated, Loving God. How easily we make things worse—when we act out of fear or worry or favoritism or greed. Turn us, we pray, from fear to trust and from greed to grace. Amen

Here’s the whole text for this week:

Genesis 27.1-4, 15-23; 28.10-17

1 When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called his elder son Esau and said to him, ‘My son’; and he answered, ‘Here I am.’ 2 He said, ‘See, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. 3 Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me. 4 Then prepare for me savory food, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may bless you before I die.’

15 Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob; 16 and she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17 Then she handed the savory food, and the bread that she had prepared, to her son Jacob.

18 So he went in 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 as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, so that you may bless me.’ 20 But Isaac said to his son, ‘How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?’ He answered, ‘Because the Lord your God granted me success.’ 21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.’ 22 So Jacob went up to his father Isaac, who felt him and said, ‘The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.’ 23 He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him.