And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:
Alas, Esau’s folly doesn’t seem to have diminished with age.
Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.
I suppose that might have been mere ethnocentrism, but given the practices of the Philistines it seems more likely their bitter spirit (morah ruwach) was also due to the moral and spiritual degradation involved. Regardless, it doesn’t keep Esau from wanting to bless his favorite. He calls Esau, and makes a strange request:
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.
Very strange. Was it a custom for the firstborn son to earn the blessing (barak)? Did Isaac just hunger (‘ahab) for fine dining (mat`am)? Or was Isaac trying to justify a special blessing for Esau, after he’d lost the birthright?
If the latter was the case, Rachel spoils the surprise:
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.
And sets in motion a veritable mission impossible of a plan:
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.
Jacob is understandably worried:
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.
But, sadly, only worried about getting caught — not about doing wrong, or offending God. Rachel brushes that aside:
And his mother said unto him, Upon me [be] thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me [them].
Not sure if one can really take on a curse like that, but it seems more or less fair, since the whole thing is her idea. However, it does say something about the skewed nature of their relationship. She repeats the command to obey her voice (shama` qowl) — even at forty he’s still expected to submit to her scheming. Not healthy. Its interesting in this context to note that she does everything short of killing the goats:
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.
I’d be worried that Jacob was utterly incompetent to do things for himself, except that we know he at least can make porridge. We also learn he’s a skilled liar:
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.
Though a poor mimic:
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.
His mother’s precautions certainly pay off:
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:
There’s something perversely fitting in how Rebekah uses Isaac’s prejudices against him; I suppose 40+ years of marriage would do that.
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.
I might categorize this blessing as a money, power, and protection. Jacob will surely need the latter when Esau finds out:
And Isaac his father said unto him, Who [art] thou? And he said, I [am] thy son, thy firstborn Esau.
Not a happy scene:
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.
Clearly he’s finally realized the value of a blessing, even if he missed the whole birthright thing.
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?
Hmm. Unlike Abraham, who appears to have wanted all his children to share in God’s blessing — certainly he gave them all gifts — Isaac appears to have overdone it on (he thought) Esau, to his sorrow. About all he can give Esau is the hope of eventual rebellion:
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.
That’s probably true in general — when we fail to grant our children an inheritance of blessing, all they have left is rebellion. Esau apparently decides to abbreviate that process by using his sword (chereb) on his brother (‘ach), or perhaps breaking (paraq) his neck (tsavva’r):
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.
As usual, Rebekah hears, and has a scheme for Jacob to obey (shama`):
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. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran;
She follows up by manipulating Isaac to endorse the plan:
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?
Which may well be true, though it is far from the whole truth. Isaac goes along with it:
And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.
It is interesting that Esau’s already been married twice, while Jacob apparently isn’t even going steady (that’s a joke — I realize they didn’t have dating back then). Another indication of an overbearing mother!
Interestingly, Isaac is magnanimous rather than resentful, telling Jacob:
And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.
Perhaps this is the promised birthright — an explicit passing-on of the promise given to Abraham. Which was why Isaac couldn’t give to Esau. Both because he’d sold it, and because of his polluted seed. Which Esau finally figures out, by noticing (ra’ah) Jacob’s:
a) blessing (barak)
When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padanaram, to take him a wife from thence;
b) charge (tsavah)
and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan;
and c) obedience (shama`)
And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padanaram;
And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father;
Y’know, nobody comes out of this well. Isaac is clueless, Rebekah scheming, Jacob slimy, and Esau pigheaded. Esau’s solution is crude, though it makes a certain amount of sense:
Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.
Somehow, even now, I think he missed the point. Perhaps they all did. The point, it seems to me, is ultimately to be a blessing, not just receive one. Or rather, being blessed is the ability to be a blessing to others. Rebekah, for all her faults, seems the only one actually sacrificing herself for the sake of another (albeit only within her biased values).
One can’t help but wonder that if Abraham had respected his wife more, and obeyed her less, he might have setup a more virtuous cycle of family relations where everyone was working together rather than scheming in secret. One can only hope that Jacob does better with Laban…
God, I am so grateful for the godly wife you’ve given me, as well as the godly parents who modeled equal love and cooperative parenting. Save me from manipulation and deceit, but give me the courage to handle even small things in the light. Teach me to seek your blessing by living a bless-able, and other-blessing, kind of life. Help me to bless others, including my children, in a way that leaves room for them and me to bless others. In Jesus name, Amen.
I should perhaps have mentioned this earlier, but I frequently skip many verses (especially on long passages like this), which might be disorienting if you don’t know the story. My recommended reading pattern is to use a tabbed web browser (like Safari), and have one tab on the devotion, one on the full passage (always the first link), one on the various greek terms, and a separate window for other links — which is more or less how I write these.