GOD CAN ADVANCE HIS KINGDOM PROGRAM DESPITE SELFISH AGENDAS
Why do people do what they do? Natural depravity teaches us that we live in a fallen world with a sin nature that clings to us until we are finally transformed and glorified by the grace of God. So it should be no surprise that our motivations are tainted and often even driven by selfishness. Our intent should be to live to promote God’s kingdom purposes and see that He is glorified in all that we say and do. But the sad reality is that selfish agendas determine much of our decision making. As we pursue our own ambitions and prosperity apart from dependence upon God, we find that the end does not justify the means. Apart from righteousness, we will sow sour consequences from our sinful behavior.
Yet God is still in control and working out His sovereign determinations. History is ultimately “His story” and we cannot knock His plans off track. Though we prove faithless at times, He always demonstrates His faithfulness. The covenant promises are under His control and outworking.
Leupold: This chapter offers one of the most singular instances of God’s overruling providence controlling the affairs of sinful men and so disposing of them that the interests of God’s kingdom are safeguarded. . . This chapter portrays an entire family attempting to carry out their responsibilities by their physical senses, without faith.
Hughes: Everyone in the family sought the blessings of God without bending the knee to God. This little family was fraught with ambition, jealousy, envy, lying, deceit, coveting, malice, manipulation, stubbornness, and stupidity.
I. (:1-29) SELFISH AGENDA INVOLVES SCHEMING AND DECEPTION TO SUBVERT THE PLANS OF OTHERS
A. (:1-4) Isaac’s Intentions = to Bless Esau
“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.’ And Isaac said, ‘Behold now, I am old and I do not know the day of my death. 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.’”
Parunak: Seventeen years pass after Esau’s marriage, seventeen years in which Isaac and Rebekah mourn their son’s choice of spouses (26:35). It ought to be clear to him that Esau is no fit vehicle for the patriarchal blessing. In addition, he must have known of the promise God made to Rebekah (25:23) that “the elder shall serve the younger.” In spite of that, when Isaac thinks that the time has come for him to die, he attempts to deliver the blessing to Esau, and not to Jacob. . .
his motive is wrong: he views offering the blessing as a way to gain yet another bowl of Esau’s stew. He is willing to trade the blessing, properly belonging to Jacob, to Esau in exchange for food, just as Esau was willing to exchange the birthright, properly his own, to Jacob in exchange for food. The same weakness we have seen in the son is here evident in the father. . .
Isaac’s sin is that he views the blessing as his personal possession, to dispense how he will, rather than seeing it as a trust from God for which he is the steward, and which he must discharge according to God’s command. Here is an important difference between the spiritual and the carnal Christian. Both recognize God as the source of their blessings, but one feels that now they are his absolutely to dispose of as he pleases, while the other recognizes that they are held in trust and under divine authority.
Steven Cole: This is a premeditated plot on Isaac’s part to overthrow the revealed purpose of God. Sadly, Isaac’s reasons were based totally on the flesh: He had a taste for Esau’s game (25:28; 27:3-4). Here, on what Isaac thought was his deathbed, he can only think of indulging himself once more with his favorite meal prepared by his favorite son. He was gratifying his sensual desires in opposition to God’s plan. It’s a sorry picture. . .
Isaac wanted his way, not God’s way. He liked Esau and his game over Jacob. No matter that Esau was a godless man, that he had despised his birthright, that he had married Canaanite wives. Isaac liked him, so he planned to give everything to Esau, as is clear from the mistaken blessing on Jacob (27:28–29, 37-38).
MacArthur: Ignoring the words of God to Rebekah (25:23), forgetting Esau’s bartered birthright (25:33), and overlooking Esau’s grievous marriages (26:35), Isaac was still intent on treating Esau as the eldest and granting him the blessing of birthright, and so arranged for his favorite meal before bestowing final fatherly blessing on his favorite son.
B. (:5-17) Rebekah’s Scheming = to Steal the Blessing for Jacob
1. (:5-10) Instructions to Jacob
“And 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 kids 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.’”
Steven Cole: Rebekah wanted God’s choice (Jacob), but for selfish reasons. He was her favorite. He was her pawn in her power struggle against her husband. So even though on the surface she could claim, “I just want God’s will,” the claim was a pious fraud. Rebekah wanted her way. She was willing to deceive her blind husband and to draw her son into deception to gain her goal.
2. (:11-14) Reservations of Jacob
a. (:11-12) Reservations Offered
“And 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 shall be as a deceiver in his sight; and I shall bring upon myself a curse and not a blessing.’”
Parunak: Literally, “a mocker.” Jacob fully recognizes how disrespectful it is to take advantage of his father’s blindness and to subvert his declared purpose. The only other use of the verb in the OT is in 2 Chron 36:16, where it describes how Israel mocked God’s messengers until he sent them into captivity in Babylon. The chronicler may in fact have Gen 27 in mind; Jacob also is exiled as a result of his mockery.
Steven Cole: Clearly, Jacob is not a spiritually-minded man. He does not fear God or His moral law; he only fears that the scheme might not work and he might get cursed instead of blessed. He wanted the wealth and advantage which went along with the blessing. Like Rebekah, Jacob was seeking his own way under the guise of seeking God’s way.
b. (:13-14) Reservations Dismissed
“But his mother said to him, ‘Your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.’ So he went and got them, and brought them to his mother; and his mother made savory food such as his father loved.”
3. (:15-17) Preparations for Deception
“Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. She also gave the savory food and the bread, which she had made, to her son Jacob.”
Deffinbaugh: What a scene that must have been. Jacob was all decked out in his brother’s clothes, probably three3 sizes too large for him. And to top it all off, he had the skins of goats wrapped around his arms and neck.
C. (:18-20) Jacob’s Deception
1. (:18-19) Presentation to His Father
“Then he came to his father and said, ‘My father.’ And he said, ‘Here I am. Who are you, my son?’ And Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your first-born; I have done as you told me. Get up, please, sit and eat of my game, that you may bless me.’”
2. (:20) Argument Based on the Providence of God
“And Isaac said to his son, ‘How is it that you have it so quickly, my son?’ And he said, ‘Because the LORD your God caused it to happen to me.’”
Parunak: Application: Jacob’s sin is deception, pure and simple. He does not care that among the six things that the Lord hates are a lying tongue, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren (Prov 6:17,19).
MacArthur: Although Jacob received Isaac’s blessing that day, the deceit caused severe consequences:
1) He never saw his mother after that;
2) Esau wanted him dead;
3) Laban, his uncle, deceived him;
4) his family life was full of conflict; and
5) He was exiled for years from his family.
By the promise of God he would have received the birthright (25:23). He didn’t need to scheme this deception with his mother.
D. (:21-27) Isaac’s Gullibility Despite Attempts at Verification – Using All His Senses
1. (:21-23) Attempt #1 – Voice and Touch (of the Hands)
“Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Please come close, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.’ So Jacob came close to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, ‘The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.’ And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him,”
2. (:24-25) Attempt #2 – Taste — Venison Recipe
“And he said, ‘Are you really my son Esau?’ And he said, ‘I am.’ So he said, ‘Bring it to me, and I will eat of my son’s game, that I may bless you.’ And he brought it to him, and he ate; he also brought him wine and he drank.”
3. (:26-27) Attempt #3 — Smell
“Then his father Isaac said to him, ‘Please come close and kiss me, my son.’ So he came close and kissed him; and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him and said, ‘See, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed;’”
E. (:28-29) Isaac’s Unintended Blessing on Jacob
“Now may God give you of the dew of heaven,
And of the fatness of the earth, And an abundance of grain and new wine;”
Hughes: Dew is a favorite Hebrew metaphor for God’s goodness in providing abundance and invigoration. Dew has always provided the main source of water during the rainless summer months when the water-laden air of the Mediterranean is condensed by the cool night temperatures to a life-giving mist.
“May peoples serve you,
And nations bow down to you;”
“Be master of your brothers,
And may your mother’s sons bow down to you.”
“Cursed be those who curse you,
And blessed be those who bless you.”
II. (:30-46) SELFISH AGENDA INVOLVES FAMILY DYSFUNCTION
A. (:30-31) Esau’s Expectations
“Now it came about, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had hardly gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. Then he also made savory food, and brought it to his father; and he said to his father, ‘Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.’”
B. (:32-40) Esau’s Limited Blessing
1. (:32-37) Stolen Blessing Unmasked
“And Isaac his father said to him, ‘Who are you?’ And he said, ‘I am your son, your first-born, Esau.’ Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, ‘Who was he then that hunted game and brought it to me, so that I ate of all of it before you came, and blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.’ When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, ‘Bless me, even me also, O my father!’ And he said, ‘Your brother came deceitfully, and has taken away your blessing.’ Then he said, ‘Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.’ And he said, ‘Have you not reserved a blessing for me?’ But Isaac answered and said to Esau, ‘Behold, I have made him your master, and all his relatives I have given to him as servants; and with grain and new wine I have sustained him. Now as for you then, what can I do, my son?’”
Parunak: This resolution suggests that at this point, Isaac begins to put it all together. His purpose was thwarted, but the divine purpose was not. Isaac neither can nor will seek to turn back what has happened. Thus “by faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau,” Heb 11:20. In both paragraphs, Isaac ends up blessing Jacob— in the first mistakenly, but here deliberately. Thus the blessing is ratified. This is confirmed by the fact that when Isaac later sends Jacob away to Haran, there is not the least hint of reproof for what he has done in taking the blessing.
Deffinbaugh: I do not think that we can say Isaac gave the first blessing (to Jacob) in faith. Isaac was attempting to undermine God’s choice of Jacob. That can hardly be an act of faith. I think Isaac’s faith is evident when his devious plan is exposed and providentially overruled. It is then that Isaac pronounces the “blessing” on Esau in 27:39-40, which subjects Esau to his younger brother. It is only then that Isaac blesses Jacob by pronouncing upon him the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant. By faith Isaac finally pronounces blessings in accord with God’s revealed word.
2. (:38-40) Secondary Blessing
“And Esau said to his father, ‘Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.’ So Esau lifted his voice and wept. Then Isaac his father answered and said to him, ‘Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling, And away from the dew of heaven from above. And by your sword you shall live, And your brother you shall serve; But it shall come about when you become restless, That you shall break his yoke from your neck.’”
Constable: The mountains of Edom are some of the most desolate and barren of any on earth today. They stand to the southeast of the Dead Sea. Esau’s descendants would subsist by hunting people, just as Esau had subsisted by hunting game.
The Edomites served, revolted from, and were conquered by the Israelites repeatedly during their history. Saul defeated them after they enjoyed a long period of independence (1 Samuel 14:47). Then David made them his vassals (2 Samuel 8:14). They tried to revolt under Solomon but were unsuccessful (1 Kings 9:14ff.). The Edomites were subject to Judah until King Joram’s reign when they rebelled successfully. In Amaziah’s reign Judah again subjugated them ( 2 Kings 14:7). They finally achieved permanent freedom from Judah during Ahaz’s reign ( 2 Kings 16:6). John Hyrcanus conquered Edom about 129 B.C, forced the Edomites to submit to circumcision, and incorporated them into the Jewish nation. Later through Antipater and Herod they established the Idumean dynasty over Judah that lasted until the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D 70. The writing prophets sometimes used the Edomites as the epitome of Israel’s enemies.
C. (:41) Esau’s Grudge Against Jacob
“So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.’”
III. (:42-45) SELFISH AGENDA INVOLVES UNFORESEEN DANGERS — REBEKAH’S WARNING TO JACOB
A. (:42) Without Submission to God’s Sovereignty There Can Be No Security
“Now when the words of her elder son Esau were reported to Rebekah, she sent and called her younger son Jacob, and said to him, ‘Behold your brother Esau is consoling himself concerning you, by planning to kill you.’”
B. (:43-44) Without Family Love There Can Be No Joy
“Now therefore, my son, obey my voice, and arise, flee to Haran, to my brother Laban! And stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury subsides, until your brother’s anger against you subsides, and he forgets what you did to him. Then I shall send and get you from there.”
C. (:45) Without Faith There Can Be No Hope
“Why should I be bereaved of you both in one day?”
(:46) EPILOGUE – SELFISH AGENDA PROVES ULTIMATELY UNFULFILLING
“And Rebekah said to Isaac, ‘I am tired of living because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of Heth, like these, from the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?’”
Parunak: Application: Our fleshly actions cannot frustrate God’s purposes, but they may bring great grief to ourselves.
Constable: This account is another remarkable demonstration of God’s ability to use the sins of men and women to accomplish His purposes and at the same time punish the sinners for their sins.
Steven Cole: When we seek our own way, we never get what we wanted and we pay a high price.