|Bible Story: Jacob Cons Dad Out of Esau's Blessing
Based on Genesis 27
Retold by Paul Katula
Isaac and Rebekah had two sons: Esau, who was born first, and Jacob. In the time of our story, the firstborn son had a few special priveleges. As Isaac was about to die from old age, he was blind but still wanted to give a special blessing to his firstborn son. He knew God would listen.
Although Isaac loved Esau, who enjoyed outdoor activities, Rebekah favored Jacob, because he was more responsible. She was also a very cunning woman, and she knew how badly Jacob wanted Esau's blessing from their father. She also felt he deserved it more than his older brother.
As Isaac was ready to give his blessing, just before he knew he would die, he sent Esau out to hunt for food, so that he could get some of his strength back and give his blessing to his firstborn.
But Rebekah and Jacob had another plot in mind. "Go kill two of our goats from the herd, and I'll prepare the meal just the way Isaac likes it," she told Jacob. "Then you can give it to your father and tell him you're Esau returning from the hunt.
"That way, he'll give you the blessing that he's supposed to give to Esau, and you will get what you deserve, my favorite son," Rebekah said.
An Incredibly Fast Hunting Trip
The next thing you know, Jacob brought the food into Isaac, specially prepared by Rebekah the way Isaac liked it. Now, although Isaac was blind and, shall we say, a little senile, he wasn't deaf and he still had the sense of touch. He could still remember that his outdoors-loving son Esau had very thick hair on his arms and hands.
"I've got that taken care of," Rebekah told Jacob, as she glued some goat fur onto Jacob's arm. "Just wear this goatskin on your arm, and when he touches you, he'll think you're Esau."
"My, you've come back quicker than I expected," Isaac protested. "And you sound a lot like Jacob. That's very curious." But when he ran his hands over the goatskin that was glued to Jacob's arms, he said, "You sure do feel like Esau, though."
So Isaac gave his blessing, which included two parts: First, that Jacob (and his descendents) would prosper in farming and agriculture. They would be well-fed for their whole lives. Second, that Jacob would have political success and be a leader. All the other people would be his servants, including his brother, who Isaac thought was Jacob.
It was basically a blessing of prosperity, and Isaac knew God was listening. The only problem, of course, was that Esau had barely left the house to go hunting when this whole thing took place. When Isaac had finished praying, Jacob left the room.
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
No sooner had Jacob left the room than Esau returned from the hunt, as his father had asked. He had also prepared savory spices and other good things that he knew his father enjoyed.
"Let my father eat of this food, that his firstborn son has prepared for him, so that you may give me your blessing," Esau prayed over Isaac. Isaac was very confused, as you can imagine.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"Why, dad, I'm Esau, your firstborn son, and I've brought the meal you asked me to kill and prepare for you so that you can give me your blessing," Esau answered.
Isaac Begins to Tremble in Fear
"I already gave your blessing away to someone who felt a lot like you," Isaac said as he trembled. "But what's done is done. I have no blessing left for you."
"Not even one? Just one little blessing for me, your true firstborn son?" Esau demanded, furiously.
"Well, there is one," Isaac replied. "But remember, I have already made you your brother's servant, and I have already asked that he prosper from the earth. What is left for you is that you will make your home in a place where the earth is not fertile, and you will live by your sword.
"You will live as your brother's servant, but one day, you'll break away from him," Isaac prayed.
Now, Esau's Hatred for Jacob Grows
Rebekah warned Jacob that Esau had found out about how they tricked Isaac into giving his blessing to his second-born son, not his first. Esau was furious, and Rebekah feared for the life of her second son.
"After we have mourned for our father, then I will kill Jacob," Esau had said.
Rebekah told Jacob he could go to her brother Laban's house in Haran, and he could stay with him for a while, just to let Esau cool off.
Pursuit Would Be Futile
Esau realized he wouldn't be able to catch up with Jacob. Therefore, he let him go and stayed home to take care of his parents in their old age. It was considered an honor to care for your parents like this, and even though Esau didn't have his father's blessing and his mother had conspired to trick him, he still took care of them as they got older.
Jacob would eventually return (about 20 years later) with two wives and 12 children. Historically speaking, the descendents of Esau would be under the control of the descendents of Jacob (the 12 tribes of Israel) until Esau's descendents gained their independence, but that is another story.
This story is about Rebekah, a woman, and Jacob, a second son. Neither of these people have very much authority in the society of the time, but they sure do have power to alter the course of events. In fact, the entire future of Israel (Jacob's 12 sons = the 12 tribes of Israel) was essentially determined by Rebekah, who gave Jacob the strategy for deceiving Isaac. That's a lot of power.
Now, Isaac wasn't much better. Why do you suppose he waited until he was old, blind, and senile before pronouncing his final blessing? He had the whole future of Israel in his hands. God was listening, and Isaac knew it. Yet he didn't really do a very good job for God, either, did he? Admittedly, he didn't lie, but he still failed.
On the surface, this story is also about deceitfulness, that it is a bad thing. And Jacob gets put into exile at Rebekah's brother's house because of his deceitfulness. But Isaac's procrastination is also a human quality that fails God here. He probably shouldn't have waited until he was on his deathbed to give his blessing. Selfish desire is also a human trait that can lead to people failing to serve God, as with Jacob, who desires Esau's blessing. And last but not least, Esau. He really didn't do such a good job to ensure that he received his father's blessing. That is, not until he lost it to his younger brother. Not caring about what God is calling on you to do is also dangerous.
But the stories in Genesis are not about what you see on the surface. In particular, this story really shows us how God works with us and achieves his purpose. Were Rebekah's actions to deceive her husband done to achieve something that only God should have been able to achieve? Or, were they just part of her being human and having a lower social status? Was Jacob just responding to his lower social status as a second-born son? Or, did he also want to alter God's divine promise for the future of Israel?
Remember, Israel still turned out exactly as God had planned, despite the human interference from deceitfulness, procrastination, blindness, the lack of caring, and all the other very human traits these characters showed in this story. When Jacob was ready to lie to his father's face, he was definitely just playing his part in Rebekah's plan to get for her favorite son what she felt he deserved. Esau had not merited his father's blessing of prosperity, while Jacob had. But the only way he could get it was through the human flaw of deceitfulness.
However, because Jacob received Esau's blessing, Israel would become prosperous in agriculture and politics, and the nation would become a blessing to other people of the earth forever. Things worked out, either because of our human faults or in spite of them. In any case, God's plan moved forward, and we see in this story how God works with us and we work with him. We see how our free will and our faults bring the whole universe into harmony with his master plan.