Intro and Recap
Good morning. If you were here last week, Pastor Dave preached the first part of this larger passage by saying that there were 6 scenes to this passage. He covered the first 4, which range from chapter 27:1-40.
There were four interconnected scenes that show the twisted dynamics of a family God had chosen to bless. Isaac loved Esau, Rebekah loved Jacob. God had already promised that the older, Esau, would serve the younger Jacob. All four characters are never together in one scene, but each character influences all the scenes. And we saw how each character acted foolishly and sinfully in trying to get their own way. Let me do a quick recap:
Scene 1. Isaac is old, he’s lost his sight, and he calls his favorite, eldest son Esau. Isaac instructs him to hunt and cook some game and present it so that Esau will receive a blessing. So Esau leaves to go hunt and prepare wild game.
Scene 2. Isaac’s wife, Rebekah overhears, and in tells their other son Jacob what Isaac plans to do. Now God had promised that Jacob, the younger son, would receive the blessing, so Rebekah schemes with Jacob to get the blessing. She has Jacob dress up as the hairier, smellier older son Esau and bring a meal to Isaac.
In scene 3 Jacob, disguised as Esau comes to Isaac with the meal. Even though Isaac is old and blind he is suspicious of Jacob, but eventually he’s convinced that he is talking with Esau, so he he gives his blessing. The problem is Isaac thinks he’s blessing Esau, while Jacob actually receives the blessing. Pastor Dave explained last week that this blessing was actually like an oath before God. It was an irrevocable, declaration on his son. Isaac proclaims prosperity from the land, that other nations will serve him, and a curse on those who would curse Jacob. Then Jacob exits just before Esau enters.
Scene 4 is where the bomb goes off and everything breaks loose. Esau comes in to Isaac, presents him with his own meal, and then Isaac realizes that they have been tricked by Jacob. When Esau asks for a blessing, Isaac refuses. Instead Isaac curses Esau prophesying that he will live in another land away from blessing and prosperity.
This week we look at the last two scenes of the story we started last week featuring the blessing of Jacob and the curse of Esau. How do the characters respond to Jacob getting the blessing? While the human responses aren’t very encouraging, take heart in the truth that God Almighty works through people to carry out his perfect plans, even if it means exile. And in all of it, we should see ourselves in the characters and realize how unworthy we are to receive God’s blessing.
Our text this morning is Genesis 27:41 through 28:9. There are two final scenes, plus an epilogue that we will look at this morning. The last two scenes are the resolution of the big blowup over the blessing. Each character responds to the blessing in different ways and each help move the focus of Genesis from Isaac and Rebekah to the third generation, focusing on Jacob. One thing to keep in mind as we work through the text is that God ensures that his plans and promises will prevail, despite how foolish and wicked his people act.
Scene 5-Esau’s Hatred and Rebekah’s protection (27:41-46)
The first scene this morning, which is actually the 5th in the narrative, features the response of Esau and Rebekah. Look at verse 41
Gen. 27:41 Now Esau hated 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 approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
Esau was denied the blessing by Isaac because of Jacob’s trickery. And his response is hatred. Esau didn’t get what he wanted, and Jacob did, and that caused him to hate his brother. Not only does he hate his brother, but he plots to murder Jacob. Instead of lashing out in rage and immediately hunting him down, Esau plans to smolder and wait until after Isaac has passed away. Then he will seize his opportunity.
This brotherly hatred is a theme throughout Genesis. One brother doesn’t get approval from someone: God, or his earthly father and it turns to hatred. We saw it with Cain when he hated Abel. Abel’s offering was approved by God, Cain’s was rejected, and the result was hatred toward the favored brother. And Cain did ultimately kill his brother Abel. We’ll see it one generation later when Joseph’s brothers hate him. Jacob’s son Joseph was his favored son, and his other brothers turned to hate Joseph.
Additionally, Esau fails to recognize his role in the story. He is not innocent. He neglected his birthright for a bowl of stew. He’s profane and spends his life living under the sun as if there is no God above. Hebrews 12 calls him unholy.
On a human level we can identify with this. Someone crosses me I think I’m right to be angry. I’m justified in hating that person. Grace, watch out that you don’t hate your brother, literally or figuratively. First John 3:15 says “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
I want you to look at your own life. If you have conflict, or you are harboring angry or hateful thoughts, examine your own heart first. What have you done to contribute to the issue? Pray, ask others to help you see things clearly, and if you find sin, repent and receive grace. And then go to the person and seek to resolve the conflict.
Notice also this idea of Esau taking comfort in his smoldering. The thought of murdering Jacob brings him some kind of comfort. We might not want to kill someone, but where do you allow your emotions to go? Do you find a twisted sort of comfort and wallow in your animosity towards others? This is really dangerous. We are all prone to wallowing. We are all prone to telling our own narratives, especially if we let our thoughts and emotions go without bouncing them off other people. We start telling ourselves, ‘He deserves whatever he gets. She totally meant to hurt me, so I’m justified to sit here and never talk to her again.’
In a year where we have experienced a lot of isolation, we are even more vulnerable to this kind of thinking. Grace, we need one another to fight against this. We need to be able to see one another, talk with one another, even and especially those we might not get along with. One of the graces that God gives us, is the body of Christ. Don’t neglect what God has given to us.
Somehow Esau’s plan travels to Rebekah and she warns Jacob. Look at verse 42: But the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son and said to him, “Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice. Arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran 44 and stay with him a while, until your brother’s fury turns away— 45 until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him. Then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereft of you both in one day?”
Again, Rebekah is the driving force behind the actions of Jacob. She again catches wind of what’s happening and acts to preserve Jacob, just like she did at the beginning of this entire story. She instructs Jacob to flee to her homeland and find a wife.
Rebekah has several reasons for acting this way. Her actions save lives, she moves to provide a wife from the proper family, and she preserves the blessing.
First, she acts to protect Jacob’s life from Esau’s anger. That is simple enough, especially since Jacob is Rebekah’s favored son. But she is also saving Esau’s life. Look at verse 45 again. Rebekah says, “Why should I be bereft of you both in one day?” If Esau puts Jacob to death, Esau will also be put to death.
The law for murder, even this early on in the Bible is death. This goes back to Genesis 9, right after Noah and his sons get off the ark, God instructs them how to live. Even before God commands Noah to be fruitful and multiply, he says, “whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”
By preventing Esau from murdering his brother, Rebekah is also sparing Esau’s life.
Second, wrapped up in saving Jacob’s life, Rebekah also preserves the promised line of Abraham. Notice verse 42: The author emphasizes that Esau is the older son and Jacob is the younger. It echoes the original promise God spoke to Rebekah back in chapter 25, that the older shall serve the younger. Whether Rebekah has this in mind or not, God’s providence is at work to preserve the life of Jacob and make it possible for the line of the younger to continue. This is often how providence works and we’ve seen this in this entire story. God works through people to carry out his plans. We don’t know how pure Rebekah’s motives were, but the results are clear. Maybe she only wanted to save her favored son’s life, but in the process she also paved the way for Jacob to find a wife and preserve the line of Abraham, the seed of the woman.
The final verse of the scene transitions to the next scene and also shows the third thing Rebekah’s actions produced: she sent Jacob to find a wife. Rebekah speaks with her husband, Isaac, to make sure that Jacob’s life is preserved.
Gen. 27:46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?”
Pastor Dave mentioned this last week, but Genesis 26:34 is important context for what Rebekah is saying here.
Gen. 26:34 When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, 35 and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.
It’s almost a footnote to the story, but it gives important insight. Esau took not one, but two Hittite women. The Hittites were a tribe within the Canaanites, who came from the line of Ham way back in Genesis 10. Anytime you get connected to the Canaanites or Ham in the Bible, it’s rarely a good thing. And these Hittite women were a thorn in Rebekah’s side.
The thought of another Canaanite woman in the house was too much for Rebekah. So she sends Jacob to her family. Back in chapter 24 Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac. Abraham told the servant to go to the land of Nahor, where Abraham’s family lived so that Isaac’s wife would not be a Canaanite. God’s people are continually warned about marrying the Canaanites and falling into their pagan practices. So when it’s time for Jacob to find a wife, especially in contrast to Esau’s foolishness, he is sent away from Canaan to Rebekah’s family. Laban is Rebekah’s brother. Rebekah states her case to her husband and Isaac responds in our final scene, scene 6.
Scene 6-Blessing and exile (28:1-5)
Genesis 28:1-2 Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women. 2 Arise, go to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father, and take as your wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.
Unlike in the earlier scenes, Isaac and Rebekah are now united. before each person was scheming for their own agendas, Isaac and Rebekah now both recognize that the blessing and the covenant promises belong to Jacob. At the beginning of the story Isaac favored Esau and planned to give the blessing to his oldest son. He tries to work the situation for his own interests by only calling Esau and tried to keep it private from Rebekah and Jacob. He was clearly trying to work things for his own desires, not in line with what God had promised. It’s true that Isaac did bless Jacob in scene 3, but Isaac was tricked and thought he was blessing Esau.
But now in scene 6, after speaking with Rebekah, Isaac recognizes Jacob as the true heir of the blessing and blesses him accordingly. He repeats Rebekah’s instructions to Jacob to go to Laban and a take a wife. And just like his father did for him, Isaac now instructs his son not to take a Canaanite for a wife. And then Isaac gives a further blessing to Jacob. Look at verse 3.
3 God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. 4 May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham!”
This is a blessing that echoes the covenant promises God made to both Abraham and to Isaac. We’ve seen Genesis use several different names for God throughout the book. Isaac refers to God here as God Almighty. This is a name God used for himself when he spoke these blessings to Abraham in chapter 17. Later in chapter 35, God will again use this title for himself when he speaks directly with Jacob and gives the same promises.
In Isaac’s blessing we again see the language of being fruitful and multiplying. To this point, the family tree has grown slowly. Abraham had one son with Sarah, now Isaac has 2 sons with Rebekah. As we’ll see shortly, Jacob will become fruitful and the line of Abraham will begin to multiply. Isaac mentions that not only will the family increase in number, but it would become a company. This is a word the means gathering, smaller than an entire nation, but there is the idea of organization too. It’s not just a large number of offspring, but there is purpose to the multiplying.
Isaac also invokes the blessing of Abraham. If Isaac and Rebekah were at odds or trying to scheme for their own ways before, they are clearly aligned with God’s promises at this point. Isaac is acknowledging Jacob as the chosen son to carry on the covenant blessings.
The third piece of the blessing is the future promise of land. Jacob will be sent away from the land for now, but this is a hint at his future return. There is the hope of a safe return to the land. That means his exile won’t be permanent and also the prospect of not being murdered by Esau.
So Isaac prepares his son to flee and Jacob is sent away. He goes to avoid Esau’s wrath and to find a non-Canaanite wife. But he is also sent away as a form of exile for his actions. This is something Rebekah points out in verse 45. Esau is angry with Jacob specifically because of what Jacob had done to him. His deception to attain Isaac’s blessing is now the cause of his exile. You don’t need to know exactly where Paddan-Aram is located, but the important part is that it was far away from Esau, it was in Babylon, and was far from the Promised Land. Jacob, like the future nation that will come through his company, is going into exile for his sin.
Last week we saw how no one in the family deserved God’s blessing, they were all horrible, but God gave his blessing anyway. That is absolutely true. Jacob did truly receive the blessing even though he didn’t deserve it. That’s why salvation is called grace, because we don’t deserve it. But we also must remember that our actions have consequences. Jacob went into exile because of his sin. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years because of their rebellion against God. Later the nation of Israel went into exile for 70 years because of their sin. Despite repeated warnings and calls to repentance, God used the Babylonians to conquer and carry away the Israelites.
Our sins are forgiven fully and only by the blood of Christ. But we also must often live with the consequences of our sins. Jacob will have to live with the consequences of his sins, which we will see in depth as his story continues for the next several chapters. He will face lots of hardships, challenges and even a formidable opponent in Laban. But we will also see that God continues to bless him and be his God. The same is true for us. Our sins may be forgiven, but we still must deal with the effects of our sin. And as we do, remember that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is with us as well and has promised to remain with us.
So Jacob leaves and apparently Esau watched everything that happened, which brings us to the epilogue of the story. The story began with the quick note about Esau’s Hittite wives and now it finishes with him taking another wife:
Epilogue-28:6-9 Esau’s response
Genesis 28:6-9 Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram. 8 So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, 9 Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth.
Why is this here? It seems that Esau is still seeking the favor of his parents. The blessing is gone, but maybe he can still find favor with Isaac and Rebekah. So after noticing how unpopular Canannite women are with Isaac and Rebekah, he seeks another wife within the family line. The problem is it’s a wife through his Uncle Ishmael’s line. Remember Ishmael was the oldest son of Abraham, but not the promised son through Sarah, but a son through Hagar. So here we have Esau, the oldest non-chosen son marrying back into the family of Ishmael, the oldest, non-chosen son. It’s tragic. But this is not the end of Esau. He will reappear later in the story as another reminder that no one is too far from God’s grace.
So what can we take from this story? Looking on all six scenes we’ve studied over the last two weeks, what does it mean? Yes, Jacob got the blessing as he was intended, but as one commentator says, “Rebekah and Jacob thus won. Although in achieving their goal they were losers (Ross 481).”
There are no human heroes in this story. Most of the things the characters do are examples of things we shouldn’t do. In fact, you could identify most, if not all, of the ten commandments that get broken in the course of this narrative. The only one that wasn’t immediately obvious was obeying the sabbath. Otherwise, the four characters manage to tick all of the boxes for breaking God’s law. Not loving God with all your heart, creating idols out of favored sons or seeking blessing at any cost. Profaning things. Not honoring your parents, murder, adultery, steal, lie, and covet. Jacob, Esau, Rebekah and Isaac are examples of how to utterly break God’s law.
Don’t do those things. But here’s the problem: you, I, we, do these things. None of us is deserving of blessing. Breaking one command is enough to deserve God’s punishment and curse. But we break them all. Maybe we’re not as spectacular in our sinning as the patriarchs, but our hearts are filled with the same wickedness as theirs. None of us is deserving of salvation. None of us on our own would choose God. God chooses who he will bless, not on the basis of what anyone has done, but on his good pleasure.
Here’s another observation from this elaborate story: Jacob gets all the good stuff. He winds up with the blessing, is protected from wrath, will ultimately grow to a nation and possess the promised land. And yet, Jacob does the least of anyone in the story, especially these last two scenes. God uses Esau, Rebekah and Isaac to bring the blessings about, and the exile. If Esau isn’t furious and prepared to murder Jacob, maybe he stays at home. If Rebekah doesn’t send him to Laban, maybe he marries a Canaanite. If Isaac doesn’t recognize that Jacob was the true son of the promise, maybe things work out differently. But God always works out his plans through people. If He didn’t, who would ever be good enough to be saved? We tend to try and interpret God’s providence as one-sided. Either it was a good thing or a bad thing, but the God of the universe works in greater ways than we can fully comprehend. There are both bad and good things going on all the time.
We can understand providence by looking at the death of Jesus. He was betrayed, arrested and beaten by people who were enemies of God. He was nailed to a wooden cross. On the surface, this couldn’t be a good thing. The perfect Son of God put to death by human hands. But in God’s providence it perfectly fulfilled the requirements of God’s justice. Those bad people did things that brought about God’s good and perfect plan. Jesus was killed for our transgressions. Instead of enduring Esau’s wrath, Jesus endured the Father’s holy and frightening wrath. And then after three days in the grave he rose again, triumphing over sin and death. In God’s providence Jesus did all of this for the glory of God and so that God’s chosen people would have life, join the company of the saints and receive blessing.
And just like Jacob, we don’t do all that much to receive the blessings of God. We don’t do anything at all. God works through means to draw people to himself. And then he blesses us way more than we deserve. And God calls us to repent and believe.
So the story of Isaac and Rebekah ends and the focus moves to Jacob. We’ll continue to see the providence of God work to fulfill the promises he made to his people. It will often look ugly and really bad, but just like a good novel, the author has written this exactly as he meant it to go. And all glory goes to the author, not the characters. Glory to God.