{11}   Isaac’s blessings (Gen 27—28)


Part K. Isaac’s Family (25:1—28:22)

K5.   Jacob’s stolen blessing (27:1–46)

·         Rebekah and Jacob were co-conspirators committing a deception that fractured the family for two decades. Hosea describes how Jacob was repaid for his deception: “The Lord has an indictment against Judah and will punish Jacob according to his ways; he will repay him according to his deeds.” (Hos 12:1).

K6.   Jacob’s vision at Bethel (28:1–22)

·         Compared with Abraham, Jacob’s vow was “backward”: God tested Abraham, but here Jacob tested God; God instructed Abraham to leave his country before he intered into blessing, but Jacob imposed conditions on God before he vowed to benefit God. But God was gracious to Jacob and Jacob would learn that he was in fact totally dependent on God’s mercy.

·         Some Christians (Augustine, Luther) interpret Jacob’s ladder allegorically as a description of Jesus on earth. It is a type of Christ’s mediatorial position, connecting heaven and earth. Some identify Jacob’s “stone” as Christ (“cornerstone” in Eph 2:20 and 1Pe 2:6) and the ladder as Christ’s cross.


27:1     he could not see: Isaac was physically weak. However, he was at the most 140 years old and would live another 40 years or more.

27:4     such as I love: The word “love” shows strong affection for the feast—a weakness of Isaac.

27:11   Behold: Jacob replied with a strong objection with the sense of “hold on here!” Jacob was afraid that his smooth skin would expose his deception and he would then be cursed by his father. In the Bible, God may transform a curse into a blessing (Dt 23:5; Neh 13:2), but never the reverse.

27:15   best garments of Esau: Rebekah’s plan for deception was elaborate—using Esau’s garments, skins of young goats, meat of the young goats, even adding bread to the cuisine.

27:19   I am Esau your firstborn: That was a blatant lie. The word “firstborn” (Heb. bekor) recalls his former exploitation of Esau’s “birthright” (Heb. bekora).

I have done as you told me: a second lie, a double lie as Isaac did not tell him and he did not prepare the food.

27:20   God granted me success: Jacob’s answer was blasphemous, attributing his success to God. Ironically, this assertion was not too far off the mark as the will of God was revealed in the birth oracle (Gen 25:22–23).

27:22   The voice is Jacob's voice: Isaac admitted that he was still confused as he recognized the voice as Jacob’s. That he continued to bless Jacob despite the voice was not Esau’s showed that he was doubtful about his own judgment. It might be true that God’s work was also present. Before Isaac recognized his voice, Jacob was rather loquacious. Afterwards, Jacob limited himself to a one-word answer.

27:24   Are you really my son Esau?: Isaac’s senses of touch and hearing were failing him so he wanted to have a final, truthful reply. Jacob lied a third time.

27:27   he blessed him: Isaac’s blessing consisted of 2 parts: the fruition of the land and the growth of a great nation.

27:29   May nations serve you: describing a powerful nation. The idea was servitude and submission, echoing the birth oracle that “the older shall serve the younger” (Gen 25:23).

blessed be everyone who blesses you: It is a repetition of God’s promise in Gen 12:3.

27:33   Yes, and he shall be blessed: expressing the irrevocable nature of the blessing.

27:36   He took away my birthright: Esau conveniently forgot his own responsibility in the earlier deal involving the birthright (Gen 25:34).

27:39   Isaac his father answered: It was an antiblessing, consisting of 3 lines. The first line describes Esau’s parched and fruitless land as his home. The second line describes Esau’s way of life through war. The third line describes Esau’s true character as a wild beast by breaking free from its yoke. The portrayal recalls the same characterization of Ishmael whose nature was the obstinate, desert donkey (Gen 16:12).

27:43   flee: The word “flee” (Heb. barah) becomes the motto of Jacob’s life, for he would also flee Laban after deceiving him.

27:44   stay with him a while: Rebekah thought Jacob would be gone for a short while, perhaps even in terms of days but it became 20 years of hard labour in Haran. Also, Rebekah was not mentioned again after this chapter, until her burial (Gen 49:31).

28:1     directed him: The command to Jacob to not marry a Canaanite woman was a forceful one, meaning “you must not take”. When the word “commanded” (Heb. sawa) is used in the stories of Moses, it always characterizes divine instruction (Dt 32:6).

28:11   the sun had set: The fall of night recalls the theophany Abraham received at Mamre/Hebron.

28:12   a ladder: Jacob’s ladder, traversed only by angels, was the means of a gracious revelation from heaven. The ladder/stairway (Heb. sullam, exact shape uncertain) connecting earth and heaven signified divine presence and mediation.

28:14   you shall spread abroad: The spreading/dispersion of Jacob’s descendants is a new feature of the promise, perhaps fulfilled by the dispersion of Jews in the world today.

28:18   set it up for a pillar: The pillar corresponded to the practice of constructing altars by Abraham and Isaac. The pillar might also be a witness to Jacob’s vows. Establishing pillars was Jacob’s habit (Gen 31:45,51–52; 35:14,20).

poured oil on the top of it: It was the annointing of the pillar, consecrating it to the Lord.

28:20   Jacob made a vow: Jacob made a vow with 3 promises to God (the only time that a patriarch made a vow to God): (1) devotion to God, (2) dedication of the site to God, and (3) offering of a tithe. He was asking no more than the fulfilment of God’s self-imposed obligations.


·         Although Jacob got the blessing he wanted, deceiving his father cost him dearly. Some consequences include: (1) he never saw his mother again, (2) his brother wanted to kill him, (3) Jacob was exiled from his family for years, (4) he was deceived by his uncle, (5) his family became torn by strife, (6) Esau apparently got the material inheritance (although not the divine promise) and became the founder of an enemy nation. The consequence of sin may be much greater than one can imagine.

·         God made promises to Abraham and Isaac. But it is not enough to be Abraham’s grandson; Jacob had to establish his own relationship with God. God has no grandchildren; each of us must have a personal relationship with God. It is not enough to have Christian parents and live in a Christian family.