Deception and Unintended Consequences; Genesis 27:1-41
Some principles to remember
1) God is sovereign. God rules the universes and is the ultimate authority and the final authority in the universe.
2) God rules human history. As the sovereign He is overseeing the progress of His plan in human history. He has certain things that he is working out.
3) In the process of doing that he does it by allowing the flexibility of human volition within the framework of human history. One of the most important things that we must understand is that God in His omniscience has so structured and created reality and human history that it includes the flexibility to handle the chaos that results from our own bad decisions.
4) Volition means that we can either be a part of God's plan or we can be in violation of God's plan. We can be a part of God's plan according to God's principles and have the blessing of participation and the production of divine good or …
5) We can try to enact God's plan on our own terms and in our own timing. In other words, we try to manipulate even what we know God is trying to do. We may end up trying to push it, manipulate it, speed it up, hurry it up, and as a result it produces unintended consequences that are negative, that produce self-induced misery and human good. This is what is what is picture in Genesis 27. We see this fragmentation of the chosen family. They were chosen by God, God reiterates the Abrahamic covenant to Isaac, and yet now we see the absolute fragmentation of his family.
From here on we see that these people aren't very nice people. They are manipulative, deceptive, and are constantly trying to get the better of one another. And the more they get away from God, the more they drift spiritually from the standard that Abraham set the more chaos enters into their life until there is this totally fractured and fragmented family that comes along when Jacob's sons try to kill their brother Joseph, and when they get talked out of that they sell him into slavery. Yet these are the ones whom God has chosen to be the custodian of His revelation and plan of salvation. If that doesn't tell us something about grace, what will? This deterioration is really seen to begin in this Isaac episode with Esau giving up the birthright at the end of chapter 25, and now this episode in chapter 27.
So in light of this there are a couple of things that we need to remember. A right thing done in a wrong way is wrong. And that is what we see happen here. The right thing is that God has already promised, prophesied and announced that the elder will serve the younger, and that the blessing is going to go to Jacob and not to Esau. But rather than trusting God to work things out in His timing and according to His plan, we see the manipulation of Jacob trying to get the birthright from Esau and now Rebekah seeking to control and manipulate all the circumstances so that her favorite can get the blessing. The result is that it just creates further fragmentation in the family so that there are a lot of unintended consequences. So a right thing done in a wrong way is wrong, and that is a principle that is absolutely lost on our generation. The corollary to this is that the end never justifies the means.
General observations and principles in the background of this passage
1) The key concept in the Isaac toledot, from Genesis 25 down through the death of Isaac and into the birth of Joseph and the Joseph narrative, is deception. Isaac deceives Abimelech in Genesis 26. In Genesis 27 Jacob deceives Isaac into giving him the blessing. In Genesis 29 Laban is going to deceive Jacob with regard to his choice of a wife. Furthermore, in that chapter and in chapter 30 Laban is going to try to cheat Jacob, but Jacob is going to outwit Laban. Then Jacob and Rachel both deceive Laban in chapter 31, and then there is that really bizarre episode with Dinah who gets raped by her boyfriend in Shechem, her brothers deceive the Hivites living in Shechem and end up killing them all. It is deception, deception, deception, everybody is manipulating everybody else to get what they think is the right thing. So the key concept throughout is deception and manipulation, and people trying to get God to bless them on their own terms and follow their own agenda.
2) Important observations: One is that in chapter 27 there is one character that is missing—God. There is no mention of God in the chapter. The silence of God reverberates throughout this chapter. God appears and gives an announcement about the birth of the twins in Genesis 24. In Genesis 25 God appears and gives revelation to Isaac confirming the passing on of the blessing to Isaac. Isaac deceives Abimelech, nevertheless God blesses him and expands his wealth. He is already incredibly wealthy due to his inheritance from Abraham, but then God blesses him in his own right and his wealth just explodes. That provides part of the background to understand the weight of the importance of the blessing in Genesis 27. This is what is at stake, this vast wealth that God has blessed Isaac with. So this blessing that is being passed on is something that is tremendous. But God is silent and completely in the background. We see a couple of principles in this. First, when we are ignoring God and trying to do things our own way, then God often steps back and allows us to deal with our own consequences. He gives us enough rope to hang ourselves with. He lets us push the envelope until everything falls apart and fragments, and we are ultimately faced with such self-induced misery that we have to turn to God in order to recover from our own bad decisions. Second, on the positive side, when we make God a priority in our life and Bible class is a priority in our life, then no matter what else is going on in our life, whatever the demands are from work or from the family, when we put the Lord first God will take care of the rest. This is a principle seen in Matthew 6:33, "But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." When we put God's priorities first and we are going to make time for Bible class, make time for that renovation of our thinking, the filling of the Spirit, walking by the Spirit, then no matter what the other pressures in life may be God will take care of it. But when we start doing away with Bible class, avoiding class, we are to busy with work, to busy with other things, then all of a sudden things are going to fragment because we get away from the source of blessing. When we try to make life work apart from the divine priority then we might get what we want eventually things fall apart. Psalm 106:15, "And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul." They got what they wanted but it didn't bring them happiness. Often we think we know what we want, and God gives it to us, but we realize that the result is vanity. Arrogance blinds us to the truth.
Then we come to two key words that are played off against each other in this whole context—from chapter 25 with the selling of the birthright to blessing in chapter 27—and that is the word berakah, "blessing," that is used in chapter 27, and bekorah, "birthright." The only difference in these two is that the r and the k are transposed. So there is a play on words here to emphasize what is at stake: the birthright and the blessing. And the birthright and the blessing are two different things. The birthright has to do with the inheritance, the financial inheritance, the will. The blessing has to do with the future destiny of the child. And there is a legal aspect to both of these. Just as the birthright would express the legal distribution of the inheritance in the will, the blessing is oral but it has a legal force that is irreversible and can't be diminished. So that once Isaac states the blessing he can't back up. It doesn't matter that fraud occurred; it is binding.
At this time in history the principle of primogeniture, i.e. the inheritance to the eldest son, is not consistently practiced. It was not uniformly practiced in the ancient world. The distribution of the inheritance was the prerogative of the father. It was up to the father how the inheritance was distributed. Furthermore, the right of the firstborn could be transferred to another son. This was legitimate. The blessing itself could be distributed among several children.
Even though this family is as messed up as they are, an they get a lot worse, God is going to bring about His plan of redemption, and He is demonstrating here that it doesn't have anything to do with our own merit, our goodness, our qualities, it has to do with His character and His grace. There are basically four scenes in this section. a) Isaac and Esau, vv. 1-4; b) Rebekah and Jacob, vv. 5-13; c) Isaac and Jacob, vv. 14-29; Isaac and Esau, vv. 30-40.
Genesis 27:1, "And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I." His eyes being dim almost pictures his spiritual condition as well. He appears to be spiritually blind to a number of things. He is blind to God's sovereignty and God's plan, His intended heir, to God's blessing, and to the consequences of his actions on his own family. When we get involved in arrogance and self-absorption we get into self-deception, we don't see reality as it is, and so we make bad decisions from a position of weakness that end make creating a whole host of negative consequences that come back to haunt us. The horrible thing about bad decisions is that you don't see the consequences immediately. You see them in five years or ten years and it is too late to undo the decision. You make bad decisions, you set up bad habit patterns, and that is exactly what had happened in this household. For at least 20 or 30 years they have had this habit pattern of showing favoritism to the children. Now that it comes to a crucial test in the life of the family they can't make right decisions any more because they have dug this trench, as it were, in terms of their habit pattern and their family dynamics. There is no grace in operation whatsoever.
Genesis 27:2, "And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death." He is going to live for another 20 years at least because he is still alive when Jacob comes back from Paddan-aram, but he is already showing signs of physical failure.
Rebekah listens in and realizes what the plan is, that Esau would come back and prepare a meal and then that Isaac would bless him. Genesis 27:4, "And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless you before I die." Soul is often used as an idiom both in Hebrew and Greek just as a reference to the person. Rebekah intentionally stops to listen to the conversation. When Esau goes to the field she hatches her conspiracy and calls in Jacob. The picture we see is that Jacob wouldn't do this if it weren't for her pushing. She is really the prime mover in this whole conspiracy. She wants to make sure that her boy gets what he is due. God said he was the one who was going to get the blessing and she is going to make sure that it happens. That is why it is so ironic that in her attempt to make it happen she creates a situation where Jacob has to leave and she never sees him again. Those are the kinds of negative consequences that we often generate when we are operating apart from God and in our arrogance.
Genesis 27:20, "And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the LORD your God brought it to me." We always justify our carnality with a spiritual solution. "Jesus told me to do it"! He blames God and this is the only mention of God anywhere in the passage.
Notice that in verse 19 Jacob is wordy, but as soon as Isaac makes his observation about the voice, v. 22, Jacob clams up. He recognizes his voice is a dead give-away. He resorts to one-word answers to Isaac, e.g. v. 24, "And he said, Are you my very son Esau? And he said, I am [Yes]." He is successful in deceiving Isaac and Isaac is now going to give him the blessing.
Genesis 27:27-29, "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: therefore God give you of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: let people serve you, and nations bow down to you: be lord over your brethren, and let your mother's sons bow down to you: cursed be every one that curses you, and blessed be he that blesses you."
The emphasis in v. 28 is on productivity and prosperity of the field, that whatever he puts his hand to agriculturally is going to prosper and produced 100-fold, just as it has for Isaac. In v. 29 we move from the productivity and fertility of the field and the earth to his expansion and dominance as a people. Then the blessing and cursing reference comes right out of the Abrahamic covenant, so he is emphasizing two of the three ideas in the Abrahamic covenant related to land and blessing. He is viewing this as Esau, he is the seed; but in fact he has been deceived and is giving this blessing to Jacob.
Then apparently Jacob slipped out and left, and not too soon either because Esau show us in verse 30. "And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. And he also had made savoury meat, and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son's venison, that your soul may bless me."
Genesis 27:32, "And Isaac his father said unto him, Who are you? And he said, I am your son, your firstborn Esau." Notice the reference to "firstborn." In other words, I am the one who should have the blessing right.
Genesis 27:33, "And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that has taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou came, and have blessed him? yes, and he shall be blessed." The Hebrew is very graphic. Isaac is so angry that he is shaking all over because he realizes the deception that has occurred and that Esau has been defrauded of the blessing.
Genesis 27:34-36, "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. And he said, Your brother came with subtlety, and has taken away your blessing. And he said, Is not he 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?" Esau wails, the Hebrew says. It is almost a pitiable sight here. He just pleads, and we don't have anything in our society that relates to this. He has lost everything; there is nothing for him. He sold his birthright and now he has lost the blessing.
Genesis 27:37, "And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him your lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now to you, my son?" Jacob is the one who is going to be prosperous, his land will be prosperous and yours will not. And that is exactly what worked out in history. Edom never had the prosperity that Israel had.
Genesis 27:39-40, "And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, your dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; and by your sword shall you live, and shall serve your brother; and it shall come to pass when you become restless, that thou shall break his yoke from off your neck." He will live outside, he is going to be pursued by violence and wars, he will always be dominated by Jacob's descendants, by Israel. Eventually he will become antagonistic to Jacob, and this is what has happened historically.
Genesis 27:41, the result: "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." Mental attitude sins. He was thinking that when Isaac dies he would get the inheritance.
Jacob has to leave town. The Hebrews passage warns us that we need to carefully examine ourselves lest any one of us falls short of the grace of God, i.e. depart from grace orientation. That is exactly what happened in the dynamics of the family. They forgot that ultimately it is God's grace that provides the blessing, it is God's grace that provides success, it is God's grace that gives us everything that we have, and a right thing must be done in a right way. Hebrews 12:15-17, "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any immoral, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears."
Application: Strife, fragmentation and dissension. What do we see when we see that going on? Galatians 5:19ff, the war between the spirit and the sin nature. "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." When there is fragmentation in personal relationships what is lurking underneath somewhere is an out-of-control sin nature. The solution starts with confession of sin to get back in fellowship. It has to be followed by application of doctrine. When there is fragmentation then somewhere in the background there is some selfish, arrogant agenda at work that is contrary to the Word of God. The result is always going to be fragmentation.