31 Jacob’s fraud

Please read Gen 27:1-46 beforehand

  • Before we get into the essence of this chapter, let us just note two relevant facts about Esau and Isaac.

Esau’s character

At the end of the previous chapter, Esau is mentioned and again an unfavourable report is given of him.  He had made another bad mistake, this time by marrying two heathen women.  They caused their father and mother-in-law much sorrow. 

His foolish conduct affected the people surrounding him.  He had not benefited at all by growing up in a house of believers. His heart was wrong, so their good teaching was wasted on him.

Isaac’s age

His age when the incident hereinafter described occurred, can be put at 100 plus. He was 60 years old when Esau was born (25:26) and Esau married 40 years later (26:34), that is when Isaac was 100 years old.  He must therefor have been living for more than a century when he decided to hand over to a successor.  

He had already lost the use of his eyes which must have impeded his managing of such a huge estate, so he made arrangements to pronounce God’s blessing over his heir before it would be too late.

  • The right of the firstborn

The right of the firstborn was two-fold.  Firstly, there were the material benefits coming from his father’s estate. He would inherit at least twice as much livestock, slaves, etc. as the other children as well as authority over the family (clan). 

Then there were the spiritual privileges that came from God in the form of a blessed life. This, the beneficiary would inherit by his father’s laying on of his hands on him and speaking of prophetical words inspired by God (hopefully). 

The transfer of the material inheritance would normally accompany the pronouncing of the blessing but would only take effect at the father’s death.

Confusion: legal clarification required

As first born, Esau was in the aforementioned privileged position.  But had he not sold his right of the first born to Jacob?  It seems as if he was of the opinion that he had only lost his material inheritance and not his patriarchal blessing too, because he later on called out: 

 “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright. See, now he has taken away my blessing.” (27:36)

Was Isaac aware of the exchange of rights?

A further question that arises, is whether Isaac was at all aware of the transaction that had taken place between his two sons.  Possibly he was, because when pronouncing the blessing over Jacob, (which he thought to be Esau) he makes no mention of the transfer of his estate to him.

Another question is whether Isaac knew that the Lord had said to Rebecca that Jacob and his descendants would rule over Esau and his?  If he knew this, he simply ignored it, because in his blessing, he appoints Jacob (thought to be Esau) over Esau (thought to be Jacob):

Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers. Let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you. Blessed be everyone who blesses you.” (27:29, WEB).

He was clearly convinced that Esau was entitled to this blessing.

  •  A shocking incident

What an ugly incident: wife defrauds husband 10 years after the golden anniversary of their marriage; brother defrauds twin brother after 40 years of fellowship in parent’s home. What led to this shaking of a home of believers?

 A weak husband and father

Isaac found it easier to submit to others than most people would. At 30+ he submitted to his father and to God to be sacrificed on an altar. He also moved away from Abimelech to avoid further conflict. He was a very soft-spoken man; it was his strong point.

But sometimes a person’s strong point turns into a weak one when that part of his personality is no longer controlled by the Holy Spirit. Did he, as leader of his family, become lazy, failing to take authority where it was essential? He definitely did not manage to shape Esau’s personality correctly.

 A wife with a strong personality

We first meet Rebekah at her father’s estate. When a stranger, Eliezer, arrives out of nowhere, she steps forward and not only lets him drink water from her jar but offers to also water all his many camels. When told that she has been chosen to be the bride of a man she had never met, she makes her own decision and travel hundreds of kilometers to marry him. When worried about her pregnancy she sets off to see a man that could consult God on her behalf and receives more word than what she asked for.

Her’s is the profile of a woman that thinks and plans for herself. Such a wife would find it difficult to submit to her husband and would easily be tempted to overrule him, especially if he does not speedily come up with the right answers to marriage’s diverse challenges. This situation, unless solved timeously, would get out of hand as the couple ages.

 Different ideals and a marriage gone sour?

This probably is what happened between Isaac and Rebekah. In their old age, they were no longer having such strong bonds of appreciation and love for one-another.

What Isaac’s attitude was towards Rebekah, is not clear, but as for her, she had lost her loyalty to him. She did not respect her husband as the head and priest of the home any longer. She stood up against him! In the matter of who was to be Isaac’s successor, she was convinced that she was right, and he was wrong: Jacob was to rule and Esau to submit, that was it. If Isaac would not listen, she would do it her way.

The love game of enjoying each other, had become a chess game of outwitting one another.

 Corruption in the home of the father and mother of many nations

When Rebekah saw that Isaac had firmly decided to bless Esau and not Jacob, she devised a crafty plan to achieve her goal.  She decided to deceive the blind old man so that he would bless Jacob instead of Esau.

Asked, she would call herself a believer but here, when tested, she did not trust God to keep His word that the younger son would rule over the older one, but conceived her own plan in the flesh to achieve this.

She was driven by personal ambition. It was not a matter of doing this thing for God’s glory, to let His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, no, it was all about Rebekah’s glory and that of her blue-eyed boy, Jacob.  

Her son very nearly paid with his life because of this deception.

Rebekah had to involve Jacob in her plan. He had his reservations, not on moral grounds but only because of fear for what would happen to him should the plan miscarry. In this conspiracy with his mother, his name, “Deceiver” came true.

Jacob’s interview with Isaac was a nail-biting experience.  In the process he had to tell two lies, even calling on the Name of the Lord to confirm his identity so as to deceive his blind father.  Isaac then blessed him instead of Esau. 

Jacob had received the blessing of the first born but would forever be burdened by the sense of guilt.

A core of goodness in the rotten apple

What is to be admired in Jacob’s conduct, is that he was absolutely convinced that God’s blessing that would come to him by his father’s priestly blessing, would, without any doubt, cause him to be a blessed, prosperous man and he was so certain of this, that he was willing to steal it at great risk to himself. This was true faith which God did not overlook. As time went by, the Lord built up this precious kernel of faith, while at the same time, cleansing him from the rotten treachery entrenched in his heart.

Respect the good which God puts in your lap or loose it forever

Now compare Jacob’s attitude with that of Esau who had traded his birthright privileges for a plate of lintels.  It is like a woman trading her R 1 million wedding ring for a hamburger (or a bowl of porridge). It was a disgusting lack of ability to appreciate that which is valuable; like a pig treading underfoot a handful of precious pearls. Esau lost both his right of the first born and his blessing.  For him it was too late for remorse and for tears!

That which we do impulsively and unthinkingly, often betrays the real attitude of our hearts.  Maybe he had hoped that his foolish act would somehow be forgotten, but in the end, it caught up with him. See again what God commented on his deed:

 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. (Heb 12:16).  

Let us take heed

Millions of people will, on the day of judgement, have bitter remorse because of squandered time and opportunities, but the opportunity to avail themselves of God’s grace will then have passed forever. Tears wept after death, count for nothing.

The Lord is giving you the right to inherit eternal life (John 1:12). What a waste it will be if you do not appreciate the value of this legacy for which Jesus had to pay an incalculable price on the cross. You need not even steal it like Jacob did, just claim it by faith while surrendering your life to Him.

Another Cain and Abel tragedy?

Suddenly, murder was threatening this family of chosen believers.  Instead of acknowledging his own fault and blaming himself, Esau went around like an enraged bull, threatening to murder Jacob.  The most difficult words to speak out are: “I have sinned,” and yet these words set us free.

  •  Rebekah to the rescue

Again, it was the crafty Rebekah who came up with a plan of saving Jacob’s life.  He was to be sent away to their relatives under the pretense of finding a believing wife for himself, so that he would not marry a Canaanite heathen woman like Esau did. 

It was, of course, easy to get her husband to buy into this solution because it made sense and Isaac had, in the meantime, made peace with his blunder of almost appointing the wrong son as his spiritual successor.

Was all the deception worth the while and who was the winner?

When buying a used item at an auction, you might, on getting home, discover that it is broken and that you could have bought a brand new one for half the price. You would want to kick yourself for having been so dumb.

In retrospect, what had Rebecca really achieved by deceiving her husband and what had Jacob achieved by wangling the issue of his brother Esau’s birth right and by cheating his father? 

Had God not, even before the birth of the two sons, told Rebecca that Jacob would rule over Esau? Could God not have taken care of the execution of this small detail of His eternal plan Himself?

When Rebekah and Jacob decided to take it out of His hands, He let it be and, in the end, brought forth good from evil. He got His way by allowing the follies of man to work together for good. He got the heir He wanted in place and let the three of them remain with the blame and shame. You can never win against God.

The devil will have all eternity to reflect on how he had repeatedly been outwitted by God!

A family trait.

There was an inherent element of dishonesty in this family, as well as in their relatives of Paddan-Aram. This will become obvious in the lives of Jacob, Laban and Rachel as the story unfolds.  Once the devil has a foothold in a family, he uses his grip with all his might to achieve their downfall.

The good news however is that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold it has all become new (2Cor 5:17).

Isaac took responsibility for what he had done

As said earlier, Isaac kept to his blessing of Jacob and also to his appointment of him as the son onto whom the calling of Abraham would pass.  Why? 

Firstly, because of his honouring of God in Who’s name he had acted.  Secondly, he and Rebekah might have discussed the matter afterwards and he then realized that Jacob actually was the son chosen by God to be his successor, and not Esau.  This would have greatly comforted him and put him at ease that the will of God had, in the end, prevailed.

(Afterthought: It must have been a painful disappointment to him in his old age when he got to know that his dear wife was behind all of this – and what she justify her betrayal.)

The fruit of sin

Jacob fled home. The family was now torn apart because of their earlier lack of love and trust. 

Many years later, Jacob again saw his father before he died (35:27-29) but Scripture gives no indication that Rebekah ever had another opportunity of seeing and embracing her darling son, nor her grandchildren – the bitter fruit of sin.



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