Little brother steals big brother’s blessing
- 1 When Isaac grew old and almost completely blind, he called out to his oldest son Esau, “Son!” Esau answered, “I’m here.”
- 2 “Listen,” Isaac said, “I’m old and I don’t know how much longer I have to live.
- 3 I want you to do something for me. Take your hunting gear—your bow, and your quiver loaded with arrows—go out in the field to hunt some wild game.
- 4 Cook that fresh meat up into a tasty meal for me. After you do this, I’ll give you the blessing you deserve as my oldest son.”
- 5 Rebekah was listening in on this conversation between Isaac and Esau. So, when Esau left to go hunting for game,
- 6 Rebekah went to her son Jacob. She said, “Look, I just heard your father tell your brother Esau,
- 7 ‘Hunt me some wild game and fix me a tasty meal to eat. Then, with the LORD watching, I’ll give you the blessing you deserve as my oldest son.’
- 8 But here’s what I want you to do.
- 9 Go out to the flock and bring me back two young and tender goats. I’ll use the meat to fix your father one of his favorite meals.
- 10 Then you take that food to your father so he’ll give you the blessing before he dies.”
- 11 “Look,” Jacob said to his mother Rebekah, “I can’t do this. Esau is hairy and I’m not.
- 12 If my father touches me he’ll realize I’m trying to trick him. Instead of blessing me, he’ll put a curse on me.”
- 13 Jacob’s mother said, “My goodness, don’t worry about any curses. If he puts a curse on you, I’ll transfer it to me. You just do what I tell you and go get the goats.”
- 14 Jacob did just that. He brought the goats to his mother and she made a tasty meal—just the kind Isaac loved.
- 15 Rebekah went into her house and got some of Esau’s best clothes. She put them on Jacob, her younger son.
- 16 Then she took the hide of the young goats and strapped them to his hands and the exposed part of his neck.
- 17 She handed Jacob the delicious meal, with fresh bread.
- 18 Jacob took the food to Isaac and said, “Father.” Isaac answered, “I’m here. Which one of my sons are you?”
- 19 “I’m Esau, your oldest son,” Jacob said. “I did what you asked me to do. You can sit up and eat the fresh meat now. And then you can give me the blessing you promised.”
- 20 Isaac said, “How did you do this so fast, my son?” Jacob said, “The LORD your God took care of it for me.”
- 21 Isaac said, “Come closer so I can touch you, my son. I want to make sure you’re really Esau.”
- 22 Jacob walked over to his father, who touched him and said, “Well, the voice is Jacob’s. But the hands are Esau’s.”
- 23 The hands fooled Isaac into thinking he was talking to hairy Esau. As Isaac was about to bless1 Jacob,
- 24 Isaac said, “Are you really Esau?” Jacob answered, “Absolutely.”
- 25 Isaac said, “Well, in that case give me the food so I can eat it and bless you.” Jacob served him the meal, including some wine, which Isaac drank.
- 26 Then Isaac said to him, “Come here and give me a kiss, my boy.”
- 27 As Jacob leaned over and kissed him, Isaac took a whiff of his son’s clothes. Finally convinced, he blessed him with these words:
“Ah, the scent of my son
is the fragrance of a field gardened by the LORD.
From heaven’s moisture and earth’s rich soil,
may God give you all the grain and wine you’ll ever need.
May the nations give you whatever you ask.
May their people do whatever you say.
Become the head of this family
—the leader of your brothers, who do whatever you tell them.
May everyone who tries to hurt you get hurt themselves.
And may anyone who wishes you the best get rewarded for it."
Bad news for Esau
- 30 Esau got back from hunting just a few minutes after Isaac finished blessing Jacob, and just a few moments after Jacob left.
- 31 Esau cooked a tasty meal and brought it to his father. “Come here, father,” Esau said. “Eat the meal I fixed you from my hunt, so you can give me the blessing you wanted to give me as your oldest son.”
- 32 “Who are you?” Isaac asked. Esau answered, “I’m your son. Your oldest son, Esau.”
- 33 Isaac instantly got the shakes. Trembling uncontrollably, he said, “Somebody already hunted meat and served me the meal I ate. Who was it? Whoever it was, he’s the one who got the blessing! It’s over and done; he’s already blessed!”
- 34 Esau screamed a loud and bitter yell. Then he pled, “Give me a blessing, too, father!”
- 35 “I can’t do that,” Isaac said. “Your lying brother has stolen it from you.”
- 36 Esau said, “No wonder you named him Jacob.2 He has cheated me twice. First he took my inheritance rights as the oldest son. And now he takes the blessing full of promises reserved for the oldest son. Don’t you have any blessing left for me?”
- 37 “Look,” Isaac said, “I have put him in charge of the family. He will lead you and all of the relatives. I have promised him lots of grain and wine. What could possibly be left for you, my son?”
- 38 “Isn’t there anything left for me?” Esau wept. “Any blessing or promise, father?”
- 39 Isaac offered these words.
“Listen. Expect nothing from earth’s rich soil and heaven’s moisture.
Keep your sword handy
because you’re going to have to fight for what you get.
You’ll have to do what your brother says, too.
But in time you’ll break free from him and become your own man,
independent from your brother.”
- 41 Esau hated Jacob for cheating him out of the blessing. Esau made up his mind: “My father will die soon. When he does, I’ll kill that little brother Jacob.”
- 42 Someone told Rebekah what Esau planned to do. Rebekah told her younger son Jacob, “There’s a reason Esau seems to be taking this so well. He’s calming himself by making plans to kill you.
- 43 You can’t stay here, my son. Listen to me. Get out of here now! Go to Haran. Find my brother Laban.
- 44 Stay with him a few days, long enough for your brother to cool off.
- 45 When your brother calms down and he stops obsessing over what you did to him, I’ll send for you. I don’t want to lose both of my sons in a single day.”
- 46 Rebekah told her husband Isaac, “I’m sick and tired of living with these Hittite women around us. If Jacob marries one of them, I won’t be able to take it anymore.”
Literally “blessed.” Since Isaac doesn’t deliver the formal blessing until later, verses 27-29, it’s not clear what kind of blessing the writer is talking about. Possibly a general blessing, such as a greeting or a thank you.
Sounds like the Hebrew for “heel” as well as “cheater” “He grabbed your heel” later became a Hebrew saying that meant someone cheated you.
The kind of blessings we read about in the Bible don’t translate especially well into our culture. A blessing isn’t quite what we would call a prayer. And it’s not necessarily a prophecy. But sometimes it sounds a little like both. How would you describe the kind of blessing Isaac wanted to give to Esau, but ended up giving to Jacob (27:27-29)?
It’s Rebekah’s idea for Jacob to steal what Isaac thinks will be his deathbed blessing for his oldest son, Esau. Why do you think Rebekah would tell her son to do such a terrible thing to his father and his brother?
Isaac unknowingly gives several blessings to Jacob. Which one do you think Jacob would have appreciated most?
- Lots of rain and good soil.
- Grain and wine.
- Nations to serve you and people to bow to you.
- You’ll be boss over your brother.
- Anyone who curses you will get the curse bounced back at them.
- Anyone who blesses you will get blessed.
When Esau shows up later and asks for the blessing his dad had promised to give him, all that Isaac seems to have for him sounds more like a curse than a blessing. It’s not impossible to give more than one son an upbeat blessing. Jacob will do that later when he delivers his own blessings and curses for his 12 sons in Genesis 49. So why do you think Isaac gave Esau such a rotten tomato of a blessing?
Jacob has stolen his brother’s blessing and his father’s dying wish, and earlier he had exploited his brother Esau and took the inheritance rights that belong to the oldest brother. Quick, off the top of your head, so far in the Genesis story, how many other characters can you think of who are worse examples of human beings than Jacob—the man who will become the father of the Jews?
Jacob’s name sounds like the Hebrew word for “heel.” Just for fun, based on what we have read about him so far, what name would you give him?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jacob’s story is setting up like the formula for a Hollywood movie: start with a rotten character, and then watch him transform into something decent—or at least tolerable. When have you ever seen that happen in life—a bad person turning good?