Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
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.When Isaac had grown old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could no longer see (מראת from seeing, with the neg. מן as in Genesis 16:2, etc.), he wished, in the consciousness of approaching death, to give his blessing to his elder son. Isaac was then in his 137th year, at which age his half-brother Ishmael had died fourteen years before;
(Note: Cf. Lightfoot, opp. 1, p. 19. This correct estimate of Luther's is based upon the following calculation: - When Joseph was introduced to Pharaoh he was thirty years old (Genesis 41:46), and when Jacob went into Egypt, thirty-nine, as the seven years of abundance and two of famine had then passed by (Genesis 45:6). But Jacob was at that time 130 years old (Genesis 47:9). Consequently Joseph was born before Jacob was ninety-one; and as his birth took place in the fourteenth year of Jacob's sojourn in Mesopotamia (cf. Genesis 30:25, and Genesis 29:18, Genesis 29:21, and Genesis 29:27), Jacob's flight to Laban occurred in the seventy-seventh year of his own life, and the 137th of Isaac's.)
and this, with the increasing infirmities of age, may have suggested the thought of death, though he did not die till forty-three years afterwards (Genesis 35:28). Without regard to the words which were spoken by God with reference to the children before their birth, and without taking any notice of Esau's frivolous barter of his birthright and his ungodly connection with Canaanites, Isaac maintained his preference for Esau, and directed him therefore to take his things (כּלים, hunting gear), his quiver and bow, to hunt game and prepare a savoury dish, that he might eat, and his soul might bless him. As his preference for Esau was fostered and strengthened by, if it did not spring from, his liking for game (Genesis 25:28), so now he wished to raise his spirits for imparting the blessing by a dish of venison prepared to his taste. In this the infirmity of his flesh is evident. At the same time, it was not merely because of his partiality for Esau, but unquestionably on account of the natural rights of the first-born, that he wished to impart the blessing to him, just as the desire to do this before his death arose from the consciousness of his patriarchal call.
And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death:
Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison;
And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.
And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it.Rebekah, who heard what he said, sought to frustrate this intention, and to secure the blessing for her (favourite) son Jacob. Whilst Esau was away hunting, she told Jacob to take his father a dish, which she would prepare from two kids according to his taste; and, having introduced himself as Esau, to ask for the blessing "before Jehovah." Jacob's objection, that the father would know him by his smooth skin, and so, instead of blessing him, might pronounce a curse upon him as a mocker, i.e., one who was trifling with his blind father, she silenced by saying, that she would take the curse upon herself. She evidently relied upon the word of promise, and thought that she ought to do her part to secure its fulfilment by directing the father's blessing to Jacob; and to this end she thought any means allowable. Consequently she was so assured of the success of her stratagem as to have no fear of the possibility of a curse. Jacob then acceded to her plan, and fetched the goats. Rebekah prepared them according to her husband's taste; and having told Jacob to put on Esau's best clothes which were with her in the dwelling (the tent, not the house), she covered his hands and the smooth (i.e., the smoother parts) of his neck with the skins of the kids of the goats,
(Note: We must not think of our European goats, whose skins would be quite unsuitable for any such deception. "It is the camel-goat of the East, whose black, silk-like hair was used even by the Romans as a substitute for human hair. Martial xii. 46." - Tuch on v. 16.)
and sent him with the savoury dish to his father.
And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying,
Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the LORD before my death.
Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee.
Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth:
And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death.
And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man:
My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing.
And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them.
And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made savoury meat, such as his father loved.
And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son:
And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck:
And she gave the savoury meat and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.
And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son?But Jacob had no easy task to perform before his father. As soon as he had spoken on entering, his father asked him, "Who art thou, my son?" On his replying, "I am Esau, thy first-born," the father expressed his surprise at the rapid success of his hunting; and when he was satisfied with the reply, "Jehovah thy God sent it (the thing desired) to meet me," he became suspicious about the voice, and bade him come nearer, that he might feel him. But as his hands appeared hairy like Esau's, he did not recognise him; and "so he blessed him." In this remark (Genesis 27:23) the writer gives the result of Jacob's attempt; so that the blessing is merely mentioned proleptically here, and refers to the formal blessing described afterwards, and not to the first greeting and salutation.
And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me.
And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the LORD thy God brought it to me.
And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not.
And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.
And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau's hands: so he blessed him.
And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am.After his father, in order to get rid of his suspicion about the voice, had asked him once more, "Art thou really my son Esau?" and Jacob had replied, "I am" (אני equals yes), he told him to hand him the savoury dish that he might eat. After eating, he kissed his son as a sing of his paternal affection, and in doing so he smelt the odour of his clothes, i.e., the clothes of Esau, which were thoroughly scented with the odour of the fields, and then imparted his blessing (Genesis 27:27-29). The blessing itself is thrown, as the sign of an elevated state of mind, into the poetic style of parallel clauses, and contains the peculiar forms of poetry, such as ראה for הנּה, הוה for היה, etc. The smell of the clothes with the scent of the field suggested to the patriarch's mind the image of his son's future prosperity, so that he saw him in possession of the promised land and the full enjoyment of its valuable blessings, having the smell of the field which Jehovah blessed, i.e., the garden of paradise, and broke out into the wish, "God (Ha-Elohim, the personal God, not Jehovah, the covenant God) give thee from the dew of heaven, and the fat fields of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine," i.e., a land blessed with the dew of heaven and a fruitful soil.
In Eastern countries, where there is so little rain, the dew is the most important prerequisite for the growth of the fruits of the earth, and is often mentioned therefore as a source of blessing (Deuteronomy 33:13, Deuteronomy 33:28; Hosea 14:6; Zechariah 8:12). In משׁמנּי, notwithstanding the absence of the Dagesh from the שׁ, the מ is the prep. מן, as the parallel מטּל proves; and שׁמנּים both here and in Genesis 27:39 are the fat (fertile) districts of a country. The rest of the blessing had reference to the future pre-eminence of his son. He was to be lord not only over his brethren (i.e., over kindred tribes), but over (foreign) peoples and nations also. The blessing rises here to the idea of universal dominion, which was to be realized in the fact that, according to the attitude assumed by the people towards him as their lord, it would secure to them either a blessing or a curse. If we compare this blessing with the promises which Abraham received, there are two elements of the latter which are very apparent; viz., the possession of the land, in the promise of the rich enjoyment of its produce, and the numerous increase of posterity, in the promised dominion over the nations. The third element, however, the blessing of the nations in and through the seed of Abraham, is so generalized in the expression, which is moulded according to Genesis 12:3, "Cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee," that the person blessed is not thereby declared to be the medium of salvation to the nations. Since the intention to give the blessing to Esau the first-born did not spring from proper feelings towards Jehovah and His promises, the blessing itself, as the use of the word Elohim instead of Jehovah or El Shaddai (cf. Genesis 28:3) clearly shows, could not rise to the full height of the divine blessings of salvation, but referred chiefly to the relation in which the two brothers and their descendants would stand to one another, the theme with which Isaac's soul was entirely filled. It was only the painful discovery that, in blessing against his will, he had been compelled to follow the saving counsel of God, which awakened in him the consciousness of his patriarchal vocation, and gave him the spiritual power to impart the "blessing of Abraham" to the son whom he had kept back, but whom Jehovah had chosen, when he was about to send him away to Haran (Genesis 28:3-4).
And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son's venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank.
And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son.
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 thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:
Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.
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.Jacob had hardly left his father, after receiving the blessing (יצא אך, was only gone out), when Esau returned and came to Isaac, with the game prepared, to receive the blessing. The shock was inconceivable which Isaac received, when he found that he had blessed another, and not Esau-that, in fact, he had blessed Jacob. At the same time he neither could nor would, either curse him on account of the deception which he had practised, or withdraw the blessing imparted. For he could not help confessing to himself that he had sinned and brought the deception upon himself by his carnal preference for Esau. Moreover, the blessing was not a matter of subjective human affection, but a right entrusted by the grace of God to paternal supremacy and authority, in the exercise of which the person blessing, being impelled and guided by a higher authority, imparted to the person to be blest spiritual possessions and powers, which the will of man could not capriciously withdraw. Regarding this as the meaning of the blessing, Isaac necessarily saw in what had taken place the will of God, which had directed to Jacob the blessing that he had intended for Esau. He therefore said, "I have blessed him; yea, he will be (remain) blessed" (cf. Hebrews 12:17). Even the great and bitter lamentation into which Esau broke out could not change his father's mind. To his entreaty in Genesis 27:34, "Bless me, even me also, O my father!" he replied, "Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing." Esau answered, "Is it that (הכי) they have named him Jacob (overreacher), and he has overreached me twice?" i.e., has he received the name Jacob from the fact that he has twice outwitted me? הכי is used "when the cause is not rightly known" (cf. Genesis 29:15). To his further entreaty, "Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?" (אצל, lit., to lay aside), Isaac repeated the substance of the blessing given to Jacob, and added, "and to thee (לכה for לך as in Genesis 3:9), now, what can I do, my son?" When Esau again repeated, with tears, the entreaty that Isaac would bless him also, the father gave him a blessing (Genesis 27:39, Genesis 27:40), but one which, when compared with the blessing of Jacob, was to be regarded rather as "a modified curse," and which is not even described as a blessing, but "introduced a disturbing element into Jacob's blessing, a retribution for the impure means by which he had obtained it." "Behold," it states, "from the fat fields of the earth will thy dwelling be, and from the dew of heaven from above." By a play upon the words Isaac uses the same expression as in Genesis 27:28, "from the fat fields of the earth, and from the dew," but in the opposite sense, מן being partitive there, and privative here, "from equals away from." The context requires that the words should be taken thus, and not in the sense of "thy dwelling shall partake of the fat of the earth and the dew of heaven" (Vulg., Luth., etc.).
(Note: I cannot discover, however, in Malachi 1:3 an authentic proof of the privative meaning, as Kurtz and Delitzsch do, since the prophet's words, "I have hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste," are not descriptive of the natural condition of Idumaea, but of the desolation to which the land was given up.)
Since Isaac said (Genesis 27:37) he had given Jacob the blessing of the super-abundance of corn and wine, he could not possibly promise Esau also fat fields and the dew of heaven. Nor would this agree with the words which follows, "By thy sword wilt thou live." Moreover, the privative sense of מן is thoroughly poetical (cf. 2 Samuel 1:22; Job 11:15, etc.). The idea expressed in the words, therefore, was that the dwelling-place of Esau would be the very opposite of the land of Canaan, viz., an unfruitful land. This is generally the condition of the mountainous country of Edom, which, although not without its fertile slopes and valleys, especially in the eastern portion (cf. Robinson, Pal. ii. p. 552), is thoroughly waste and barren in the western; so that Seetzen says it consists of "the most desolate and barren mountains probably in the world."
The mode of life and occupation of the inhabitants were adapted to the country. "By (lit., on) thy sword thou wilt live;" i.e., thy maintenance will depend on the sword (על as in Deuteronomy 8:3 cf. Isaiah 28:16), "live by war, rapine, and freebooting" (Knobel). "And thy brother thou wilt serve; yet it will come to pass, as (כּאשׁר, lit., in proportion as, cf. Numbers 27:14) thou shakest (tossest), thou wilt break his yoke from thy neck." רוּד, "to rove about" (Jeremiah 2:31; Hosea 12:1), Hiphil "to cause (the thoughts) to rove about" (Psalm 55:3); but Hengstenberg's rendering is the best here, viz., "to shake, sc., the yoke." In the wild, sport-loving Esau there was aptly prefigured the character of his posterity. Josephus describes the Idumaean people as "a tumultuous and disorderly nation, always on the watch on every motion, delighting in mutations" (Whiston's tr.: de bell Judges 4; Judges 1:1-21:25; 1). The mental eye of the patriarch discerned in the son his whole future family in its attitude to its brother-nation, and he promised Edom, not freedom from the dominion of Israel (for Esau was to serve his brother, as Jehovah had predicted before their birth), but only a repeated and not unsuccessful struggle for freedom. And so it was; the historical relation of Edom to Israel assumed the form of a constant reiteration of servitude, revolt, and reconquest. After a long period of independence at the first, the Edomites were defeated by Saul (1 Samuel 14:47) and subjugated by David (2 Samuel 8:14); and, in spite of an attempt at revolt under Solomon (1 Kings 11:14.), they remained subject to the kingdom of Judah until the time of Joram, when they rebelled. They were subdued again by Amaziah (2 Kings 14:7; 2 Chronicles 25:11.), and remained in subjection under Uzziah and Jotham (2 Kings 14:22; 2 Chronicles 26:2). It was not till the reign of Ahaz that they shook the yoke of Judah entirely off (2 Kings 16:6; 2 Chronicles 28:17), without Judah being ever able to reduce them again. At length, however, they were completely conquered by John Hyrcanus about b.c. 129, compelled to submit to circumcision, and incorporated in the Jewish state (Josephus, Ant. xiii. 9, 1, xv. 7, 9). At a still later period, through Antipater and Herod, they established an Idumaean dynasty over Judea, which lasted till the complete dissolution of the Jewish state.
Thus the words of Isaac to his two sons were fulfilled-words which are justly said to have been spoken "in faith concerning things to come" (Hebrews 11:20). For the blessing was a prophecy, and that not merely in the case of Esau, but in that of Jacob also; although Isaac was deceived with regard to the person of the latter. Jacob remained blessed, therefore, because, according to the predetermination of God, the elder was to serve the younger; but the deceit by which his mother prompted him to secure the blessing was never approved. On the contrary, the sin was followed by immediate punishment. Rebekah was obliged to send her pet son into a foreign land, away from his father's house, and in an utterly destitute condition. She did not see him for twenty years, even if she lived till his return, and possibly never saw again. Jacob had to atone for his sin against both brother and father by a long and painful exile, in the midst of privation, anxiety, fraud, and want. Isaac was punished for retaining his preference for Esau, in opposition to the revealed will of Jehovah, by the success of Jacob's stratagem; and Esau for his contempt of the birthright, by the loss of the blessing of the first-born. In this way a higher hand prevailed above the acts of sinful men, bringing the counsel and will of Jehovah to eventual triumph, in opposition to human thought and will.
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 thy soul may bless me.
And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau.
And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed.
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, Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing.
And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?
And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy 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 unto thee, my son?
And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept.
And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above;
And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.
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.Esau's complaining and weeping were now changed into mortal hatred of his brother. "The days of mourning," he said to himself, "for my father are at hand, and I will kill my brother Jacob." אבי אבל: genit. obj. as in Amos 8:10; Jeremiah 6:26. He would put off his intended fratricide that he might not hurt his father's mind.
And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee.When Rebekah was informed by some one of Esau's intention, she advised Jacob to protect himself from his revenge (התנחם to procure comfort by retaliation, equivalent to "avenge himself," התנקּם, Isaiah 1:24),
by fleeing to her brother Laban in Haran, and remaining there "some days," as she mildly puts it, until his brother's wrath was subdued. "For why should I lose you both in one day?" viz., Jacob through Esau's vengeance, and Esau as a murderer by the avenger of blood (Genesis 9:6, cf. 2 Samuel 14:6-7). In order to obtain Isaac's consent to this plan, without hurting his feelings by telling him of Esau's murderous intentions, she spoke to him of her troubles on account of the Hittite wives of Esau, and the weariness of life that she should feel if Jacob also were to marry one of the daughters of the land, and so introduced the idea of sending Jacob to her relations in Mesopotamia, with a view to his marriage there.
Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran;
And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother's fury turn away;
Until thy brother's anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?
And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?