In this blessing of Jacob nothing is said concerning the two nations, of the elder having dominion over the younger. Esau is not said here to have dominion over Jacob. This is avoided by Isaac. The terms are such that in the wisdom and overruling providence of God we see in dim outline what is expressedly stated by the Spirit in the prophecy of Malachi. We would state here that the terms are generally global and Messianic. But if Isaac hesitated here to express the blessing upon Esau; God expressed here the blessing upon Jacob, as the Seed of Abraham will be gathered in the generations of the Old Testament people of God, as well as in those of the New Testament Church. And when this comes to pass “Edom will be the border of wickedness, the people against whom the LORD hath indignation forever.” In a sense, what Isaac meant for evil, God turned it to good. And when Isaac sees this he trembles exceedingly, and says “Yea, and he shall be blessed.” And that was by faith!
There are those with a dogmatical bent of mind and who are given to rigid definition who will ask: how can the Bible speak of Isaac “blessing” Esau. Particularly this may be asked when it is obvious from Gen. 27:39, 40 that Isaac by this time was wholly satisfied that Esau was standing before him, and that the latter “with tears” seeks for “one blessing.” (Gen. 27:38) The question persists, therefore, how Isaac could bless Esau. Now, this is a matter which can only be resolved if we remove the “Isaac blessed” from the strict implication of “spiritual blessing” as this is opposite to the “curse” upon God’s enemies. When the Bible speaks here of Isaac blessingJacob and Esau it ought to be evident that there is in the very terminology in which Jacob is placed before Esau already a difference in the “blessing,” that is, in the contents of the prophetic utterance concerning the future of two nations which were already wrestling in Rebecca’s womb. It is especially in the “blessing” upon Esau that we see the blessing of Jacob come to stand in proper Christological perspective. For in the “blessing” upon Esau Isaac placed him under his brother Jacob. The people of Edom will serve Israel.
Indeed, Esau sought for the preeminency. But he found no place of repentance on the part of his father Isaac. Yes, he sought it with tears. And herein we see the faith of Isaac shine forth. He will submit to the divine will of God and place the elder under the younger. He sees the purpose of God according to election, that the Seed which would be “called in Isaac” would come out of Jacob and not out of Esau.
Listen to this blessing upon Esau. This is clear language, which is consciously submissive to the divine will and revelation given some seventy years ago! Yes, Esau will have the fat of the earth. He will be a warlike nation, living by his sword. He will go and dwell in Mount Seir. And his nation shall dwell there for more than eighteen centuries. But it will not be a nation which has a king David, even though it has its kings and dukes long before there was a king in Israel. (Gen. 36:31) It will be subject to David’s house. Esau will serve his brother in the time when Israel lays all its enemies low and subjects them under her feet. We read in II Samuel 8:14 “And (David) he put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom put he garrisons, and all the Edomites became servants of David.”
Yes Esau will cast off the yoke for a little. In II Chronicles 21:8-10 we read “In his (Jehoram) days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and made a king over themselves… So Edom revolted from under the hands of Judah unto this day…” Thus was the blessing of Isaac fulfilled which predicted “And it shall come to pass when thou shalt break loose, that thou shalt shake his yoke from off thy neck.” (Gen. 27:40)
Thus Isaac spoke by faith!
“By faith Jacob…worshipped, leaning on the top of his staff (bed)” THE DYING JACOB (vs. 21b)
When a Christian dies, he dies clinging to the promise of God in the hope of eternal life, Thus it was with Jacob, the dying patriarch in the land of Egypt. Abraham and Isaac might die in the land of Canaan somewhere in the vicinity of the cave of Machpelah. They might there bury their dead. It was here that Jacob, during the forty years of sojourn, after returning from Haran, had buried his wife Leah. Jacob had stood weeping at that grave. It was a sad and poignant moment. The Spirit had triumphed over the flesh; he was to be buried next to Leah, the hated one. Now would he be joined to her and Leah’s prayer would be answered. Rachel had been buried by the way a short distance from Ephrath. Jacob had buried Leah here, clinging to the promise and hope of the fathers, the hope of the blessed resurrection in the last day. Somewhere in that day he saw, through the mists of his tears, fulfillment of the promise “so shall thy seed be.”
O, the blessed and hallowed memories of the promises of God. Jacob could not forget them. Fact is, that is what buoyed his spirits even when he spoke of “going down with sorrow to the grave,” and when he laments that all these things “are against me.” Now Jacob resides in Egyptland with the twelve tribes of Israel. God led him into this “land not theirs.” (Gen. 15:13) He gave dreams to Joseph and had him sold into Egypt to prepare the way to “keep a great people alive.” He sent his mighty judgments of famine after seven years of plenty. He changed the land of Egypt from a land of private property to a land which was owned by the government. (Gen. 47:20-21) “. . . so the land became Pharaoh’s, and as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders to the other end thereof.” Truly, this was earth shaking and it was a drastic demonstration that God divides the land and nations “according to the number of the children of Israel.” (Deut. 32:7, 8)
It was not upon private initiative that Jacob and all of Israel left the land, when beckoned away by famine, and when Joseph sent wagons to fetch Jacob from the land of Canaan into Egypt. It was at Beersheba that the LORD had appeared unto Jacob and had said to him “. . . fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will make of thee a great nation. I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes . . .” (Gen. 46:3, 4) And thus Jacob came to dwell in Egypt according to the prophetic word to Abraham and according to the expressed sanction of the Lord at Beersheba. Thus Jacob-came to dwell in Egypt with his seventy souls.
Israel dwells in the land of Egypt, a land which is not theirs!
But now the aged Jacob is a dying man. He is evidently bed-ridden, although he will live yet a little while. He makes his testimentary arrangements with Joseph who is both ruler and also has the right of the firstborn, according to the flesh. (I Chron. 5:1) He summons Joseph to his bed. He does this in faith, which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. It is the first act of faith on the part of Jacob in claiming the promise of God’s powerfully delivering Israel from Egypt some four hundred years hence. He reaches out to the promise in hope and faith!
He requires Joseph to swear an oath. Joseph must put his hand under Jacob’s thigh as a symbolic act of swearing. He must give Jacob his pledge of assurance that he will not bury him in Egypt, but that he will bury him in the land of Canaan in the cave of Machpelah. He will be the first-fruits of them that return to Canaan, be it then in a coffin. It is hope through death. Joseph solemnly promises and says, “I will do as thou hast said.”
And now Jacob worships God. He thanks God, commends this promise to the God of Israel, who had promised him at Beersheba that he would bring Israel again from the land of Egypt as a great nation. Jacob’s faith is a sermon to Israel in their generations. Now Jacob’s soul can rest in peace. He had seen Israel become established. in. Egypt during these seventeen years that they had lived there. Another generation had been born, and there were many children. The increase had been prodigious. God was fulfilling His promise in making him a mighty nation in Egypt; but Jacob scans the future in the eye of faith and worships!
He will be buried in the land next to Leah! For Judah, thou art he. . . .
Whether the reading of the Hebrew or of the Septuagint translation is correct makes very little difference. It is of no consequence. The Hebrew has the word “bed” and the Septuagint translation which is here given in Hebrews 11:21 has the term “staff.” It is simply the difference of one vowel sign. The point is that Jacob deliberately got out of his position of lying down, sat up in bed and worshipped in deep reverence and thanksgiving to God.
He did this in faith!
And the writer to the Hebrews calls attention to this worshipping of Jacob here in connection with Jacob’s prophetic eye and his hope concerning the final salvation. What a suffering this aged Jacob had to endure. He is not simply waxing rhetorical before Pharaoh when he speaks of the “days of the years of his pilgrimage!” Presently these days of the years of the pilgrimage will be over. Then all the weary night shall be past. He will open his eyes in, the eternal morning of the glorious and unfading day.
Thus it must be with the churches which receive this letter of the Hebrews. They must not fall back into perdition and unbelief, but must be of those who persevere to the saving of the soul. They must live and die like Christians. They must look at the sure recompense of the reward. If we suffer with Christ we shall also be glorified together. Let us then bow our head upon the top of our pilgrims staff and worship in the hope of our burial with thanksgiving. Israel is long delivered from Egypt. The better Passover is slain. God has called His Son out of Egypt, through his death and resurrection. His word of promise stands, for he is faithful who hath promised. That is what we say “by faith.”