THE SCOPE OF ISAAC’S BLESSING UPON HIS TWO SONS (Hebrews 11:20)
The sacred writer calls attention to the faith of Isaac and the act of faith of the latter blessing his two sons, twin sons they were. The firstborn was named Esau, and the younger was called Jacob at the time of their birth. Both were children of prayer. When Rebecca was barren, Isaac entreated the LORD for her sake, and the LORD heard his prayer, and Rebecca conceived and bore twin sons! Isaac must have been concerned in this matter, for the Word of the Lord had been to Abraham, his father, “In Isaac shall the Seed be called.” (Gen. 21:11) And this Seed is Christ, and His church out of every tongue, and tribe and people and nation. All nations shall be blessed in Abraham in the Seed. And this Seed would be called in Isaac. So important was this matter that Isaac must have a wife from Abraham’s kindred in Haran. He may not have a wife from the heathen nations of Canaan. Wherefore when Rebecca becomes Isaac’s wife, and they receive no children, the latter entreated the LORD for her. He is concerned about the fulfillment of the promise of Abraham, that he would become a great nation!
But the Seed would be according to the “purpose of election.” (Romans 9:11) This purpose must stand! Wherefore when Rebecca is great with children, and these two sons wrestle in her womb for the supremacy, the Divine word came to her, “Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” (Gen. 25:23) This word came to Rebecca before the children had done any good or evil. (Rom. 9:11) The scope therefore of the blessing of Isaac of his two sons many years later was within the frame-work of and was the fulfillment of this Divine announcement to Rebecca.
This Word of God concerning the two sons must have been kept by Isaac and Rebecca in their hearts all through the seventy years which elapsed from the time of the birth of these twin sons till the time when Isaac blesses them concerning things to come. Surely this was something which was no mere hearsay, but it was a word which was the answer to Rebecca’s fearful outcry” if it be so wherefore do I live.” Would the having of these children make her happy if the outcome is a fierce struggle between Jacob and Esau before they are even born? Surely, the divine word of the purpose of election stands here in this answer to Rebecca “before the children had done good or evil.” Truly, salvation is not of works, but of Him who calleth efficaciously! (Rom. 9:12) The elder shall serve the younger.
We see here the unity of Scripture when we compare this with what we read in Hebrews 11:20. For when Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau “he blessed them concerning things to come!” Now these things to come must be the things to come across a long span of time, many centuries. They referred to the future, instead of the past and present. They were the “things not seen” as faith is the evidence of the same. And these things stretched out into the future some 1800 years, even till the time of Christ. These are the things which the prophet Malachi makes the great theme of his prophecy.
He stands four-square on this word of earlier prophecy of the Lord to Rebecca and as uttered by Isaac in his blessing of his sons. Malachi catches the rays of this prophetic light and sets it in focus as they are to be realized in the fullness of time through John the Baptist as the forerunner of the Christ. That Scripture interprets Scripture is the sound rule of hermeneutics.
Yes, these things, future events, are what will befall these two nations. For in Rebecca’s womb there are not simply two individuals struggling. The struggle is far more portentous and gigantic. It includes the persons of Jacob and Esau as these are the heads of two great and separate nations. Wherefore we read in Malachi 1:1-4 “I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, but Esau I hated, and made his mountains a desolation, and gave his heritage to the jackals of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, we are beaten down, but we will return and build the waste places; thus saith the LORD of hosts. They shall build but I shall throw down, and men shall call them The border of wickedness, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation forever.”
Here is elective love and reprobative hate worked out in history’s pages for some eighteen hundred years. Such is the scope of the prophecy of Isaac, when in prophetic role he sees the future through his physically dimmed eyesight, yet in the prophetic blessing he sees clearly the things to come, and which will befall these two struggling nations. The outcome of the struggle, as well as the struggle, is of the Lord! Unless we see these directives of Scripture itself, we can only see a Jewish and Edomitish saga in their respective national roles. And the latter is pure humanism.
GOD’S OVERRULING PROVIDENCE IN ISAAC’S BLESSING JACOB (Hebrews 11:20)
We should notice that in the text in Hebrews 11:20Isaac blessed “Jacob and Esau.” He blessed them in this order. Here are two twin-brothers. And in the blessing the distinction is made between the two, the very distinction which the LORD had announced prior to their birth and subsequent to their pre-natal struggling in their mother’s womb. The threads of history are woven by the LORD. If ever it became evident that man cannot will the will and decree out of the world, but that His purpose of election stands, it was here. It was all contrary to the natural impulse and desire of Isaac, the father of the sons. Isaac loved Esau, notwithstanding the Divine word concerning his place of “service” to Jacob. There was even a certain fleshly weakness here. Esau was a man of the field, generous, wild and, yes, profane. (Hebrews 12:16) He did not see the difference between the holy covenant and promise and the common unholy life of the Canaanites, which was full of adultery and fornication. He was a fornicator! This all both Isaac and Rebecca knew. It was a constant source of grief to both of them. For when Esau revealed his profanity at the age of forty years in the choice of his wives, Judith and Basemath, this was a “grief of mind to both Isaac and to Rebecca.” (Gen. 26:35) Notwithstanding this, Isaac’s soul clave to Esau. Besides, Esau had deliberately despised “the birthright of the promise” when he sold “his birthright,” as this was his in Isaac’s house. Esau was well-instructed in the matter of the promise. Had grandfather Abraham not lived the first seventeen years of his life? Both little boys were instructed on Abraham’s knee. But Esau loved this world, the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life! This Isaac knew. But he preferred not to think of this when he saw Esau. This was the flesh of Isaac.
Isaac is going to rush head-long in his own way. He will give the birthright blessing to Esau. But God intervened. He used a sinful act of deception on the part of Rebecca and the cooperation of Jacob. We know the history well, do we not? Rebecca made a delicious dish of the meat of the flock and Jacob must be like Esau in every respect except to the ear. The voice is Jacob’s. And, frankly, I believe that Isaac knew it too. He had his misgivings. But he is taken in his own craftiness by Rebecca and Jacob, but not least by the LORD Himself who overrules all the plans of Isaac! For we read the short but meaningful “So he blessed him!” He blessed him by being taken in his own craftiness! Isaac was overruled by the LORD. He blessed Jacob according to the purpose of election: Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated!
Small wonder that we read that, when Esau appears and desires the blessings, and when it becomes exceedingly clear that Esau is Esau and Jacob is Jacob and that the latter had been given the birthright blessings, Isaac “trembled very exceedingly and said, Who then is he that hath taken venison, and brought it to me, and I have eaten all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed!” Esau came back soon, but not soon enough. On the time-clock of God he was too late! Humanly speaking, had he been a little bit sooner he might have succeeded in obtaining the blessing which he so coveted and which his father was more than willing to give him. But it was not to be so. The purpose of election stands! God overruled it all. All the strands of this history are in the LORD’S hands. Yea, and he shall be blessed, says Isaac of Jacob. How wondrous are the ways of God, unfathomed and unknown!
The terminology of the blessing wherewith Jacob is blessed by Isaac is indeed poetical. It seems, at first flush, that Isaac is hesitant to give a blessing which is thoroughly spiritual. We ought to remember that the personal blessing of sharing in the Kingdom appears to have been given to Jacob when he returned from Haran after he arrived at the brook Jabbok. Here Jacob is met by a man, the Lord Himself. And the Lord wrestles with Jacob till he cries “I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me.” It was there that his name is changed to Israel. He there comes face to face with God. It was his Peniel. Not so here in Isaac’s tent. Here it is the conniving Jacob who would anticipate the Lord. And the terminology emphasizes more what Isaac foresees and prophesies concerning the future of Jacob’s nation than what Jacob receives in faith at that moment.
This ought to be evident from the elements of the “blessing” here. It is poetic prophecy concerning Israel’s greatness in the midst of the “nations.” The starting-point is the “smell of the field.” One almost feels that Isaac is thinking that he is blessing Esau. He may have had misgivings, but he certainly blessed the “Esau” which he here entertained by receiving his “venison.” It all seems so natural: dew of heaven, fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and new wine. Even the terminology of the blessing: “let peoples serve thee, and nations bow down to thee; be lord over thy brethren and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee,” points toward a development which from a formal point of view could be given to “Esau.” And the question arises: How can the writer to the Hebrews write: “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau. . . . “?
The faith of Isaac became evident when he consciously applied this to Jacob, over the tears and protestations of Esau “Yea, and he shall be blessed.” It was then that Isaac not only foretold this future in prophetic vision, but applied this to Jacob as he would be the superior nation, the one in whom the “seed is called.”