Having been taken advantage of by his wife, Rebekah, and his son, Jacob, and in his blindness having been deceived, Isaac blessed the son he had no intention to bless, and cut off from the covenant blessing the son to whom he intended to give it all. He could soothe his conscience by taking the position that after all Esau was the firstborn. And we quickly and quite easily do that ourselves. We will look for a “technicality” that will defend us in that which we know we should not have done and which in others we do call sin. We will also defend a false doctrine the consequences of which we know will cause other points of doctrine to fall, but we will nevertheless look for a text behind which we can hide and defend ourselves and save face. Now we read nowhere’ that Isaac did try to defend his position of sending Esau to get venison so that he could bless him. But he certainly knew God’s word spoken about these two sons and recorded in Romans 9:9-13. And he did seek to go in the other direction and trembled greatly when God turned the tables and caused him, through this deception of his wife and son, to bless him whom he had not intended to bless, and to cut off completely from a blessing him to whom he intended to give it all.
Incidentally there is comfort here for the Church in the midst of this world. God’s Word will stand. His promises are sure. His people will be blessed no matter who tries to curse them and to keep them from their divinely decreed blessings of His kingdom. It may be through deceit; and it was through a shameful betrayal that brought God’s own Son to the cross and into the depths of hell that we might have a blessing; but, as we sing, “His saints shall not fail; but over the earth their strength shall prevail.”
Isaac, apparently, though in his blindness he had plenty of time to think it through, and had much less to distract himself from other matters (as we with sight are often drawn away), never gave much consideration to the explosive situation that now existed. He knew of Esau’s bitter disappointment, and undoubtedly also of the earlier bitterness that resulted when Jacob bought the birthright for a mess of pottage, taking advantage of a famished brother whose craving for food was overwhelming. He did not however expect Esau to be filled with such hatred that he would contemplate and plan the murder of his brother. Was his natural love for this son so strong that he would not entertain thoughts that his son could do such wrong and was incapable of such hatred?
He must have known that Esau was profane. He had experienced that Esau walked in a carnal way, for we read that Esau’s marriage to heathen Canaanitish women caused him to have grief of mind. Yes, these women were a grief of mind, or bitterness of spirit, to Isaac, but that means that Esau’s marriage to them also was a grief of mind.
And parents can get that way. Though they believe and confess that their children are conceived and born in sin, they do not think that their children are capable of the evil deeds that one sees in the world and outside of the church. Yet it is true. See the most evil man or woman walking on this earth, and then say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” And believe that your children also, unless kept by that grace of God from the sins of the world, will do all the sins the world displays. We have to learn and believe that, apart from the grace of God, our children are not different, and no better than those of unbelievers. We have not given them any spirituality. We have not transmitted our own faith into them and given them just a bit of our spiritual life. We do give them part of our own evil natures. We, the leopards, give them their spots (Jeremiah 17:23); we the fallen race give them fallen natures; we who by nature are sinners bring forth sinners. We ought therefore not to be surprised when our children do the deeds found in the children of the world, but we should stand amazed, dumbfounded, and exceedingly thankful when we see that God has wrought a miracle in them and brings them to the faith and its confession, to a walk of faith and a life of sanctification.
Isaac’s blindness kept much away from him without a doubt. And Jacob was not such a faith-manifesting young man either. One can understand that a parent does not want to believe the worst about his son, and when even those children who do manifest faith manifest also the flesh, it becomes hard for the parent to consider one of his own flesh a child of God and the other a child of the devil. And if all Isaac knew of Esau was that he married these heathen wives, we could understand that he did not expect or even consider possible the murder of Jacob by Esau in such a fierce wrath by a hardened heart as Rebekah finds out is being planned.
But Isaac had God’s word—not only that God had said before the children were born, “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated,” but in the very blessing which gaveall to Jacob. And that blessing Isaac repeats when he sends Jacob, the supplanter, away. GOD ruled Esau out completely. That Isaac knows. He said it. He said, according to Genesis 27:33, 35, “I . . . have blessed him, yea and he shall be blessed. Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing.” It is taken away. There is no blessing for Esau. For listen again, “I have made him thy Lord . . . and have sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son?” Isaac confesses that there is nothing to give Esau. What can he do, now that God has given all the blessing to Jacob?
With Rebekah it is otherwise. She understands human nature, and knows her sons better than her husband does. How does it happen that she is always in the right place at the right time to hear the right words to get for her son what she wants and to protect him from his twin brother’? To be sure it is not chance. There can be no question about it that God’s hand is at work here to bring her to these places at these times. He Who had spoken to Rebekah before the children were born and said that the elder would serve the younger will not leave things to chance. He will not let one part of one word slip to the ground unfulfilled. He will dot every i and cross every t, and in such a way that when His promises to us are all fulfilled, we will find that He does much more than what we thought His promises would give us. We, with the Queen of Sheba, will say, “The half was not told me.” Human, earthly words cannot tell us the richness of what God’s covenant has in store for us. It serves to cause us to know that we shall be blessed. It does not deceive and understate. But it just cannot say fully what we shall enjoy when we see face to face.
God, however, uses means in His works of providence. And Rebekah did not just happen to be told when Esau made known his plan to kill Jacob as soon as the days of mourning for his father were over. (This in fact was a day farther in the future than either Isaac or Esau contemplated, because all things are worked according to God’s counsel and not man’s will.) He used Rebekah’s deep concern. He used her love for Jacob to make her suspicious of Esau’s behavior and to realize that it was not mere bitter disappointment, but devilish hatred toward Jacob that smoldered in his heart. She understood her sons better than her husband did; and so often a mother does, beyond anything the father senses.
Esau said in his heart that he would kill Jacob, but he also let his lips declare it, because God wanted it that way so that Rebekah would hear and Jacob would be saved. Now there are those who explain that although Esau had an explosive nature and could get violently angry, he cooled off swiftly and forgot easily. There is truth in this, as we can see twenty years later. Esau is satisfied with his wealth and receives Jacob back in peace. Rebekah also knew this, but there is danger before that hot anger cools off; and Jacob was in danger. He is the supplanter and he has supplanted his older brother; but now for his safety he must be sent to Rebekah’s brother till Esau’s anger “turn away from him.” In fact Rebekah calls it his “fury,” a word that means heat. Esau was indeed hot with anger, boiling inside to kill Jacob.
Do we here sense a little more of the craftiness and trickery of Rebekah? We are told that she knows of the murder plot: But she comes to Isaac with an entirely different principle, namely, a God-fearing wife for Jacob. Is she being kind to her blind husband? Is she working from the principle that what he does not know will not hurt him? And why should he die with that awful thought that his son is waiting for him to die so that he can cause his brother to die? Is it that she, knowing the explosive nature of Esau will cool off soon, sees no need to tell Isaac the whole story? Is it the mother-love that she still had for Esau? For he, after all, is also her son, and she expresses here no desire to be robbed of them both in one day.
One thing stands out, Jacob is sent away under the pretext of getting a God-fearing wife, while the main reason for his dismissal is to escape the death Esau intended to inflict. Now Rebekah meant that with all her heart. She, too, was grieved when Esau married the unbelieving women of Canaan (Genesis 26:35). She did love Esau as well as Jacob; and Isaac did love Jacob as well as Esau. And Rebekah did not want Jacob to emulate his brother and take to himself anything but a believing wife. She was a believing child of God. She was a spiritual woman; and we must not let sins—which we all commit as well—brand her as nothing but a scheming, crafty woman who is to be accused of unprincipled use of principle. She, because she and Isaac had spoken about these matters before, when Esau brought them such grief of heart, was sure that Isaac would agree to this departure of Jacob. She was not so sure that he would believe that his favorite son would fall to such an horrible sin as to murder his brother to get the birthright blessing for himself. She does honour her blind husband with the right to make the decision. She lays the matter before him and does not ignore him.
And the supplanter is sent away. Rebekah does not realize that, as far as she is concerned, she is sending him out of her life forever. We never read of her again in connection with Jacob. When he does come back twenty years later we read only that he came to his father, Isaac, in Mamre. No mention of Rebekah is made. Esau spent a few more years with his mother. Jacob is with his mother’s tricky brother. Rebekah had a few more years with Esau. She had none with her favorite son, Jacob. He has God’s blessing, but his sin (and hers) does rob them of each other’s fellowship here below. And undoubtedly Rebekah suffered this loss the most. Jacob soon became enamored with Rachel and forgot his mother.
The supplanter is sent away from father and mother, and from the land he will, as supplanter, inherit. But he was not sent away from God’s grace, and his return is sure. As the words of the hymn have it, “Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go.” In Him Jacob is supplanter, not in his own power—although Jacob often lost sight of this. And He is the everywhere present help and refuge of His people. Being sent away from the Father all the way to hell for us, He has made it sure that all whom God chose in Him will supplant the world. Truly the meek shall inherit the earth, though now the Esau’s hold it tightly.