14 So he went and took them and brought them to his mother, and his mother prepared delicious food, such as his father loved. 15 Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her older son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. 16 And the skins of the young goats she put on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17 And she put the delicious food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.
18 So he went in to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” 19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.” 20 But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.” 21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 22 So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands. So he blessed him. 24 He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” 25 Then he said, “Bring it near to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.” So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. – Genesis 27:14-25 ESV
This story is meant to be disturbing. Yet, how easy it is to read it while completely glossing over the blatant displays of human depravity it contains. No one in the narrative comes out looking like a hero. In fact, Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob each stand as guilty and well-deserving of divine condemnation for their actions. And what should make this story so disconcerting and difficult to comprehend is the knowledge that none of their behavior was justified or necessary. Moses has made it clear that God had always planned for Esau to serve Jacob. Even while the two boys were still in Rebekah’s womb, God had informed her “the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23 ESV).
The Almighty had a plan for these twin brothers. He had their futures completely orchestrated long before they took their first breaths. And while He provided Rebekah with no explanation as to how the older would end up serving the younger, it was not up for debate or worthy of doubt. God had a well-established track record of doing what He had promised to do.
And yet, these verses describe a scene in which the human actors seem to be operating according to worldly standards and in keeping with their own personal agendas. Isaac is using his capacity as the head of the household to satisfy his love of good food by requiring his son, Esau, to prepare him a meal in exchange for his blessing. In a sense, Isaac was requiring his son to earn the blessing that was rightfully his by birth.
Rebekah, in a blatant display of “helicopter parenting,” can’t help but interject herself into the scene in order to protect the interests of her favorite child. She was determined that Jacob should have it all and was willing to do anything to guarantee her preferred outcome. Blinded by jealousy and pride, Rebekah concocted an elaborate plan to deceive Isaac and defraud Esau. And her enthusiasm for the task must have been contagious because, after a brief display of reluctance, Jacob ending up jumping in with eager abandon.
According to his mother’s instructions, Jacob slaughtered the two goats, which she promptly prepared according to her husband’s favorite recipe. Rebekah had learned the truth to the old adage: The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
But Rebekah knew that she would have to employ further subterfuge if her plan was to be a success. And this is where the depth of her cunning and conniving comes into full view.
…she took Esau’s favorite clothes, which were there in the house, and gave them to her younger son, Jacob. She covered his arms and the smooth part of his neck with the skin of the young goats. Then she gave Jacob the delicious meal, including freshly baked bread. – Genesis 27:15-17 ESV
This woman was leaving nothing up to chance. Despite her husband’s old age and poor eyesight, she was going out of her way to ensure that her scheme went off without a hitch. And, sadly, she used her influence as a parent to convince her son to not only comply, but to carry out the dastardly plan. And he did so with enthusiastic abandon.
Disguised in his brother’s clothes and with his bare arms and neck covered in goat skin, Jacob approached his father. Carrying the food prepared by his mother, Jacob displayed his sold-out commitment to the plan and his full intention to deceive his own father. He was a willing participant in the deception and was essential to its success.
Jacob wasn’t just wearing a disguise, he was living a lie. He purposefully and deceitfully portrayed himself as his brother so that he might steal that which did not belong to him. From this point forward, Jacob found himself caught in a lie that would continue to escalate and intensify, plunging him deeper into a black hole of deception and condemnation. When asked by Isaac to identify himself, Jacob replied, “It’s Esau, your firstborn son. I’ve done as you told me. Here is the wild game. Now sit up and eat it so you can give me your blessing” (Genesis 27:19 ESV).
And when Isaac expressed surprise at how quickly Esau had returned from the hunt with a meal already prepared, Jacob was forced to think on his feet. But look closely at how he explains himself.
“Because the Lord your God granted me success.” – Genesis 27:20 ESV
Not only was Jacob lying, but he was dragging God into his web of deceit. Essentially, Jacob was guilty of using God’s name in vain. The name of God was synonymous with His character. His name was representative of His holiness and greatness. Jacob was using God’s name in a flippant and disrespectful manner, and attempting to leverage its significance to Isaac in order to accomplish his unethical and immoral plan. Whether Jacob realized it or not, he was walking on thin ice. He was using the name of God to perpetrate fraud.
And the story of Jacob’s deception provides evidence to the old adage: “One lie leads to another.” Once Jacob went down this path, there was no turning back. His father expressed confusion when he heard what sounded like Jacob’s voice coming out of a body that appeared to belong to Esau. “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked. And with no hesitation, Jacob replied, “I am.”
Convinced by Jacob’s lies, Isaac quickly refocused the conversation to his more pressing need: His own appetite. He was ready to eat and would not give up the blessing until he had filled up his stomach.
So Jacob took the food to his father, and Isaac ate it. He also drank the wine that Jacob served him. – Genesis 27:25 NLT
Isaac feasted while Jacob watched and waited. Moses doesn’t disclose how long it took for Isaac to satisfy his hunger, but Jacob must have died a thousand deaths as he we watched the tent door, fully expecting his brother to return at any moment. And it seems likely that Rebekah was nearby, anxiously wondering why it was taking so long.
As stated earlier, the story is meant to be disturbing, but it’s also conveys a rather comical air. It’s difficult not to picture Jacob draped in goat hair, sweating profusely, and nervously watching as his half-blind father slowly consumes a meal.
The saddest character in the whole story is Esau, who was busily hunting for game so that he might prepare the meal that would earn him his long-awaited blessing. And all the while, his own mother and brother were conspiring behind his back to deprive him of what was rightfully his. And when Esau eventually returned, meal in hand, he would experience one of the greatest disappointments of his life – at the hands of his own family members.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.