Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 22 2019 - Genesis 27:1-40 – Jacob the trickster

Despite their great love for each other, Isaac and Rebekah have a dysfunctional family. Isaac favours Esau, the elder of his twin sons and one who likes to spend his time outdoors hunting for game. Rebekah favours Jacob who seems to prefer to spend time at home, looking after the more domesticated animals and helping his mother with the cooking. This clear favouring of the different sons sows seeds for discord and even for hatred.

Furthermore, Isaac appears to have been something of a weak character and a bit of a hypochondriac. When we meet him at the beginning of Genesis 27 he has taken to his bed and believes that he is about to die. In fact, he will outlive Rebekah and will still be alive 20 years later when Jacob returns from Haran.

Before the twins were born, the Lord had promised that the elder would serve the younger. Nevertheless, Isaac is determined that Esau his firstborn will be his heir and will inherit the promises God made to Abraham. So he asks Esau to go and hunt game and prepare his favourite meal which he will eat before blessing Esau and dying a happy man. Rebekah overhears the conversation and devises a scheme to deceive her husband. She sends Jacob to get two young goats from the herd which she will prepare as a meal for Isaac – there seems to be nothing wrong with Isaac's appetite! Rebekah then sends Jacob, suitably disguised, to blind Isaac's bedside to tell him that he is Esau and deceive his father into giving him the blessing.

And obtain the blessing he does; he gains it by trickery and downright lies. He lives up to his name, 'Jacob' which means, 'cheat'.

Isaac's blessing, pronounced upon his son, reflects the promise which God had made to Abraham and Isaac. He is promised the good things of the land and victory over his enemies. The blessing concludes with words first spoken by God to Abraham, "Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!" (Genesis 27:29, cf. 12:3).

It's an awful story from beginning to end. Isaac seeks to subvert God's declared purpose to fulfil the promises made to Abraham through Jacob rather than Esau. Rebekah seeks to deceive her husband and ensure that Jacob inherits the promises, not, it would seem, out of a concern to honour God and his word but simply because Jacob is her favourite. Not one of the members of this family behaves in a commendable fashion.

Here we see that God works out his purposes and fulfils his promises through people who are very far from perfect. God displays his grace by working through Jacob, a cheat and a liar. I am reminded in some ways of the history of the apostle Paul. He had been Saul the Pharisee. He had hated the Christian message and had been a persecutor of the Christian church. Yet God chose to give him a key part in fulfilling his plan to extend the blessings of salvation to all the nations of the world. God still uses the most surprising and apparently unsuitable people to accomplish his purposes – that's why there is hope for us. Even when we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.

Faithful God, thank you that your promises extend to sinners and that you are able to bring glory to your name through broken personalities like Isaac and Jacob – and like us. Thank you most of all that your Son was broken for us that we might be made whole. Teach us more of the blessings that are ours in him and help us to hold out your promise of grace and forgiveness to others around us knowing that if you can save us you can save them.

Peter Misselbrook