Genesis 27

Genesis 27 – March 1

Let’s consider the deception of this chapter from Jacob’s perspective. Jacob is not concerned about lying. That seems to be second nature to him. His only concern is getting caught. Esau was a beast of a man. We learn from chapter 25, “When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents.” Hunting is not easy now, but imagine how difficult it was then. Esau must have been a master at crafting weapons and tracking and stalking and killing. But he was not only a powerful man, he also had an unmistakable physical trait. He was a very hairy man. 

Jacob assists his mother in developing something out of goat fur along the lines of gloves that extended all the way up his arms. She prepares the meal while he makes the costume. Then comes the moment of lies. He steps inside the tent and convinces his own father that he is Esau. Jacob is a really good liar. He doesn’t seem to feel any guilt or remorse, even as his father questions him. Vs 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.” Jacob now brings God into the lie. He pretends to be blessed by the Lord so that he can be blessed by Isaac. But Isaac feels that something is off so he administers several tests. 

In verse 21 he makes Jacob come near so he can feel his hands. But Jacob’s lie passed that test and Isaac responded, in vs 22“The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” But there is lingering suspicion, so he does what most liars never expect, he asks him a straightforward question in verse 24. “He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” Jacob doesn’t even seem to hesitate. The lie seems to so naturally flow from his tongue. Just like the devil, when he lies, he speaks his native tongue. But that test was not enough. The next examination was the food. It seems like Isaac had a very particular palette. He wanted his food with a certain flavor that not everyone could make. So, he was attempting to determine the honesty of his guest by how well he made the meal. Since Rebekah made this meal, she knew exactly what she was doing. She made it exactly like Esau would make it. But, there was one final test: a kiss.

In 2004 there was a medical research study done by Brown University called, “The Study of Neuroimaging evidence for the emotional potency of odor-evoked memory.” It revealed that the sense of smell is the strongest activator of connections in our brains. That is why you think of your childhood when you smell something so similar to your mom’s home cooking. For Isaac, it was the smell that locked it in. (Think about that for a moment, it means that Esau smelled like goat skin.) As soon as he finished the smell test, Isaac immediately jumped into the blessing. 

Did you notice that Isaac calls Jacob his son 10 times in this section of the story? That is highly significant. Jacob’s life, in many ways, is going to mirror the future failures and redemption of the nation of Israel. Jacob was a son, just as God would later call Israel his son. But, just like Jacob, Israel would fall into sin, and would later be restored.

I want to encourage you to jump ahead and read the first five verses of chapter 28. Jacob is going to return to the tent to speak to the same father that he has just deceived. So far everything seems great! If you didn’t know any better, you would think that Isaac doesn’t even care that Jacob lied to him. He doesn’t seem angry at all. He is blessing Jacob, and at this point, he certainly knows that God’s covenant is not going to pass through Esau. So, for the second time that day, he blessed his younger son. He verbalizes what we have never seen him say before, that the Lord would give Abraham’s promises to Jacob. Isaac also gave instructions about where to go find a wife. This is important. Abraham told his servant in no uncertain terms to never let Isaac go back to that place. When Abraham was about to die, he sent away all of his other children in that direction, and only Isaac was allowed to stay. Please understand that this is to be viewed as nothing less than an exile. Jacob loved his mother, but he will never see her face again. He seems to have had a complicated relationship with his father, but I believe there was love there, but he will never see him again either. Just like Adam and Eve were cast out to the east, just like Cain was exiled to the east, just like the people in the tower of Babel settled in the east, just like Lot moved to the east, now Jacob is being sent east. He is not going with his chin held high, but as a thief and an exile. 

There are so many simple, practical takeaways from a chapter like this one. Honesty, integrity, loving your family, honoring your parents, etc. We could land on the fact that your sin will always find you out. But, the most powerful and incredible thing to me about this chapter is that God loved Jacob. Jacob was a scoundrel. Of all of the characters in Genesis, his story is my favorite because we see the clearest depiction of God’s transforming work over the course of a lifetime.


Bonus Notes!

Esau’s false repentance

Let’s begin with a question, shall we? Should we feel sorry for Esau?

Moses sandwiches the story of Jacob stealing the birthright with a literary device called an inclusio. The top slice of bread is found in chapter 26:34-35. “When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.” These were the exact people that Abraham had told Isaac to stay away from. Esau would have certainly known the great love story about how Isaac met Rebekah. Yet, the grandson of Abraham was quick to run from the pattern that had been set for them and he married Hittite women that made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah. 

The bottom slice of bread to this inclusio is found at the end of this story in chapter 28:9. “So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham's son, the sister of Nebaioth.” Please understand that we are not to pity Esau in this story. Although he was the victim of Jacob and Rebekah’s deceit, he was an incredibly ungodly man. For him, the birthright and the blessing were all about temporal earthly gain and had nothing to do with a genuine desire to bear the covenant promises. I believe that the marriage of Esau to the daughter of Ishmael is intended to cause us to parallel Esau and Ishmael. He has married into that line and is now outside of the line of the promises, just like Ishmael. 

But, let’s imagine the day of the blessing from Esau’s point of view for a moment. His father called him in and made him a deal. 27:3 “Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me, and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.”

This sounded like a great deal. But, when he returned, the blessing had been stolen. Look a little closer at verses 34-38.

As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!”  But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.”  Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Behold, I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?” Esau said to his father, “Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.

What I want you to see happening here is Esau’s counterfeit repentance. He is weeping, but why? When he lost his birthright, he lost the lion share of the inheritance. But what is this blessing? Well, if the birthright is the last will of the head of a family, the blessing is like the testament. It was typically a public declaration about how the family was to operate after the family head died. So, to put it simply, birthright = possessions, the blessing = status and authority.

God is using even the earthly traditions of birthrights and blessings to indicate whom HE has chosen to inherit the promise. Esau was not interested in the spiritual side of the promises. He couldn't care less about the covenant. But he was filled with sorrow over the temporal gains, not eternal blessings. 

The New Testament sheds some light on his false repentance this way in Hebrews 12:15-17, 

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

This should be a shocking and shiver-inducing statement. The author of Hebrews is writing to a New Testament group of people and he is warning them. He is making a correlation between Esau’s sexual immorality and unholy living and his unrepentance. He is then superimposing these realities onto the church as a warning and is declaring to us that these kinds of lifestyles represent that someone is outside of the promise. 

John MacArthur describes the situation this way.

Perhaps the saddest and most godless person in Scripture outside of Judas is Esau. Esau not only was immoral, but was godless. He had no ethics or faith, no scruples or reverence. He had no regard for the good, the truthful, the divine. He was totally worldly, totally secular, totally profane. Christians are to be vigilant that no persons such as Esau contaminate Christ’s Body. See to it that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau. When Esau finally woke up to some extent and realized what he had forsaken, he made a half-hearted attempt to retrieve it. Just because he sought for it with tears does not indicate sincerity or true remorse. He found no place for repentance. He bitterly regretted, but he did not repent. He selfishly wanted God’s blessings, but he did not want God. He had fully apostatized, and was forever outside the pale of God’s grace.

If you are living in habitual sin, I hope this shakes you. Tears are not a valid reason to trust that you are converted. They didn’t convert Esau. Experiences, or a special prayer, or singing a card… those things don’t necessarily mean that your heart has been changed by God. If you have become a genuine believer, it is accompanied by a wholesale change of life. Your life becomes marked by a love for Jesus. Where there was previously no taste for the things of God, now there is a hunger and thirst that you experience that cannot be quenched by anything other than God Himself. 

Have you repented? I mean truly repented of your sin and run to Christ? Or are you basing your salvation on an emotional moment where you got a small sense of your need for God? In his excellent article, “The unrepenting repenter,” Jim Elliff explains the danger of this kind of false repentance.

Here is a kind of amnesia. You see the awful specter of sin in the mirror and flinch out of horror yet immediately forget what kind of person you saw. It is true, repentance includes sincere emotion, an affection for God and a disaffection for sin. Torrents of sorrow may flood the repenter’s heart, and properly so. But there is such a thing as a temporary emotion in the mere semblance of repentance; this emotion has very weak legs and cannot carry the behavior in the long walk of obedience. Your sorrow may even be prolonged. Yet if it does not arrive at repentance, it is of the world and is a living death—and maybe more. It is an old deceiver. Judas had such remorse but went and hanged himself. 

Let us examine ourselves and ensure that our repentance is genuine, heartfelt, and born out of a love for Jesus Christ.


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