Blessings for Jacob and Esau

Let the peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!” (Gen. 27:29).

- Genesis 27:1-45

Blessings and cursings play a prominent role in Scripture (Lev. 26; Deut. 28: Matt. 5:1–12; 23), indicating their importance in God’s governance of His covenant community. One of the earliest appearances of the theme of blessing in the Bible occurs in Genesis 27:1–45, and it is to this passage that we now turn our attention.

The Word of God does not view blessings as mere wishes for good that may or may not come true. Instead, a blessing is determinative of destiny when the hand of the Lord is in it. This is seen most clearly in the blessings that our Creator declares on His servants in Scripture. The blessing on Abraham in Genesis 12:1–3, for example, is a word that forms the future for the patriarch and his descendants. Once this blessing was given, the Lord could pass it on to succeeding generations more or less directly, as He did when He appeared to Isaac (26:1–5). Yet God could also pass it down via human intermediaries, and this is how He transferred Abraham’s inheritance from Isaac to Jacob and from Jacob to the other patriarchs of Israel (chap. 49).

In passing the blessing from Isaac to Jacob via human means, God was not bound to keep human sin out of the process, for He has granted us the freedom to do exactly what we want to do. In fact, allowing sin to play a role in the blessing’s transfer shows that “the sovereign will of God is done, in spite of our or any other person’s opposition to it” (James M. Boice, Genesis 12–36, p. 752). Isaac conspired to thwart the Lord’s intent to bless Jacob (Gen. 25:19–28; 27:1–4), and Rebekah and Jacob lied, cheated, and stole to get what God said belonged to Jacob anyway (27:5–29). And even though the blessing went to Jacob as it was ordained, all of the human players suffered for their sin: Jacob went into exile as a result of the trick he and his mother played on Isaac, and Rebekah died without ever seeing her favorite son again (27:41–45; 28:1–5; 49:31). Esau emerged as a man willing to follow his father even into sin (27:1–5, 30–41).

Our Lord often does His work through human agents whose motivations are mixed, at best. This does not mean He approves of evil, only that He is able to work in spite of the sinner to achieve His good ends (Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:22–24). Of course, things always go better for us when we endeavor to act with purity, but if the Lord has determined to bless us, not even our obstinacy can thwart His sovereign grace.

Coram Deo

It is comforting to know that despite our best efforts, we cannot undo the Lord’s intent to bless His children. Still, we cannot take this as a license to sin, for our evil ways will inevitably cause us much hardship in this life. We should also note that a persistent, impenitent refusal to walk in the path of Jesus can indicate that we are not redeemed, and that if we do not turn from our ways, we forfeit the blessing promised to all those in Christ.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 144:15
Proverbs 10:22
Hebrews 6:1–8
1 Peter 3:8–12

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