Feb 14, 2007

Jacob Deceives Isaac

Genesis 27:14–25

“He said, ‘Are you really my son Esau?’ He answered, ‘I am.’ 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 him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank” (Gen. 27:24-25).

Rebekah’s plan to secure the patriarchal blessing for Jacob in Genesis 27:5–13 confronts us with an important question: Did the Lord approve of her deceit? This issue is thorny because, as today’s passage reveals, Jacob successfully received the benediction intended for Esau. But does this mean God was completely happy with Jacob?

Other biblical texts indicate that deception may sometimes serve the cause of righteousness and please the Lord (see Ex. 1:8–22). However, this does not seem to be true of Rebekah and Jacob’s plot. As is typical in Hebrew narrative, there is no explicit moral commentary on their act, but there are hints that God was not pleased with the way in which the patriarchal blessing was obtained.

First, Rebekah makes no attempt to convince Isaac to change his mind about Esau (27:5–13). If Isaac remained intent on disobeying God and blessing Esau after being reminded of Jacob’s election (25:23), Rebekah’s deeds may have been more commendable. More tellingly, Moses never mentions Rebekah’s death. Unlike the other patriarchal wives, she is given no memorial or record of burial, probably because of the way she seized the blessing ordained for Jacob.

Second, Jacob’s life evidences the Lord’s disapproval of his methods. His protest in 27:11–12 reflects worry that he might get caught, not that he might dishonor Isaac, and he blasphemes in his lie that the Lord gave him success in his hunt (v. 20). Moreover, the deceptive theft of the blessing causes strife with Esau, causing Jacob to flee (vv. 41–45). In fact, Jacob himself is deceived later on (29:1–30), which is probably talionic (“eye for an eye”) retribution for his own lies.

Nevertheless, Jacob is ordained for a specific calling in God’s redemptive plan, and so He allows the craftiness of mother and son to pass the blessing from Isaac to Jacob. God’s providence is such that His plans will never be thwarted, though He never approves of His people’s sin, even if it contributes to His ends (Rom. 6:1–2). John Calvin’s comments on 27:11 remind us that just because the Lord often uses our perverse acts for our final good, we cannot therefore take this grace as a license to sin.

Coram Deo

In line with His promise in Romans 8:28, God worked through Jacob’s sin for the final good of His plan. Though Jacob grasped at spiritual benefits through unspiritual means, thereby getting himself into trouble, the Lord was pleased to allow it in His plan of redemption. We must never use this truth as a license to sin, but let us never erroneously assume God cannot use our mistakes to contribute to His glory, and therefore our good, in the end.

For Further Study