Preparing For God’s Covenant Blessing (26:1-35)
After describing Esau exchanging his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew, Genesis 26 returns our attention Isaac. A famine occurs in the land, so Isaac goes to Gerar in the land of the Philistines. While there God tells Isaac not to go to Egypt but to dwell in the land that God tells him to live in. Stay in the land and the Lord will be with you, bless you, and give all of these lands to you (26:3). In verse 4 God declares that he will multiply Isaac’s offspring as the stars of heaven and all the nations of the earth will be blessed. God is confirming his covenant made to Abraham through Isaac. These are the same covenantal promises God made to Abraham and now they are being confirmed to Isaac. With the blessings confirmed, Isaac does not go to Egypt but stays in Gerar.
While in Gerar, however, Isaac is afraid to tell the men of this place that Rebekah was his wife for fear that one of the men would kill him and take her for his wife. So he said that Rebekah was his sister. After Isaac had lived there for quite a long time Abimelech notices that he does not act like he is her brother but behaves like they are married. Abimelech chastises Isaac because he lied about her because even the Gentiles who were outside of God’s covenant understood the gravity of the sin of adultery.
What the text does is show a direct parallel to the life of Abraham. God comes to Abraham and declares his covenant promises to him. A famine strikes the land when Abraham lives in the land. He moves to Egypt because of the famine and while there lies about Sarah being his sister. Abraham is expelled from the land and comes back to the land of promise. Now God comes to Isaac and declares the same covenant promises to him. A famine strikes the land when Isaac lives in it. He moves to Gerar because of the family and while there lies about Rebekah being his sister. Isaac is expelled from the land and ultimately moves to Beersheba. But message is that God is with them. Notice Genesis 26:3 God promises, “I will be with you.” In verse 24 the Lord appears to Isaac and tells him, “Fear not, for I am with you.” In verse 28 Abimelech comes to Isaac and declares, “We see plainly that the Lord has been with you.”
The message of chapter 26 becomes clear to the reader. God blesses and there is no need for deception. God blesses and there is no need to resort to warfare or retaliation. The blessings of God stand in spite of our external circumstances. Do not worry about what you are going through, you do not need to take matters into your own hands. God will maintain his covenant faithfulness and continue to bless in spite of the circumstances we face. Whether experiencing famine, fear, mistreatment, envy, rivalry, or anything else, God’s sovereign plan of redemption cannot be derailed. God said he will be with you and God is with you. Now hold these concepts in your minds as we move into Genesis 27 because this message in chapter 26 will now be exemplified in chapter 27.
God’s Covenant Blessing Given (27:1-46)
Genesis 26:34 belongs with chapter 27 and is very important because it sets the stage for what is about to happen. Esau marries two Hittite women to be his wives. Notice how verse 34 ends. “They made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.” Remember that Abraham made sure that Isaac did not marry one of the women but among the nations in Genesis 24. Esau rejects this and marries two Hittite women. This is important for the rest of the narrative.
Now something shocking is about to happen. Isaac knows that he will die soon and he wants to impart the blessings before he dies. Now, who should he be calling in to give this great covenant blessing? Before you answer, think back to what God declared about Jacob and Esau when they were in the womb of Rebekah.
And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23 ESV)
Not only this, we have seen Esau disregarding God’s plan by marrying two Hittite women. Who should Isaac be giving the blessing to? He should be giving it to Jacob. We know this because God said the promise would continue through Jacob and not Esau. We know that Isaac can do this because we see Jacob do this at the end of his life when he gives the blessing that he crosses his arms so as to give the blessing to Ephraim rather than Manasseh. Let’s take a step back and think about what the narrative has told us. Genesis 25:28 says that Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game. Now listen to Genesis 27.
1 When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called Esau his older son and said to him, “My son”; and he answered, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. 3 Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me, 4 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.” (Genesis 27:1–4 ESV)
Isaac appears to be attempting to overthrow God’s plan. God said the older will serve the younger, but Isaac loved Esau while Rebekah loved Jacob. Esau disqualified himself because he sold his birthright. Esau disqualified himself when he married two Hittite women. Yet Isaac proceeds forward and is going to give Esau the blessing.
After telling Esau to go hunt game, prepare delicious food, and then he will give him the blessing, Rebekah heard Isaac say this. So Rebekah tells Jacob to get go to the flock and get two good young goat so that she can prepare them as delicious food just as Isaac likes it. Take it into Isaac so that he blesses you, rather than your brother Esau. Jacob is concerned because he knows that though Isaac cannot see, he will feel the two of them and know the difference (27:11-12). Esau was a hairy man and Jacob was not. Rebekah tells him to not fear receiving a curse and to obey what she is telling him to do. So Jacob does what Rebekah tells him to do. Further, she puts Esau’s clothes on him and took the skins on the young goats and that on Jacob’s hands and the smooth part of his neck.
So Jacob goes to Isaac with the food. Isaac is skeptical that it is Esau because he does not sound like Esau, but because of the hair on his skin Isaac blesses Jacob. I want you to listen to the blessing Isaac gives, thinking he is giving it to Esau and you will hear how Isaac is attempting to overthrow God’s declaration.
May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine. Let 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!” (Genesis 27:28–29 ESV)
Remember God said that the older will serve the younger and the younger will be the stronger. But Isaac attempts to reverse this by saying to who he think is Esau, “Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you!”
No sooner has Jacob left that Esau comes in with the food he hunted and prepared for his father. Isaac now realizes he has blessed Jacob rather than Esau. As Esau pleads for a blessing, listen to what Isaac says in verse 37. “Behold, I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants.” Isaac knew exactly what he was doing, attempting to bless Esau and make him greater than Jacob even though God had said the opposite. With this, Esau now hates Jacob and plans to kill him after Isaac dies. Rebekah learns of this and send Jacob away to protect him from being killed by Esau.
So what just happened? Remember that the message of chapter 26 was that God maintains his covenant faithfulness. God will bless and there is no need to resort to warfare, retaliation, or deception. You do not need to take matters into your own hands for God will keep his promises. Now we see this truth exemplified in chapter 27. God accomplishes his plans through our wickedness. Our sins do not derail God’s plans, but put us under condemnation. We are still under condemnation for our sins but our sins do not stop what God is doing. How many times God uses people through their sins to accomplish his will!
The greatest example of this is seen in the life of Jesus. Judas determines to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. But God would use this to accomplish his purposes.
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:22–24 ESV)
Judas could not alter or overthrow the plan of God. Isaac could not alter or overthrow the plan of God. Why do we think we can? Why do we rebel against his plans and purposes? What foolishness it is on our part to not submit to Jesus and obey his will! How many narratives must we read in the scriptures until we understand the need to submit to the Lord! God’s plan will not be thwarted. Judgment is coming upon the unrepentant, those who refuse to turn their lives to the Lord. But let me offer God’s message of hope. God’s plan will not be thwarted. Therefore, anyone who will mourn over their sins and turn to God, begging for forgiveness will receive the grace of God and be saved. This is God’s great purpose: to make a people for himself by saving them from their sins. Rather than rebel, turn to God in faith. Give your life to the king, Jesus. Do not fight against his will but enjoy the grace of God by yielding to him, loving him, and serving him. Relentless grace!