“For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him that they may keep the way of YAHWEH, to do righteousness and justice, to the end that YAHWEH may bring upon Abraham that which he had spoken of him”
– Genesis 18:19
The verse quoted above justified YAHWEH’s choice of Abraham for his plans for mankind. This same verse will also help explain HIS choice of Jacob over his elder brother Esau (much like it may have secured same for Isaac, and not Ishmael his elder stepbrother), if you’d give me your rapt attention for the few minutes you’ll devote to reading this blog post. In Jeremiah 1:5, YAHWEH told Jeremiah that “Before I formed you in the belly I knew you, and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you…”, meaning that HE knows “… the end from the beginning, and from ancient times, things that are not yet done…” (Isaiah 46:10). In like manner YAHWEH would’ve known that Esau didn’t possess the attributes HE spoke glowingly about concerning Abraham (even Isaac) in the opening quote of this missive. While it helped Isaac, a great deal that he was beloved of his father Abraham, and the blessing thus kinda assured, the same couldn’t be said of Esau, who enjoyed the love of his father Isaac, but counted for nothing before YAHWEH.
Now, let’s go back to our story. In Genesis 26:34, we are told that “… when Esau was forty years old he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: (35) and they were a grief of mind to Isaac (who loved Esau exceptionally) and to Rebekah (who may see this as a sign of why YAHWEH preferred Jacob to Esau)”, because at the time the instruction from Abraham, even concerning Isaac was “… that you will not take a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: but you shall go to my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac” (Genesis 24:3-4), and it was expected that the trend will continue with Isaac’s children, unfortunately Esau elected to do the unthinkable to the heartbreak of his parents, and a justification of YAHWEH’s afore-choosing of his younger brother over him.
It must be that though Esau’s parents were displeased with his choice of wives, they like today’s parents wouldn’t be drawn to meddle in Esau’s marital affairs. “And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his elder son…” (Genesis 27:1), showing that Esau’s choices for marriage did not affect the relationship between them. In fact Isaac’s plan was, “… take, I pray you, your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and make me venison (the meat of a deer); and make me savory (belonging to the category that is salty or spicy rather than sweet, like Nkwobi or Isi-Ewu popular amongst the Igbo of Nigeria), such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless you before I die” (Genesis 27:3-4). That is to say, despite the physical (Esau’s relinquishing of his birthright to his brother, Jacob, as well as marrying from among the people with whom his parents did not wish to have association with by marriage) and spiritual (YAHWEH’s choice of Jacob over Esau revealed to Rebekah before they were born) odds stacked against Esau, his father still intended to extend Abraham’s blessings to him.
Rebekah appeared to have eavesdropped on Isaac making a demand on Esau, which will ultimately lead to him getting blessed of his father and decided to extend an arm to divert the blessing and history in Jacob’s favour; who so far was in good standing physically (having obtained Esau’s birthright, for which who knows how many times he may have employed same to garner favour off his brother who didn’t appear to care much about such trivia, in my estimation, as well as not having offended his parents as regards choice of marriage, been yet unmarried at the time), and spiritually (favoured by YAHWEH as the one who though younger, “shall be stronger than the other people, and the elder shall serve the younger”, as revealed to Rebekah when he was pregnant with the twins) before YAHWEH. She went on to ask Jacob to “bring two good kids of the goats” from the flock, and she will make the “…savory food for your father, such as he loves: and you shall bring it to your father” (v. 9-10), in order that he, and not his brother Esau would be blessed of Isaac their father, who had at the time become blind, which favoured Rebekah and Jacob’s plan, if only they could overcome one more obstacle.
Recall that Esau was a hairy man, while Jacob was smooth, and as with the blind, Isaac was sure to want to feel the body of the recipient of his ancestral blessing, especially to be sure it was Esau (probably sensing that Rebekah’s love for Jacob may cause her to want to play some hanky panky in his favour), the beloved of his sons. You could infer that if indeed YAHWEH intended for Esau to be the beneficiary of this blessing, he’d have allowed Isaac to still have use of his sight at his old age, unfortunately that wasn’t to be, leaving the conspirators in his home to device a means to bypass his sense of touch, by putting “… the skins of the kids of the goats upon his (Jacob’s) hands, and upon the smooth of his neck” (v16), while also making Jacob put on Esau’s clothes, before “… she gave the savory food and the bread, which she had prepared” (v.17) to Jacob for presentation to his father. Isaac on the other hand was surprised at the speed with which the venison was prepared, but Jacob told him “YAHWEH your Elohim sent me good speed” (v. 20). Isaac wouldn’t be convinced that cheaply, so he asked Jacob to “… come near, I pray you, that I may feel you, my son, whether you be my very son Esau or not” (v. 21).
In the end, Isaac was able to make out that “… the voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands, so (thus deceived) he (Isaac) blessed him (Jacob)” (v. 22-23). Herein lies my headache, that is the propriety of deceiving Isaac, even if it is to bring to pass the will of YAHWEH. On the other hand, considering the information that Rebekah (and possibly Jacob) was privy to (regarding how the elder shall serve the younger), they may have elected to take the less honourable road to bringing to pass prophecy (and I don’t know if there was any other means they could’ve explored beside throwing up their hands in exasperated surrender), especially to thwart the efforts of a determined Isaac who despite the failings of his favourite son, remained undeterred and relentless in his bid to hand over the mantle to Esau, who was apparently not YAHWEH’s choice. If you however consider, that Esau shouldn’t also be angling for that blessing seeing as he had forfeited his right to it to his brother (in giving up his birthright) it gives some legitimacy to what Rebekah and Jacob did, seeing that Esau had no intention to honourably decline his father’s blessing, thinking to eat his cake and have it. I understand that this Jacob vs Esau story will continue to be controversial but one thing is certain, if Jacob wasn’t deemed fit for those blessings, YAHWEH wouldn’t bestow it on him, and had Esau managed to get it from Isaac his father, it is doubtful that it would’ve been divinely sanctioned.
– Genesis Chapter 26 Verses 34 To Chapter 27 Verses 1 – 23, THE SACRED SCRIPTURES (Bethel Edition), An Assemblies of Yahweh ®, Publication, © 1981 (Fourth Printing, 1993).