The following study is based on Hebrews 11:20, “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.”
By this time, Isaac is already married and has had two sons. Those sons are obvious from the Bible text – Jacob and Esau. But what was so significant about this situation when Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau? Why is this particular situation so important to be mentioned here in Hebrews 11?
1. Who is Jacob and Esau?
- Genesis 25:21-24
21 And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, And two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. 24 And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.
- Jacob and Esau were twin brothers.
2. What is the significance surrounding their birth?
- Genesis 25:25-26
25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. 26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.
- Esau was the older of the two brothers.
- Jacob was named such because he grabbed on to his brother’s heel as he was coming out.
- So by right, Esau was the one who would inherit the birthright as he was the oldest.
- The birthright is the right to all the father’s blessings both from a spiritual and physical standpoint. The inheritance. The oldest would normally receive a double portion from the rest of his siblings.
3. What did Esau do with his birthright?
- Genesis 25:29-34
29 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: 30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. 31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. 32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? 33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.
- Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentils.
- The bible goes so far to say that he despised his birthright. It was worthless to him.
4. Now let’s fast forward to the time when Isaac is a very old man. He doesn’t know when he is going to die. What does he want to do?
- Genesis 27:1-4
1 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 eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I. 2 And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death: 3 Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison; 4 And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.
- Isaac wants to bless Esau before he dies.
- The blessing he wants to give him is the blessing of the birthright.
5. What happens next? Let’s keep reading.
- Genesis 27:5-8
5 And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it. 6 And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying, 7 Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the Lord before my death. 8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee.
- Rebekah hears what Isaac is going to do so she tells her son what to do.
- Now this is the great challenge of faith – man’s word vs God’s word.
- In this case, it is Jacob’s mother’s word vs God’s word.
6. What does Rebekah ask Jacob to do?
- Genesis 27:9-13
9 Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth: 10 And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death. 11 And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man: 12 My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing. 13 And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them.
- Rebekah is teaching Jacob how to get the birthright from his brother by deception.
- Man’s word vs God’s word.
- Jacob knew that what he was doing was wrong. But for the love of his mother he still went ahead and obeyed her.
- Genesis 27:14-17
14 And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made savoury meat, such as his father loved. 15 And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son: 16 And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck: 17 And she gave the savoury meat and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.
- Everything is prepared for Jacob’s deceptive act.
7. What happens next?
- Genesis 27:18-20
18 And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son? 19 And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me. 20 And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the Lord thy God brought it to me.
- Here’s the first time Jacob lies to his father. He said that the Lord brought it to him.
- Genesis 27:21-24
21 And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not. 22 And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. 23 And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands: so he blessed him. 24 And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am.
- Here Jacob now sets his heart fully in the path of wrong. Lies for the second time.
- He says that he is Esau.
- Genesis 27:25-29
25 And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank. 26 And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son. 27 And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed: 28 Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: 29 Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.
- Isaac blesses Jacob after he is done eating. This is the blessing that is reserved for the oldest, the first-born. It is the blessing of the birthright.
8. What happens next?
- Genesis 27:30-33
30 And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. 31 And he also had made savoury meat, and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s venison, that thy soul may bless me. 32 And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau. 33 And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed.
- Esau comes in with the food that he made and discovers that his brother has stolen his birthright and blessing.
- Isaac says that whoever he has blessed, he shall be blessed. Seeming like he could not reverse it.
9. Was it true that Isaac really could not reverse the blessing that he had given to his son Jacob?
- When Isaac realised that he had been deceived, he remembered the prophecy that the angel had given to Rebekah regarding the birth of the sons.
- Genesis 25:23
And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, And two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
- That is why Isaac would repeat it in a similar way when he blessed Esau.
- Genesis 27:39-40
39 And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; 40 And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.
- So when Isaac replies to his son in Genesis 27:33, “…yea, and he shall be blessed,” he was ratifying it, confirming it formally, that he would pass the blessing to Jacob and not to Esau.
- He could have reversed it with a curse and given it to Esau, but he realised that Jacob was the one best suited for it, even though he stole it by deception.
10. Would God’s blessing really rest on Jacob even though he obtained it by fraud? What eventually happened to Jacob?
- Genesis 27:41
And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.
- Esau is intent on killing his brother after the dad dies.
- Genesis 27:42-45
42 And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran; 44 And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother’s fury turn away; 45 Until thy brother’s anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?
- Rebekah hears about it and wants to send her son away.
- So he runs off to Laban’s house, Rebekah’s brothers place.
11. How long is Jacob there at Laban’s place?
- Genesis 29:18
And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.
- Jacob serves seven years for Rachel.
- Genesis 29:25-27
25 And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me? 26 And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.
- Laban deceives Jacob and he marries Leah instead of Rachel.
- Laban asks Jacob to serve another seven years for Rachel.
- At this point he is there fourteen years.
- Genesis 31:41
Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times.
- Jacob was at Laban’s house, separated from his mum and dad, for approximately 20 years.
- In fact, Jacob would never see his parents ever again. By the time he returns from Laban’s house to the land of Canaan, both his parents have passed away already.
12. Why is all this detail important?
- Remember the birthright was given for 2 reasons – inheritance both spiritual and physical.
- Did Jacob get the spiritual blessing?
- Genesis 32:1-2
1 And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.
- Yes, God was with him.
- Genesis 32:24-29
24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. 25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. 26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. 27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. 28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. 29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.
- God personally came and blessed him.
- He inherited the spiritual blessing.
- Genesis 32:1-2
- Did Jacob get the physical blessing?
- No he didn’t. All that he owned it was from his time at Laban’s place.
- He didn’t get a single thing from his father’s house (Isaac).
- All the physical inheritance went to Esau.
13. So did the blessing of Isaac that he bestowed on him come to fruition?
- Yes, but not in the way that both Jacob and Esau expected it.
- Jacob got what he wanted – the spiritual blessing. The blessing that God gave to Abraham at the very beginning. God also eventually multiplied his riches and the blessing of the land. But none of that came from his father Isaac.
- Esau got what he wanted, which was simply physical blessing of the inheritance from Isaac his father.
So when we come back to the verse in Hebrews 11:20, “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come,” we see that even though originally Issac had intended to bless Esau, after Jacob had obtained the birthright by fraud, Isaac eventually saw that God had overruled all the events for good. He was willing to ratify the blessing to Jacob and repeated the prophecy of the angel in his blessing to Esau.
Jacob should not have deceived his father to obtain the birthright, and he paid many times over for it:
- Laban, his father-in-law, deceived him with giving him Leah instead of Rachel to wife the first time.
- Jacob’s sons would later lie to their father saying that Joseph was killed by a wild animal instead of owning to the fact that they had sold him into Egypt.
We need to trust God and not take situations into our own hands and beyond the boundaries of what God has laid out for us to follow.
Let’s learn to trust God no matter the circumstances. Let’s learn to see God’s leading even in unfortunate circumstances that come upon us. For surely, the eye of faith will still discern God’s had in all of it.
2 Corinthians 13:8
For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.
We can’t fight against God’s will. Only, let us pray that we can see God’s guiding hand in our lives no matter it be good or bad.