Friday, September 04, 2009

A Closer Look At Deception -- Genesis 27:18-29

Then he came to his father and said, "My father." And he said, "Here I am. Who are you, my son?" Jacob said to his father, "I am Esau your firstborn; I have done as you told me. Get up, please, sit and eat of my game, that you may bless me." Isaac said to his son, "How is it that you have it so quickly, my son?" And he said, "Because the LORD your God caused {it} to happen to me." Then Isaac said to Jacob, "Please come close, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not." So Jacob came close to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, "The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau." He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau's hands; so he blessed him. And he said, "Are you really my son Esau?" And he said, "I am." So he said, "Bring it to me, and I will eat of my son's game, that I may bless you." And he brought it to him, and he ate; he also brought him wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, "Please come close and kiss me, my son." So he came close and kissed him; and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him and said, "See, the smell of my son Is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed; Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, And of the fatness of the earth, And an abundance of grain and new wine; May peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you; Be master of your brothers, And may your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, And blessed be those who bless you."

Let’s follow as this plot unfolds. Jacob, posing as Esau, goes to Isaac his old, fairly blind father to steal his brother’s blessing. He calls to Isaac saying, “My father” in a way that implies ‘may I come in?’ Isaac answers him and asks him to clarify whether he is Esau or Jacob. And Jacob lies saying, “I am Esau your firstborn.” I find that to be an interesting choice of words. Would not the simple lie, “I am Esau” have been enough? Why add “your firstborn”? Isaac was old and quite blind, but not necessarily senile so he would not remember that Esau was indeed his firstborn. But Jacob had a purpose for going there and it all related to him passing off as the firstborn.

Jacob wants to get on with scheme. He tells Isaac that he has done as he had requested and now it was time for Isaac, who had likely been lying down due to his old age, to get up, sit properly and eat the game dish that Jacob, posing as Esau, had apparently hunted and prepared. Everything aimed to getting Isaac to bless Jacob. All the deception and all the interest in having Isaac eat a hearty meal was about getting the firstborn’s blessings and very little to do with showing love and care for his aged father. Sometimes we behave exactly the same way to others or to God Himself. We serve them or Him out of a personal goal we have in mind. We deceive them about our real love and concern so that we may accomplish what we want, or worse still, how we may appear to others. But neither people (as Isaac in this case) nor God in our own lives, are easily fooled.

Issac asks, “How did you catch and prepare the game so quickly, my son?” And then Jacob utters one of the most serious lies he or us could ever utter. He says, “God did it!” In fact, he implies ‘God helped me’ and in this case, he tells Isaac that it was ‘his God indeed’. We so often make the mistake of associating God with our own choices, doings or misdoings. While we can and must recognize God’s active role in our lives and give Him the credit for all that we accomplish, we cannot and must not attribute to Him what is done in disobedience or under conditions of sin. Jacob took that one step further and intentionally told his father that God was with him in what he was doing, when in actual fact he was participating in an out and out deceptive lie.

It appears that Isaac was not swallowing Jacob’s explanation that he was able to do this so quickly simply because God wanted it to be like that. So, he requests that Jacob gets down close to him so that he could feel him and verify that indeed he was Esau as he claimed to be. Rebekah must have known her husband well to have heeded Jacob’s concern about not being hairy like Esau, and to give him the goatskins as sensual camouflage to deceive Isaac. Even after feeling Jacob, Isaac said, “it sounds like Jacob, but he feels like Esau” and based on that, Isaac blessed Jacob who was posing as Esau. In fact, he still asked Jacob, “Are you really my son Esau?” Even after touching him and having decided to bless him, he still had doubt. When Jacob lied again stating he was indeed Esau, Isaac completes the process by asking for the food Jacob had prepared.

I have often wondered as to whether or not one could blame Isaac in this whole situation? If there was any doubt whatsoever, why did he not want more verification concerning who was standing before him? But isn’t that just what we humans resort to so easily – trying to assign blame? Does it really matter? The fact is both Jacob and Rebekeh deceived Isaac. He took the dish that Rebekeh had prepared, believing it was from the game that his eldest son Esau had caught, that Esau himself had prepared, and that Esau himself was giving to him. He ate the meal and drank the wine that Jacob also offered him. Perhaps it was customary to drink wine with every meal or perhaps there was an intention to detrimentally impact Isaac’s senses even more in hopes that Jacob would not be discovered as the imposter that he was.

Isaac doubts it is Esau, feels him, decides it is, asks for the food and eats then, and then with some doubt still in his mind asks Jacob posing as Esau to come close to him so that he can kiss him as he continues the blessing he is to bestow upon him. Jacob obliges and Isaac smells his garments eliminating any doubt in his mind as he reflects that the smell of Jacob’s clothes had the smell of a field (where Esau the hunter hung around most of the day). And with that as more evidence, Isaac blesses Jacob.

As I consider the concept of parental blessing, I realize that the majority who still believe in it see the words themselves as simply an expressed desire or powerful influence on what a child’s future may be. Because of the bond between parent and child, it is hoped that the child will do all he or she can to bring about the predicted circumstances of his or her parent’s blessing. Others, including myself, are more prone to see a parental blessing as a prayer to God imploring Him to bring about the expressed desires of the blessing in the life of one’s child. I have taken that approach in describing Isaac’s blessing of Jacob below.

He asks God to give Jacob the greatest prosperity possible as implied by that which comes as a result of morning dew falling on the crops. He also asks that Jacob be blessed with wealth through the ownership of cattle, along with an abundance of grain and wine that grew well in those areas. All of this stemming from the rain that God provided from the heavens. He asks God to bless Jacob as a leader of others and in particular that many peoples of the earth may serve him and his people, some in subjection to him. Following that, he tells Jacob to be a master over his brothers, implying not only Esau but also those that came afterwards from his family.

The blessing concludes with Isaac asking God to bless Jacob in a unique way that involved all others that would interact with him. Jacob asks God to curse his enemies and bless those that bless Jacob. This request is indeed based on God’s own blessing of Isaac’s own father, Abram as we read in Genesis 12:3. It is indeed necessary for us as parents who may give our children a parental blessing that we ensure our prayer for them is in keeping with what God wants for them.

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