Genesis 27:1-4 When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.” “Here I am,” he answered. Isaac said, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. Now then, get your equipment—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.”
Our story today starts with a worried Isaac who decides to pass the blessing to his older son because of his uncertainty of the future. Blindness makes him think about the short life he had left. Isaac proposes a unique way of passing the blessing to Esau - he did it with a meal request of "the kind of tasty food I like". (To some extent, I can relate to this Top-Chef approach for blessing. Perhaps the act of cooking ought to be more present in more of our seasons in life.) In some sense it was a celebration of Esau - by Esau's strength and talent in hunting, he was to cook wild game for Isaac.
And so Esau goes to prepare the meal of blessing. This was going to be one of the most important meal preparations he had to do in his life. He goes and begins to hunt, going through the process carefully to ensure that he doesn't mess up.
However, what Esau didn't know was that someone was eavesdropping on this important conversation.
Genesis 27:5-10 Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’ Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.”
Rebekah thought in her heart that Esau wasn't worthy of the blessing Isaac was going to bestow. A quick look at Genesis 26:34-35 shows that Esau had gone on to marry two Hittite women, and this was "a source of grief" to both Isaac and Rebekah. Unlike Rebekah, Isaac didn't let the grief reverse the patriarchal tradition of passing the blessing to the older son. Rebekah, despite acknowledging that the blessing was going to be done in the presence of the Lord, hatches her plan to steal the blessing and pass it to Jacob instead. Her secret plan was made perfect as she knew exactly what tasty food Isaac wanted.
Chaplain's note to spouses and spouses-to-be: Biblically speaking, knowing the favourite dish and how it should be prepared for your other-half holds a very special power. Don't miss out on this potential for blessing, and do avoid using this for manipulation. Food preferences can expose a person's weakness, and should be treasured in confidence. Perhaps the online future security questions for new applications should reflect this, e.g ask how a person likes their steak (medium rare with garlic mayonnise).
Now, back to the story at hand!
Jacob examines his mother's plan, and fear grips him. It's not going to work!
Genesis 27:11-13 Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.” His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.”
With that level of responsibility assumed by Rebekah, Jacob was assured, and joined in this blessing heist.
Genesis 27:14-18 So he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made. He went to his father and said, “My father.” “Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?”
Jacob was no longer just an observer, now he has become an accomplice. The deception needed for this to work was well under-way. Rebekah was busy multi-tasking to make this work (as mothers so often do for their children). Jacob didn't just get a meal, he got a wardrobe change, a salon treatment (in this case, to add hair), and here was the moment of confrontation. Would it be enough to fool his father for blessing? Where was Esau and would he be able to come back in time to stop this? (The time to catch a goat, butcher a goat, cook the goat, get clothes, salon-treat Jacob, and also of course plotting and convincing Jacob to risk getting a curse instead must have taken considerable time.)
Though we leave the story here in a cliff-hanger, let us take a pause to also examine ourselves in light of the story.
Are we like Isaac
Isaac, though his heart was heavy on Esau's lifestyle, had blindly decided to pass his blessing without the need to discipline/reprimand his son. Perhaps this alludes to favortism, or the natural struggle ever so present in parents reprimanding their children for actions that grieve their heart. Often, we hear parents say, "the children are already adults, let them speak for themselves." And to some extent, that is true. Children also have to bear the weight of responsibility for their actions especially as they mature into adulthood. But Isaac may have been blinded to the opportunity to help Esau live the blessed life - because blessing isn't just bestowed by ceremony but more importantly by the real work in a person's heart. And in our first part of this story: Isaac chose to in private (not in the knowing presence of Rebekah and Jacob) pass the blessing to Esau, as if he had intended to do such an important act without the blessing of the mother and the other sibling. Though it is his right, it has also lead to his plan's ruin. Jacob never had an opportunity to hear from Isaac's mouth his intentions, making him act only on his mother's wish to steal the blessing. How damaging would that be to the relationship between Isaac and Jacob? May the LORD grant us wisdom when it comes to succession planning and when we write our wills and plan the inheritance.
Are we like Rebekah
Rebekah had her own agenda, and in an act of insubordination, thought that the blessing can be stolen. I often wonder what Rebekah had planned next after this power-grab - how was the family going to live on with such a blatant disrespect of Isaac and Esau? I will not be surprised if Rebekah acted impulsively, without regard or consultation with any other person to pursue this act that would break her family apart. Even today, the things that destroy families often start with seemingly 'justifying' reasons. One wonders what reasons Rebekah may have had in her heart - maybe Isaac had given reason for Rebekah to not trust him, thinking he is too blind/too old to make a wise decision on who should receive the blessing. Wasn't the birthright already given to Jacob earlier? Then surely it is right to just pass Jacob the rest. Perhaps Jacob simply deserved it more. Whichever the reason, Rebekah took justice in her own hands - and in the next episode, we will get to see the consequences of her action.
Are we like Esau
To such an important ceremony, similar to him losing his blessing for bowl of stew, he would once again over a preparation of a meal lose something of worth. Was he aware of how important the request by his father Isaac was? We may never know exactly how he went about his hunt and his cooking, but we do know that he was a skilled hunter - his father didn't send him on a quest that he wasn't prepared for. One wonders whether Esau was in a good relationship with the household of Isaac - why had none of the servants who served in the house give warning to Esau that someone had come to take clothes from his room? It felt like Esau, when compared to Jacob, had gone about his assignment alone where Jacob had the support of his family. In our great endeavors in life, whether it is starting a family, or getting a new job, or pathing our career - how much of it these important life chapters to we embark on alone? Consider, for the next or even the current chapter we are in now to have the family God had placed us in to help us. United in purpose, Esau may even have had Rebekah help him with the recipe of the meat he was to catch and improved his chances, but alas, alone Esau pursued his assignment.
Are we like Jacob
Jacob didn't question the rightness or wrongness of the act of stealing the blessing. He was only thinking of one thing - what if I get caught? What if a curse is given by his father? That was it - no moral quandry aside from the simple question - can I get away with this. Greed ruled his heart. Perhaps thinking - I had gotten away with getting the birthright before, Esau doesn't deserve this secret transfer of power. I can grab it now, this will be a missed opportunity if I don't act now! My mother is making this easy for me - if the way forward is smooth and blessed, surely this is God's will for me! My mother already assumed any liability for what's going to happen. Let me just grab this. The cost is only clothing myself in a lie. I just need to commit identity theft. What is the person Jacob? I need to live the life of Esau - my life is worthless - being Jacob is worthless. I reject it only that I may gain blessing - isn't blessing everything in life? Would not the sheep, the cattle, the servants, the land, the property be worth letting go of myself?
Whoever we may relate to, let us ask God to examine our hearts and our motivations. The very things that motivate and move us often reveal the "truths" we speak of ourselves and of others that are hidden in our hearts. God is not blind like Isaac, nor is God scheming things like Rebekah. God is not careless like Esau. God's heart is not ruled by greed and selfishness like Jacob. May God teach us to indeed be more like Christ as God reminds us also of how much we need Him in our family situations and in our life's path!
Stay tuned for the next episode of the Blessing Heist!
Dear God, our heavenly Father, search our hearts and our motivations. If we are found to be in a path that leads to the destruction of life, even of others, grant us the courage and wisdom to find the path that leads to life. May we never gain only from others losing, nor profit from what is not rightfully ours. Unite our families in which you have placed us that we may live not in betrayal, contempt, and selfishness but in forgiveness, renewal, and love. Grant us the light to help us to follow you in joy and obedience, Amen.
Cooking Challenge: Rebekah's Stew
(Tried my best to find a recipe of possibly what Rebekah may have cooked to impress Isaac, though I believe the Bible doesn't really go into great detail of the exact ingredients. Found a venison recipe in https://www.gourmetfoodworld.com/succulent-venison-stew-recipe-16406, though a goat kaldereta may have also done the trick! If you have managed to cook a great stew worthy of Isaac, I pray that you may share your recipe with inviting pictures in the comments section below!)
Hungry Chaplain update:
Glad to be back after a long hiatus. Ministry has been quite busy lately, but I'm coming to realize that discipline for writing and reflecting is something that needs to be protected. Praying to God to have a good pace in writing, that in good time we may finish the Genesis series.
Food reflections and updates will be done in a separate post format in coming weeks!
I'm planning to launch a threadless shop to help raise some money (side-income + support for some who are in need in our congregation). This will help to keep the Hungry Chaplain website alive! Stay tuned for updates.
A lot of members in the list seem to be 'bots' who auto-joined Hungry Chaplain so I spent a bit of time to remove a lot. If I had accidentally removed you, please drop me an email so that I can add you back (after verifying your identity, of course!)
I'm also in the process of writing a handbook for Filipino domestic helpers and their employers in Singapore, do keep me in prayer as we seek how God can bring about social justice in our generation and time!