Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 27

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Genesis 27:1. When Isaac was old — A hundred and thirty-seven years old; but he lived forty years after this. And his eyes were dim — Whereby God brought about his own purpose of bestowing the blessing on Jacob. He called Esau, his eldest son — With a view to declare him his heir. The promise of the Messiah, and the land of Canaan, was a great trust, first committed to Abraham, inclusive and typical of spiritual and eternal blessings; this, by divine direction, he transmitted to Isaac. Isaac, either not knowing, or not duly considering the divine oracle concerning his two sons, that the elder should serve the younger, resolves to entail all the honour and power that was wrapped up in the promise upon Esau his eldest son. Esau had greatly grieved his parents by his marriage, yet they had not expelled him, but it seems were pretty well reconciled to him.

Verse 2
Genesis 27:2. I know not the day of my death — How soon I may die; a declaration which every man may make, and which every man ought well to consider, and lay to heart. It is great mercy and wisdom in God to conceal from us the time of our dissolution. Hereby foreboding fear on the one hand, and vain presumption on the other, are prevented, and a strong motive is afforded us always to live and walk in the Spirit, and be like men waiting for their lord, that when Jesus cometh to call us hence, we may be found prepared to meet him.

“Is death uncertain?

Therefore be thou fix’d:

Fix’d as a sentinel; all eye, all ear:

All expectation of the coming foe.”

Verse 3
Genesis 27:3. Take me some venison — In this Isaac designed, not so much the refreshment of his own spirits, as the receiving a fresh instance of his son’s filial duty and affection to him, before he bestowed the designed favour upon him. That my soul may bless thee before I die — May confer my solemn, extraordinary, and prophetic blessing, and thereby may declare and constitute thee the heir of all the blessings bestowed by God upon me and my fathers. For it was no common blessing that Isaac meant for Esau, but that important patriarchal benediction which chiefly related to the peculiar and extraordinary covenant which God entered into with Abraham, to be a God to him and his seed, and to give them the land of Canaan, and in particular to that fundamental part of it, that the Messiah should be of his seed, and bless all the families of the earth. Isaac, out of a fond affection for Esau, endeavoured to entail this blessing on him, unmindful of the oracle that the elder should serve the younger.

Verse 6
Genesis 27:6. Rebekah spake unto Jacob — Rebekah is here contriving to procure the blessing for Jacob, which was designed for Esau. If the end were good, the means were bad, and no way justifiable. If it were not a wrong to Esau to deprive him of the blessing, he himself having forfeited it by selling the birthright, yet it was a wrong to Isaac to take advantage of his infirmity to impose upon him: it was a wrong to Jacob, whom she taught to deceive by putting a lie in his mouth. If Rebekah, when she heard Isaac promise the blessing to Esau, had gone to him, and with humility and seriousness put him in remembrance of that which God had said concerning their sons; if she had further showed him how Esau had forfeited the blessing, both by selling his birthright, and by marrying of strange wives; it is probable Isaac would have been prevailed with to confer the blessing upon Jacob, and needed not thus to have been cheated into it. This had been honourable and laudable, and would have looked well in history; but God left her to herself to take this indirect course, that he might have the glory of bringing good out of evil.

Verse 13
Genesis 27:13. Upon me be thy curse — That is, I will warrant the success; or, if the issue turn out ill, I will stand between thee and all danger. This she speaks in confidence of a good issue, probably through faith in God’s promises; the accomplishment of which, however, she seeks in an indirect and crooked way.

Verse 16
Genesis 27:16. The skins of the kids of goats — It is observed by Bochart, that, in the eastern countries, goats’ hair is very like the human.

Verse 19
Genesis 27:19. And Jacob said, I am Esau — Who would have thought this plain man could have played such a part? His mother having put him in the way of it, he applies himself to those methods which he had never accustomed himself to, but had always conceived an abhorrence of. But lying is soon learned. I wonder how honest Jacob could so readily turn his tongue to say, I am Esau, thy firstborn: and when his father asked him, (Genesis 27:24,) Art thou my very son Esau? to reply, I am. How could he say, I have done as thou badest me, when he had received no command from his father, but was doing as his mother bid him? How could he say, Eat of my venison, when he knew it came not from the field, but from the fold? But especially I wonder how he could have the forehead to father it upon God, and to use his name in the cheat.

Verse 20
Genesis 27:20. The Lord thy God brought it to me — Is this Jacob? It is certainly written not for our imitation, but our admonition. Here we see how one lie draws on another. Let him that standeth, take heed lest he fall.

Now let us see how Isaac gave Jacob his blessing.

Verse 21
Genesis 27:21. Come near, that I may feel thee — He had some suspicion from his voice, and too quick return, that it was not Esau.

Verse 27
Genesis 27:27. He smelled the smell of his raiment — Probably scented with odoriferous flowers and other perfumes, with which they could easily be supplied from Arabia, famed for aromatic herbs. The smell of my son is as the smell of a field — The grateful odour of my son’s apparel resembles that of a field which God hath adorned with a variety of fruits and flowers, and this I consider as a token and presage that he and his posterity shall be blessed with all sorts of blessings, and become blessings to others.

Three things Jacob is here blessed with, 1st, Plenty, (Genesis 27:28,) heaven and earth concurring to make him rich. 2d, Power, (Genesis 27:29,) particularly dominion over his brethren, namely, Esau and his posterity. 3d, Prevalency with God, and a great interest in heaven, Cursed be every one that curseth thee — Let God be a friend to all thy friends, and an enemy to all thine enemies. Now, certainly, more is comprised in this blessing than appears at first; it must amount to an entail of the promise of the Messiah: that was, in the patriarchal dialect, the blessing; something spiritual, doubtless, is included in it. First, That from him should come the Messiah, that should have a sovereign dominion on earth, See Numbers 24:19, Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, the star and sceptre, Genesis 27:17.

Jacob’s dominion over Esau was to be only typical of this, Genesis 49:10. Secondly, That from him should come the Church, that should be particularly owned and favoured by Heaven. It was part of the blessing of Abraham when he was first called to be the father of the faithful, Genesis 12:3, I will bless them that bless thee; therefore, when Isaac afterward confirmed the blessing to Jacob, he called it, the blessing of Abraham, Genesis 28:4.

Verse 29
Genesis 27:29. Let nations bow down to thee — When the Canaanites were subdued in the times of Joshua and the judges, and made tributary to the Israelites; and more especially when the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites became subject to them, in the time of David, this prophecy was fulfilled; but, like many other prophecies, it shall receive its principal accomplishment in the latter days of the Messiah’s kingdom, when he shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth; when all kings shall fall down before him, and all nations serve him, Psalms 72:8; Psalms 72:11.

Verse 33
Genesis 27:33. Isaac trembled very exceedingly — Being perplexed and astonished to consider herein God’s overruling providences, and how strangely his purpose of giving the blessing to Esau had been disappointed. Those that follow the choice of their own affections, rather than the dictates of the divine will, involve themselves in such perplexities as these. But he soon recovers himself, and ratifies the blessing he had given to Jacob; I have blessed him, and he shall be blessed — He might have recalled it; but now, at last, he is sensible he was in an error when he designed it for Esau. Either recollecting the divine oracle, or having found himself more than ordinarily filled with the Holy Ghost when he gave the blessing to Jacob, he perceived that God did, as it were, say Amen to it.

Genesis 27:35-36. Thy brother hath taken away thy blessing — That which by birthright belonged to thee, and which I had fully resolved to have bestowed on thee. He took away my birthright — This was a false accusation, for he himself had sold it, and despised it, Hebrews 12:16. This shows there was yet no true repentance in him.

Verse 39
Genesis 27:39. The fatness of the earth — Mount Seir, the heritage of Esau, was a fertile place, refreshed with dews and showers. By thy sword shalt thou live — That is, thou shalt be warlike, and live upon spoil. This was remarkably fulfilled both in Esau himself, and his posterity. He was a cunning hunter, a man of the field, and his descendants got possession of mount Seir by force and violence, expelling thence the Horites, the former inhabitants, Deuteronomy 2:22. They were almost continually at war with the Jews, both before and after the Babylonish captivity. Josephus says, they were so fond of broils, that they went to war as others would do to a banquet. Thou shalt serve thy brother — God never permitted the Edomites to lord it over the Israelites, although he made use of almost all the other neighbouring nations successively to oppress them. When thou shalt have dominion — Shalt gain strength, become powerful, and appoint a king of thy own. Thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck — “When the sons of Jacob,” says the Jerusalem Targum here, “attend to the law, and observe the precepts, they shall impose a yoke of servitude upon thy neck; but when they shall turn away themselves from studying the law, and neglect the precepts, behold, then thou shalt shake off the yoke of servitude.” This is no bad exposition of the passage: for it was David who brought the Edomites under the yoke, and in his time the Jews in a great degree observed the law. But in the reign of Jehoram, when they were very corrupt, “the Edomites revolted from under the dominion of Judah, making themselves a king,” 2 Chronicles 21:8; 2 Chronicles 21:10. We may observe here, although Esau obtained a blessing, it was far short of Jacob’s. There is nothing in it that points at Christ, nothing that brings either Esau or his posterity into the Church of God, and without that, “the fatness of the earth” and the plunder of the field will stand him in little stead. Thus Isaac, by faith, blessed them both according as their lot should be. And surely the exact accomplishment of these prophetic declarations, which were fulfilled many hundreds of years after the death of Moses who recorded them, must, if properly considered, give us a high idea of the Holy Scriptures, and convince us that they are truly the words of that BEING who knoweth the end from the beginning.

Verse 41-42
Genesis 27:41-42. Esau said in his heart — What he afterward uttered in words, The days of mourning for my father are at hand — According to the course of nature. Isaac, however, lived forty-four years after this. Thy brother doth comfort himself — With thoughts of revenge, (which is sweet to all enraged mind,) and with hopes of recovering his birthright.

Verse 44-45
Genesis 27:44-45. Tarry with him a few days — Which proved to be above twenty years. Why should I be deprived of you both in one day? — Of one by murder, and the other by the hand of justice, (Genesis 9:6,) or by some remarkable stroke of divine vengeance, Acts 28:4.

Verse 46
Genesis 27:46. If Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth — As Esau has done. More artifice still. This was not the thing she was afraid of. But if we use guile once, we shall be very ready to use it again. It should be carefully observed, that, although a blessing came on Jacob’s posterity by his vile lying and dissimulation, yet it brought heavy affliction upon himself, and that for a long term of years. So severely did God punish him personally, for “doing evil that good might come.”