Home » Biblical Studies » God’s Will by God’s Means: Did Jacob NEED to Trick Isaac to Fulfill God’s Plan?

God’s Will by God’s Means: Did Jacob NEED to Trick Isaac to Fulfill God’s Plan?

?????????????????????????????????????????????I had the pleasure of attending the President’s Chapel recently at Northpoint Bible College. I co-authored the book 40 Days With the Savior with Jonathan Cashman and have been traveling with them as they minister in music to promote the book, shake babies, and kiss hands. Or something like that. Anyway, I was excited when they were given a chance to lead worship during the President’s chapel.

Dr. Arnett’s challenging sermon reminded me of a post that I’ve been meaning to write (In truth I have about a decade’s worth of posts I keep meaning to write, but this one has been on my mind.)

The message revolved around Isaac’s blessing of his two sons, Esau and Jacob.

In spite of early prophetic declarations such as, “And the LORD said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.’” (Genesis 25:23) Isaac seems determined to bless Esau instead. Favoritism is an ugly trait in parents.

Genesis 27:1-4 reads, “When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called Esau his older son and said to him, “My son”; and he answered, “Here I am.” He said, “Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me, and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.”

In this event, Isaac is set to do his own thing, but Rebekah and Jacob are determined to snag the blessing for themselves… it’s God’s promise to Jacob anyway, right? Does it really matter that he has to deceive his father both indirectly and directly, drawing the Name of YHWH into his lie when he is almost caught, adding blasphemy to deception and theft?

Yes, it always matters, said Dr. Arnett. There is more at stake than just getting what one wants. It is not enough to pursue God’s will, not enough to seek to do good things for others, not enough to secure the reputation and means to help others.

For surely Jacob had something that Esau did not, something which caused YHWH to favor Jacob in spite of his obvious character flaws. Jacob valued divine blessing, divine favor. His passions for this blessing were a bit untamed, but at least he had passion. Esau sold away his own birthright for soup.

Even so, we must pursue God’s will in God’s way, because our character is on the line. We must pursue God’s will in God’s way because only God knows the true consequences for our choices. We never really get away with anything.

One might say, as my father often did when I was a child. [He may have been quoting someone else. He was often wise, but never much of a poet.] He would say, “The character of the man will always overtake the ministry of the man.” Knowing my own heart as I do, my own laziness, my own selfishness, this is a fearful thing to me.

Lord, make me clean, give me strength to overcome every temptation to get for myself, give me strength to wait on your timing by following your precepts.

The question remained, however, at the end of Dr. Arnett’s message. “What if Jacob had waited?”

What would have happened to the blessing if Jacob had allowed Esau to do his hunting and to go unmolested into Isaac’s tent?

One answer of faith says, “Whatever it was, it would have been better for Jacob than becoming a cheat in his father’s eyes.”

I agree… But would like to propose another answer of faith, in addition to this one, one rooted in the text.

I believe that if Jacob had not cheated, lied and stolen, that Esau would have brought his meal to his father and that Isaac would have opened his mouth to bless him and ended up saying the very same things he did say. I believe Isaac would have made Esau the servant of Jacob. Isaac would have pronounced the younger the master of the elder.

Esau would have wept and changed nothing, but he would have been left having to hate his brother for the wrong reasons rather than the right ones. He couldn’t have accused Jacob of anything, but being God’s choice, God’s righteous servant. (Not that that would have saved him, mind you; it certainly didn’t save Able.) Esau would have raged and threatened, but he would have had to contend with heaven in his own heart (Something else Jacob stole from Esau) and would have had to lash out at his brother unjustly.

As it was, Esau’s hatred was well earned by Jacob.

Why do I think this?

First, I think that Jacob’s sick bed blessing over Joseph’s sons provides an intended lens for reading Isaac’s.

Here, in Genesis 48:1-20, Jacob, who is blind with age, reaches out his hands to bless Joseph’s two sons. Joseph has placed them in the right order so that the elder gets the best blessing, but Jacob crosses his arms to make the younger superior to the elder. When Joseph gets upset at this confusion and tries to put Jacob’s hands aright, Jacob will not change back. He speaks what he knows he must speak as the prophet of the moment.

Second, I think Balaam’s attempted cursing of Israel on behalf of Balak king of Moab in Numbers 22 provides a back-up to this interpretation. Balaam is a prophet, frequently used to speak oracles. He is, however, a man for hire. Being dazzled by the money offered by the king of Moab to curse Israel, he goes, though told to not to go. After a few snafus involving a talking donkey and an armed angel, Balaam tries and tries again to curse Israel. YHWH, however, is determined to bless them. Balaam opens his mouth to curse and a blessing pops out… several times.

If you are ever tempted to use Jacob’s acquisition of the blessing through trickery to justify your own less than upright means for getting something good, forget it.

We need to pursue God’s will in God’s way.

2 thoughts on “God’s Will by God’s Means: Did Jacob NEED to Trick Isaac to Fulfill God’s Plan?

  1. matt says:

    I’ve always been confused about this story… isaac was depicted as a righteous man who knew the will of god, so why did he have to be tricked? Why didn’t god talk to isaac & tell him to bless jacob? Why would he talk to Isaac’s wife in stead? Why would god require deception, theft, etc to accomplish righteousness in stead if just talking to his patriarch? Blessing the younger son above the older son is against the tradition of the time, but not without precedent. If god had told him to bless jacob, I believe he would have done so. I would have to believe that an uncompromising righteous god would have found a way to do it without breaking rules important enough to be included in the 10 commandments! So what do they really mean here?

    1. Isaac is like anyone else… a human being who has bias and prejudice and a cultural inclination toward certain ends. He played favorites, as did his mother and wife and sons. In that moment of prophetic blessing, I believe that Jacob did not have to lie and cheat. I believe Isaac would have opened his mouth to bless Ishmael and said the same thing to him anyway, just as Jacob later reverses the blessings of his grandsons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: