Wednesday

15 November 2017

”May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you and nations bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!” (vv. 28-29)

Psalm: Psalm 119:97-112


Background

The act of an elderly man blessing his son before he dies is based, like all blessings and curses, on belief in the power of the spoken word, and is very much in the spirit of Genesis which begins with an account of the power of God's word in creating the universe (Genesis 1). Since it was regarded as the responsibility of the eldest son to carry the family name forward, the eldest would receive the only or greater blessing, and often the whole inheritance too.

In Genesis 25:21-34 we learn that Esau and his non-identical twin Jacob struggled in the womb of Rebekah and that God told her this was because they would be the ancestors of two hostile nations, and that the nation fathered by Jacob, later called Israel, would prove superior to Esau's. Esau was a great hunter, winning his father's approval, whilst Jacob preferred domestic farm life and was his mother's favourite. On one occasion Esau exchanged his birthright as the eldest son in return for a meal Jacob had cooked, so what happens in today's passage was perhaps doubly bound to happen as fulfilling both God's plan and Esau's careless trade.

Rebekah overheard Isaac asking Esau to catch game and prepare a meal before he gave him his blessing, and she determined, in the verses omitted from the passage, that Jacob should usurp Esau's place. It seems Isaac's sense of taste, as well as his eyesight, was failing, so a meal made from young goat meat would pass for fine game, whilst Jacob would seem to be Esau if he wore Esau's clothes along with goatskin on his smooth flesh so that he felt more like his hirsute brother. Although Isaac was suspicious over how quickly the meal was ready, and concerning the sound of Jacob's voice, the ruse worked, and Jacob received the blessing promising fertile lands and political supremacy over his brothers. The other brothers apart from Esau are not named in the Genesis story.


To Ponder

  • What experience do you have, if any, of family jealousies, where each parent takes the side of a different child? How might it be avoided?
  • What circumstances can you envisage where the kind of deceit in which Jacob and Rebekah engaged might be justified? Notice how in verse 20 Jacob even took God's name in vain to allay Isaac's suspicion. But if it had always been God's plan that his blessing of Abraham should pass through Jacob, might the end justify the means?
  • What do you feel about the desire of someone who, like Isaac, knows they are near their life's end wanting to offer a verbal legacy to their children? Has a parent or grandparent, or indeed someone else, ever spoken words that have 'stayed with you' and influenced your life? What were they?


Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Stephen Mosedale

 

  • Sign up for e-newslettersKeep in touch with what interests you