Rebekah Took the Best Clothes of Esau and
Put Them on Her Younger Son Jacob

27: 5-17

DIG: What was Rebekah’s alternative? Did ADONAI need Rebekah’s help? Would God’s purposes have been thwarted if Rebekah and Jacob had kept their human hands off the situation? Why did Jacob follow his mother into this conspiracy? What were they trying to do? Who were they trying to please?

REFLECT: How far would you go if you really believed you were doing the God's will? When have you taken matters into your own hands with sad results? Does the end justify the means?

Like her mother-in-law Sarah (18:10), Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his favorite son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, she hatched her plan (27:5). Rebekah, indeed, had always been a woman of quick decision and action, as was evident from the time she immediately followed Abraham’s chief servant to marry Isaac. Probably, she and Jacob had had plenty of time to discuss this problem because he was over sixty years old at the time, and perhaps she had foreseen this development and already decided what she must do if the time should ever present itself.435

Rebekah said to her favorite son Jacob (Hebrew: Ya’akov), “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 ADONAI before I die” (27:6-7). A blessing in the presence of God would be irrevocable, and if given to Esav, Jacob would never receive it.

Then Rebekah issued her order: My son, listen carefully and do what I tell you (27:8). 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 (27:9-10).

Many people point to this episode in Jacob’s life and label him a deceiver and a liar for the rest of his life, when in fact he lived a life of honesty and righteousness. Most of us would not like a single moment of weakness to define our entire lives. The problem, of course, is that he did lie here, even associating God’s name with his lie (27:20). But why did the LORD not rebuke Ya’akov and withhold His blessing from him? Or, even after Isaac had blessed him, why did ADONAI later confirm the blessing (28:13-15)? Because the rebuke was solely for Esau, and the repentance was Isaac’s, not Jacob’s.

It seems that the only way to understand this situation is to conclude that even though the way in which Jacob and Rebekah went about obtaining the blessing from Isaac was wrong, the sin of Isaac and Esau was greater. The LORD does not approve of lying; Jacob and Rebekah knew this. They were sensitive and spiritual people, but they had decided that, as bad as deception might be in the sight of ADONAI, it had become necessary in this case in order to prevent a greater sin, that of conveying the most holy of God’s promises to a man who neither wanted it nor would honor it. This was as much of a lapse of faith as when Abraham went to Egypt in Chapter 12, and when Sarah suggested that they have a child through her handmaiden Hagar in Chapter 16. Rebekah had already received the revelation from the LORD that the older would serve the younger (25:23b). Here, then, Rebekah needed to trust that in ADONAI’s timing Ya’akov would receive the patriarchal blessing. But because of a lack of faith she felt that she needed to take matters into her own hands. It seemed that nothing could stop Isaac. Esau could have come back at any moment! We can only imagine how hopeless they felt. This was a desperate situation, but it wasn’t the first time that someone had lied to preserve God’s people.

The Hebrew midwives deliberately disobeyed Pharaoh and lied to him. Why? Because they feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do (see my commentary on Exodus Ah - So God Was Kind to the Midwives). To do otherwise would have resulted in the deaths of countless Hebrew boys. Did the LORD punish these midwives for lying? No, Elohim was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, He gave them families of their own (Exodus 1:20-21).

Another example of ADONAI’s blessing on a lie was in the life of Rahab. She and her family and all that belonged to her were saved because she hid two Israelite spies and lied about it to the king of Jericho (Joshua 2:4-7 and 6:25). There are a number of other instances in the Bible in which godly men, in order to accomplish the will of God and to glorify Him, had to break another of His commandments. These are rare exceptions and can only be justified in very special and unusual circumstances as we have here with Isaac and the patriarchal blessing. Furthermore, the people in these examples never gain any financial advantage for themselves. In fact, Rahab and the Hebrew midwives risked their lives because of the lies they told.

Similarly, Jacob and Rebekah, in order to do what they thought was necessary to accomplish God’s will, were willing to risk the wrath and hatred of their own loved ones, and Jacob even to risk his life at the hands of his angry brother. Their action hardly had any financial advantage. Because Jacob was righteous, he only cared about the spiritual ramifications of the blessing.436

Nevertheless, Ya’akov had some doubts, and he said to his mother, “My brother Esau is a hairy man, and I’m a man with smooth skin” (27:11). Isaac might have lost his eyesight, but his sense of touch remained intact.

Because Jacob was a righteous man (25:27), and he knew that not honoring his father was a sin in the sight of God. He asked: What if my father touches me? I would appear to be mocking him because of his blindness and would bring down a curse upon myself rather than a blessing. But his mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall upon me. I take full responsibility, just do what I say; go and get them for me” (27:12-13). She was so confident that this was the LORD’s will that she believed the ends justified the means and did not fear the possibility of a curse. Jacob also believed it was God’s will for him to receive the birthright and it didn’t take much convincing for him to follow his mother’s lead. After all, hadn’t God told her, “the older will serve the younger” (25:23c)?

So Ya’akov went and got the two choice young goats and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. While the food was cooking Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob (27:14-15). It would appear that Rebekah had kept these specific clothes in her house for this very purpose. Esau’s wives had been a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah (26:35) and were probably living somewhere else. These clothes would smell like Esav and the outdoors. This was clearly a very tense situation.

Rebekah also covered Jacob’s hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins to provide the feeling of hairiness, so Esau’s clothes would provide the proper smell, and the goatskins would provide the proper feel. Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made (27:16-17). The flesh of a young goat tastes like venison, and Isaac would not know the difference. Then she got Jacob dressed up and turned the food over to her son Ya’akov. Rebekah really thought she could pull the wool over Isaac’s eyes.437

So all the senses were taken care of. Isaac was blind, so Rebekah didn’t have to worry about that. Jacob wore Esau’s clothing to take care of the sense of smell. She cooked the young goats because they tasted like venison and used the goatskins to make Jacob appear hairy. The only sense she could not cover was Isaac’s sense of hearing, and that's where they almost blew their cover (27:21-24).

 

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