Plot meets Counterplot
You can’t make this stuff up. The story of Jacob “stealing” the blessing from Esau is real and none of the names were changed because no one was innocent. This plot can be found borrowed, in part, in Shakespearean plays such as Othello, and in plenty of other plays and TV shows and movies, where one character pretends to be another and ends up in all kinds of trouble, as the audience laughs. But make no mistake. All four of the characters in this Bedouin tragicomedy are guilty, but Moses, our narrator, makes no editorial comments. He simply tells it like it is and shows the rival strategies of father and favorite son vs. mother and favorite son and how they all end up serving God’s purposes. But not without lies and deception and even blasphemy.
Isaac is old now, his eyes are dim, and maybe his faculties are as well. He thinks he is about to die so he wants to give Esau his blessing, though Isaac will end up living at least 20 more years. And it seems the whole thing for Isaac centers on food. Listen! Isaac knew the oracle God spoke to Rebekah before these boys were born, that the older would serve the younger. You know Rebekah had reminded him of it often as the boys grew up. But Isaac was determined to have his way, not God’s, in this. And honestly, the older he got the more he was being led by his five senses, and not by good sense. Derek Kidner wrote, “his palate had long since governed his heart and silenced his tongue for he was powerless to rebuke the sin that was Esau’s downfall…(and he ends up) rejecting the evidence of his ears for that of his hands, following the promptings of his palate and seeking inspiration through -of all things- his nose.”
The plot of the story is hatched because Rebekah overhears Isaac talking to Esau about the kill and the meal and the thrill of the blessing that would follow. What if Rebekah had not overheard and Isaac had eaten Esau’s food and then blessed his older son? Oh my goodness, what would God have done then? We don’t know how, but God’s purposes will stand. Always and forever. Rebekah did not have to hatch this plot, because God had already told her Jacob was the chosen son. God did not need her help. We never have to take matters in our own hands to get what we think God wants for us.
It might appear Jacob has a twinge of conscience when his mother tells him her plan, but it is simply fear of being caught. This is situational ethics 101. Do whatever you need to do, even if it includes deception, to “accomplish the purposes of God.” Kent Hughes writes about this, “The variations of this ethical absurdity are endless: (A man says) ‘It is God’s will that I provide for my family. Therefore a partial truth told to a client is OK.” Or, “It is God’s will that his Word be preached with power. So the use of made-up illustrations and personal stories are fine if they enhance the truth of the Word.” Or, “God wants people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. So it’s OK to use unbelievers and entertainers to get an audience.”
Jacob says to his mom, I might end up bringing a curse upon myself, and Rebekah assures him that no, she would take the curse. As if she had authority over that discipline from God. Then she says, “Only obey my voice.” Listen, everyone, and especially young people. If anyone tells you to do something that you know is wrong, no matter who it is, obey God instead. But Jacob did what his mother told him to do, and Rebekah knew that she could prepare some gamey-tasting goat (yuck) that would taste just as delicious as whatever Esau would be dragging back to the tent, and she could do it in less time. That was important, right? You couldn’t have Esau showing up right when Jacob, all dressed up in his Esau-halloween costume, is carrying a platter of steaming goat into his father’s tent. That would ruin the ambience and probably lead to fratricide. I’m telling you; you can’t make this stuff up.
The final touches are complete when Rebekah makes a meal that will appeal to Isaac’s stomach, puts some of Esau’s clothes on Jacob to help him smell like his brother, and goat skins on his arms and neck so he will feel like his brother. The fix is in, the props and the costumes are ready, so…
Read the rest of the story in Genesis 27!