10

In Genesis 27, we read of Isaac’s deception by Jacob and Rebecca, tricking him into bestowing his blessing on Jacob rather than his brother. The whole thing transpires because there is a delay between Isaac’s stated desire to bless Esau and the actual blessing. This delay is due to Isaac’s request in vv. 3-4 (ESV):

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.

I’m wondering why it was necessary to have food involved in the blessing ( בַּעֲב֛וּר תְּבָרֶכְךָ֥ נַפְשִׁ֖י and later in v. 25 לְמַ֥עַן תְּבָֽרֶכְךָ֖ נַפְשִׁ֑י both meaning (unambiguously, to my knowledge) “so that my soul will bless you”). Isaac seemed interested in expediting the thing because, "I do not know the day of my death” (v. 2). So why delay by requesting food? Is this somehow required to legitimize the blessing?

  • Maybe Esau's stew was to die for! (A joke.) – rhetorician Mar 6 '15 at 23:47
  • 1
    This isn't the birthright- is it, Jacob already took that over another 'stew'-right? Or is this part of the birthright? Both things had stews attached, and Jacob stole both, if there were two,...maybe the killing of an animal and eating and drinking had something to do with God, a sacrifice- involved in the blessing? – Hello Mar 7 '15 at 0:31
4

"So that..."

Isaac is putting a condition of receiving a meal before he will give the blessing. What isn't so clear from the text is his reasons why. However, there does appear to be some ceremony involved in the proceedings.

Ceremonial language

Four times in this passage we read "my soul (person) may bless you" or "your soul (person) may bless me." (ch 27:4; 19; 25; 31) the repetition of this phrase seems to suggest that it was ceremonial/ritual language. If this was a ceremonial occasion it would have almost certainly contained a meal. However, this same language is not employed anywhere else in scripture, including when Jacob blesses his children (Gen 48-49).

Isaac's love of Esau's food

In the context of the larger story we find that Isaac favoured Esau because he liked Esau's wild game, see

Genesis 25:28: And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game

It is also clear that Jacob understood God's will on the matter. We read that he "trembled exceedingly" (v33) when he discovered that his plans had been thwarted and then we read that he would not take the blessing back from Jacob and give to Esau. Actually, he affirms the blessing of Jacob (ch 28:1) without any recorded recrimination at all.

Conclusion

Reading between the lines of the story, the most likely explanation for Isaac's demand for food from his son is that he knew he was going against the will of God and the reason was because of preference for Esau which was largely based upon Esau's game. Just as Esau was prepared to sell his birthright for some stew (Ch 25:29-34), so Isaac was also willing to sell the blessing for a full stomach. However, in the purposes of God this delay served to allow Jacob to receive the blessing that was rightfully his as the one with the birth right and as the one marked out by God to receive it.

1

It is not that he was going to die the next hour but, as Rashi 1 mentions:

Rabbi Joshua ben Korchah said: If a person reaches the age of [the death of] his parents, he should worry five years beforehand and five years afterwards, and Isaac was one hundred and twenty-three years old. He said, "Perhaps I will reach the age of [the death of] my mother, and she died at one hundred and twenty-seven, and I am thus within five years of her age; therefore, "I do not know the day of my death," -perhaps [I will die] at my mother’s age and perhaps at my father's age. [From Gen. Rabbah 65:121]

According to this, he was preparing because the time of his death was near. However, he believed he had enough time to eat and then bless Esau (Genesis 27:7).

Additionally, the patriarchs did not follow an established ritual when bless his children. They did what they thought was right. If Isaac wanted to eat before to bless Esau, that was his own choice.


Notes

  1. Genesis - Chapter 27 (Parshah Toldot) - Tanakh Online - Torah - Bible
1

I would like to suggest the following answer to your question. It comes from all the information in the Bible on this incident, not just those parts pointed out to us about Jacob and Rebekkah's deception.

Why delay a blessing by asking for food?

I would like to suggest that there were more deceptions involved in this story, than the ones plainly pointed out by the text, and like a good mystery novel, the plot thickens as the story proceeds.

Essau was married to local women who we are told, were not worshippers of God. We also learn that Essau treated his birth right with contempt, holding it of equal value to another stew or pottage that his brother prepared, which may also have been a planned deception by Jacob, or part of the second plot that followed it.

We learn that Rebekkah was unhappy with the women and their families that Essau married into, and the reason given was that these women did not honour the true God. This she told her husband Isaac, in the form of a complaint, and as a reason for Jacob to quickly get out of town, after the two had finished their deception and obtained the Blessing.

We also learn from the text following this part of the story, that Isaac lived on for many more years, after this incident, which may have taken place when he was about 100 or perhaps 140. He was nowhere near death, and lived to the ripe old age of 180 years, 40 years past this time of the Blessing.

If his health was 'so poor' that he said he might die soon, why is it he lived on for another 40 or 80 years past this time? (the plot thickening)

From the Bible writers we learn that Essau was 'hated' by God, while Jacob was 'loved'. The text says this was before either had done a thing. However, God knows the end before the beginning and knew both boys and what they were each like, before they were born.

The key thing about this story is that while Essau treated his birth right and the Blessing of Abraham as 'nothing much', Jacob desired it so badly that he was willing to risk his life to get it, and did, along with scheming in a couple of different plots of deception.

This is the thing that God valued, (not the deception and character failure) He loved that Jacob wanted the Birthright and Blessing enough to risk his life over it. On the other hand God hated that Essau thought so little of it that it was only equal in value to a bowl of soup. Essau gave up spiritual inheritance over fleeting physical gratification.

What I want to suggest is that God Himself was running His own plan, prophesied to Rebekkah at the birth of Essau and Jacob (twins)and that was that Jacob would inherit the Blessing and Birthright, and He was behind Jacob receiving the Blessing.

Although the text seems to suggest that Isaac seemed satisfied that it was Esau who he was blessing, I would like to leave this food for thought, that Isaac lived almost a half century past this event (and maybe even double this amount of time) although he rushed to give the Blessing because he said he was facing his own demise, Issac may have been running his own deception, with full awareness of the plot of his wife, and He may have calculated to give the Blessing to Jacob, because of Essau's behaviour that showed he did not value the things of the Lord.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.