Scripture says in Genesis 27:40 NKJV that Isaac said to Esau,

40 By your sword you shall live, And you shall serve your brother; And it shall come to pass, when you become restless, That you shall break his yoke from your neck.

This seems prophetic. However, I don't recall this ever being fulfilled in Esau's life.

  • Did Esau ever break the yoke from his neck?

    • If not then what is this referring to?

3 Answers 3


Perhaps it is best to understand this not of the individuals, but of the nations they represent, i.e. Israel and Edom.

In that case, we could see 1 Kings ch11 vvv15-16 as the moment when the yoke was imposed (by the action of David and Joab) and 2 Kings ch8 v20 as the moment when the yoke was shaken off. This was in the days of Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, in whose time "Edom revolted from the rule of Judah and set up a king of their own".


The answer to this excellent question about the prophecy of Gen 27:40 has been understood for some time as what happened under king David and later king Ahaz.

The Cambridge commentary offers this:

thou shalt serve thy brother Cf. Genesis 25:23. The people of Edom were first subjugated by Israel in the reign of David. Cf. 2 Samuel 8:14. ...

shake … neck The metaphor is that of the bull refusing the yoke. Edom successfully threw off the yoke of the kingdom of Judah in the reigns of Jehoram, 2 Kings 8:20-22, and Ahaz, 2 Kings 16:6. But freedom from the dominion of Israel was followed by submission to Assyria. Edom appears among those who paid tribute to the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III (731 b.c.), the Pul of 2 Kings 15:19-20.

Ellicott is similar:

The prophecy of Edom’s subjection to his brother was literally fulfilled, as Idumæa was for ages a mere dependency upon Judah; but in the days first of Joram, and then of Ahaz, it revolted, and recovered its freedom. It was again conquered by Hyrcanus, the nephew of Judas Maccabaeus; nor was its subject condition altered by the fact that the dynasty of the Herods was of Edomite extraction. In troubled times, then, it broke the yoke from its neck; but generally Edom served his brother.

Barnes makes similar remarks:

"And thy brother shalt thou serve." Edom was long independent; but at length Saul was victorious over them 1 Samuel 14:47, and David conquered them 2 Samuel 8:14. Then followed a long struggle, until John Hyrcanus, 129 b.c., compelled them to be circumcised and incorporated into Judaism. "Break his yoke." The history of Edom was a perpetual struggle against the supremacy of Israel. Conquered by Saul, subdued by David, repressed by Solomon, restrained after a revolt by Amaziah, they recovered their independence in the time of Ahab. They were incorporated into the Jewish state, and furnished it with the dynasty of princes beginning with Antipater.

  • Thank you for this answer. It looks like I will have to understand and study some of the historical context to fully grasp it!
    – Jason_
    Apr 2 at 20:34

Genesis 27:40 KJV

"And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck."

The King James uses the word dominion. When Jacob is leading his household from Peniel and meets his brother Esau, which has 400 men, Esau might be said to have dominate force. Esau had said in his heart that he would kill Jacob after his father's death (Gen.27:41). To carry the hatred of wanting to kill your brother for 20 some odd years would have been a burden about his neck. Esau instead repented and reconciles with Jacob. Without disagreeing with the future fulfillment, Esau did have dominion on his side, and chose to discard the hatred for his brother and the personal yoke he had carried.

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