Genesis 25:19 – 28:9 ; Haftarah: Malachi 1:1 – 2:7
In this parasha we learn about blessings: the blessing of Isaac, the blessing of Esau and of Jacob and the meaning of their struggle, the reason Jacob held on to Esau’s heel, as well as the reasons he put on Esau’s garments and the skins of the goat-kid on his hands. We also learn about Esau’s prophetic role and the acquisition of the first-born rights by Jacob. We try to analyze Rebecca and her role as Seed-carrier and, as always trace the history of the Seed in our parasha through the various events He passes through. Finally, we meditate on the role of the passover in our parasha and in Isaac’s life and connect it to the eventual salvation of Esau in Christ.
Why is there no “these are the generations of Abraham” – the father of many nations?
Who blessed Isaac and how?
What is the meaning of the struggle of the two nations in Rebecca’s womb?
Why did Jacob hold on to Esau’s heel?
How are Esau’s actions and words prophetic?
How did Isaac deal with the attacks of the Philistines and how does this prefigure Christ?
Did Jacob deceive Esau and Isaac?
What is the meaning of Jacob’s “putting on Esau” to get the blessing from his father?
We will try to answer these and additional questions in this episode.
Scripture references from the episode
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Ge 3:15)
“The house of Jacob shall be a fire,
and the house of Joseph a flame,
and the house of Esau stubble;
they shall burn them and consume them,
and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau,
for the LORD has spoken.” (Obadiah 18)
“And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, (Isa 11:3)
Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 32
“The nightfall of the festival day of Passover came, and Isaac called unto Esau his elder son, and said: O my son! Tonight the heavenly ones utter songs, on this night the treasuries of dew are opened; on this day the blessing of the dews (is bestowed). Make me savoury meat whilst I am still alive, and I will bless thee. The Holy Spirit rejoined, saying to him: “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainties” (Prov. 23:6). He went to fetch it, and was delayed there. Rebecca said to Jacob his (other) son: On this night the treasuries of dew will be opened, and on this night the angels utter a song. Make savoury meat for thy father, that he may eat and whilst he still lives he may bless thee.
Now (Jacob) was skilled in the Torah, and his heart dreaded the curse of his father. His mother said to him: My son! If it be a blessing, may it be upon thee and upon thy seed; if it be a curse, let it be upon me and upon my soul, as it is said, “And his mother said to him, Upon me be thy curse, my son” (Gen. 27:13). He went and brought two kids of the goats. Were two kids of the goats the food for Isaac? But he brought one as a Paschal offering, and with the other he prepared the savoury meat to eat; and he brought it to his father, and he said to him: “Arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison” (ibid. 19).
St. Augustine of Hippo – The City of God
Isaac’s two sons, Esau and Jacob, grew up together. The primacy of the elder was transferred to the younger by a bargain and agreement between them, when the elder immoderately lusted after the lentiles the younger had prepared for food, and for that price sold his birthright to him, confirming it with an oath. We learn from this that a person is to be blamed, not for the kind of food he eats, but for immoderate greed. Isaac grew old, and old age deprived him of his eyesight. He wished to bless the elder son, and instead of the elder, who was hairy, unwittingly blessed the younger, who put himself under his father’s hands, having covered himself with kid-skins, as if bearing the sins of others. Lest we should think this guile of Jacob’s was fraudulent guile, instead of seeking in it the mystery of a great thing, the Scripture has predicted in the words just before, “Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a simple man, dwelling at home.” Some of our writers have interpreted this, “without guile.” But whether the Greek ἄπλαστος means “without guile,” or “simple,” or rather “without feigning,” in the receiving of that blessing what is the guile of the man without guile? What is the guile of the simple, what the fiction of the man who does not lie, but a profound mystery of the truth? But what is the blessing itself? “See,” he says, “the smell of my son is as the smell of a full field which the Lord hath blessed: therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and of the fruitfulness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: let nations serve thee, and princes adore thee: and be lord of thy brethren, and let thy father’s sons adore thee: cursed be he that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.” The blessing of Jacob is therefore a proclamation of Christ to all nations. It is this which has come to pass, and is now being fulfilled. Isaac is the law and the prophecy: even by the mouth of the Jews Christ is blessed by prophecy as by one who knows not, because it is itself not understood. The world like a field is filled with the odor of Christ’s name: His is the blessing of the dew of heaven, that is, of the showers of divine words; and of the fruitfulness of the earth, that is, of the gathering together of the peoples: His is the plenty of corn and wine, that is, the multitude that gathers bread and wine in the sacrament of His body and blood. Him the nations serve, Him princes adore. He is the Lord of His brethren, because His people rules over the Jews. Him His Father’s sons adore, that is, the sons of Abraham according to faith; for He Himself is the son of Abraham according to the flesh. He is cursed that curseth Him, and he that blesseth Him is blessed. Christ, I say, who is ours is blessed, that is, truly spoken of out of the mouths of the Jews, when, although erring, they yet sing the law and the prophets, and think they are blessing another for whom they erringly hope. So, when the elder son claims the promised blessing, Isaac is greatly afraid, and wonders when he knows that he has blessed one instead of the other, and demands who he is; yet he does not complain that he has been deceived, yea, when the great mystery is revealed to him, in his secret heart he at once eschews anger, and confirms the blessing. “Who then,” he says, “hath hunted me venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him, and he shall be blessed?”3 Who would not rather have expected the curse of an angry man here, if these things had been done in an earthly manner, and not by inspiration from above? O things done, yet done prophetically; on the earth, yet celestially; by men, yet divinely! If everything that is fertile of so great mysteries should be examined carefully, many volumes would be filled; but the moderate compass fixed for this work compels us to hasten to other things.
Quodvultdeus – Book of Promises and Predictions of God 1.21.28
I will try to explain briefly how wonderful, great and full of mysteries according to the promises of God are the events that occurred in these two twins. Isaac, their father, who had become blind in his physical eyes while his interior light continued to shine, promised Esau, his firstborn son, to give him the blessing, if he would prepare a tasteful dish of game for him. And Esau immediately hurried to carry out what had been ordered. The mother, who had heard the promise of the blessing for the elder brother, since she was divinely inspired, prepared a mystical plot made with prophetical art in order to direct the blessing to Jacob, the younger son. She took the garments of the firstborn son that she had at home, and dressed the younger brother with them, and put skins of young goats on his arms and his naked neck and dressed him in such a way that who he was would not be recognized. And this symbolical action in a sense shows us the Christ: he did not take the sinful flesh but “the likeness of sinful flesh” by receiving also the law of the Old Testament as the garments of the firstborn, since the Lord said that he had come not in order to abolish the law, but in order to accomplish it. In this attire Jacob, the younger son, who had already taken away from his brother the right of primogeniture, also gets hold of the blessing.
Hippolytus – On the Blessings of Isaac and Jacob
The fact that Jacob wears the robe signifies that the Word has been clothed by the flesh, while the skins of the kids wrapped around his arms show that he has received in himself all our sins by stretching his hands and arms on the cross, as Isaiah himself has said: “He has borne our sins and carried our diseases.”
Hippolytus – On the Blessings of Isaac and Jacob 8.14
The fact that he says to him, “Your brother came by trickery and took away your blessing” means, in a way that implies a mystery, that the Word of God, after his incarnation, had to take the form of a slave. [Thus] thanks to him who was unknown in his generation, he might receive the blessing of the Father and transmit it to us, who believe in him.
Hippolytus – On the Blessings of Isaac and Jacob 10.
And the words: “You shall live by your sword” mean that the people never stop being in defensive or aggressive war with the nations living around them, as Scripture itself shows. And the sentence “You shall be the servant of your brother” indicates the age that still continues, the age in which the Savior was present and came to visit his own brothers according to the flesh, and the Savior the prophet here suggests to serve after humanity has become obedient. That is why he said: “There will come a time when you shall shake and break the yoke from your neck.” Which yoke, but the yoke that lies in the law? Provided that they do not live any more as slaves under the yoke of the law but believe in the gospel as free men, they can still be saved.