Genesis (Part 118)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis 27:26-29

26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” 27 So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said,

“See, the smell of my son
    is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed!
28 May God give you of the dew of heaven
    and of the fatness of the earth
    and plenty of grain and wine.
29 Let peoples serve you,
    and nations bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
    and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
    and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

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This section of verses deal with the actual blessing from Isaac to Jacob (with Jacob of course dressed as Esau.)

From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:

(26) Come near now, and kiss me, my son.—This was the solemn preparation for the giving of the blessing. Isaac’s suspicions had now quite passed away. He had eaten and drunk, and the time had now come for the decision which son was to inherit the promise.

(27) As the smell of a field.—From the abundance of aromatic plants, the pastures of Palestine are peculiarly fragrant; but Isaac, deceived by the scent of Esau’s own garments, intended probably to contrast the pure sweetness of one whose life was spent in the open field with the less pleasant odour which Jacob would bring with him from the cattle-shed

The commentary above states that Isaac’s suspicions had now passed away. This is not a universally held belief. As discussed in the last section, some believe that Isaac is aware of the ruse. Perhaps a kiss from his “smooth skinned” son was the last bit of necessary information to confirm. (It stands to reason that Esau might be hairier of face than his brother and we did not read how Rebekah and Jacob might have arranged to obscure that difference.)

Thus in verse 27, we are left either to decide that Isaac is fooled by the ruse or whether he – not deceived at all – attempts to convince Jacob that the ruse worked.

From the chabad.org article covered in our last post:

However, a closer reading of the Torah’s account indicates that Isaac was well aware of the difference between his two children. Jacob almost gave himself away when he said, in reply to his father’s question about how he managed to find game so quickly, “The L-rd your G‑d sent me good speed”; Isaac knew that Esau did not speak that way, and immediately suspected that the son before him was Jacob rather than Esau.

There note above implies that there is a ceremonial aspect to the request of Isaac that his son kiss him. More on that from The Pulpit Commentaries:

And he came near, and kissed him. Originally the act of kissing had a symbolical character. Here it is a sign of affection between a parent and a child; in Genesis 29:13 between relatives. It was also a token of friendship (Tobit 7:6; 10:12; 2 Samuel 20:9Matthew 26:48Luke 7:45Luke 15:20Acts 20:37). The kissing of princes was a symbol of homage (1 Samuel 10:1Psalms 2:12; Xenoph; ‘Cyrop.,’ 7. 5, 32). With the Persians it was a mark of honor (Xenoph; ‘Agesil.,’ 5. 4). The Rabbins permitted only three kinds of kisses—the kiss of reverence, of reception, and of dismissal. The kiss of charity was practiced among disciples in the early Christian Church (Romans 16:161 Corinthians 16:202 Corinthians 13:12; 1Th 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14vide Kitto’s’ ‘Cyclopedia,’ art. Kissing). And he smelled the smell of his raiment,—not deliberately, in order to detect whether they belonged to a shepherd or a huntsman (Tuch), but accidentally while, in the act of kissing. The odor of Esau’s garments, impregnated with the fragrance of the aromatic herbs of Palestine, excited the dull sensibilities of the aged prophet, suggesting to his mind pictures of freshness and fertility, and inspiring him to pour forth his promised benediction—and blessed him (not a second time, the statement in Genesis 29:23 being only inserted by anticipation), and said,—the blessing, as is usual in elevated prophetic utterances, assumes a poetic and antistrophical form (cf. Esau’s blessing, verses 39, 40)—See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field—the first clause of the poetic stanza clearly connects with the odor of Esau’s raiment as that which had opened the fount of prophetic song in Isaac’s breast, so far at least as its peculiar form was concerned; its secret inspiration we know was the Holy Ghost operating through Isaac’s faith in the promise (vide Hebrews 11:20)—which the Lord hath blessed. The introduction of the name Jehovah instead of Elohim in this second clause proves that Isaac did not mean to liken his son to an ordinary well-cultivated field, but to “field like that of Paradise, resplendent with traces of the Deity—an ideal field, bearing the same relation to an ordinary one as Israel did to the heathen—a kind of enchanted garden, such as would be realized at a later period in Canaan, as far as the fidelity of the people permitted it” (Hengstenberg).

The elements of the blessing:

  1. The smell of my son is as the smell of a field blessed by the Lord (Yahweh.)
  2. May God give you the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine.
  3. Let peoples serve you and nations bow down to you
  4. Be lord over your brothers and may your mother’s sons bow down to you
  5. Cursed be everyone who curses you
  6. Blessed be everyone who blesses you

From the note above, the blessing begins in a poetic forms. The note states that this is common in prophetic utterances. The note continues saying that Isaac’s language projects an intent to connect his son with the divine.

Moving on to the second point in verse 28, from Ellicott:

(28) Therefore God give thee.—Heb., And the Elohim give thee. Here, as not unfrequently is the case, the name Elohim follows immediately upon that of Jehovah. As the blessings of dew and fertile land are the gifts of the God of nature, the use of the title Elohim is in accordance with the general rule.

The fatness of the earth.—Heb., the fatnesses: that is, the fat places. In the countries where Esau and Jacob were to have their homes, the land varies from districts of extraordinary fertility to regions of barren rock and sterile sand. It was these rich fields which Isaac’s blessing conveyed to Jacob.

Wine.—Not the word used in Genesis 27:25, but tirosh, the unfermented juice of the grape. It thus goes properly with corn, both being the natural produce of the field.

As the note points out, the language here for God shifts from the tetragrammaton (Yahweh) to Elohim. I am not sure that I follow Ellicott’s explanation for why a different name is used. However, as we have discussed previously, other scholars attribute a more Divine Council themed reason for use of Elohim – at least situationally. It is possible that the reference to the tetragrammaton is specific as to God alone whereas Elohim is a reference to God AND the host of heaven.

In verse 29, the blessing broadly indicates that people and nations will serve and bow down to Jacob. From The Pulpit Commentaries:

Let people serve thee (literally, and will serve thee, peoples; at once a prayer and a prophecy; fulfilled in the political subjection of the Moabites, Ammonites, Syrians, Philistines, and Edomites by David; the thought being repeated in the next clause), and nations bow down to thee (in expression of their homage):

The note implies that the prophecy is fulfilled through David. However, many believe – some Christians in particular – that the prophecy is not yet fulfilled. We do not have space to outline the entirety of what New Testament writers – and Jesus – mean by Kingdom of Heaven, however, we can say in summary that 1) they believe Jesus is the heir of the line of David, and 2) His kingdom is both global and eternal. (Christians also believe that the Kingdom – as the inclusion of the word “Heaven” implies – is not limited to the physical world.)

Continuing with the commentary’s note re: verse 29:

be lord over thy brethren,—literally, be a lord (from the idea of power; found only here and in Genesis 27:37to thy brethren. Imminence among his kindred as well as dominion in the world is thus promised—and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee (a repetition of the preceding thought, with perhaps a hint of his desire to humble Jacob, the favorite of Rebekah):

The Commentary suggests that Isaac perhaps has the desire that Esau might humble Jacob. I will again mention that the other perspective is that Isaac knows that he is blessing Jacob and is therefore conveying a desire to see Esau humbled – in keeping with the prophecy concerning the two sons of which Isaac is well aware. Genesis 25:23:

23 And the LORD said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb,

and two peoples from within you shall be divided;

the one shall be stronger than the other,

the older shall serve the younger.”

The next elements of the blessing is to curse everyone who curses the one being blessed, and to bless everyone who blesses him. From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:

Cursed . . . and blessed.—This is a special portion of the blessing given to Abraham (Genesis 12:3); but Isaac stops short with this, and does not bestow the greater privilege that “in him should all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3Genesis 22:18Genesis 26:4). The reason for this may be that it was a blessing which God must grant, and not man; or he may have had misgivings that it was more than Esau was worthy to receive; or, finally, his whole conduct being wrong, he could see and value only the earthly and lower prerogatives of the birthright. Subsequently he bestows the Abrahamic blessing upon Jacob in general terms (Genesis 28:4); but this, its highest privilege, is confirmed to Jacob by Jehovah Himself (Genesis 28:14).

The commentary reminds us that we have seen somethin very similar to this blessing before – from Yahweh to Abraham – in Genesis 12:3.

I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

The note above speculates as to why Isaac refrains from telling Jacob (dressed as Esau) the portion of Abraham’s blessing that states through him all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

This blessing of Jacob, dressed as Esau, is not without consequences. We will read those consequences in upcoming sections.

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