Genesis (Part 120)

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

Genesis 27:41-45

41 Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” 42 But the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son and said to him, “Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice. Arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran 44 and stay with him a while, until your brother’s fury turns away— 45 until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him. Then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereft of you both in one day?”


After the two blessings, Esau is furious with Jacob. He is so furious that he is making plans to kill Jacob publicly enough that Rebekah is able to hear about them. From The Pulpit Commentaries:

And Esau hated Jacob—a proof that he was not penitent, however disappointed and remorseful (cf. Obadiah 1:10Obadiah 1:111 John 3:121 John 3:15)—because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him:—notwithstanding the fact that he too had received an appropriate benediction; a display of envy as well as wrath, another proof of his ungracious character (Galatians 5:21James 4:5)—and Esau said in his heart,—i.e. secretly resolved, though afterwards he must have communicated his intention (vide Genesis 27:42)—The days of mourning for my father are at hand. The LXX. interpret as a wish on the part of Esau that Isaac might speedily die, in order that the fratricidal act he contemplated might not pain the old man’s heart; another rendering (Kalisch) understands him to say that days of grief were in store for his father, as he meant to slay his brother; but the ordinary translation seems preferable (Rosenmüller, Keil, Murphy, et alii), that Esan only deferred the execution of his unholy purpose because of the near approach, as he imagined, of his father’s death. Isaac, however, lived upwards of forty years after this. Then will I slay my brother Jacob. That which reconciled Isaac and Ishmael (Genesis 25:9), the death of a father, is here mentioned as the event which would decisively and finally part Esau and Jacob. Esau’s murderous intention Calvin regards as a clear proof of the non-reality of his repentance for his sin, the insincerity of his sorrow for his father, and the intense malignity of his hate against his brother.

Also from Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:

(41) The days of mourning for my father are at hand.—Esau evidently expected that his father’s death was near, and such also was Isaac’s own expectation (Genesis 27:2); but he recovered, and lived for more than half a century. Perhaps on this account another translation has been suggested, namely, “Days of mourning for my father are at hand: for I will slay Jacob.” But there is no support for this in the Hebrew, and it represents Esau as utterly inhuman; whereas, with all his faults, he had a warm, loving heart. Genesis 28:0 ought to have begun here, as the break at the end of Genesis 27:46 is very injurious to the meaning.

Both commentaries provide a belief from Esau that Isaac will soon die. And both remind us that Isaac did not soon die. Ellicott states that Isaac “recovered” – and given the duration of Isaac’s life after perhaps he issued blessing due to an illness believed to be terminal. The text does not provide clarity as to why Isaac believed himself to be near death.

Once again, Rebekah hears, or hears of, the words of Esau (as before when he and Isaac discussed a blessing) and she once again responds to them with a plan of action for Jacob. From Ellicott:

(42) These words of Esau.—Though spoken “in his heart,” Esau had evidently made no secret of his evil purpose, and Rebekah therefore determines to send Jacob to her father’s house, not merely for safety, but that he might take a wife from among his own kindred. He was now formally acknowledged as the heir of the birthright and of the promises made to Abraham, and must therefore conform to the principle laid down in his own father’s case, and marry into the family of Nahor. “She sends, therefore, and calls him” to her tent, and takes secret counsel with him; and Jacob consents to take this distant journey. Thus the separation of mother and son, and long and painful travel, are the immediate result of their scheming.

We see the plan to send Jacob away in the next set of verses. From The Pulpit Comemntaries:

Now therefore, my son, obey my voice;—i.e. be guided by my counsel; a request Rebekah might perhaps feel herself justified in making, not only by her maternal solicitude for Jacob’s welfare, but also from the successful issue of Her previous stratagem (vide on Genesis 27:8)—and arise, flee thou—literally, flee for thyself (of. Genesis 12:1Numbers 14:11Amos 7:12)—to Laban my brother to Haran (vide Genesis 11:31Genesis 14:1-24:29); and tarry with him a few days,—literally, days some. The few days eventually proved to be at least twenty years (vide Genesis 31:38). It is not probable that Rebekah ever again beheld her favorite son, which was a signal chastisement for her sinful ambition for, and partiality towards, Jacob—until thy brother’s fury turn away; until thy brother’s anger turn away from thee,—the rage of Esau is here described by two different words, the first of which, חֵמָה, from a root signifying to be warm, suggests the heated and inflamed condition of Esau’s soul, while the second, אֲף, from אָנַף, to breathe through the nostrils, depicts the visible manifestations of that internal fire in hard and quick breathing—and he forget that which thou hast done to him,—Rebekah apparently had conveniently become oblivious of her own share in the transaction by which Esau had been wronged. Then will I send, and fetch thee from thence—which she never did. Man proposes, but God disposes. Why should I be deprived also of you both in one day? I.e. of Jacob by the hand of Esau, and of Esau by the hand of the avenger of blood (Genesis 9:6; cf. 2 Samuel 14:62 Samuel 14:7; Calvin, Keil, Rosenmüller, Kalisch), rather than by his own fratricidal act, which would forever part him from Rebekah (Lange).

The commentary tells us that Rebekah’s plan ultimately works, however, as far as we know from the text, she does not live to see it fulfilled.

Ellicott’s Commentary provides some additional insight regarding Rebekah’s notion that Jacob would return in a few days.

(44) A few days.—Like Esau (Genesis 27:41), Rebekah expected that Isaac’s end was near. Really Jacob was absent for forty years, and while Isaac lived to see him return, Rebekah saw him again no more. Yet this was better than for Esau to slay him, and then, like another Cain, to be banished far away.

The idea here is that she thought she would send for her son when Isaac dies. That makes sense. However, Isaac does not die for a long time. Given the textual silence regarding Rebekah after this section, one wonders if a healthy and recovered Isaac was displeased with his wife… and if so, how displeased? So much so that he does not send for Jacob when his mother dies? It is strange to me that we will not see a mention in the text after of Rebekah’s death. Sarah – Isaac’s mother – has her death recounted in Genesis 23.

23 Sarah lived 127 years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.

Jacob’s wife Rachel dies in Genesis 35:18

17 Now it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said to her, “Do not fear; you will have this son also.” 18 And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni; but his father called him [f]Benjamin. 19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 And Jacob set a pillar on her grave, which is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day.

We do not read the how/when of Rebekah and Leah’s deaths. We are told where they are buried, though. Genesis 49:

29 Then he charged them and said to them: “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite as a possession for a burial place. 31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah. 32 The field and the cave that is there were purchased from the sons of Heth.” 33 And when Jacob had finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.

Jacob does not leave right away. He must first talk with his father. But this the last we see of Rebekah while she lives.