Genesis (Part 121)

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

Genesis 27:46-28:5

46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?”

28 Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women. Arise, go to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father, and take as your wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother. God Almighty[a] bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham!” Thus Isaac sent Jacob away. And he went to Paddan-aram, to Laban, the son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.

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Rebekah tells Isaac that Jacob should not marry a Hittite woman so Isaac sends his son away to marry one of Laban’s daughters.

From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary at verse 46:

(46) Rebekah said to Isaac.—With this begins a new act. In the previous five verses we had the general results of Rebekah’s guile: we have now the special consequence of Jacob’s departure for Haran. Upon Rebekah’s communication to Isaac follows his decision in the next chapter. In the Hebrew there is no break from the beginning of Genesis 27:0 to the end of Genesis 27:9 of Genesis 28:0.

The previous section concerned Jacob’s flight from Esau. Here in verse 46 Rebekah provides to Isaac a reason to explain that flight. She also probably genuinely intends an outcome wherein her son marries from her own family. Genesis has mentioned more than once now that she absolutely does not like her current daughters-in-law. Isaac likely sees the wisdom in sending Jacob away – both to provide for him a wife that s more agreeable as well as to protect him Esau’s anger.

Something interesting happens when Isaac calls for Jacob, though. From The Pulpit Commentaries:

And Isaac called Jacob (to his bed-side), and blessed him,—in enlarged form, renewing the benediction previously given (Genesis 27:27)—and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan (cf. Genesis 14:3). Intermarriage with the women of the land was expressly forbidden to the theocratic heir, while his attention was directed to his mother’s kindred.

Isaac not only sends Jacob away, he blesses Jacob again. This time, though, Isaac unquestionably knows who he is blessing. He gives this enlarged blessing *after* he gave Esau a blessing that infuriated him. This adds to the potential speculation that Isaac never intended to give Esau the blessing that he gave to Jacob. We’ll see the specifics of this additional blessing in the following verses.

Looking at the note for verse 2 from Ellicott:

(2) Padan-aram.—See Note on Genesis 25:20. Throughout this verse Isaac shows a much more intimate acquaintance with the family at Haran than was possessed by Abraham. (Comp. Genesis 24:4.) And though we gather from Genesis 28:5 that Bethuel was now dead, yet it is evident that he was a person of more importance than is supposed by the Rabbins, who ascribe to his feebleness or death the prominent part taken by Laban in his sister’s marriage. It was this greater knowledge which made Isaac send Jacob in person, and not a deputy. With a few trusty attendants he would journey till he reached the usual caravan route which led through Damascus to Haran. and would then attach himself to some trading company for escort and society.

The note here tells us that Isaac is closer with the family in Haran than his father Abraham had been. This is likely due to Rebekah. Perhaps also there has been communication between the two families since Isaac’s wedding which has not been recounted in the text.

The Pulpit Commentaries also points out something rather obvious – Isaac does not intend to send a servant to select his son’s wife in the way that Abraham sent a servant to select on his own behalf. We can only speculate as to why. Perhaps Isaac sees the wisdom in sending Jacob away. It may also be the case that Isaac either does not have a servant he trusts with the task. Perhaps also he did not like that his father denied him the freedom to choose a wife for himself.

Arise, go to Padan-aram (vide Genesis 14:10Genesis 25:20Genesis 27:43), to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father;—(vide Genesis 14:24). If yet alive, Bethuel must have been very old, since he was Isaac’s cousin, and probably born many years before the son of Abraham—and take thee a wife from thence—though Isaac’s wife was found for him, he does not think of imitating Abraham and dispatching another ,Eliezer in search of a spouse for Rebekah’s son. Probably he saw that Jacob could attend to that business sufficiently without assistance from others—of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother (vide Genesis 14:1-24:29). “Isaac appears to entertain no doubt of Jacob’s success, which might be the more probable since the same reason which kept Jacob from marrying in Canaan might prevent Laban’s daughters from being married in Haran, the worshippers of the Lord being few (Inglis).

It is possible that Laban’s daughters are hopeful of a marriage with one or both of Isaac’s sons given the familiar relationship and the now well-known financial standing of Abraham’s descendants.

From Ellicott as to verse 3:

(3) God Almighty.—Heb., El Shaddai. As it was Isaac’s purpose in this blessing to confirm Jacob in the possession of the promises made to Abraham, he is careful to use the same title as that borne by God in the covenant whereby the land of Canaan was given to his seed, and of which the sacrament of circumcision was the seal. (See Genesis 17:1.)

A multitude of people.—Heb., a congregation of peoples. This is not the word used in Genesis 17:4, but one that signifies an assembly, especially one summoned for religious purposes. Like the Greek word for church, ecclesia, it comes from a root signifying” to convoke.” It subsequently became the regular phrase for “the congregation of Israel” (Leviticus 16:17), and implies even here that the nations descended from Jacob would have a religious significance.

The note points out that Isaac quite intentionally uses the title of El Shaddai for God here. This implies that Isaac is actively thinking of the covenant made between God and Abraham, concerning ownership of Canaan, and Jacob’s role in the fulfillment of that covenant. From Genesis 17:1:

17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty” (El Shaddai)

Is it likely that Isaac was tryin to circumvent this covenant promise by blessing Esau, did the deception by Jacob to obtain Esau’s blessing suddenly remind Isaac of that covenant, or did Isaac intend to bless Jacob in this way all along? As the previous two parts of this study have shown, there is no agreement on that point.

The other point of the expanded blessing, here, is that Jacob become a multitude of people. As the note tells us, the phrase carries with it a religious meaning and was subsequently used and adopted by Israel.

From The Pulpit Commentaries and verse 4:

And give thee the Blessing of Abraham,—i.e. promised to Abraham (vide Genesis 12:2Genesis 22:17Genesis 22:18). The additions of τοῦ παρός μου (LXX.), אביךְ = τοῦ πατρὸς σου (Samaritan), are unwarranted—to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger,—literally, the land of thy sojournings (Genesis 17:8)—which God gave unto Abraham—by promise (cf. Genesis 12:7Genesis 13:15Genesis 15:7Genesis 15:18Genesis 17:8).

This concludes Isaac’s blessing of Jacob.

TheTorah.com provides an article discussing the second blessing of Jacob. The Source of Jacob’s Two Blessings by TABS Editor. I will include some excerpts below:

The Source of Jacob’s Two Blessings

Traditional Answers

1 – Confirming Blessing

A common answer among traditional interpreters suggests that now that Isaac’s eyes have been opened and he realized that he was destined to bless Jacob and not Esau, he is worried that people will feel that the blessing he gave was questionable since it was given under false pretexts. So he summons Jacob and gives him another blessing, this time knowing to whom he was speaking.[1]

This answer is problematic. First, it isn’t the same blessing. If Isaac just wanted to repeat the blessing, he should have done so. Second, Isaac, immediately after finding out that it was not Esau, had already confirmed the blessing, “now he must remain blessed.”[2] Third, the interaction between Isaac and Jacob doesn’t really imply any of this. There is no statement on Isaac’s part along the lines of “now I understand” or “I forgive you,” or “this time I give you the blessing freely.” There is nothing said by Jacob either asking for forgiveness, defending his behavior, or thanking Isaac for his understanding.

2 – Isaac Always Intended to Give Jacob this Blessing

There is another interpretation, which argues that Isaac always intended to give the main blessing to Jacob.[3] In Isaac’s mind, Jacob was always the son who would receive “Abraham’s blessing,” i.e. the gift of the Promised Land (28:3-4). It was only that Isaac wished to give an entirely separate blessing to Esau, one of wealth and material power. However, Rebekah, either because she misunderstood Isaac’s intentions, or because she wished Jacob to have everything, came up with the ruse for Jacob to get Esau’s blessing.

The article is worth your time to read as it also provides an academic argument for this issue being the result of combining two sources. Personally, I do not find the academic argument terribly persuasive – or necessary – but it is a commonly held view and worth reading. I think it is entirely believable that both points 1 and 2 above are simultaneously true.

The Pulpit Commentaries provides a note as to verse 5 as we finish this section:

And Isaac sent away Jacob (Rebekah only counseled, Isaac commanded): and he went to Padan-aram unto Laban, son of Bethel the Syrian (vide Hosea 12:12), the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother. The historian here perhaps intentionally gives the first place to Jacob.

It is interesting that Isaac and Rebekah likely send Jacob away, both believing that Isaac will die before Jacob’s return. They also both seem to believe that this death is imminent. However, as far as we know from the text, Rebekah is the one who dies before Jacob’s return and Isaac seems to still be living, decades later, when his son returns.

Genesis 35:27

27 And Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, or Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned. 28 Now the days of Isaac were 180 years. 29 And Isaac breathed his last, and he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

This moment seems to be a good break point, so my next section will be a wrap-up / summary of what we have covered in the last few chapters.

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