Genesis (Part 158)

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

Genesis 35: 27-29

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.

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Jacob finally gets back to see his father – who is somehow still living decades after he issues blessings on what was thought to be his death bed.

From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:

(27) The city of Arbah, which is Hebron.—Better rendered Kirjath-arba in Genesis 23:2, where see Note.

Hebron is a very important location to Jewish history. More from The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 35:27

And Jacob came unto Isaac his father, unto Mature (on the probability of Jacob’s having previously visited his father, vide Genesis 35:8), unto the city of Arbah (Genesis 13:18Genesis 23:2Genesis 23:19Joshua 14:15Joshua 15:13), which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned.

Hebron thus has strong historical ties to all three Jewish Patriarchs.

Continuing with The Pulpit Commentaries, we see that Isaac appears to pass away soon after Jacob’s return. But was it actually so soon?

Genesis 35:28

And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years. At this time Jacob was 120; but at 130 he stood before Pharaoh in Egypt, at which date Joseph had been 10 years governor. He was therefore 120 when Joseph was promoted at the age of 30, and 107 when Joseph was sold; consequently Isaac was 167 years of age when Joseph was sold, so that he must have survived that event and sympathized with Jacob his son for a period of 13 years.

This is not dissimilar from the way the text treated the end of Abraham’s life. We know he survived many years after Genesis told us of his lifespan – well into the early years of Jacob’s life – but the event of his death is recorded first.

Here is another timeline of life for the Patriarchs:

You can see that Isaac lives many years after Jacob’s time in Haran and even lives into some important events upcoming from the life of Joseph.

Ellicott also comments on the lifespan of Isaac:

(28) The days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years.—As Isaac was sixty when his sons were born, Jacob was one hundred and twenty years of age at his father’s death, and one hundred and thirty when he appeared before Pharaoh (Genesis 47:9). Now, as Joseph was seventeen when sold into Egypt (Genesis 37:2), and thirty when raised to power (Genesis 41:46), and as the seven years of plenty and two of the years of famine had passed before Jacob went down into Egypt, it follows that the cruel deed, whereby he was robbed of his favourite child, was committed about twelve years before the death of Isaac.

Based on the above, then we know that verse 29 concerns an event in the future somewhat out of sync with the rest of the story (insofar as linear timeline is concerned.) From The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 35:29

And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people,—cf. the account of Abraham’s death (Genesis 25:8)—being old and full of days (literally, satisfied with days. In Genesis 25:8 the shorter expression satisfied is used): and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him—Esau arriving from Mount Seir to pay the last service due to his deceased parent, and Jacob according to him that precedence which had once belonged to him as Isaac’s firstborn.

From Ellicott:

(29) Esau and Jacob buried him.—Esau, who apparently still dwelt at Hebron until his father’s death, takes here the precedence as his natural right. But having in previous expeditions learnt the physical advantages of the land of Seir, and the powerlessness of the Horites to resist him, he gives up Hebron to his brother, and migrates with his large wealth to that country.

It’s interesting that the wound of losing his birthright is mitigated for Esau through wealth and success. Jacob’s time away thus allowed Esau to conclude that he did not mind the loss of his birthright or blessing. Perhaps this is why he greets his brother so warmly once he sees that his brother wants to reconcile.

With the passing of Isaac, the focus of the text moving forward will shift to Joseph through the rest of the book.

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