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from us for the very purpose that we may be always ready: and when life is upon the wane especially, it becomes us to do what we do quickly. The above account, bowever, does not appear greatly to his honour. His partiality towards Esau would seem to imply a disregard to what had been revealed to Rebekah ; and his
; fondness for the venison has the appearance of weakness.
But passing this, there are two questions which require an answer -Wherein consisted the blessing which was now about to be bestowed ? and, Why was savoury meat required, in order to the bestowment of it? Respecting the first, I might refer to what has been said already on the birthright.* There was, no doubt, a common blessing to be expected from such a father as Isaac on all his children, and a special one on his first-born ; but in this family there was a blessing superior to both. It included all those great things contained in the covenant with Abraham, by which his posterity were to be distinguished as God's peculiar people. Hence that which Isaac did is said to have been done in faith, and was prophetic of things to come. The faith of this good man was however, at first, much interrupted by natural attachment. Desirous of conferring the blessing on Esau, he gives him directions as to the manner of receiving it. And here occurs the second question, Why was savoury meat required in order to the bestowment of the blessing? The design of it seems to have been, not merely to strengthen animal pature, bat to enkindle affection. Isaac is said to have loved Esau on account of his venison ;£ this therefore would tend, as he supposed, to revive that affection, and so enable him to bless him with all his heart. It seems, how. ever, to have been but a carnal kind of introduction to so divine an act ; partaking more of the flesh than of the Spirit, and savouring rather of that natural affection under the influence of which be at present acted, than of the faith of a son of Abraham.
Ver. 5–10. Rebekah overhearing this charge of Isaac to his son Esau, takes measures to direct the blessing into another channel. This is a mysterious affair. It was just that Esau should lose the blessing, for by selling his birthright he had
Chap. xxv. 29–34.
+ Heb. xi. 20.
Chap. xxv. 23.
despised it. It was God's design too that Jacob should have it. Rebekah also, knowing of this design, from its having been revealed to her that the elder should serve the younger, appears to have acted from a good motive. But the scheme which she formed to correct the error of her husband was far from being justifiable. It is one of those crooked measures which bave too often been adopted to accomplish the divine promises; as if the end would justify, or at least excuse, the means. Thus Sarah acted, in giving Hagar to Abraham; and thus many others have acted, under the idea of being useful in promoting the cause of Christ. The answer to all such things is that which God addressed to Abraham : I Am GoD ALMIGHTY; WALK BEFORE ME, AND BE THOU PERFECT. The deception practised on Isaac was cruel. If he be in the wrong, endeavour to convince him ; or commit the affair to God, who could turn his mind, as he afterwards did that of Jacob, when blessing Ephraim and Manasseh : but do not avail yourself of his loss of sight to deceive him. Such would have been the counsel of wisdom and rectitude : but Rebekah follows her own.
Ver. 11-13. We ought not to load Jacob with more of the guilt of this transaction than belongs to him. He was not first in the transgression. His feelings revolted at it when it was proposed to him. He remonstrated against it. Considering too that it was against the advice, or rather the command, of a parent, such remonstrance would seem to go far towards excusing him. But no earthly authority can justify us in disregarding the authority of God. Moreover, the remonstrance itself is founded merely on the consequences of the evil, and not on the evil itself. What a difference between this reasoning, and that of his son Joseph. I shall bring a curse upon me, said he, and not a blessing. How can I do this great wickedness, said the other, and sin against God! The resoluteness of Rebekab is affecting : Upon me be thy curse, my son : only obey my voice. Surely she must have presumed upon the divine promise, which is a dangerous thing our Lord considered it as tempting God.* Those who do evil under an idea of serving
* Matt. iv. 7.
God, commonly go to the greatest lengths. It was in this track that the Lord met Saul in his way to Damascus.
Ver. 14–17. If Jacob's remonstrance had arisen from an aversion to the evil, he would not so readily have yielded to his mother as he did : but to resist temptation with merely the calcu. lation of consequences, is doing nothing. Rebekah takes the consequence upon herself, and then he has no more to object, but does as she instructs him. She also performs her part; and thus between them the scheme is executed. What labour and contrivance are required to dissemble the truth, and carry on a bad cause, Uprightness needs no such circuitous measures.
Ver, 18--24. Jacob now enters upon the business. And first, with all the artifice of his mother, she cannot guard him at all points. He is obliged to speak, and he could not counterfeit bis brother's voice. My father, sạid he : the patriarch starts Who art thou, my son? It was the voice of one of his sons, but not of him whom he expected. And now what can Jacob answer? He must either confess the deception, or persist in it at all events, He chooses the latter. One sin makes way for another, and in a manner impels us to commit it : Jacob said, I am Esau thy firstborn--I have done according as thou badest me Arise, I pray thee, sit, and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me, Isaac, still suspicious, inquires how he came so soon. The answer intimates, that by a special interposition of his father's God he bad met with early success! It is not easy to conceive of any thing more wicked than this. It was bad enough to deal in so many known falsehoods : but to bring in the Lord God of his father, in order to give them the appearance of truth,was much worse, and what we should not have expected but from one of the worst of men. There is something about falsehood which though it may silence, yet will not ordinarily satisfy. Isaac is yet suspicious, and therefore desires to feel his hands; and here the deception answered. The hands, he thinks, are Esay's; but still it is mysterious, for the voice is Jacob's. Were it not for some such things as these, we might overlook the wisdom and goodness of God, in affording us so many marks by which to detect imposture, and distinguish man from man. Of all the multitudes of faces, voices, and figures in
the world, no two are perfectly alike : and if one sense fail us, the others are frequently improved. Such was the strength of Isaac's doubts, that he would not be satisfied without directly asking him again, Art thou my very son Esau ; and receiving for answer, I am. After this he seems to have thought that it must be Esau, and therefore proceeded to bless him.
The adversaries of revelation may make the most they can of these narrations : evil as was the conduct of Jacob, and of Rebekah, the history of it contains the strongest internal evidence that it is written by inspiration of God. Had it been a cunningly devised fable, it would bave been the business of the writer to have thrown the faults of this his great ancestor into the shade : but the scriptures do not profess to describe perfect characters : they represent men and things as they were. We feel for the imposition practised on Isaac : and yet it was no doubt a chastisement to him for his ill-placed partiality for Esau, on grounds so unworthy of him, and to the disregarding of what God had revealed concerning them.
Ver. 25–29. It was of the Lord that Jacob should have the blessing, notwithstanding the unwarrantable means he had used to obtain it. In pronouncing it, Isaac was supernaturally directed; otherwise it would not have corresponded with what afterwards actually befel his posterity, which it manifestly does ; nor would he have felt bimself unable to revoke it. It is observable, however, that the blessing is expressed in very general terms. No mention is made of those distinguishing mercies included in the covenant with Abraham ; and this might be owing to his having Esau in his mind, though it was Jacob who was before him. He could not be ignorant how that young man had despised these things, and this might be a check to his mind, while he thought he was blessing him. Moreover, his attachment to Esau, to the disregard of the mind of God, must have greatly weakened and injured his own faith in these things : it might therefore be expected that the Lord would cause a comparative leanness to attend his blessing, corresponding with the state of his mind.
Ver. 30–33. Jacob had scarcely left the room when Esau, returning from the chase, enters it and presents his father with his Vol. V.
venison. This at once discovers the imposition. Isaac is greatly affected by it. At first, when he heard bis voice, he was confounded: Who art thou? And when he perceived that it was indeed his first-born son, Esau, he trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who, where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? Such a shock must have been more than he knew how to sustain. To ascertain the sensations of which it was composed, we must place ourselves in his situation. As an aged and afflicted man, the imposition which had been practised on him would excite his indignation. Yet a moment's reflection would convince him that the transfer of the blessing must have been of the Lord ; and consequently, that he had all along been acting against his will in seeking to have it otherwise. Two such considerations rushing upon his mind in the same instant, sufficiently • account for all his feelings : it was to him like a place where two seas met, or as the union of subterraneous fires and waters, the commotion of which causeth the earth to tremble. It must have appeared to him as a strong measure, permitted of God for his correction ; and that he had thus caused him to do that against his choice which should have been done with it. Viewing it in this light, and knowing the blessing to be irrevocable, he, like a good man, acquiesced in the will of God, saying, Yea, and he shall be blessed.
Ver. 34-40. The very exceeding trembling of Isaac, is now followed by a great and exceeding bitter cry on the part of Esau. Nothing he had ever met with seems to have affected him like it. But how is it, that he who made so light of the birthright, as to part with it for a morsel of meat, should now make so much of the blessing connected with it? It was not that he desired to be a servant of the Lord, or that his posterity should be his people, according to the tenor of Abraham's covenant ; but as he that should be possessed of these distinctions would in other respecte be superior to his brother, it became an object' of emulation. Thus we have often seen religion set at nought, while yet the advantages which accompany it have been earnestly desired; and
; where grace has in a manner crossed hands, by favouring a younger or inferior branch of a family, envy and its train of malignant