I'm starting this post with an excellent comment from Ron Livesay:
"The sad thing about the account of Esau and Jacob is that Isaac fully intended to thwart God's will and give the blessing to Esau, regardless of what God had said, and that both Jacob and Rebekah tried to help God out by using trickery in order to accomplish His will. None of the three were operating by faith.
"Jacob did not need to "steal" either the birthright or the blessing, since they were already his, but he certainly tried to do so. If he and Rebekah had simply believed God, the right thing would have been accomplished without the consequences.
"It is amazing how the grace of God prevails in spite of human unbelief and rebelliousness. Some have wondered how God could hate Esau. A better question might be, "How could God love Jacob?" You are certainly right in stating they were both scoundrels, but Jacob was the son of promise, and God's promises are always fulfilled.
"I enjoy your blog when I have time to read it. Keep up the good work."
Thank you for your encouragement, Ron. I remember discussing this in Sunday Schools of the past when we did a mock trial over this story, deciding who all was to blame and if anyone was innocent. It reminds me that we did occasionally have good Bible lessons at my home church, but it's something you never actually think about: Isaac being every bit as messed up as the rest of his family.
Fact: God told Rebekah that he would bless the younger son, Jacob, as the covenant child.
Why on earth was Isaac so impressed with Esau? At least impressed so much that he would stubbornly bless Esau when God told him that Jacob was the promised child. Was he not nearly sacrificed to God by Abraham to show that we need to obey God even when he doesn't make sense? Did he forget that he was younger than Ishmael? I don't know, maybe Abraham and Sarah tried to hid the Ishmael story, because he was sent away when Isaac was young. But he and Ishmael both got along enough to bury Abraham together, so he had to know that Ishmael did not earn God's primogeniture. Why is he so quick to forget this with his own children?
At this point, I'm still not sure how they got from the loving couple of Genesis 24 to the scandals of Genesis 27.
Genesis 24: Isaac and Rebekah got married. It truly was a match made in heaven.
Genesis 25: 20 years pass and Rebekah finally gets pregnant with the twins.
Genesis 26: The twenty year wait must have weighed on Isaac because he's repeating the same mistake as Abraham, lying to Abimelech about his relation to Rebekah and nearly selling her as a concubine. He still shows more passion for his wife than his parents ever displayed as Abimelech caught him and Rebekah necking one day and figured it out. It's like Isaac was confused. And you have to think, in chapter 24, Abraham wouldn't let him go to Paddan Aram to find his bride. It's like he was kind of overprotected and spoiled. It's no wonder God wanted to see if Abe would sacrifice him.
So, back to chapter 25. Esau grows up to be a hunter, and somehow this impresses Isaac. Jacob is clearly pampered by his mother as he sticks by her apron strings in the kitchen. It's like Isaac considers Jacob a wimp and prefers the manly, virile Esau even though he married Canaanite women that brought strife on both parents. In Isaac's old age, he forgot God's promise to him, preferred the macho man even though Jacob was the promised child, and it took a good swindle to wake him up until he finally voluntarily blesses Jacob before he runs off to Laban. He still doesn't forgive Rebekah as later on, Genesis tells of the death of Rebekah's nurse, but not Rebekah. He clearly must have divorced her and moved on to the nurse.
Anyway, when I teach this lesson on Sunday, I'm going to focus on Jacob's birthright and blessing which were already his. He did not need to steal them. If he had remembered God, then the blessing would have happened. All the same, God still keeps his promise despite our trying to "help" him.