Religion, Genesis, Sunday School

Sunday School Lesson Overview for November 11, 2018. Jacob Receives Isaac’s Blessing / Jacob’s Deception

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:

Last week’s lesson began by listing the descendants of Isaac and informing us that Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah.  Isaac prays to the Lord because Rebekah is barren.  She conceives twin sons Esau and Jacob.   Her twin babies struggle in her womb and would later struggle in life.  Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Then we learn how Esau sold his birthright to Jacob.  While Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came from the field famished.  He asks for some of the stew and Jacob tells him “first sell me your birthright”.  Esau decides that the birthright would do him no good if he were to die of hunger so he agrees.  Last week Esau lost his birthright.  This week Esau loses his blessing.  Both times by the hand of Jacob his brother.

Last week’s lesson ties to this week by continuing the narrative that tells the Hebrew people how they got to where they were.  Utmost in this narrative is none of it is possible without the direct intervention of God working on behalf of the Hebrew people.  Boyd’s and Townsend Title this week’s lesson “Jacob Receives Isaac’s Blessing”.  Standard titles the lesson “Jacob’s Deception”.  The Scripture text is Genesis 27:5-10, 18-19, 21-29.

Background:

Our text is taken from Chapter 27.  In chapter 26 Isaac is the main character as he moves to Gerar and deals with Abimelech, king of the Philistines.  The Lord tells Isaac – “Reside in this land as an alien, and I will be with you and will bless you; for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands and I will fulfill the oath that I swore to your father Abraham”.  In Gerar, when asked about his wife Rebekah, Isaac lies (like his father Abraham did with Sarai) and tells the men that she is his sister.  He lies because he is afraid they will kill him for his beautiful wife.  King Abimelech discovers his deception and warned all the people not to touch this man or his wife.  The final comment in Chapter 26 tells us Esau was forty years old (just as his father Isaac was with Rebekah) when he married Judith and Basemath, both Hittite women.  This greatly troubled Esau’s parents Isaac and Rebekah.

Chapter 25 details the second time the second born son is blessed with the firstborn’s birthright.  Chapter 27 deals with another deception; the birthright has already been taken; now the blessing will be taken also.  Standard Commentary tells us the “blessing should not be confused with the birthright”.  In last week’s lesson Jacob took advantage of his brothers desperation telling Esau to sell the birthright to him for some food.  This week Jacob steals the blessing by deceiving his father with food.  So Jacob through selfishness and deception has now taken both the birthright and the blessing from his older brother.  The covenant promise has been passed from Abraham to Isaac and here in Chapter 27 Isaac will also pass the blessing to Jacob instead of Esau.

What takes place in this passage: 

Chapter 27 deals with Jacob and Rebekah’s deception of Isaac.  Instead of Esau receiving the first-born son’s blessing, Isaac is tricked into blessing Jacob instead.  Isaac is now an old man.  He is preparing for death and asks Esau to hunt some game and prepare a savory meal “so that I may bless you before I die”.  Rebekah overhears the conversation and when Esau leaves, she tells Jacob to bring her two kids from the flock.  She prepares the meal, just as her husband likes it and tells Jacob to take it to his father “so that he may bless you before he dies”.  After Rebekah prepares the meal she puts Esau’s clothes on Jacob and covers his smooth skin with the hair from the kids.  Jacob then takes the meal in to his father Isaac and tells him “I am Esau thy firstborn”.  Isaac is not convinced.  He asks him to “come near, that I may feel thee”.  Isaac recognizes the hands are the hands of Esau but the voice is Jacob’s.  Isaac asks for the stew.  He eats, drinks, then asks Jacob to come near so that he could bless him.  When Jacob comes near he smells the clothes of Esau and then he blesses Jacob.  Verses 28 and 29 detail the blessing.  It is a blessing that covers both the bounty of the land and that other people including his mother’s sons would bow down to him.  Again, we see the term “cursed be everyone that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.

Context:

Dysfunctional families, moral flaws, unhealthy attitudes, unhealthy behaviors, undermining social norms, and undermining authority are all part of life in this truth telling text of Genesis.  Here we see the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Chapter 26 shows in detail the character flaws of both Rebekah and Jacob.  It details “a family drama that explains how Jacob, the younger son, became Isaac’s primary heir.  Here, is the passing of God’s promises and blessings to the third great patriarch and accounts for the preeminence of Jacob’s descendants, the Israelites, over Esau’s descendants the Edomite’s” – New Interpreter’s Study Bible.  In other words, this narrative of Jacob and Esau helps to explain how the people of Israel became so blessed and others did not.  In previous lessons we saw the distinctive intervention of God to ensure their blessing.  In this text we see the distinctive intervention of Rebekah and Jacob as deception and lies are used to accomplish the will of God.   But keep in mind, it was The Lord who told Rebekah there were two nations in her womb, and the elder shall serve the younger.  So does this mean Rebekah is somehow “helping” God achieve God’s purposes? Or does it mean Rebekah is acting in accordance with the will of God?  Or is it a case of theft by deception and lies.  The text does not condemn Rebekah.

Key Characters in the text:

Isaac – He is the second great patriarch of the Hebrew people, born when his mother was 90 years old and his father 100 years old.  Isaac marries Rebekah at 40 years old and his twin sons Esau and Jacob are born when he is 60 years old.  In this text he is an old man near death.  He must now pass the blessing to the third generation.

Rebekah – She is matriarch of the clan.  Although she has no authority to determine who will receive the first born son’s blessing she certainly exercises the power to do so, even though she does so through deception.

Esau – He is the first born twin in the Bible and the first son of Isaac and Rebekah.  Even though he sells his birthright to Jacob, his father Isaac had every intention of passing the firstborn son’s blessing to him.   Esau is denied this blessing by the deception of his mother Rebekah and brother Jacob.

Jacob – He is the second born to Isaac and Rebekah and like his father who is also the second born son, Jacob would become the chosen son.

Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion)

  1. Birthright – a right, privilege, or possession to which a person is entitled by birth.
  2. Blessing – A blessing could be given regardless of birthright or birth order. In this case it is a patriarchal blessing.
  3. Deception – the act of deceiving; the state of being deceived.
  4. Manipulate – to manage or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner:

Themes in this Lesson:

  1. Lies, deception and manipulation.
  2. A willing participant.

Thoughts:  Going along to get along.

Jacob willingly went along with his mother’s plan to deceive Isaac and defraud Esau.  There were consequences and repercussions.

Question:

The plan to steal Esau’s blessing was completely Rebekah’s.  But Jacob carried it out without objection.  How do these actions affect God’s will?

Concluding thought:

Family dysfunction has consequences.  Jacob would incur the hatred of his brother Esau and Rebekah would send her favored son, Jacob away to never see him again.

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week’s lesson is taken from Genesis 28 and continues the saga of Jacob.  He has a profound dream with a ladder reaching to heaven and angels of God ascending and descending upon it.  He declares that this place must be the house of God and the gateway to heaven.

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