Genesis 27

CHAPTER XXVII

Isaac, grown old and feeble, and apprehending the approach of

death, desires his son Esau to provide some savoury meat for

him, that having eaten of it he might convey to him the

blessing connected with the right of primogeniture, 1-4.

Rebekah hearing of it, relates the matter to Jacob, and

directs him how to personate his brother, and by deceiving

his father, obtain the blessing, 5-10.

Jacob hesitates, 11, 12;

but being counselled and encouraged by his mother, he at last

consents to use the means she prescribes, 13, 14.

Rebekah disguises Jacob, and sends him to personate his

brother, 15-17.

Jacob comes to his father, and professes himself to be Esau,

18. 19.

Isaac doubts, questions, and examines him closely, but does

not discover the deception, 20-24.

He eats of the savoury meat, and confers the blessing upon

Jacob, 25-27.

In what the blessing consisted, 28, 29.

Esau arrives from the field with the meat he had gone to

provide, and presents himself before his father, 30, 31.

Isaac discovers the fraud of Jacob, and is much affected,

32, 33.

Esau is greatly distressed on hearing that the blessing had

been received by another, 34.

Isaac accuses Jacob of deceit, 35.

Esau expostulates, and prays for a blessing, 36.

Isaac describes the blessing which he has already conveyed, 37.

Esau weeps, and earnestly implores a blessing, 38.

Isaac pronounces a blessing on Esau, and prophecies that his

posterity should, in process of time, cease to be tributary

to the posterity of Jacob, 39, 40.

Esau purposes to kill his brother, 41.

Rebekah hears of it, and counsels Jacob to take refuge with her

brother Laban in Padanaram, 42-45.

She professes to be greatly alarmed, lest Jacob should take any

of the Canaanites to wife, 41.

NOTES ON CHAP. XXVII

Verse 1. Isaac was old] It is conjectured, on good grounds,

that Isaac was now about one hundred and seventeen years of age,

and Jacob about fifty-seven; though the commonly received opinion

makes Isaac one hundred and thirty-seven, and Jacob seventy-seven;

but See Clarke on Ge 31:55, &c.

And his eyes were dim] This was probably the effect of that

affliction, of what kind we know not, under which Isaac now

laboured; and from which, as well as from the affliction, he

probably recovered, as it is certain he lived forty if not

forty-three years after this time, for he lived till the return of

Jacob from Padan-aram; Ge 35:27-29.

Verse 2. I know not the day of my death] From his present

weakness he had reason to suppose that his death could not be at

any great distance, and therefore would leave no act undone which

he believed it his duty to perform. He who lives not in reference

to eternity, lives not at all.

Verse 3. Thy weapons] The original word keley signifies

vessels and instruments of any kind; and is probably used here

for a hunting spear, javelin, sword, &c.

Quiver] teli, from talah, to hang or

suspend. Had not the Septuagint translated the word φαρετραν,

and the Vulgate pharetram, a quiver, I should rather have supposed

some kind of shield was meant; but either can be suspended on the

arm or from the shoulder. Some think a sword is meant; and

because the original signifies to hang or suspend, hence they

think is derived our word hanger, so called because it is

generally worn in a pendent posture; but the word hanger did not

exist in our language previously to the Crusades, and we have

evidently derived it from the Persian [Persian] khanjar, a poniard

or dagger, the use of which, not only in battles, but in private

assassinations, was well known.

Verse 4. Savoury meat] matammim, from taam,

to taste or relish; how dressed we know not, but its name declares

its nature.

That I may eat] The blessing which Isaac was to confer on his

son was a species of Divine right, and must be communicated with

appropriate ceremonies. As eating and drinking were used among

the Asiatics on almost all religious occasions, and especially in

making and confirming covenants, it is reasonable to suppose that

something of this kind was essentially necessary on this occasion,

and that Isaac could not convey the right till he had eaten of the

meat provided for the purpose by him who was to receive the

blessing. As Isaac was now old, and in a feeble and languishing

condition, it was necessary that the flesh used on this occasion

should be prepared so as to invite the appetite, that a

sufficiency of it might be taken to revive and recruit his

drooping strength, that he might be the better able to go through

the whole of this ceremony.

This seems to be the sole reason why savoury meat is so

particularly mentioned in the text. When we consider, 1. That no

covenant was deemed binding unless the parties had eaten together;

2. That to convey this blessing some rite of this kind was

necessary; and, 3. That Isaac's strength was now greatly

exhausted, insomuch that he supposed himself to be dying; we shall

at once see why meat was required on this occasion, and why that

meat was to be prepared so as to deserve the epithet of savoury.

As I believe this to be the true sense of the place, I do not

trouble my readers with interpretations which I suppose to be

either exceptionable or false.

Verse 5. And Rebekah heard] And was determined, if possible, to

frustrate the design of Isaac, and procure the blessing for her

favourite son. Some pretend that she received a Divine

inspiration to the purpose; but if she had she needed not to have

recourse to deceit, to help forward the accomplishment. Isaac, on

being informed, would have had too much piety not to prefer the

will of his Maker to his own partiality for his eldest son; but

Rebekah had nothing of the kind to plead, and therefore had

recourse to the most exceptionable means to accomplish her ends.

Verse 12. I shall bring a curse upon me] For even in those

early times the spirit of that law was understood, De 27:18:

Cursed is he that maketh the blind to wander out of the way; and

Jacob seems to have possessed at this time a more tender

conscience than his mother.

Verse 13. Upon me be thy curse, my son] Onkelos gives this a

curious turn: It has been revealed to me by prophecy that the

curses will not come upon thee, my son. What a dreadful

responsibility did this woman take upon her at this time! The

sacred writer states the facts as they were, and we may depend on

the truth of the statement; but he nowhere says that God would

have any man to copy this conduct. He often relates facts and

sayings which he never recommends.

Verse 15. Goodly raiment] Mr. Ainsworth has a sensible note on

this place. "The priest in the law had holy garments to minister

in, Ex 28:2-4, which the Septuagint there and in this place term

τηνστολην, THE robe, and στολην αγιαν, the holy robe.

Whether the first-born, before the law, had such to minister in is

not certain, but it is probable by this example; for had they been

common garments, why did not Esau himself, or his wives, keep

them? But being, in all likelihood, holy robes, received from

their ancestors, the mother of the family kept them in sweet

chests from moths and the like, whereupon it is said, Ge 27:27,

Isaac smelled the smell of his garments." The opinion of

Ainsworth is followed by many critics.

Verse 19. I am Esau thy first-born] Here are many palpable

falsehoods, and such as should neither be imitated nor excused.

"Jacob," says Calmet, "imposes on his father in three different

ways. 1. By his words: I am thy first-born Esau. 2. By his

actions; he gives him kids' flesh for venison, and says he had

executed his orders, and got it by hunting. 3. By his clothing;

he puts on Esau's garments, and the kids' skins upon his hands and

the smooth of his neck. In short, he made use of every species of

deception that could be practised on the occasion, in order to

accomplish his ends." To attempt to palliate or find excuses for

such conduct, instead of serving, disserves the cause of religion

and truth. Men have laboured, not only to excuse all this conduct

of Rebekah and Jacob, but even to show that it was consistent, and

that the whole was according to the mind and will of God!

Non tali auxilio, non defensoribus istis��

The cause of God and truth is under no obligation to such

defenders; their hands are more unhallowed than those of Uzzah;

and however the bearers may stumble, the ark of God requires not

their support. It was the design of God that the elder should

serve the younger, and he would have brought it about in the way

of his own wise and just providence; but means such as here used

he could neither sanction nor recommend.

Verse 23. And he discerned him not, because his hands were

hairy] From this circumstance we may learn that Isaac's sense

of feeling was much impaired by his present malady. When he could

not discern the skin of a kid from the flesh of his son, we see

that he was, through his infirmity, in a fit state to be imposed

on by the deceit of his wife, and the cunning of his younger son.

Verse 27. The smell of my son is as the smell of a field] The

smell of these garments, the goodly raiment which had been laid up

in the house, was probably occasioned by some aromatic herbs,

which we may naturally suppose were laid up with the clothes; a

custom which prevails in many countries to the present day. Thyme,

lavender, &c., are often deposited in wardrobes, to communicate an

agreeable scent, and under the supposition that the moths are

thereby prevented from fretting the garments. I have often seen

the leaves of aromatic plants, and sometimes whole sprigs, put in

eastern MSS., to communicate a pleasant smell, and to prevent the

worms from destroying them. Persons going from Europe to the East

Indies put pieces of Russia leather among their clothes for the

same purpose. Such a smell would lead Isaac's recollection to the

fields where aromatic plants grew in abundance, and where he had

often been regaled by the scent.

Verse 28. God give thee of the dew of heaven] Bp. Newton's view

of these predictions is so correct and appropriate, as to leave no

wish for any thing farther on the subject.

"It is here foretold, and in Ge 27:39, of these two brethren,

that as to situation, and other temporal advantages, they should

be much alike. It was said to Jacob: God give thee of the dew of

heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and

wine; and much the same is said to Esau, Ge 27:39:

Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of

the dew of heaven from above. The spiritual blessing, or the

promise of the blessed seed, could be given only to ONE; but

temporal good things might be imparted to both. Mount Seir, and

the adjacent country, was at first in the possession of the

Edomites; they afterwards extended themselves farther into Arabia,

and into the southern parts of Judea. But wherever they were

situated, we find in fact that the Edomites, in temporal

advantages, were little inferior to the Israelites. Esau had

cattle and beasts and substance in abundance, and he went to

dwell in Seir of his own accord; but he would hardly have removed

thither with so many cattle, had it been such a barren and

desolate country as some would represent it. The Edomites had

dukes and kings reigning over them, while the Israelites were

slaves in Egypt. When the Israelites, on their return, desired

leave to pass through the territories of Edom, it appears that the

country abounded with FRUITFUL FIELDS and VINEYARDS: Let us pass,

I pray thee, through thy country; we will not pass through the

fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the

water of the wells; Nu 20:17. And the prophecy of Malachi, which

is generally alleged as a proof of the barrenness of the country,

is rather a proof of the contrary: I hated Esau, and laid his

mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the

wilderness, Mal 1:3; for this implies that the country was

fruitful before, and that its present unfruitfulness was rather an

effect of war, than any natural defect in the soil. If the

country is unfruitful now, neither is Judea what it was formerly."

As there was but little rain in Judea, except what was termed the

early rain, which fell about the beginning of spring, and the

latter rain, which fell about September, the lack of this was

supplied by the copious dews which fell both morning and evening,

or rather through the whole of the night. And we may judge, says

Calmet, of the abundance of those dews by what fell on Gideon's

fleece, Jud 6:38, which being wrung

filled a bowl. And Hushai compares an army ready to fall upon

its enemies to a dew falling on the ground, 2Sa 17:12, which

gives us the idea that this fluid fell in great profusion, so as

to saturate every thing. Travellers in these countries assure us

that the dews fall there in an extraordinary abundance.

The fatness of the earth] What Homer calls ουθαραρουρης,

Ilias ix., 141, and Virgil uber glebae, AEneis i., 531, both

signifying a soil naturally fertile. Under this, therefore, and

the former expressions, Isaac wishes his son all the blessings

which a plentiful country can produce; for, as Le Clerc rightly

observes, if the dews and seasonable rains of heaven fall upon a

fruitful soil, nothing but human industry is wanting to the

plentiful enjoyment of all temporal good things. Hence they are

represented in the Scripture as emblems of prosperity, of plenty,

and of the blessing of God, De 33:13,28; Mic 5:7; Zec 8:12; and,

on the other hand, the withholding of these denotes barrenness,

distress, and the curse of God; 2Sa 1:21. See

Dodd.

Verse 29. Let people serve thee] "However alike their temporal

advantages were to each other," says Bp. Newton, "in all spiritual

gifts and graces the younger brother was to have the superiority,

was to be the happy instrument of conveying the blessing to all

nations: In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the

earth be blessed; and to this are to be referred, in their full

force, those expressions: Let people serve thee, and nations bow

down to thee. Cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed

be he that blesseth thee. The same promise was made to Abraham in

the name of God: I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him

that curseth thee, Ge 12:3; and it is here repeated to Jacob, and

thus paraphrased in the Jerusalem Targum: 'He who curseth thee

shall be cursed as Balaam the son of Beor; and he who blesseth

thee shall be blessed as Moses the prophet, the lawgiver of

Israel.' It appears that Jacob was, on the whole, a man of more

religion, and believed the Divine promises more, than Esau. The

posterity of Jacob likewise preserved the true religion, and the

worship of one God, while the Edomites were sunk in idolatry; and

of the seed of Jacob was born at last the Saviour of the world.

This was the peculiar privilege and advantage of Jacob, to be the

happy instrument of conveying these blessings to all nations. This

was his greatest superiority over Esau; and in this sense St. Paul

understood and applied the prophecy: The elder shall serve the

younger, Ro 9:12. The Christ, the Saviour of the world, was to

be born of some one family; and Jacob's was preferred to Esau's,

out of the good pleasure of Almighty God, who is certainly the

best judge of fitness and expedience, and has undoubted right to

dispense his favours as he shall see proper; for he says to Moses,

as the apostle proceeds to argue, Ro 9:15: 'I will have mercy on

whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will

have compassion.' And when the Gentiles were converted to

Christianity, the prophecy was fulfilled literally: Let people

serve thee, and let nations bow down to thee; and will be more

amply fulfilled when the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in,

and all Israel shall be saved."

Verse 33. And Isaac trembled] The marginal reading is very

literal and proper, And Isaac trembled with a great trembling

greatly. And this shows the deep concern he felt for his own

deception, and the iniquity of the means by which it had been

brought about. Though Isaac must have heard of that which God had

spoken to Rebekah, The elder shall serve the younger, and could

never have wished to reverse this Divine purpose; yet he might

certainly think that the spiritual blessing might be conveyed to

Esau, and by him to all the nations of the earth, notwithstanding

the superiority of secular dominion on the other side.

Yea, and he shall be blessed.] From what is said in this

verse, collated with Heb 12:17. we see how

binding the conveyance of the birthright was when communicated

with the rites already mentioned. When Isaac found that he had

been deceived by Jacob, he certainly would have reversed the

blessing if he could; but as it had been conveyed in the

sacramental way this was impossible. I have blessed him, says

he, yea, and he must, or will, be blessed. Hence it is said by

the apostle. Esau found no place for repentance, μετανοιαςγαρ

τοπονουχευρε, no place for change of mind or purpose in his

father, though he sought it carefully with tears. The father

could not reverse it because the grant had already been made and

confirmed. But this had nothing to do with the final salvation of

poor outwitted Esau, nor indeed with that of his unnatural

brother.

Verse 35. Hath taken away thy blessing.] This blessing, which

was a different thing from the birthright, seems to consist of two

parts: 1. The dominion, generally and finally, over the other part

of the family; and, 2. Being the progenitor of the Messiah. But

the former is more explicitly declared than the latter.

See Clarke on Ge 25:31.

Verse 36. Is not he rightly named Jacob?]

See Clarke on Ge 25:26.

He took away my birthright] So he might say with considerable

propriety; for though he sold it to Jacob, yet as Jacob had taken

advantage of his perishing situation, he considered the act as a

species of robbery.

Verse 37. I have made him thy lord]

See Clarke on Ge 27:28.

Verse 40. By thy sword shalt thou live] This does not

absolutely mean that the Edomites should have constant wars; but

that they should be of a fierce and warlike disposition, gaining

their sustenance by hunting, and by predatory excursions upon the

possessions of others. Bishop Newton speaks on this subject with

his usual good sense and judgment: "The elder branch, it is here

foretold, should delight more in war and violence, but yet should

be subdued by the younger. By thy sword shalt thou live, and

shalt serve thy brother. Esau might be said to live much by the

sword; for he was a cunning hunter, a man of the field. He and his

children got possession of Mount Seir by force and violence,

expelling from thence the Horites, the former inhabitants. By

what means they spread themselves farther among the Arabians is

not known; but it appears that upon a sedition and separation

several of the Edomites came and seized upon the south-west parts

of Judea, during the Babylonish captivity, and settled there ever

after. Before and after this they were almost continually at war

with the Jews; upon every occasion they were ready to join with

their enemies; and when Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, they

encouraged him utterly to destroy the city, saying, Rase it, rase

it, even to the foundations thereof. Ps 137:7. And even long

after they were subdued by the Jews, they retained the same

martial spirit; for Josephus in his time gives them the character

of 'a turbulent and disorderly nation, always erect to commotions,

and rejoicing in changes; at the least adulation of those who

beseech them, beginning war, and hasting to battles as to a

feast.' And a little before the last siege of Jerusalem they

came, at the entreaty of the Zealots, to assist them against the

priests and people; and there, together with the Zealots,

committed unheard-of cruelties, and barbarously murdered Annas,

the high priest, from whose death Josephus dates the destruction

of the city." See Dr. Dodd.

And-when thou shalt have the dominion] It is here foretold

that there was to be a time when the elder was to have dominion

and shake off the yoke of the younger. The word tarid, which

we translate have dominion, is rather of doubtful meaning, as it

may be deduced from three different roots, yarad, to descend,

to be brought down or brought low; radah, to obtain

rule or have dominion; and rud, to complain; meaning

either that when reduced very low God would magnify his power in

their behalf, and deliver them from the yoke of their brethren; or

when they should be increased so as to venture to set up a king

over them, or when they mourned for their transgressions, God

would turn their captivity. The Jerusalem Targum gives the words

the following turn: "When the sons of Jacob attend to the law and

observe the precepts, they shall impose the yoke of servitude upon

thy neck; but when they shall turn away themselves from studying

the law and neglect the precepts, thou shalt break off the yoke of

servitude from thy neck."

"It was David who imposed the yoke, and at that time the Jewish

people observed the law; but the yoke was very galling to the

Edomites from the first; and towards the end of Solomon's reign

Hadad, the Edomite, of the blood royal, who had been carried into

Egypt from his childhood, returned into his own country, and

raised some disturbances, but was not able to recover his throne,

his subjects being over-awed by the garrisons which David had

placed among them; but in the reign of Jehoram, the son of

Jehoshaphat king of Judah, the Edomites revolted from under the

dominion of Judah, and made themselves a king. Jehoram made some

attempts to subdue them again, but could not prevail; so the

Edomites revolted from under the hand of Judah unto this day,

2Ch 21:8,10, and hereby this part of the prophecy was fulfilled

about nine hundred years after it was delivered." See Bishop

Newton.

"Thus," says Bishop Newton, "have we traced, in our notes on

this and the xxvth chapter, the accomplishment of this prophecy

from the beginning; and we find that the nation of the Edomites

has at several times been conquered by and made tributary to the

Jews, but never the nation of the Jews to the Edomites; and the

Jews have been the more considerable people, more known in the

world, and more famous in history. We know indeed little more of

the history of the Edomites than as it is connected with that of

the Jews; and where is the name or nation now? They were

swallowed up and lost, partly among the Nabathean Arabs, and

partly among the Jews; and the very name, as Dr. Prideaux has

observed, was abolished and disused about the end of the first

century of the Christian era. Thus were they rewarded for

insulting and oppressing their brethren the Jews; and hereby other

prophecies were fulfilled, viz., Jer 49:7, &c.; Eze 25:12. &c.;

Joe 3:19; Am 1:11, &c.; and particularly Obadiah; for at this

day we see the Jews subsisting as a distinct people, while Edom is

no more, agreeably to the words of Obadiah, Ob 1:10:

For thy violence against thy brother Jacob, in the return of his

posterity from Egypt, shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be

cut off for ever. And again, Ob 1:18:

There shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau, for the

Lord hath spoken it. In what a most extensive and circumstantial

manner has God fulfilled all these predictions! and what a proof

is this of the Divine inspiration of the Pentateuch, and the

omniscience of God!"

Verse 41. The days of mourning for my father are at hand] Such

was the state of Isaac's health at that time, though he lived more

than forty years afterwards, that his death was expected by all;

and Esau thought that would be a favourable time for him to avenge

himself on his brother Jacob, as, according to the custom of the

times, the sons were always present at the burial of the father.

Ishmael came from his own country to assist Isaac to bury Abraham;

and both Jacob and Esau assisted in burying their father Isaac,

but the enmity between them had happily subsided long before that

time.

Verse 42. Doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee.]

mithnachem lecha, which Houbigant renders cogitat super te,

he thinks or meditates to kill thee. This sense is natural enough

here, but it does not appear to be the meaning of the original;

nor does Houbigant himself give it this sense, in his Racines

Hebraiques. There is no doubt that Esau, in his hatred to his

brother, felt himself pleased with the thought that he should soon

have the opportunity of avenging his wrongs.

Verse 44. Tarry with him a few days] It was probably forty

years before he returned, and it is likely Rebekah saw him no

more; for it is the general opinion of the Jewish rabbins that she

died before Jacob's return from Padan-aram, whether the period of

his stay be considered twenty or forty years.

See Clarke on Ge 31:55, &c.

Verse 45. Why should I be deprived also of you both] If Esau

should kill Jacob, then the nearest akin to Jacob, who was by the

patriarchial law, Ge 9:6, the avenger of blood, would kill Esau;

and both these deaths might possibly take place in the same day.

This appears to be the meaning of Rebekah. Those who are ever

endeavouring to sanctify the means by the end, are full of

perplexity and distress. God will not give his blessing to even a

Divine service, if not done in his own way, on principles of truth

and righteousness. Rebekah and her son would take the means out

of God's hands; they compassed themselves with their own sparks,

and warmed themselves with their own fire; and this had they at

the hand of God, they lay down in sorrow. God would have brought

about his designs in a way consistent with his own perfections;

for he had fully determined that the elder should serve the

younger, and that the Messiah should spring not from the family

of Esau but from that of Jacob; and needed not the cunning

craftiness or deceits of men to accomplish his purposes. Yet in

his mercy he overruled all these circumstances, and produced good,

where things, if left to their own operations and issues, would

have produced nothing but evil. However, after this reprehensible

transaction, we hear no more of Rebekah. The Holy Spirit mentions

her no more, her burial excepted, Ge 49:31.

See Clarke on Ge 35:8.

Verse 46. I am weary of my life] It is very likely that Rebekah

kept many of the circumstances related above from the knowledge of

Isaac; but as Jacob could not go to Padan-aram without his

knowledge, she appears here quite in her own character, framing an

excuse for his departure, and concealing the true cause. Abraham

had been solicitous to get a wife for his son Isaac from a branch

of his own family; hence she was brought from Syria. She is now

afraid, or pretends to be afraid, that her son Jacob will marry

among the Hittites, as Esau had done; and therefore makes this to

Isaac the ostensible reason why Jacob should immediately go to

Padan-aram, that he might get a wife there. Isaac, not knowing

the true cause of sending him away, readily falls in with

Rebekah's proposal, and immediately calls Jacob, gives him

suitable directions and his blessing, and sends him away. This

view of the subject makes all consistent and natural; and we see

at once the reason of the abrupt speech contained in this verse,

which should be placed at the beginning of the following chapter.

1. IN the preceding notes I have endeavoured to represent

things simply as they were. I have not copied the manner of many

commentators, who have laboured to vindicate the character of

Jacob and his mother in the transactions here recorded. As I fear

God, and wish to follow him, I dare not bless what he hath not

blessed, nor curse what he hath not cursed. I consider the whole

of the conduct both of Rebekah and Jacob in some respects deeply

criminal, and in all highly exceptionable. And the impartial

relation of the facts contained in this and the xxvth chapter,

gives me the fullest evidence of the truth and authenticity of the

sacred original. How impartial is the history that God writes! We

may see, from several commentators, what man would have done, had

he had the same facts to relate. The history given by God

details as well the vices as the virtues of those who are its

subjects. How widely different from that in the Bible is the

biography of the present day! Virtuous acts that were never

performed, voluntary privations which were never borne, piety

which was never felt, and in a word lives which were never lived,

are the principal subjects of our biographical relations. These

may be well termed the Lives of the Saints, for to these are

attributed all the virtues which can adorn the human character,

with scarcely a failing or a blemish; while on the other hand,

those in general mentioned in the sacred writings stand marked

with deep shades. What is the inference which a reflecting mind,

acquainted with human nature, draws from a comparison of the

biography of the Scriptures with that of uninspired writers? The

inference is this-the Scripture history is natural, is probable,

bears all the characteristics of veracity, narrates circumstances

which seem to make against its own honour, yet dwells on them, and

often seeks occasion to REPEAT them. It is true! infallibly true!

In this conclusion common sense, reason, and criticism join. On

the other hand, of biography in general we must say that it is

often unnatural, improbable; is destitute of many of the essential

characteristics of truth; studiously avoids mentioning those

circumstances which are dishonourable to its subject; ardently

endeavours either to cast those which it cannot wholly hide into

deep shades, or sublime them into virtues. This is notorious, and

we need not go far for numerous examples. From these facts a

reflecting mind will draw this general conclusion-an impartial

history, in every respect true, can be expected only from God

himself.

2. These should be only preliminary observations to an extended

examination of the characters and conduct of Rebekah and her two

sons; but this in detail would be an ungracious task, and I wish

only to draw the reader's attention to what may, under the

blessing of God, promote his moral good. No pious man can read

the chapter before him without emotions of grief and pain. A

mother teaches her favourite son to cheat and defraud his brother,

deceive his father, and tell the most execrable lies! And God,

the just, the impartial God relates all the circumstances in the

most ample and minute detail! I have already hinted that this is

a strong proof of the authenticity of the sacred book. Had the

Bible been the work of an impostor, a single trait of this history

had never appeared. God, it is true, had purposed that the elder

should serve the younger; but never designed that the supremacy

should be brought about in this way. Had Jacob's unprincipled

mother left the matter in the bands of God's providence, her

favourite son would have had the precedency in such a way as would

not only have manifested the justice and holiness of God, but

would have been both honourable and lasting to HIMSELF. He got

the birthright, and he got the blessing; and how little benefit

did he personally derive from either! What was his life from this

time till his return from Padan-aram? A mere tissue of vexations,

disappointments, and calamities. Men may endeavour to palliate

the iniquity of these transactions; but this must proceed either

from weakness or mistaken zeal. God has sufficiently marked the

whole with his disapprobation.

3. The enmity which Esau felt against his brother Jacob seems

to have been transmitted to all his posterity; and doubtless the

matters of the birthright and the blessing were the grounds on

which that perpetual enmity was kept up between the descendants of

both families, the Edomites and the Israelites. So unfortunate is

an ancient family grudge, founded on the opinion that an injury

has been done by one of the branches of the family, in a period no

matter how remote, provided its operation still continues, and

certain secular privations to one side be the result. How

possible it is to keep feuds of this kind alive to any assignable

period, the state of a neighbouring island sufficiently proves;

and on the subject in question, the bloody contentions of the two

houses of YORK and LANCASTER in this nation are no contemptible

comment. The facts, however, relative to this point, may be

summed up in a few words. 1. The descendants of Jacob were

peculiarly favoured by God. 2. They generally had the dominion,

and were ever reputed superior in every respect to the Edomites.

3. The Edomites were generally tributary to the Israelites. 4.

They often revolted, and sometimes succeeded so far in their

revolts as to become an independent people. 5. The Jews were

never subjected to the Edomites. 6. As in the case between Esau

and Jacob, who after long enmity were reconciled, so were the

Edomites and the Jews, and at length they became one people. 7.

The Edomites, as a nation, are now totally extinct; and the Jews

still continue as a distinct people from all the inhabitants of

the earth! So exactly have all the words of God, which he has

spoken by his prophets, been fulfilled!

4. On the blessings pronounced on Jacob and Esau, these

questions may naturally be asked. 1. Was there any thing in these

blessings of such a spiritual nature as to affect the eternal

interests of either? Certainly there was not, at least as far as

might absolutely involve the salvation of the one, or the

perdition of the other 2. Was not the blessing pronounced on Esau

as good as that pronounced on Jacob, the mere temporary lordship,

and being the progenitor of the Messiah, excepted? So it evidently

appears. 3. If the blessings had referred to their eternal

states, had not Esau as fair a prospect for endless glory as his

unfeeling brother? Justice and mercy both say-Yes. The truth is,

it was their posterity, and not themselves, that were the objects

of these blessings. Jacob, personally, gained no benefit; Esau,

personally, sustained no loss.

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