Understanding Genesis 27: Take My Yoke
Read the entire chapter 27 of Genesis on your own. You can read a variety of versions, from contemporary English to literal translations. You can download bible apps, websites (blueletterbible.org or biblegateway.com) or buy one from your local bookstore. I will use King James Version because some of the nuances are missing from other translations. When you read the chapter, don’t just read it—study it with questions and try to make sense of it.
A Good Marriage Gone Wrong
Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee. Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth: And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death. Genesis 27:8-10
Isaac and Rebekah had been married for over 60 years. They saw the hand of God guiding them together, but a happy marriage must keep Him in the lead. God provides guidance and blessing: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…1 Corinthians 13:4-8; but if each is selfish (self-seeking), hard-hearted (not kind), or stiff-necked (proud), then each slowly overcomes the other and pushes God out of the marriage.
As the years passed, Abraham, Isaac and Rebekah waited and waited for the promised child, but it took 20 years for their prayers to be answered. Perhaps there were recriminations, worries, impatience that wore down the marriage. If only they had trusted in God and had faith and patience. And once the children were born, their parenting reflected their characters—one was spoiled and other was sly.
As Isaac saw a robust healthy boy, running wild and athletic, he was proud of his son’s ability and obviously favored Esau. And Rebekah saw a sickly, feeble baby and kept him near, nursing him to back to health. Their father spoiling one son, and not showing love to the other, shaped their characters. Their mother spoiling one son, and brushing off the other, created a rift that never fully healed. As their sons grew, the marriage also suffered; until the wife sins in deceiving her husband and leads her son to also sin against his father.
During the years watching their sons grow, they dwelled on God's words to her: ‘The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”’ Genesis 25:23
Isaac decides that God is wrong and decides to take matter into his own hands by giving it to Esau. Rebekah felt she had to help God, and take matter into her own hands by forcing Isaac to give Jacob the blessing. But they misunderstood that the blessing was not in the words; it was in the life lived by faith.
But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.1 Samuel 15:22 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. Romans 1:17
Behold My Mother and Brothers
And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them. And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made savoury meat, such as his father loved. Genesis 27:13,14
As Esau lived his life, marrying two heathen women, despising his birthright—he revealed to his parents his disdain for the inheritance. While Jacob revealed his desire for the inheritance, he also revealed his lack of understanding of the blessing, by lying to his father.
“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37 This sounds harsh, but when you see what Jacob did, you can understand why Jesus said it. If only Jacob had understood God, he would have rebuked his mother and asked her for patience. He was not a child, to be guided by an elder; he was a grown man. But instead of doing what was right, he followed his mother, and lied to his father.
And he [Jesus] stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. Matthew 12:49,50
Knowing When to Stop
And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. Genesis 27:22
Several times, Isaac questions Jacob, and doubts that he is Esau. But Jacob repeatedly lies to his father. He refuses to back out of his deceit. Several times, Isaac questions Jacob, knowing that a licentious Esau is not God’s servant. They both had opportunities to check their intent and back off, but they stubbornly continue.
Blessing to the Nations
Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee. Genesis 27:28,29
This blessing isn’t accurately repeating what God had said to Abraham. “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 12:3 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. Genesis 22:18
God would use Abraham’s seed to bless the nations, but Isaac forgets or dismisses this part of the blessing. Only those who are good to his son would be blessed in return. These words were not the blessing that God intended for Abraham’s descendants; their understanding of the blessing was all materialistic, and not spiritual.
And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept. Genesis 27:38
As Esau sees what he thinks is material wealth taken away from him, he starts to cry. Esau did not want the birthright, which was the spiritual relationship with God. “…thus Esau despised his birthright.” Genesis 25:34 He saw the blessing as a good luck charm, and regretted that it was not given to him. He did not weep in repentance for his selfishness, he did not weep in repentance for his lack of knowing God. He begs his father for a blessing, not understanding that there is only one blessing. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16 Anyone who chooses to believe in Jesus’ grace would be blessed.
Esau did not understand the responsibility of this inheritance and regretted that something had been taken away from him—not his life choices.
Take My Yoke Upon You, and Learn of Me
And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept. And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck. Genesis 27:37-39
Sadly, this “curse” did become a reality: Esau’s descendants and the Israelites were often at war. But this is also a warning for us; Esau and Jacob are examples of two types of people, those who follow God and those who follow Self.
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:29,30 While most would see the yoke as a burden, Jesus saw it as light. He offers it to others and promises rest, and the easier path than the one they are currently on. Most would see Christianity as a burden, no-fun, a list of dos and don’ts—but Jesus promises that His yoke is restful. That’s because of the cross.
We’re so busy trying to keep the commandments and the doctrines, that we lose sight that God only requires two things from us: Love God and Love Others. "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Matthew 22:37-40 "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrew 12:2 "Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me." Matthew 10:21 The cross was a joy to Jesus. He knew the power of His sacrifice, and He offered His saving grace to anyone who would take it. Take my yoke upon you, take my cross, get rest.
Esau’s descendants did often war with the Israelites, and sometimes they were able to defeat the Israelites, but Isaac’s curse is a warning to us not to become Edomites, a warning in our Christian struggle. When we become dominant in our lives, we will break off Jesus’ yoke and go our own path. We will so easily choose where we want to go and do what we want, that we lose sight of Jesus’ blessing. As Esau and his descendants become more and more faithless, Jesus cannot force His grace on anyone—they were able to break off His yoke. But as you grow closer to Jesus, see the true meaning of the blessing, understand what His yoke means for you.
A Broken Family
Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran; And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me? Genesis 27:43,46
Rebekah once again schemes to save Jacob. She sends him away to her brother, but instead of talking about her fears for Jacob’s life, she suggests Isaac send Jacob away for the sake of their lineage. They are unable as parents or a couple, to correct their relationship; nor counsel Esau about his threats toward his own brother. It’s sad that those God had brought together, sin had once again ruined. As you read further: their children, and future generations repeat the sins of the parents. But thank God for His grace, He repeatedly blesses and saves those who desire Him.
- Understanding Genesis 28: Reconciling God to Us
A Bible study of Genesis 28.