Isaac Was Not Deceived, The Story of Jacob and Esau
Similar Examples of Christ, Abraham and Isaac
Understanding the message, that all things point to Christ, the examples I observe in both the lives of Abraham and Isaac take on added spiritual symbolism for me, pointing to Christ. On that same vein, just as Christ explained, to know Him is to know His father who sent Him, by studying the life of Isaac we can see the similarities between his life and the life of his father, Abraham.
Both Abraham and Isaac were asked to do incredibly hard things by way of sacrifice. Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac to show his commitment and obedience to God, as a final act to make the blessings of the covenant between him and God sure. With faith he executed the request, with exactness, thus demonstrating his willingness to trust in the word of God and in His ability to do all that He had promised.
Similarly, Isaac was given the choice to willingly submit to his father and to become the sacrifice as his father was obedient to God. Both were being tested within the same offering. For Abraham, nearing the end of his life, it was considered his final test, and for Isaac it was the beginning of his journey, or series of trials and blessings, that would put him on his way to the relationship with God that his father enjoyed.
Abraham Offers Isaac
Rebekah's Revelation From God
Isaac embarks on this journey with his wife Rebekah, who similar to Sarah (Abraham's wife) was "barren", and until their husbands "entreat" the Lord on their behalf, they remain without children. Both women are ultimately blessed with the opportunity to conceive and bare children. When Rebekah starts to feel the blessings of life which "struggled" inside her womb, she becomes concerned about the situation and inquires of the Lord about her pregnancy. Sarah also feels the struggling between her child and his brother Ishmael, which causes her to be concerned, both situations ultimately end with some sort of conflict.
As Rebekah inquires of the Lord, we receive some insight as to the conflict that will arise between the two sons. The Lord answers her query with the following prophecy:
This prophecy is in direct conflict with the traditional blessing of the birthright.
Before we continue, we must understand the definition of the term, "birthright". From the King James edition of the Bible, which the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints use as standard scripture, there is an added section for reference called the Bible Dictionary. The following is the definition found in that source for the term birthright:
Under the patriarchal order, the right or inheritance of the firstborn is known as birthright. This generally included a land inheritance as well as the authority to preside. The firstborn of flocks and of human families was considered as belonging to the Lord, and was expected to be dedicated to him. This dedication could be either literal or by the payment of redemption money (Ex. 13: 11-16). From time to time certain prerogatives, opportunities and blessings have attended those who were born of a particular lineage.
Two other conditions are important concerning the bestowal of the birthright, one being on condition of worthiness and the other simply the choice of the Lord.
Esau Sells His Birthright For A Mess of Pottage
Understanding The Character Of The Two Sons
As the day approached and Rebekah was delivered, it was confirmed that she had been carrying twins by the actual birth. The firstborn son was "red and hairy" and they called him Esau. The second was Jacob and he was born holding on to the heel of the first. Esau because of the placement of his birth would traditionally be considered the one holding the "birthright blessing."
We soon find out more about the character of both of the sons by some specific words used to describe them. Jacob is described as "a plain man, dwelling in tents." By further study, this description tells us much about the type of person Jacob is. The Hebrew translation of the word "plain" is rendered as "whole, complete, perfect simple, plain." When considering the word "tent" as referred to in the scriptures a symbolic meaning is implied to infer a "covering of the Lord", this is done through covenants, such as was done in a temple. This description of him helps us to understand that he was a "worthy" man. Conversely, Esau is described as a "cunning hunter, a man of the field", perhaps alluding to his weakness for worldly attractions.
This inference to the type of individuals they are is further evidenced by the next scenario we are given. Jacob "sod pottage" or was boiling porridge, and Esau came in from the "field" and was "faint" and wanted to have some of Jacob's food (a similar incidence could be found in the parable of The Ten Virgins). With the added depth given to the word "field" by the use of symbolism, it might be suggested that he was in need of other nourishment besides just physical sustenance; his long presence in the field may have left him spiritually hungry also. In recalling the definition as to the right of the birthright, Esau, the holder, was the one who was supposed to be dedicated to the Lord; instead he was out in the field. At this point, Jacob requires a payment for the food he will give to sustain Esau, of the right to the birthright, because Esau was not "dedicated literally" to the Lord he "offered the payment of redemptive money." It could have possibly been that the enticements of the world were much more appealing than the responsibilities that went with the birthright. Thus it is rendered that he "sold his birthright" unto Jacob and specifically "went his way" (not the Lord's way) and despised his birthright.
Esau's unconcern for his birthright is further shown by his choice of wives. The requirement of the Lord was given much earlier in the scriptures that the birthright blessings were to be given to one who was married within the covenant line. Esau disregards this requirement and marries two Hitite women. This action causes him to become a "grief of mind to his parents", Isaac and Rebekah. By his own actions he has forfeited the right to the birthright blessings, and Jacob literally becomes Esau as the rightful birthright holder. This is important to remember, for when his father asks Jacob if he is his son Esau, he responds in the affirmative. As far as the birthright goes, he is.
The Type Of Offering Or Sacrifice
As Isaac becomes old and ready to pass the birthright blessing to his son, he calls Esau in and specifically gives him instructions concerning a righteous offering. It is important to understand that the people of the time were living under the laws of blood sacrifice as instituted with Adam and Eve. Isaac is requiring his son to make a sacrifice so that he may bless him. Now remember Rebekah was given inspiration as to who the rightful blessing holder should be long before the boys were even born, and so she takes it upon herself to make sure the prophecy is fulfilled. She calls Jacob to her and tells him to go and make a sacrifice to his father, that she will prepare for him, so that he may receive the promised blessing.
The added insight to this story is given when one considers the type of sacrifice Rebekah prepares. She instructs Jacob to "go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats." In the book of Leviticus we are given the definition of this type of sacrifice in chapter 16:
"And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering...
And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.
And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD's lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.
But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness."
Rebekah is literally making an offering of one son, so that the other will have a chance to make an atonement through repentance and obedience to the Lord. Thus, Jacob becomes the offering, and Esau becomes the scapegoat. Jacob is known as the supplanter, which means to replace one thing by something else; likewise, Jesus has become our supplanter of our sins. This to me is an awesome symbol for the role Christ plays for all of us. We, being unworthy to merit the birthright blessings on our own, have the opportunity to partake of the blessings though Him.
This additional insight helps us to understand that Esau was given the blessing by actually not receiving the blessing in his unworthy state. His blessing is being able to apply the effects of the atonement in his life and partake of it worthily as he repents and becomes submissive and obedient to the Lord.
- Leviticus 16
King James version of the Bible, the book of Leviticus, Chapter 16.
Isaac Blessing Jacob
No Tricks Involved
There are many more wonderfully symbolic meanings that apply to the additional story that takes place when the actual blessing of Jacob occurs, but for me, the most important evidence has already been laid. By simply understanding the type of sacrifice that was offered, we can conclude that, both Isaac and Rebekah knew the mind and will of the Lord and followed it. As Jacob explains to Isaac when questioned how he acquired the means for the sacrifice so quickly, "Because the LORD thy God brought it to me." Jacob was certainly the Lord's choice and nobody was fooled or tricked, I think all involved understood far better than we the observer.