Was Isaac Really Deceived?

The conventional reading of Chapter 27 in Genesis is that Rebecca devised, and Jacob implemented, a plan to deceive Isaac into giving the blessing that was intended for Esau to Jacob.

Is this so? Maybe, and maybe not.

The case that it was is frequently made and apparent from the surface.

Here’s the case for “maybe not:”

1. We learn in the last verse of Chapter 26 that Esau’s marriage to both Judith and Basemath was “a source of bitterness,” not only to Rebecca but also to Isaac.

2. While Isaac had poor eyesight in old age, he was keen at other senses. Could he not distinguish the voices of his two very different sons?

3. When Isaac asked Jacob (disguised as Esau) how he had succeeded so quickly, presumably at preparing the desired meal, Jacob said, “Because the Lord your God granted me good fortune.” Esau never would have said this, as Isaac would have been more than well aware.

4. When Isaac asked Jacob (disguised as Esau), “who are you, my son?”, was he really uncertain of his identity, or was he really asking, “what kind of person are you?”

5. When Isaac was confronted by Esau for having having blessed another (Jacob) and not himself, did Isaac make any effort to withdraw the blessing or at least curse the deception or even express serious remorse? It is possible that a blessing, once given, is lodged with God, so to speak. But, Isaac showed no regret, but rather total acceptance with what had been done.

6. In verse 33, Isaac was seized with trembling at having blessed another instead of Esau. But was this rage at deception, or was it rather partly a display in front of Esau, and largely an emotion based in concern and sadness at the likely “war” ahead between the brothers?

I submit that Isaac was a man who was weak of eyesight but strong of vision. He wanted to bless Esau to restore him to God. I believe he knew and accepted Rebecca’s vision from God that Jacob would be the son to carry on the covenant. He likely understood that the older son would serve the younger, but he wanted the younger to respect the older and he wanted the two to be reconciled.

Though lacking in charisma and originality, Isaac was a sustainer of the covenant and a peacemaker. He understood the problems in his family. He was no fool.

For all the stories of how Isaac got his name, none makes more sense than that the merit of true laughter is earned by one who seeks peace in his family and hope for all its members.


2 thoughts on “Was Isaac Really Deceived?

  1. Sandy,

    I really like this one.

    To me it turns on the meaning of Isaac’s name: “He laughs.” or as I have always thought of it, “One who laughs.” Or just “Laughing.”

    But with only cursory study, I always thought of laughing here in the more conventional way as in laughing because something was funny.

    Here you’ve gotten to heart of the matter: “Laughing with joy.” This is what I think of as the quiet joy we find in peace, hope, and a life well lived.


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