Genesis 27 — When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes he blessed him

Isaac Blessing Jacob by Gioachino Assereto 1640

Read Genesis 27

The following story was told by Moran Cerf at the Moth Storytelling competition:

Ummm, so ten years ago I used to break into banks to make a living. I used to steal anywhere between a thousand dollars and ten thousand dollars a week or every two weeks. And I was a part of a team of three people — we were hackers. We had a little office in downtown Tel Aviv in Israel, and we’d break into banks and steal their money, then we’d cash it, go back to the owners of the bank, and tell them, look we stole your money. Why don’t you secure your bank better, give us a little bit of that (money), and let us secure your bank, and help you close everything so the bad guys won’t actually steal your money?

I loved this job. I really loved telling that I do this job at parties because it felt like such a cool thing – my life was so exciting. Deep inside I always wanted to be a scientist. I wanted to be a scientist but I felt that I could never have as an exciting life as a scientist as much as I have as a hacker.

So it’s September, 2000, and we have a little job to break into a little bank in Israel, in Tel Aviv. It’s a very small bank, it has very few branches, and we do a pretty good job. We have two weeks to break into it, and after five days we tear it apart. So we can do whatever we want – we can transfer money from one account to another, we can look at all the information of everyone, and we did our job, and I’m ready to just sign off on this thing and send it to the board of directors.

And then Tammy, one of the members of my team, she comes to me and she says, “Have you seen the job description?”

And I say, “Yea, it’s the same one we always get.”

She says, “Yea but did you read it carefully?” She hands me the paper with the job description, and it reads something like, the team can try any means of breaking in: physical, software, infrastructure, blah, blah, blah.

And I say, “Yea what does it mean?”

And she says, “It means we can break into the bank – physically – go and rob the bank. Not just computer breaking (hacking) but actually go and rob the bank…

…and we should do that.”

Now Tammy, she is thirty-five, she just broke up with her boyfriend after nine years because she wanted to have a baby and he didn’t want to have a baby so she broke up with him. And she’s very unstable and I know that, when she comes and says, “Let’s break into the bank.”

And I am the boss and I say, “Well but we don’t know how to break into banks, that’s not our… like we know how to break into banks with computers. We don’t know how to actually go and rob a bank.”

And she says, “Well, you know, how many times in your life do you get to break into a bank and if you get caught, it’s OK because you just did your job and it’s OK, and it’s just a part of the thing. And if you succeed you actually broke into a bank. You live only once, let’s do it! Please, please, please, please. Let’s rob the bank – please, please.”

And I look at her and I start thinking it makes sense, and I say, “OK, let’s rob the bank.”

So the weekend starts and the three of us are learning how to rob a bank. And we don’t know anything about it. And as much as you might think, there’s not much about it on the internet — at the time. So like, we couldn’t find a book that says, Breaking Into Banks for Dummies. So we start looking for ways and it turns out we have to come up with a way ourselves. So we plan a very elaborate way to break the bank which is a little branch up in Northern Tel Aviv that has only one teller so there’s not going to be too much of a crowd there.

And we have one of us, Gian (pronounced John) who’s younger, that is an insider – he’s going to go to the bank first. He’s going to have a little camera on his belly, a hidden camera, he’s going to film everything so if something goes wrong, we’re going to have footage that shows that we didn’t do anything bad.

And Tammy and me, we’re going to go afterwards, and when he signals us that there’s no one else in the bank, so no one’s going to pull a gun or something, and starts freaking out. And we’re going to go and we’re going to rob the bank. We’re going to take a little bit of money from one of the safe boxes that we picked in advance because we have information about the bank. We picked the name of a woman (who we knew would have a small amount of money in her safe box).

So it’s Monday morning, and Gian is inside, and he signals us to come inside. And we come, and we start walking toward the teller, and I start having doubts. I mean I’m not sure how many of you have had the chance to rob a bank in your life, but, it’s really scary. And there’s a moment before you say, “It’s a bank robbery,” where you can still take it back. So you can still walk in, say to the guy, it’s a mistake, and leave, and it’s OK. But once you say, “It’s a bank robbery,” even if you regret it you still said it, and now you have to do something, and it’s complex. And I saw it’s a mistake, and can I leave? So I started hesitating.

But Tammy just broke up with her boyfriend and she doesn’t think anything of it and she goes and says, “It’s a bank robbery, we want you to go to the safe and open 10003.”

And the teller, she’s like a twenty-five year old girl, she’s hardly ever seen a customer in this place ever, and she’s like studying for the SAT. She puts a marker in the book, she stands up like nonchalant, goes with Tammy to the back room, to open the thing.

And now I’m sitting there, and Gian, his job, he’s the youngest, his job was also to use this time to take pictures of the place because we sometimes find people leaving post-it notes with the password next to the computer and we can put it in the report. So his job is to take pictures to find more things that we can actually put in the report – so he’s doing that. And Tammy’s in the back with the teller trying to get open the safe. And I’m sitting there and I don’t remember what I’m supposed to do at the time. I have a few minutes, and I know I have… but now I’m sitting there and I have nothing to do.

So I see Gian there and he’s taking pictures, and he’s pretty short, and he’s finding it hard to take pictures. So I said, “I’m going to help you.” So I put my hands together, and I lift him so he can take pictures from a higher place. And then the teller comes back, and she sees us, and for her it’s just like a customer and a bank robber, because she doesn’t know we’re together. So now she’s really confused to see me helping him to take pictures of the bank robbery. And then she’s starting to smile, she’s like confused, and she goes back and sits in her place.

And then Tammy hands me the little box that she took with the money that we thought we’re going to take from (the lady) – it should be just a couple of hundred dollars. And then I open it, and lo and behold, (the lady) just broke up with her boyfriend a few days before, and she took all her jewelry and put it in the box. And I open it, and I see something that looks like a million dollars worth of jewelry. And now we have no liability for that. We can’t take that.

So I call Tammy and I say, “Look Tammy we can’t take that, we have to put it back.”

She says, “Put it in, (the sack) drop it in, let’s leave.”

I say, “No! It’s too much money. We can’t leave with that. We have to put it back.”

She says, “No!”

And we start fighting there. And the bank teller, she’s kind of amused by us. She’s seen better bank robberies before.

And Gian, he’s seventeen years old. And he’s just finished school and he’s about to go into the army in a few months so he never dated a girl in his life. So he feels it’s his chance to hit on a girl, with the teller. So he goes over, and he starts telling her he’s a part of the team, and he actually planned everything…

And I finally take the box and I say, “I’m going to put it back.”

So I go to the teller and I tell her, “Sorry, please, I just need you to take the key and put it…”

And she gives me the key and says, “Just go yourself. I’m not going back there with you anymore.”

So I’m apologetic and I take the key and I go to the back room to open the safe and put the box back. And I leave everyone behind and I spend a few minutes doing it.

And I come back and I see that Gian is giving his phone number to the teller. And we have this whole debate before hand whether we should or should not wear ski masks so no one’s going to know us. But if you give your phone number and name to the teller then it’s kind of, puts everything in perspective. So he gives that phone number to the teller.

And then, because it didn’t look like a bank robbery, a woman enters the bank with a baby. And she goes in and she starts writing a check because she doesn’t see that anything is weird. So she starts writing a check with the baby and she can’t hold the baby so Tammy, she loves babies, she holds the baby for her, while she writes the check. And now the baby starts crying because its mommy’s writing a check and Tammy holds the baby and she loves babies and she starts singing a lullaby.

She sings (in Hebrew), “Sleep sleep my little child.” It’s very peaceful.

And suddenly she (Tammy) starts crying. Because of the fighting with me, and the bank robbery, and the boyfriend, and the baby she’s starting to cry.

And everything is weird and I said, “Bank breaking is not going to work.” So I pull Gian in one hand and pull Tammy with the other and we just run away to my car and we get into my car and start driving away in silence. And all this time, Tammy is crying next to me and I look at the rearview and I see Gian in the back, he’s smiling, he’s grinning.

He’s going to go on a date tomorrow with the teller.

As told by Moran Cerf at the Moth Storytelling competition:

The bank robbery story is a story of stealing as is the story before us today in Genesis 27. The two stories have a few similarities that we’ll explore later but first in order to review some of the history that led up to this let’s briefly visit the last post. Last post we saw how Esau chose to marry two women who weren’t believers, and how his choices grieved his father and mother Isaac and Rebekah. His marrying unbelievers implies that Esau is still in an unrepentant state, not following his father Isaac’s direction nor his example.
Today we’ll explore the story of Isaac’s blessing, and Esau and Jacob’s competition for that blessing.

Our story begins with a description of Isaac’s current condition.

He’s old. As will happen to all of us who grow old, his body is breaking down. His eyes are so weak that he can no longer see.

He’s blind.

He calls for his older son Esau, Son?

Right here dad, Esau says.

Isaac says, Look, I’m old. I could die at any time. Why don’t you grab your gear — your quiver and bow — and hunt up some game for me. Then cook it just the way I like it and bring it to me to eat. Then I’ll give you my blessing — before I die.

Now Rebekah (who loves Jacob) is just around the corner and she hears the whole thing. So when Esau leaves to go hunt, she says to Jacob, Hey, I overheard your dad tell Esau to go hunt some game and then to come back and to cook it up the way he likes it. Then dad said he would give Esau his blessing in the presence of the LORD before he dies. So I have an idea, listen carefully: Go out to the flock and bring me two of the best goats you can find. I’ll cook them up just how your dad likes it. Then you take it to your father to eat, so that he’ll give you his blessing before he dies, instead of Esau.

Now in Rebekah’s defence, she may be remembering the prophesy of God from Genesis 25 where the LORD told her that the older will serve the younger. (v. 23) It may even be that she favored Jacob from the beginning because of that prophecy. Her error isn’t that she desired to see God’s prophecy come to fruition. Her error is that she took matters into her own hands. Rather than trusting in God’s promises she’s trusting in the activity of her own flesh. Naturally you and I have done the same thing. I don’t know about you but I’ve been there more than once. So it’s hard for me to be tough on Rebekah and Jacob. But I will say that I believe the prophecy would have been fulfilled without Rebekah and Jacob’s interventions. The end doesn’t justify the means, and God will bless who He will without deceitful plots of the flesh.

Wait a minute, Jacob says. Esau’s all hairy and my skin’s smooth. What happens if dad touches me? He’ll realize that I’m trying to trick him, and he’ll curse me instead of blessing me.

Rebekah says, Son, if that happens let the curse fall on me. Just go get the two goats like I said.

So Jacob goes and finds the two best goats he can, and brings them back to his mother, and she prepares them just the way Isaac likes it. Then she takes Esau’s best clothes out of the laundry, probably out of the dirty laundry because it was important that the clothes smell like Esau, and she gives them to Jacob and he puts them on.

Then she quickly cuts up some goat skins and crafts coverings for Jacob’s hands and neck so he’ll feel hairy like his brother.

Then she gives Jacob the meal that she made.

So now the con is set. Jacob takes a deep breath and enters into his father’s tent.

Dad, Jacob says as he enters.

Yes son, Isaac answers. Then he asks, Who is it?

Now, just like the bank robber Moran Cerf talked about, it’s at this point that Jacob is at a crossroads. Before he says the words, I’m Esau your firstborn, Jacob can tell his dad that he came into the tent by mistake, turn around, walk out, and he’s none worse for the wear. But as soon as he says, I’m Esau, things get complicated. Very complicated. Much more complicated than Jacob ever anticipated I’m sure.

Have you ever told a whopper in your own self interest? Do you remember the feeling? Your heart pounds, your breathing increases, your hands get cold and clammy. So Jacob, perhaps with his heart pounding, his breathing rate increasing, his hands feeling cold and clammy — Jacob the heel snatcher lies.

He lies and blurts out, It’s Esau your firstborn. I did what you said. Why don’t you sit up and eat some of the game I killed for you, so you can give me your blessing?

Notice that Jacob wastes no time getting right to the point. He’s probably thinking, Come on, give me your blessing so I can get what I came for and then get out of here.

But it wouldn’t be that simple, not by a long shot. Acting out of the flesh never is. Things always become complicated.

Isaac’s suspicious.

So I have a question, Isaac says. How’d you find it so fast?

Then Jacob does something that breaks my heart. He brings the LORD into it. He says, The LORD your God gave me success.

Then Isaac says, Come over here so I can touch you and see if you’re really Esau or not.

So Jacob comes over and Isaac touches him and says, Your voice is the voice of Jacob, but your hands are the hands of Esau. As he’s feeling the hair of the goat skin gloves that Jacob’s mother made for him.

So he’s convinced enough to take another step toward giving the blessing but before he does he asks, Are you really Esau?

I believe that at this point it would have been better for Jacob to say, No, I’m not, I’m sorry. I can’t go through with this. Dad, can you forgive me?. But he didn’t.

Instead he said, I am.

So Isaac moves forward — incrementally. He says, OK, go ahead and bring me some of your game meat that you cooked up and I’ll give you my blessing.

Jacob brings him the meal and Isaac eats it and Jacob brings him some wine and Isaac drinks then he says, Come here, my son, and kiss me.

So Jacob goes over and kisses him and when Isaac smells his clothes — that’s the clincher.

Isaac seals the deal, he blesses Jacob.

He says:

“Ah, the smell of my son
is like the smell of a field
that the LORD has blessed.
May God give you heaven’s dew
and earth’s richness—
an abundance of grain and new wine.
May nations serve you
and peoples bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.
May those who curse you be cursed
and those who bless you be blessed.”

Genesis 27:27-29

Later we’ll see that Isaac’s blessing as well as the prophecy in Genesis 25, where God told Rebekah that she had two nations warring in her womb and that the older would serve the younger, both were fulfilled as a result of Jacob’s receiving the birthright and the blessing — Esau would be under Jacob. And both were further fulfilled in 2 Samuel chapter 8 where we see that David, Jacob’s descendant, put garrisons throughout Edom, (Edom was a nation made up of Esau’s descendants) and all the Edomites became subject to David. (v. 14)

Back to our story: After Isaac finishes and almost before the flap of the tent door was completely closed after Jacob’s exit, Esau shows up.

I’m baaa-aack, Esau says in a cheerful voice with his dad’s carefully prepared meal in hand. Why don’t you sit up and have some of this delicious game meat that I made for you? Then you can give me your blessing.

Then Isaac, confused, asks, What’s going on? Who are you?

I’m your son, your firstborn son, Esau.

Slowly, red color rises from Isaac’s neck to his face. Isaac is beside himself. He’s so upset that he begins to tremble uncontrollably: Then who just came in here and fed me game just the way I like it? I ate it. I swallowed it, hook, line, and sinker just before you came. Whoever that was, I blessed him — and indeed he will be blessed.

With anguish and a broken heart Esau cries out bitterly, Please, bless me — me too! Please!

But Isaac replies, Your brother, he came and deceived me and took your blessing.

Esau says with anger and frustration, Isn’t that just the perfect name for him — heel snatcher? That’s twice now that he’s taken advantage. He took my birthright (not exactly true actually as Esau agreed to give up his birthright and the Bible even says that he despised his birthright in Genesis 25:34) and now he’s taken my blessing!

Then he says, Have you saved any blessing for me?

Isaac says, I pretty much gave him everything. I made him lord over you and all of his relatives. I blessed him with grain and new wine. So what can I do now? What could I bless you with? I can’t undo what’s already been done.

But do you have only one blessing? Esau asks. He’s openly weeping now. Please, bless me too.

So Isaac blesses him as best he can. He says:

“Your dwelling will be 
away from the earth’s richness, 
away from the dew of heaven above. 
You will live by the sword 
and you will serve your brother. 
But when you grow restless, 
you will throw his yoke 
from off your neck.”

Genesis 27:39-40

We’ll see this part of Isaac’s blessing fulfilled in 2 Chronicles chapter 21 where Edom rebels against Judah and sets up its own king.

After that Esau’s sick with rage and resentment. He develops a plan for revenge, he says, After dad dies and the time of mourning is over, I’ll kill him. I’ll kill Jacob for what he did.

Well word gets back to Rebekah about Esau’s intentions toward Jacob so she sends for Jacob and says, Esau is planning to kill you for what you did so do what I say. Get a few things together and get out of here as fast as you can. Go stay with my brother Laban in Harran until your brother’s not angry with you anymore. After he calms down I’ll send word for you to come home. Why should I lose both of you in one day?

Then Rebekah goes to Isaac and says, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.” (v. 46)

And as we’ll see in the next chapter, Isaac buys into Rebekah’s plan for Jacob to travel to Harran — to take a wife from Rebekah’s clan. But he’ll be gone far longer than Rebekah anticipated. In fact she’ll never see him again, in this life, because she passed away before his return.

This is a great word for mothers — over protecting, over engaging, over involving out of the energy of the flesh will just complicate lives and could even result in the loss of your son or daughter. Oh, maybe not a physical loss but quite possibly an emotional loss and perhaps even a loss of faith. According to the Barna Group one of the chief reasons cited for leaving the church by young adults age eighteen to twenty-nine is that they felt overprotected. The LORD knows you love your son. He knows you love your daughter. Put the energy born out of that love into prayer rather than over protection. (You Lost Me by David Kinnaman)

In the end, like the younger bank robber, Jacob will be smiling, because it won’t be long before he’s keeping company with a beautiful woman.

God’s Grace:

There’s a most interesting aspect to this story that I believe is essential for us to understand. Conspicuously absent is a virtuous life pattern demonstrated by Jacob.

Yet Jacob receives the blessing.

Tell me, where is Jacob’s virtue, his integrity, his honesty, his honor? Where do we see Jacob earn God’s blessing? Up to this point his life demonstrates nothing but a pattern of deceitfulness!

There’s no way Jacob could possibly be blessed on merit.

It’s important to understand that what’s important to see here aren’t the faults and flaws of Jacob but rather the grace and mercy of God! Jacob was blessed not because of his goodness but in spite of his deceitfulness.

The story of Jacob receiving the blessing is a great illustration of our hope of receiving God’s blessing by His grace. We can’t do it on our own merit. For you or for me to receive the blessing of our Father in heaven, like Jacob, we need to come dressed in the clothes of our older brother. For Jacob that was Esau, but for us it’s our older Brother Jesus Christ. It’s His fragrance that will move the Father to bless us because when we’re in Christ, then we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:15)

So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

Romans 9:16 (KJV)

Or as the NIV puts it:

It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.

And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

Romans 9:16, 11:6

God blesses us because He loves us, not because of the good we do. What good we do is in response to God’s love — and His blessing.

Genesis 27

1 When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.”

“Here I am,” he answered.

2 Isaac said, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. 3 Now then, get your equipment—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. 4 Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.”

5 Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, 6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, 7 ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the LORD before I die.’ 8 Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: 9 Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. 10 Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.”

11 Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. 12 What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.”

13 His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.”

14 So he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. 15 Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. 16 She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. 17 Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made.

18 He went to his father and said, “My father.”

“Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?”

19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

20 Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?”

“The LORD your God gave me success,” he replied.

21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.”

22 Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he proceeded to bless him. 24 “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked.

“I am,” he replied.

25 Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.”

Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.”

27 So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,

“Ah, the smell of my son
is like the smell of a field
that the LORD has blessed.
28 May God give you heaven’s dew
and earth’s richness—
an abundance of grain and new wine.
29 May nations serve you
and peoples bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.
May those who curse you be cursed
and those who bless you be blessed.”

30 After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. 31 He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

32 His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”

“I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.”

33 Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”

34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”

35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

36 Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob[a]? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”

37 Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?”

38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.

39 His father Isaac answered him,

“Your dwelling will be
away from the earth’s richness,
away from the dew of heaven above.
40 You will live by the sword
and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,
you will throw his yoke
from off your neck.”

41 Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

42 When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. 43 Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. 44 Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. 45 When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?”

46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.”


Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Matthew Henry

Chuck Missler

You Lost Me by David Kinnaman

Moran Cerf

Jon Courson

Just a friendly heads-up: Moran Cerf’s story is very entertaining and also very clean however the MC of the moth storytelling competition makes some very off color remarks after Moran is finished. These occur after the 8:30 mark on this video.

2 Comments on “Genesis 27 — When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes he blessed him

  1. Pingback: Resources for Genesis 27:27 - 29

  2. Pingback: Genesis 28 — You will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending « bennett's blog

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