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And it came to pass after Isaac was old, that his eyes were dimmed so that he could not see; and he called Esau, his elder son, and said to him, My son; and he said, Behold, I am here. And he said, Behold, I am grown old, and know not the day of my death. Now then take the weapons, both thy quiver and thy bow, and go into the plain, and get me venison, and make me meats, as I like them, and bring them to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless thee, before I die. And Rebecca heard Isaac speaking to Esau his son; and Esau went to the plain to procure venison for his father. And Rebecca said to Jacob her younger son, Behold, I heard thy father speaking to Esau thy brother, saying, Bring me venison, and prepare me meats, that I may eat and bless thee before the Lord before I die. Now then, my son, hearken to me, as I command thee. And go to the cattle and take for me thence two kids, tender and good, and I will make them meats for thy father, as he likes. And thou shalt bring them in to thy father, and he shall eat, that thy father may bless thee before he dies. And Jacob said to his mother Rebecca, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I a smooth man. Peradventure my father may feel me, and I shall be before him as one ill-intentioned, and I shall bring upon me a curse, and not a blessing. And his mother said to him, On me be thy curse, son; only hearken to my voice, and go and bring them me. So he went and took and brought them to his mother; and his mother made meats, as his father liked them. And Rebecca having taken the fine raiment of her elder son Esau which was with her in the house, put it on Jacob her younger son. And she put on his arms the skins of the kids, and on the bare parts of his neck. And she gave the meats, and the loaves which she had prepared, into the hands of Jacob her son. And he brought them to his father, and said, Father; and he said, Behold I am here; who art thou, son? And Jacob said to his father, I, Esau thy first-born, have done as thou toldest me; rise, sit, and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me. And Isaac said to his son, What is this which thou hast quickly found? And he said, That which the Lord thy God presented before me. And Isaac said to Jacob, Draw night to me, and I will feel thee, son, if thou art my son Esau or not. And Jacob drew nigh to his father Isaac, and he felt him, and said, The voice Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. And he knew him not, for his hands were as the hands of his brother Esau, hairy; and he blessed him, and he said, Art thou my son Esau? and he said, I am. And he said, Bring hither, and I will eat of thy venison, son, that my soul may bless thee; and he brought it near to him, and he ate, and he brought him wine, and he drank. And Isaac his father said to him, Draw nigh to me, and kiss me, son. And he drew nigh and kissed him, and smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said, Behold, the smell of my son is as the smell of an abundant field, which the Lord has blessed. And may God give thee of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and abundance of corn and wine. And let nations serve thee, and princes bow down to thee, and be thou lord of thy brother, and the sons of thy father shall do thee reverence; accursed is he that curses thee, and blessed is he that blesses thee. And it came to pass after Isaac had ceased blessing his son Jacob, it even came to pass, just when Jacob had gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. And he also had made meats and brought them to his father; and he said to his father, Let my father arise and eat of his son’s venison, that thy soul may bless me. And Isaac his father said to him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy first-born son Esau. And Isaac was amazed with very great amazement, and said, Who then is it that has procured venison for me and brought it to me? and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and I have blessed him, and he shall be blessed. And it came to pass when Esau heard the words of his father Isaac, he cried out with a great and very bitter cry, and said, Bless, I pray thee, me also, father. And he said to him, Thy brother has come with subtlety, and taken thy blessing. And he said, Rightly was his name called Jacob, for lo! this second time has he supplanted me; he has both taken my birthright, and now he has taken my blessing; and Esau said to his father, Hast thou not left a blessing for me, father? And Isaac answered and said to Esau, If I have made him thy lord, and have made all his brethren his servants, and have strengthened him with corn and wine, what then shall I do for thee, son? And Esau said to his father, Hast thou only one blessing, father? Bless, I pray thee, me also, father. And Isaac being troubled, Esau cried aloud and wept. And Isaac his father answered and said to him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above. And thou shalt live by thy sword, and shalt serve thy brother; and there shall be a time when thou shalt break and loosen his yoke from off thy neck. And Esau was angry with Jacob because of the blessing, with which his father blessed him; and Esau said in his mind, Let the days of my father’s mourning draw nigh, that I may slay my brother Jacob. – Genesis 27:1-41
Jacob’s deception offends our sense of fairness. Yet by this deception Jacob becomes the ancestor of the God-Man. He burns with desire to receive God’s blessing, by whatever means, and thereby he becomes the instrument of God’s will to save us.
Jacob’s unfairness does not have to meet our approval before inspiring us to emulate his zeal. He demonstrates absolute faith that his father’s blessing will convey irresistible divine power. He believes without doubting that Isaac’s words convey a permanent grace: once Isaac speaks them, he cannot take them back. He burns with desire, with a divine eros, to have this blessing, and God rewards his fervor with His grace.
Esau, by contrast, in an earlier incident, has already demonstrated his lack of zeal for divine things and greater desire for earthly pleasure, when he sold his birthright to Jacob for one hot meal. He has also demonstrated his love of pleasure and disregard of God’s Law by running after loose women. By preferring the things of earth to the things of heaven, he has lost both his birthright – the right to be and to be called a son of God – and has lost his blessing, lost the grace of God.
Each of us must ask himself whether he is a Jacob or an Esau, whether he prefers heaven or earth. Of course, the answer is that we are both: we waver and undulate; we are hot one day and cold the next. But we should take heart from Jacob’s example: If we want divine blessings, we have only to ask for them. When is the last time we asked for such gifts as
– the love of prayer?
– zeal for heavenly things?
– constant remembrance of death and God’s judgment?
– the grace to see and remember all of our sins and to make a good confession?
– the grace of perseverance in the Faith and repentance until death?
Let us entreat the Lord to ignite our hearts with the divine eros that sets apart the saints. He waits for us to ask, and, desiring with His own divine desire, He desires to give.
“…this one thing I do: forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).”
This commentary was taken from The Eternal Sacrifice: The Genesis Readings for Great Lent by Fr. Steven Allen. You can order a copy from Lulu at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen