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Sermon Notes

Please note that these are only notes, not transcripts, and as such are not identical to the recorded sermons. They also contain frequent abbreviations.


    1. The elder shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23)

      1. Thus had God spoken, unconditionally reprobating Esau and unconditionally electing Jacob.

        1. This is the interpretation of these words given in the NT in Romans 9:10-13

        2. In time, Esau showed himself to be unworthy of the covenant blessings of God: he was carnal, he despised his birthright by selling it to Jacob, and he married heathen women who were “a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah” (26:35)

      2. But Isaac could not come to terms with the will of God for his two sons.

        1. To Isaac it seemed fundamentally unjust and against the natural order of things for the firstborn to be rejected.

        2. Besides, Isaac had a misguided affection for Esau: Esau was the kind of son he admired; a mighty hunter, a strong, virile, masculine son, the kind of man Isaac had never been, the kind of son every man would be proud of.

        3. So, blinded physically, and by a misguided affection for Esau, Isaac hatched a plot with Esau to bless him before Rebekah or Jacob would ever find out.

    2. But is this faith? Isaac goes against the clear will of God and seeks to bless him whom God has not blessed!

      1. What are we to make of the protagonists in this plot?

        1. Esau knows that he has no rightful claim to the blessing; if he wants to be blessed, he must seek that blessing in association with Jacob, but he is happy to go along with the plot, and even desires to kill Jacob after he fails to obtain the blessing.

        2. Rebekah knows God’s word but she fails to trust God to fulfill His own will; she must meddle and use deceit, and for this she is chastised.

        3. Jacob lies repeatedly to his blind father, and although he desires the blessing which has been promised him, as second born he does not see any legitimate way of obtaining it and so he follows his mother’s advice.

        4. And Isaac knows full well in blessing Esau that he is going against the will of God; his behavior is of one who is trying to get away with something in secret.

      2. But the writer to the Hebrews, writing under divine inspiration, attributes faith to Isaac, faith conc. the future, faith in things hoped for, faith in things not seen.

        1. For Isaac, faith is a great struggle, and we all know what that is like, but faith revives in Isaac, when he discovers what he almost did in trying to bless Esau.

        2. When Isaac trembles very exceedingly, and, in a kind of holy stubbornness, refuses to revoke the blessing he has bestowed on Jacob, he exercises faith.

        3. And when Isaac prophesies concerning things to come in the lives and in the descendants of his two very different sons, he prophesies in faith.



I. The Blessing Sought

II. The Blessing Bestowed

III. The Faith Exhibited



    1. Both Jacob and Esau sought the blessing, and only Isaac had the God-given authority to bestow it, but we must be clear in our minds what the blessing is.

      1. Isaac, as the son of Abraham, is the custodian or keeper of the blessing and he has the calling to pass it on to the next generation.

        1. The blessing is not simply a pious wish or a prayer for general wellbeing upon his sons.

          1. If that were the case it would be of little importance who obtains the blessing; the behavior of this whole family indicates that the blessing was valuable.

          2. Isaac is not acting as a private individual here, but as the official representative of God, as one who has the authority to bestow blessings in God’s name.

          3. And his actions are very significant for the future of the covenant; in his hands God has laid the blessing as a precious trust and his calling is to bestow it upon the rightful heir.

        2. The blessing is then a positive bestowal or impartation of the promise of God.

          1. The one blessed receives the blessings of God which are summed up in Christ, the Seed of Abraham.

          2. This explains Isaac’s behavior here: first, his steadfast refusal to undo the blessing; he understands the authoritative nature of the blessing, and, second, his exceedingly great trembling at the mistake he almost made.

          3. He almost blessed Esau whom the Lord has not blessed, and he almost deprived Jacob of the blessing who is the rightful heir to the promise.

      2. The perplexity that Isaac faces is that the blessing ordinarily belongs to the firstborn; the rights of the firstborn are twofold.

        1. First, the firstborn is entitled to material good, and this Esau sought to obtain for himself.

          1. The firstborn receives double portion of his father’s goods, Deut. 21:17 and he becomes Lord of his brothers and is responsible for them after father’s death.

          2. That part of the blessing is found particularly in the plenty (or abundance) of corn and the wine in verse 28.

          3. Esau, a carnal man, only desired the physical benefits: the corn, the wine, the lordship over his brother Jacob, but God had denied him even this when God had declared, “the elder shall serve [be servant of] the younger.”

        2. Second, the privileges of material good, of corn and wine, are not to be considered in isolation but are typical of greater blessings.

          1. The spiritual blessings of the covenant are pictured in earthly forms, the corn, the wine, fatness of the earth and dew from heaven are spiritual.

          2. The real blessings are the forgiveness of sins, the friendship of God in this life and the blessedness of everlasting life in heaven. We see this in verse 29, “cursed by everyone that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee” (words reminiscent of Abraham’s blessing in Gen. 12).

          3. Esau had no interest in such things; he had showed this already by selling his birthright and marrying two heathen women. Jacob, however, covets the true blessing.

    2. The blessing which Isaac bestows here is one blessing, fundamentally spiritual.

      1. Isaac speaks of the riches of salvation in the coming Seed using the earthly language of Canaan because this is the promise Abraham received.

        1. Verse 28 speaks of the dew of heaven, the fatness of the earth and plenty of corn and wine.

          1. We in Ireland do not appreciate the importance of dew; we have an abundance of rain, but those who live in the dry climate of the Middle East understand that dew refreshes the ground and makes the crops grow.

          2. The fatness of the earth refers to the rich succulent crops which the ground produces in a good harvest; fatness is a picture of abundance in Scripture; we speak of the fat of the land in a similar way.

          3. And corn and wine are food and drink especially suited to giving joy to those who receive them at the hand of God.

        2. But, the dew of heaven, the fatness of the earth and plenty of corn and wine are figurative of spiritual salvation. Look, for example, at how the Bible uses the word “dew.”

          1. Dew is associated with the heavenly bread manna in Numbers 11:9 (“And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it”); read also Deut. 33:13, (“Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew …”) and 33:28 (“the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew …”).

          2. In other places the dew of heaven is synonymous with the blessing of God: Hos. 14:5 (“I will be as the dew unto Israel, he shall grow as the lily and cast forth his roots as Lebanon”) and Zech. 8:12 (“For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit and the ground shall give her increase and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things”).

          3. Dew therefore is symbolic of God’s favor by the Holy Spirit; it is a fitting symbol too. Just as dew refreshes the parched ground, so the HS refreshes the parched soul with everlasting life.

        3. Ultimately, the blessing is Christ and the blessing only come to us through Christ crucified.

          1. Neither Isaac, nor Rebekah, nor Jacob were worthy of God’s rich satisfying blessings; they did not deserve the favor of God to rest like droplets of dew upon them.

          2. That favor of God was obtained for them on the cross where Christ experienced the fiery wrath of God drying Him up, and from His parched throat He cried, “I thirst.” There the dew of God’s favor dried up and Christ only knew God’s hot displeasure.

          3. Because Christ was parched on the cross, we drink abundantly from God’s salvation as the HS makes us partakers of everything Christ purchased for us.

      2. Because the blessing is one, there is no blessedness of any kind for anyone outside of Christ.

        1. The true blessing – the only blessing – is to be a spiritual heir of Abraham and Isaac and by faith to have an interest in Jesus Christ.

          1. Isaac was the custodian of that promise, and blessedness was found in association with him; now, Jacob would become custodian of the promise and blessedness would be found in association with Jacob.

          2. Christ would come forth from the loins of Jacob, and with Jacob blessed, Esau’s only hope is to submit to God’s will, and seek salvation through Jacob, but this Esau would never do!

          3. Esau was a proud carnal man, and he preferred to plot to kill Jacob than submit to him as his servant and seek salvation through the Seed promised through Jacob.

        2. Without this blessing – the only blessing – there can be no blessing in dew, fatness, corn or wine.

          1. Esau wanted the physical blessing without Christ: he wanted dew without the Spirit, fatness without forgiveness of sins and corn and wine without the friendship of God’s covenant.

          2. And God gave him neither – God gave him no spiritual blessings; he died and perished; and God deprived him of the dew, fatness, corn and wine which he sought.

          3. Twice miserable was Esau, and twice miserable are all those who despise the blessings of salvation and seek instead the things of the earth. They lose both!

        3. Isaac recognized the oneness of the blessing when he gave nothing to Esau.

          1. Esau cries to his father, “Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?” (v. 36) and repeats it, “Hast thou but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father!” (v. 38).

          2. But Isaac is resolute, “Behold I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants and with corn and wine have I sustained him, and what shall I do now unto thee, my son?” (v. 37).

          3. There is only one blessing and Jacob has it all! Esau has nothing because he does not have Christ. And we, beloved, have everything b/c we have Christ!


    1. It might appear from our text and from Genesis 27 that Esau was blessed, but the opposite is true. Esau was not blessed; he was cursed.

      1. The first proof of this assertion is found in the words of Isaac himself in verse 39.

        1. Literally what Isaac says to Esau is not, “thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven,” but “thy dwelling shall be away from or without the fatness of the earth and away from or without the dew of heaven.”

          1. The difference is found in one small Hebrew word [min] which means from or of. In verse 28 with reference to Jacob the word min has a partitive use but in verse 39 with reference to Esau the word min has a privative use.

          2. What is the difference? Partitive refers to part of the whole of something. For example, “Give me some of that corn.” Privative refers to being without something or deprived of something or separated from something.

          3. Jacob is given the abundance of dew from heaven (partitive); but Esau is deprived of dew from heaven (privative).

        2. This is clearly Isaac’s meaning because in verse 37 he explains to Esau that Jacob has received the corn, wine, the dew from heaven and fatness of the earth, and there is nothing left for Esau (Read verse 37 again).

          1. That having been bestowed on Jacob, there is no more for Esau, and it would make no sense for Isaac now to promise Esau dew from heaven and fatness of the earth.

          2. In fact, Esau will be deprived of the dew from heaven, which is a sign of God’s displeasure: that was the judgment upon Ahab in the days of Elijah (“There shall not be dew nor rain these years but according to my word” I Kings 17:1) and in the days of Haggai the prophet, “Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew and the earth is stayed from her fruit, and I called for a drought upon the land and upon the mountains and upon the corn and upon the new wine and upon the oil …” Hag. 1:10-11).

          3. Esau therefore incurs God’s displeasure, not His favor, and not His blessing; and as a sign of this he is deprived of the material things which he seeks.

      2. Second, we know that this is a curse and no blessing because of Esau’s reaction, which would make no sense if he was indeed being blessed with material goods.

        1. Esau sought the material things of life, yet after hearing from Isaac we read of Esau, “And Esau hated Jacob b/c of the blessing …” [27:41])

          1. If Isaac had meant that, despite the fact that Messianic salvation is not his, he would prosper materially, he would have been happy; that is all Esau wanted.

          2. But now he is told that the land where he and his descendants will dwell will be deprived of the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth, that he will have to live by the sword in a barren and fruitless land.

          3. No wonder, then, his reaction is anger toward Jacob whom he perceives is the author of his misfortune.

        2. In fact, so displeased is Esau by the so-called blessing which Isaac gives him, that he immediately plots to kill Jacob.

          1. No salvation for Esau – but no temporal blessings either!

          2. In that case, thinks Esau, I will kill Jacob and the counsel of God will not stand. How foolish and wicked is Esau. He believes that he can overturn God’s sovereign will by killing the child of the promise.

          3. Perhaps he even thinks that if he kills Jacob the blessing will have to come upon him, but whatever, he will NOT be a servant to his brother Jacob.

    2. But how can we say this when the text says “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau ?

      1. In Hebrew the word translated bless here usually means blessing in the sense of to speak good concerning someone, but the basic meaning is a formal pronouncement over someone, whether good or bad.

        1. Indeed, the same word is transl. curse in some significant verses in the OT

          1. For example, it is used twice in the first chapter of Job. In Job 1:5 (“it may be that my sons and daughters have sinned and cursed God in their hearts”) and Job 1:11 (“But put forth thine hand now and touch all that he hath and he will curse thee to thy face”).

          2. In I Kings 21:13 false witnesses accuse Naboth with these words, “Naboth did blaspheme God and the king.”

          3. In none of those places can the word be rightfully translated bless; the meaning is curse.

        2. With respect to Esau, the word bless in Hebrews 11:20 must mean an official pronouncement by Isaac upon Esau concerning Esau’s future, but that future does not contain the prospect of any blessing.

          1. God is against Esau; and God is also against the descendants of Esau, the Edomites. Subsequent history bears this out.

          2. God is for Jacob; and God is also for the descendants of Jacob, the Israelites.

          3. This is the meaning of the blessing of Jacob and Esau, an official pronouncement of good upon his younger son Jacob and an official pronouncement of evil upon his firstborn son Esau.

      2. Jacob, although he is second born, is mentioned first in Hebrews 11:20 because he receives the blessing. Jacob is blessed indeed, and although unworthy, he receives everything.

        1. Notice the fundamental difference between Isaac’s pronouncement on Jacob and Isaac’s pronouncement on Esau.

          1. To Jacob Isaac says, “God give thee …” Isaac does not mention God when he speaks to Esau.

          2. Jacob is promised future preeminence and universal dominion. Verse 29 is “Let peoples serve thee …”

          3. The children of Jacob will be a mighty nation, and from that nation Christ Himself shall come.

        2. In addition, before Jacob leaves to go to Haran, Isaac reiterates and even expands upon the blessing.

          1. Lest Jacob fear that his deceit has invalidated the blessing, Isaac gives it to him, knowing this time that he is blessing Jacob indeed.

          2. And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people, and give thee the blessing of Abraham, and to thy seed with thee, that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham” (Gen. 28:4).


    1. Gen. 27 is a puzzling chapter b/c Isaac does not seem to act in faith; and b/c Heb. 11 says he did, we are tempted to look for faith in the wrong place and try to excuse Isaac’s behavior.

      1. Isaac’s attempt to bless Esau was wrong, very wrong, and there was no faith in it; faith revived in Isaac after he discovered how he had almost blessed Esau but God had overruled.

        1. Faith is seen in Isaac’s refusal to overturn the blessing, which would have been something easy to do.

          1. Remember how Jacob had feared that if he were caught deceiving his father, he would be cursed, not blessed; but Isaac refused to curse him.

          2. Isaac, in great agitation of soul (notice his exceeding great trembling) responds to Esau in faith: “I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him, yea, and he shall be blessed” (27:33).

          3. Isaac now understands that God’s Word will stand forever, not matter how men scheme to overturn it; he recognizes God’s providence and he sees God’s mercy in preventing him from misapplying the blessing and he now submits to God’s fatherly hand. “Thy will be done!”

        2. Isaac’s faith is now in the Word of God; he believes belatedly but he believes and the HS honors him by including him in the great cloud of faithful witnesses.

          1. Before this Isaac had great difficulty believing the Word of God: surely, Esau is a better candidate to be heir of the promise: he is strong, adventurous, skillful, a go-getter, a natural born leader.

          2. And what is Jacob, a plain man dwelling in tents, too fond of his mother! Impossible it seemed that the elder Esau should serve the younger Jacob.

          3. But God had shown Isaac that His ways are not Isaac’s ways; He chooses the weak and despised Jacob so that salvation can be seen to be of the LORD.

      2. We see Isaac’s faith in his steadfast refusal to change the blessing even under intense pressure.

        1. Isaac had been weak and fickle, easily influenced by others but now he will not be moved.

          1. Listen to his words to Esau, “I have blessed him, yea, and he shall be blessed!”

          2. Esau stood before his father, using entreaties and threats, pleading with Isaac, crying with a great cry and weeping bitterly.

          3. He was a pitiful sight, and how easy it would have been to be put under emotional pressure by Esau: How could the blessing count? It was gained deceitfully! Ah yes, but Esau’s attempt to get it was deceitful too. I have blessed him, yea, and he shall be blessed!

          4. Father Isaac, won’t you be moved by the tears of your firstborn son? No, I have blessed Jacob, yea, and he shall be blessed!

        2. We can learn from Isaac here; we see the mercy of God for one who was slow to believe but who believed in the end.

          1. Are you resolute in your determination to do God’s will, even when your family and friends put tremendous pressure on you to compromise?

          2. Do not permit the threats or the tears of others to lead you away from obedience to God’s Word. Do not allow yourself to be manipulated.

    2. The focus of the text is Isaac’s faith in the future. “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.”

      1. Isaac gives a remarkable prophecy concerning the respective futures of his two sons and the two nations, Israel and Edom.

        1. Edom would be a land deprived of the dew from heaven and of the blessing of God; her inhabitants would be wild and warlike, living by the sword, and there would be a constant struggle between Edom and Israel.

          1. This happened repeatedly throughout history. In Num. 20, Edom refused to give passage to Israel when they escaped from Egypt; in II Sam 8 the Edomites were put in subjection to King David; in the days of Jehoram (II Kings 8) the Edomites revolted from the rule of Israel; and while the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem Edom looked on with glee.

          2. The prophecy of Obadiah is against Edom; and Malachi 1:3-4 speaks of God’s hatred of Esau, God’s laying waste of the mountains of Edom and God’s everlasting indignation against Edom.

          3. And even in the NT, Herod the Edomite King Herod ruled in Israel for a time, even trying to kill Jesus Christ Himself.

        2. Israel would be a nation under the blessing of God, the congregation of God’s people would be there, and Edom would be Israel’s servant.

          1. This too was beautifully fulfilled: God made Jacob into a mighty people; He gave Jacob 12 sons, and those sons became the founding fathers of the nation; and God gave to that people the land of Canaan.

          2. But more importantly the Christ would come from that nation.

          3. Thus Isaac prophesied in faith of the great history of his two sons.

      2. If you had been there, and had seen Jacob and Esau, and had been asked to predict who would prosper, you would most likely have chosen Esau.

        1. Esau was already married, he had two wives; Jacob was unmarried and too close to his mother’s apron strings.

          1. Jacob was the son of a tent-dweller, living a stranger in the land of Canaan.

          2. It seemed very unlikely, indeed impossible, that Jacob could amount to anything, never mind a mighty nation through which salvation would come to the world

          3. Yet, Esau and Edom perished. Where is Edom now. Consigned to the dustbin of history while the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the church, prospers spiritually in the world and will one day inherit all things.

        2. But Isaac believed steadfastly in the promise of God: the Messiah would come through Jacob, no matter how unpromising a beginning it seemed.

          1. That was his faith – faith in an uncertain and seemingly impossible future; faith in the promises of God.

          2. That must be our faith too, as the days darken with apostasy and persecution, we must be able to see with eyes of faith the glorious future of the church, the final destruction of the wicked and the everlasting rule of Jesus Christ. Amen!