A Bad Plan

Sometimes God lets bad plans succeed.

Genesis 27:1-13 (ESV)

When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called Esau his older son and said to him, “My son”; and he answered, “Here I am.” He said, “Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me, and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.”

Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me game and prepare for me delicious food, that I may eat it and bless you before the LORD before I die.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you. Go to the flock and bring me two good young goats, so that I may prepare from them delicious food for your father, such as he loves. And you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.” But Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Behold, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing.” His mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, bring them to me.”

Note that this is all Rebekah’s idea. Even though we normally call this Jacob stealing Esau’s blessing (and Esau will definitely see it that way) it’s all Rebekah’s doing. Jacob doesn’t even want to play along. It’s clear that Rebekah is ordering Jacob around when she says, “obey my voice,” twice.

But why? As Jacob points out, this plan has big risks – not to mention that it’s just plain wrong. Sure Jacob is Rebekah’s favorite, while Esau is Isaac’s, but pulling a stunt like this is pretty close to a marital act of war. If blessings and curses carry real weight – if not, this is all about nothing – then this plan is nuts. Why? Why? Why?

Could it be that Esau’s Hittite wives have made life so bitter that Rebekah has lost it? Maybe, but then this is all just a demented outburst. If so, the passage should say so – which it doesn’t. Besides, the Bible’s about sin, not mental illness. The simplest explanation is always sin.

Uh oh. Is Rebekah trying to “help” God fulfill His Genesis 25:23 prophesy about her two children? We’ve seen that one before. This can’t end well.

Curiously, God will let Rebekah’s plan succeed – in the short run. Just as He let Abraham have a son by Hagar, He will let Jacob deceive Isaac. Her plan will blow up in a different way.

This is a great illustration of how we don’t see things the way God sees them. God frequently lets sin “work” for a while so that we think we “got away with it” only to later discover that we weren’t thinking broadly enough.

He’s teaching us! Just as parents let kids make mistakes to teach them, so God lets sin play out.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:


Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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