Bible Review 14:5, October 1998

Jots & Tittles

By William H.C. ProppKarl P. Donfried

Bible Review

Pulling the Goat Hair Over Isaac’s Eyes

The story of Jacob’s deception of Isaac (Genesis 27) is among the most beloved in the Bible. Children enjoy Jacob’s sneakiness; adults appreciate the sensitivity with which the author handles moral ambiguity.

As the episode begins, Isaac, blind and generally decrepit, summons his eldest son, Esau, into his bedchamber. A hunter and a “man’s man,” Esau is his father’s favorite. Isaac dispatches him to catch and prepare tasty game animals, so that the old man may gather strength to bless his heir before giving up the ghost. Esau rushes off—a dutiful, if self-interested, son.

Rebecca, Isaac’s wife, has overheard all this. She wants her own favorite—docile Jacob, who had already obtained his brother’s monetary inheritance in exchange for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:29–34)—to receive the deathbed blessing as well. “Go to the flock, and fetch me two good kids, that I may prepare from them savory food for your father…and you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.” When Jacob timidly questions whether the old man can be fooled so easily—Isaac’s nonvisual senses remain keen, and Jacob is smooth-skinned, unlike his hairy brother—his mother clothes him in Esau’s garments and covers his neck and arms with goatskins.

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