A father's blessing and curse that couldn't be undone.
Why -- Why can't you bless me?" The loud cry pierced the silence. "Bless me, too," came the anxious plea again. The wrinkled and gray old man was sitting straight up, a troubled look on his face. His son, a livid young man named Esau, was pacing back and forth in the tent. "Please bless me, father," he cried. "Please bless me." Isaac stared straight ahead, seemingly unaffected by the commotion. Blind for many years, Isaac could not see his anguished son; but he certainly could hear his loud pleas.
Finally Isaac spoke, "Your brother was here, and he tricked me. He has taken away your blessing.... I have made Jacob your master and have declared that all his brothers will be his servants. I have guaranteed him an abundance of grain and wine -- what is left for me to give you, my son?"
Esau collapsed, weeping bitterly, "Do you have only one blessing?"
As Esau sobbed, his face buried in his hands, Isaac slowly stretched out his bony hand and placed it on his son's head. In quiet monotones, Isaac pronounced, "You will live by your sword, and you will serve your brother. But when you decide to break free, you will shake his yoke from your neck" (Genesis 27:34-40).
These were not the words Esau was looking for. They fell on his ears like pelting rain. His heart sank. His stomach churned. Finally he stormed out of the tent, vowing to kill his brother Jacob. That brother of his had stolen his blessing and left him with his father's curse.
How could the words of a feeble old man hold so much power? Why couldn't Isaac take his blessing back from his conniving younger son, Jacob? How could mere words change the destinies of these two young men?
Isaac's curse did come true. King David, a descendant of Jacob, conquered the Edomites, Esau's descendants, around 1000 b.c. For centuries after that, the Edomites lived to the south of Israel in a desert region under Israel's dominion (see 2 Samuel 8:14).
Why did Isaac's words hold so much power? The ancients believed that a spoken curse contained inherent power to accomplish itself. This explains Esau's reaction. But it does not explain why Isaac's words came true or why Isaac couldn't take his blessing back. Could Isaac, although physically blind, see centuries into the future? Did Isaac hold the future of his sons in his wrinkled hands?
The key to this mystery lay in the heart of Rebekah, Isaac's wife. Decades earlier, she had buried a secret deep within herself. When she was a young woman pregnant with twins, her days and nights had been filled with great pain. The two babies she had been carrying in her womb were continually struggling, kicking, and fighting. The pain kept her up late into the cool desert nights and filled her days with agony. Finally in desperation, she sought out a place to be alone. There, she poured out her grief to the God of Abraham. Why this pain? Why her?
God spoke to her: "The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son" (Genesis 25:23).
It was obvious to Rebekah that God had ordained Jacob's and Esau's fates long before their father had pronounced his words of blessing and condemnation. Isaac's dying words did not hold any power over his sons' lives; God had determined their destinies long before.
For more on this curse, read Genesis 27.
Mysteries & Intrigues of the Bible © 2007 The Livingstone Corporation