A Lesser Benediction
“Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be, and away from the dew of heaven on high. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow restless you shall break his yoke from your neck”
- Genesis 27:39–40
Today, many people think personal autonomy is the truest definition of freedom. In other words, the world argues that to be free means one is not subject to any objective standards but has “the right” to live in whichever way he or she determines is best. No one, not even God, should be able to judge our desires or prevent us from being a law unto ourselves.
Esau’s unrepentant disregard for his privileged birthright (Gen. 25:34b; 27:30–38) puts him in league with those who try to worm their way out of the Lord’s authority. Consequently, as one commentator has said, Esau gets an “anti-blessing” in this passage. This hardened sinner gets the wild, untamed life he desires, for God often judges people by giving them over to their sins (Rom. 1:18–32).
Esau and his descendants are known as the Edomites (Gen. 25:30; 36:9), and a brief survey of Edom’s history reveals how Isaac’s patriarchal blessing came true. The Edomites settled south of the Dead Sea in the area around modern-day Jordan. This region is mountainous, with red-colored sandstone, appropriate since the name Edom sounds like the Hebrew for “red” (25:25). Importantly, Edom is more arid than Canaan, fulfilling Isaac’s word that Esau will live away from “the fatness of the earth” and “the dew from on high” (27:39).
As Isaac predicts, the Edomites also opposed, served, and broke free of Jacob (27:40). They threatened the wandering Israelites with violence if they tried to pass through their land (Num. 20:14–21), and one of their own later murdered several priests of the Lord (1 Sam. 22:6–19). After years as a subject of Judah, Edom revolted and set up their own king in the days of Jehoram (2 Kings 8:16–22a).
Because they were brothers to Israel, the Edomites were not forever barred from the Lord’s assembly, provided they had faith, of course (Deut. 23:7–8). Still, Esau’s “blessing” is far different than Jacob’s and holds out little hope for his offspring. Matthew Henry writes that “there is nothing in Esau’s blessing that points to Christ, nothing that brings him or his into the church and covenant of God, without which the fatness of the earth will stand him in little stead.”
Esau does not humbly receive this word from Isaac but instead harbors hatred in his heart toward his brother. Sometimes we too can grow jealous of others that the Lord has apparently blessed more than ourselves and wish ill on them. This may take the form of overt hatred or appear more subtly in the way we make snide comments about another’s good fortune. Repent today if you are ill-disposed to someone “better off” than yourself.
Passages for Further Study
- Judg. 11:14–18
- Ezek. 25:12–14
- Amos 1:11–12
- Gal. 5:26
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