As the years progressed, Isaac became old and his health began to deteriorate. He was about 130-years-old at this time. We calculate this age by noting that Jacob was 130 when he entered the land of Egypt (Genesis 47:9). Joseph was approximately 44 at that time (Genesis 41:46). Joseph was born after Jacob worked 14 years for his wives (Genesis 30:25; 31:28). Subtracting this out, this would mean Jacob was about 70 when he left home. Since Jacob was born when Isaac was 60, this means Isaac at this time is about 130. Isaac's eyesight has become so bad that he could not see. His sense of taste was also poor. As we will see shortly, he could not distinguish between goat and venison.
Isaac was determined to give Esau the family blessing before his death. The blessing was the right to become the head of the family after the death of the father. Unfortunately, Isaac was attempting to go against God's will. The prophecy given to Rebekah before the birth of Esau and Jacob stated that Jacob would be the ruling son. In addition, Esau has shown himself to be an immoral and careless man. Esau was so reckless that he sold half of his inheritance to his brother for a bowl of bean soup. Surely, Esau was not the best choice for the blessing.
However, Isaac's mind was made up. To mark the occasion, Isaac orders Esau to prepare a feast from the game he has hunted. Rebekah happens to overheard Isaac's plans for Esau. It appears Isaac was being secretive about his plans, since he did not tell Rebekah about them. Perhaps he knew she would object, so he avoided the confrontation.
Rebekah then lays her own plans to interfere with Isaac's plans. Perhaps she should have left matters in God's hands, as God is able to carry out His own will in all matters. However, Rebekah tells Jacob to butcher two young goats, which she then prepares in a way that Isaac particularly likes.
Jacob is reluctant at first to go along with his mother's scheme. He points out that even though Isaac is blind, he could tell the difference between his sons by their hairiness. If Isaac realized he was being fooled, he would pronounce a curse on Jacob instead of a blessing. However, Rebekah said the curse, if one is given, would be on her for designing a scheme that failed.
Eventually, Jacob obeys his mother. Rebekah dresses Jacob in Esau's clothing and uses the skins from the goats on the backs of Jacob's hands and about his neck so Jacob would feel hairy like his brother.
Jacob brings the food to Isaac and announces that he is Esau. This, of course, is a deliberate lie and he was almost found out. Something didn't set right with Isaac, perhaps he realized it was too soon for Esau to return, or perhaps the voice was not quite right. He checks his son's hands and smell his clothing and decides it is Esau. He proceeds to give Jacob the blessing.
This is not the only time that God has used a lie to His advantage (see Exodus 1:15-20 and Joshua 2:3-6, 6:25). This does not make telling a lie right. God is quite clear that lying is a sin (Revelation 21:8).
However, we must also understand that what Isaac planned was in direct opposition to God's earlier statement in Genesis 25:23. Look carefully at Isaac's statement in Genesis 27:29. If this was given to Esau instead of Jacob, it would have been the opposite of God's prophecy!
Esau came in shortly after Jacob left. It did not take Isaac long to realize what had happened. The emotions racked him so strongly that he begins to shake. Perhaps he realized that despite his plans to defeat God's plans, God managed to get His way anyway. As Paul later states, God is able to make all things to work for the good of His people (Romans 8:28) even the sins of other people.
Esau howls in anger and begs for a blessing from Isaac, but no amount of begging will change the past. Isaac will not change what God has obviously intended to occur.
As it often happens, an angry person will blame everything that happened on anyone but himself. Esau claims it was in Jacob's character to deceive people. The truth is that only Jacob's name means deceiver. Jacob was a reluctant participant in these events. Esau also claimed that Jacob stole his birthright. However, the truth is that Esau sold it for a bowl of bean soup. Esau also claimed that Jacob stole his blessing. However, the blessing was not his in the first place since God had said it belonged to Jacob. How can someone steal what was already his?
The story of Esau is one that repeats in modern life. A young person, raised by Christians, rebels against all he is taught. He fills his life with the fleeting pleasures of the world and then is shocked when he reaps a harvest of pain and woe.
Isaac does manage a small blessing on Esau's behalf. Esau's descendants would dwell in a rugged country; away from the fatness of the land and the dew of heaven promised to Jacob. His descendants would spend much of their time in warfare. They would serve Jacob's descendants as promised to Jacob. (This was fulfilled when Edom was conquered by David and was placed in subjection to Israel.) However, Isaac offers one glimmer of hope they would break their yoke one day. (Edom remained somewhat independent while under Israel's rule. After Israel's defeat, the nation of Edom fades from history.)
Esau vows to kill Jacob right after Isaac dies. Esau, too, must have assumed that Isaac's time to die must have been close. However, Isaac lives to the ripe old age of 180 years or about 50 years after these events.
When Rebekah learns of Esau's vow, she sets in motion a plan to have Jacob visit her relatives to find a wife. Isaac readily agrees to the plan, especially given the problems he and Rebekah have had with Esau's wives. Rebekah only planned on sending Jacob way for a short time, until Esau's anger cooled down (Genesis 27:44). However, it turns out that Jacob is gone for 20 years. Rebekah never sees her son again, for she dies before he returns.
When Isaac sends Jacob off on his journey, he reaffirms the blessing he gave earlier and expands on it. It seems that Isaac is resigned to doing things God's way now. The blessing he gives is very much like the promise given to Abraham.
When Esau sees the favor Isaac now bestows on Jacob, he once again attempts to please Isaac. Perhaps he was hoping Isaac would change his mind concerning him. Seeing Isaac's insistence that Jacob marries a non-Canaanite woman, Esau marries a third wife from among the Ishmaelites. It was a pathetic attempt to ingratiate himself with his father and further shows Esau's lack of spiritual values.
During Jacob's trip to Haran, Jacob stops for the night and has a strange dream. In his vision, he sees a ladder reaching to heaven. He sees angels ascending and descending the ladder as they go about God's business. God speaks to Jacob from heaven, reaffirming His blessing first given to Abraham and then to Isaac. When Jacob awoke, he used the stone he had laid his head on as altar to God. With no animal to offer God, he poured the oil he had out before the Lord, anointing (or dedicating) the stone to God. Jacob vows that if God continues to bless him, then when he returns to the land of Canaan, he will give back to God one-tenth of all that God gives him. This is the second time we see a tenth of profits being given to God as an offering.