Isaac and Rebekah’s two sons were very different. The older of the fraternal twins, Esau, was “a cunning hunter, a man of the field,” whereas his younger brother Jacob was “a plain man, dwelling in tents” (Genesis 25: 27).
The use of the word plain to describe Jacob indicates that he was perfect and upright before the Lord, in contrast to his worldly brother Esau.
The famous story in chapter 28, in which Rebekah sends Jacob unto his father dressed up as Esau in order to deceptively receive a blessing, might raise eyebrows upon first reading.
When we look more closely at the context of the story, however, we realize Rebekah was exercising greater wisdom than Isaac and actually helping him fulfill the Lord’s work.
God had Already Chosen Jacob
Prior to the twins’ birth, the Lord makes it very clear to Rebekah that it will be through Jacob that the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant will continue:
21 And Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the Lord.
23 And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
(Genesis 25: 21-23, text bolded for emphasis)
Esau Forfeited his Blessings
Given that the Lord’s will was for Jacob to receive the birthright and its corresponding blessings, Isaac should have been willing to follow that course without being obliged to do so by outside circumstances. Think about Jacob crossing his hands to bless the younger Ephraim over his older brother Manasseh under the guidance of the spirit, even in the face of Joseph’s protestations (see Genesis 48: 13-20).
However, “Isaac loved Esau” (Genesis 25:28) and appears willing to bestow his first-born with the birthright blessings even when doing so would be contrary to the Lord’s will.
First, Esau “despised his birthright” and sold it to Jacob for pottage (Genesis 25: 29-34). Then, he further forfeits his claim to the blessings by marrying Hittite women (Genesis 26: 34-35).
Clearly, Esau has no right to the firstborn blessings. Isaac was acting contrary to the Lord’s will by wanting to bless Esau. He wanted to bless his favorite son no matter what.
Isaac Ultimately Accepts he was Wrong
Notice that even after the truth is out, Isaac doesn’t revoke the blessing given to Jacob. It’s not like he couldn’t do so. If Jacob had truly been out of line in receiving his brother’s blessing, Isaac had the authority to make it null and void and then curse his younger son.
But he doesn’t. And the reason he doesn’t is because he realizes he was wrong in wanting to bless Esau. Thus, Isaac goes on to bless Jacob with the blessings of Abraham in Chapter 28.
God’s Will Fulfilled Thanks to a Prudent Wife
While Rebekah’s actions may seem sneaky, she was in fact helping to bring about God’s plan. Unlike Isaac, who was simply playing favorites, Rebekah saw the big picture and took decisive measures to help her husband do right by the Lord.
That’s often the case in our lives. The women of God often have a greater spiritual sensitivity than us men. That’s why marriage is so important. For men, a righteous wife will serve as a constant reminder, motivation, and support in serving the Lord.
This is also why couples should deliberate together in making major family decisions. No spouse should have complete say on all issues. By counseling with his wife, a man can become aware of when his judgment is off. He can receive much-needed guidance in the tough choices that are often necessary on the path of discipleship.