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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 30–40
Verses 30–40

Here is, I. The covenant-blessing denied to Esau. He that made so light of the birthright would now have inherited the blessing, but he was rejected, and found no place of repentance in his father, though he sought it carefully with tears, Heb. 12:17. Observe, 1. How carefully he sought it. He prepared the savoury meat, as his father had directed him, and then begged the blessing which his father had encouraged him to expect, Gen. 27:31. When he understood that Jacob had obtained it surreptitiously, he cried with a great and exceedingly bitter cry, Gen. 27:34. No man could have laid the disappointment more to heart than he did; he made his father’s tent to ring with his grief, and again (Gen. 27:38) lifted up his voice and wept. Note, The day is coming when those that now make light of the blessings of the covenant, and sell their title to them for a thing of nought, will in vain be importunate for them. Those that will not so much as ask and seek now will knock shortly, and cry, Lord, Lord. Slighters of Christ will then be humble suitors to him. 2. How he was rejected. Isaac, when first made sensible of the imposition that had been practised on him, trembled exceedingly, Gen. 27:33. Those that follow the choice of their own affections, rather than the dictates of the divine will, involve themselves in such perplexities as these. But he soon recovers himself, and ratifies the blessing he had given to Jacob: I have blessed him, and he shall be blessed; he might, upon very plausible grounds, have recalled it, but now, at last, he is sensible that he was in an error when he designed it for Esau. Either himself recollecting the divine oracle, or rather having found himself more than ordinarily filled with the Holy Ghost when he gave the blessing to Jacob, he perceived that God did, as it were, say Amen to it. Now, (1.) Jacob was hereby confirmed in his possession of the blessing, and abundantly satisfied of the validity of it, though he obtained it fraudulently; hence too he had reason to hope that God graciously overlooked and pardoned his misconduct. (2.) Isaac hereby acquiesced in the will of God, though it contradicted his own expectations and affection. He had a mind to give Esau the blessing, but, when he perceived the will of God was otherwise, he submitted; and this he did by faith (Heb. 11:20), as 409d Abraham before him, when he had solicited for Ishmael. May not God do what he will with his own? (3.) Esau hereby was cut off from the expectation of that special blessing which he thought to have preserved to himself when he sold his birthright. We, by this instance, are taught, [1.] That it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy, Rom. 9:16. The apostle seems to allude to this story. Esau had a good will to the blessing, and ran for it; but God that showed mercy designed it for Jacob, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, Rom. 9:11. The Jews, like Esau, hunted after the law of righteousness (Rom. 9:31), yet missed of the blessing of righteousness, because they sought it by the works of the law (Rom. 9:32); while the Gentiles, who, like Jacob, sought it by faith in the oracle of God, obtained it by force, with that violence which the kingdom of heaven suffers. See Matt. 11:12. [2.] That those who undervalue their spiritual birthright, and can afford to sell it for a morsel of meat, forfeit spiritual blessings, and it is just with God to deny them those favours they were careless of. Those that will part with their wisdom and grace, with their faith and a good conscience, for the honours, wealth, or pleasures, of this world, however they may pretend a zeal for the blessing, have already judged themselves unworthy of it, and so shall their doom be. [3.] That those who lift up hands in wrath lift them up in vain. Esau, instead of repenting of his own folly, reproached his brother, unjustly charged him with taking away the birthright which he had fairly sold to him (Gen. 27:36), and conceived malice against him for what he had now done, Gen. 27:41. Those are not likely to speed in prayer who turn those resentments upon their brethren which they should turn upon themselves, and lay the blame of their miscarriages upon others, when they should take shame to themselves. [4.] That those who seek not till it is too late will be rejected. This was the ruin of Esau, he did not come in time. As there is an accepted time, a time when God will be found, so there is a time when he will not answer those that call upon him, because they neglected the appointed season. See Prov. 1:28. The time of God’s patience and our probation will not last always; the day of grace will come to an end, and the door will be shut. Then many that now despise the blessing will seek it carefully; for then they will know how to value it, and will see themselves undone, for ever undone, without it, but to no purpose, Luke 13:25-27. O that we would therefore, in this our day, know the things that belong to our peace!

II. Here is a common blessing bestowed upon Esau.

1. This he desired: Bless me also, Gen. 27:34. Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me? Gen. 27:36. Note, (1.) The worst of men know how to wish well to themselves; and even those who profanely sell their birthright seem piously to desire the blessing. Faint desires of happiness, without a right choice of the end and a right use of the means, deceive many into their own ruin. Multitudes go to hell with their mouths full of good wishes. The desire of the slothful and unbelieving kills them. Many will seek to enter in, as Esau, who shall not be able, because they do not strive, Luke 13:24. (2.) It is the folly of most men that they are willing to take up with any good (Ps. 4:6), as Esau here, who desired but a second-rate blessing, a blessing separated from the birthright. Profane hearts think any blessing as good as that from God’s oracle: Hast thou but one? As if he had said, “I will take up with any: though I have not the blessing of the church, yet let me have some blessing.”

2. This he had; and let him make his best of it, Gen. 27:39, 40.

(1.) It was a good thing, and better than he deserved. It was promised him, [1.] That he should have a competent livelihood—the fatness of the earth, and the dew of heaven. Note, Those that come short of the blessings of the covenant may yet have a very good share of outward blessings. God gives good ground and good weather to many that reject his covenant, and have no part nor lot in it. [2.] That by degrees he should recover his liberty. If Jacob must rule (Gen. 27:29), Esau must serve; but he has this to comfort him, he shall live by his sword. He shall serve, but he shall not starve; and, at length, after much skirmishing, he shall break the yoke of bondage, and wear marks of freedom. This was fulfilled (2 Kgs. 8:20, 22) when the Edomites revolted.

(2.) Yet it was far short of Jacob’s blessing. For him God had reserved some better thing. [1.] In Jacob’s blessing the dew of heaven is put first, as that which he most valued, and desired, and depended upon; in Esau’s the fatness of the earth is put first, for it was this that he had the first and principal regard to. [2.] Esau has these, but Jacob has them from God’s hand: God give thee the dew of heaven, Gen. 27:28. It was enough to Esau to have the possession; but Jacob desired it by promise, and to have it from covenant-love. [3.] Jacob shall have dominion over his brethren: hence the Israelites often ruled over the Edomites. Esau shall have dominion, that is, he shall gain some power and interest, but shall never have dominion over his brother: we never find that the Jews were sold into the hands of the Edomites, or that they oppressed them. But the great difference in that there is nothing in Esau’s blessing that points at Christ, nothing that brings him or his into the church and covenant of God, without which the fatness of the earth, and the plunder of the field, will stand him in little stead. Thus Isaac by faith blessed them both according as their lot should be. Some observe that Jacob was blessed with a kiss (Gen. 27:27), so was not Esau.