After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”
His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”
“I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.”
Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came, and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”
When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”
But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”
Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”
Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So, what can I possibly do for you, my son?”
Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.
His father Isaac answered him,
“Your dwelling will be
away from the earth’s richness,
away from the dew of heaven above.
You will live by the sword
and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,
you will throw his yoke
from off your neck.”
Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?”
Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.” (NIV)
The twins Esau and Jacob are the very definition of sibling rivalry. Even at their birth, they jostled and positioned for their entry into the world. Although brothers, they were different from one another in every way. As their aged father, Isaac, was near the end of his days, he was looking to pass on a family blessing to Esau, the firstborn. And that’s where things got dicey.
Jacob, always the trickster, was still playing out the rivalry. When his brother Esau was out hunting and preparing to receive his father’s blessing, Jacob posed as his brother and deceitfully gained the blessing of Isaac. Both Isaac and Esau were shocked to discover what happened. Esau’s response was one of grief, disappointment, bitterness, with tears and weeping. Despite Esau not being known for his sensitivity to God or family before this event, we can certainly feel his cry: “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!”
The blessing. As a chaplain who works with behavioral health patients, I have heard many times over the lament of individuals without a blessing from their father. As people created in the image and likeness of God, we were meant to be blessed – to have a loving and enduring stamp of approval from both our heavenly Father and our earthly fathers. And when an earthly father, or father figure, either cannot or will not extend a vital blessing to children, it is a terrible wound – like an invisible open putrid abscess which continually leaves the person emotionally and spiritually sick.
Blessing is needed. Without blessing we flounder in the world, struggling to see hope, wondering if we are loved, and lacking confidence in our faith. To be blessed is to receive a beautiful gift. The term “blessing” in Scripture is a powerful communication of God’s presence and approval. So, when humans bless one another, we offer commitments of love and connection. We provide powerful words of encouragement and picture a special future for those we are close to.
None of this is optional. Blessing is God’s way of building up one another and fortifying each other for the rigors of this world. When blessing is withheld, and even worse, when it is replaced with cursing, then individuals are bereft of support to face stressful situations. Like a ship adrift without any power or wind, so the person trying to live in this world without blessing is dead in the water. Where there is no blessing, like Esau, revenge fills our hearts.
Jesus clearly understood the need and the power of blessing, and he was not deterred in deliberately offering it:
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16, NIV)
I wonder how this simple encounter affected the lives of those children on that day in which Jesus blessed them. I am curious in what ways they grew-up and how Christ’s blessing shaped their lives. Because that is what blessing does: it forms us into the kind of people we were meant to be.
Receive today this blessing from Holy Scripture:
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. Amen. (Numbers 6:24-26, NRSV)