(Calvin, Genesis 2. part 5)

inconsistent with themselves; or at least waver and are tossed between 
conflicting sentiments, and have nothing fixed and equable. For those 
principles of right judgment, which spring up in their breasts, are soon 
smothered by depraved affections. Hence it happens, that what is justly 
conceived by them vanishes; or is at least corrupted, and does not bring 
forth good fruit. 
  29. "As we have not touched thee." An accusing conscience urges them 
to desire to hold him closely bound unto them; and therefore they 
require an oath from him that he will not hurt them. For they knew that 
he might rightfully avenge himself on them for the sufferings he had 
endured: but they dissemble on this point, and even make a wonderful 
boast of their own acts of kindness. At first, indeed, the humanity of 
the king was remarkable, for he not only entertained Isaac with 
hospitality, but treated him with peculiar honour; yet he by no means 
continued to act thus to the end. It accords, however, with the common 
custom of men, to disguise their own faults by whatever artifice or 
colour they can invent. But if we have committed any offense, it rather 
becomes us ingenuously to confess our fault, than by denying it, to 
wound still more deeply the minds of those whom we have injured. 
Nevertheless Isaac, since he had already sufficiently pierced their 
consciences, does not press them any further. For strangers are not to 
be treated by us as domestics; but if they do not receive profit, they 
are to be left to the judgment of God. Therefore, although Isaac does 
not extort from them a just confession; yet, that he may not be thought 
inwardly to cherish any hostility towards them, he does not refuse to 
strike a covenant with them. Thus we learn from his example, that if any 
have estranged themselves from us, they are not to be repelled when they 
again offer themselves to us. For if we are commanded to follow after 
peace, even when it seems to fly from us, it behoves us far less to be 
repulsive, when our enemies voluntarily seek reconciliation; especially 
if there be any hope of amendment in future, although true repentance 
may not yet appear. And he receives them to a feast, not only for the 
sake of promoting peace, but also for the sake of showing that he, 
having laid aside all offense, has become their friend. 
  "Thou art now the blessed of the Lord." This is commonly explained to 
mean that they court his favour by flatteries, just as persons are 
accustomed to flatter when they ask favour; but I rather think this 
expression to have been added in a different sense. Isaac had complained 
of their injuries in having expelled him through envy: they answer, that 
there was no reason why any particle of grief should remain in his mind, 
since the Lord had treated him so kindly and so exactly according to his 
own wish; as if they had said, What dost thou want? Art thou not content 
with thy present success? Let us grant that we have not discharged the 
duty of hospitality towards thee; yet the blessing of God abundantly 
suffices to obliterate the memory of that time. Perhaps, however, by 
these words, they again assert that they are acting towards him with 
good faith, because he is under the guardianship of God. 
  31. "And sware one to another." Isaac does not hesitate to swear; 
partly, that the Philistines may be the more easily appeased; partly, 
that he may not be suspected by them. And this is the legitimate method 
of swearing, when men mutually bind themselves to the cultivation of 
peace. A simple promise, indeed, ought to have sufficed; but since 
dissimulations or inconstancy causes men to be distrustful of each 
other, the Lord grants them the use of his name, that this more holy 
confirmation may be added to our covenants; and he does not only permit, 
he even commands us to swear as often as necessity requires it. (Deut. 
6: 13.) Meanwhile we must beware, lest his name be profaned by rashly 
  32. "And it came to pass the same day." Hence it appears, (as I have 
said a little before,) that the waters were not found in a moment of 
time. If it be asked, whence a supply of water had been obtained for his 
cattle and his household during the intervening days, I doubt not, 
indeed, that he either bought it, or was compelled to go to a distance 
to see if any one would be found from whom he might obtain it by 
entreaty. With respect to the name, [Sheba,] they are mistaken, in my 
judgment, who deem it to be any other than that which Abraham had first 
given to the well. For since the Hebrew word is ambiguous, Abraham 
alluded to the covenant which he had struck with the king of Gerar; but 
now Isaac recalling this ancient memorial to mind, joins with it the 
covenant in which he had himself engaged. 
  34. "And Esau was forty years old." For many reasons Moses relates the 
marriages of Esau. Inasmuch as he mingled himself with the inhabitants 
of the land, from whom the holy race of Abraham was separated, and 
contracted affinities by which he became entangled; this was a kind of 
prelude of his rejection. It happened also, by the wonderful counsel of 
God, that these daughters-in-law were grievous and troublesome to the 
holy patriarch (Isaac) and his wife, in order that they might not by 
degrees become favourable to that reprobate people. If the manners of 
the people had been pleasing, and they had had good and obedient 
daughters, perhaps also, with their consent, Isaac might have taken a 
wife from among them. But it was not lawful for those to be bound 
together in marriage, whom God designed to be perpetual enemies. For how 
would the inheritance of the land be secured to the posterity of 
Abraham, but by the destruction of those among whom he sojourned for a 
time? Therefore God cuts off all inducements to these inauspicious 
marriages, that the disunion which he had established might remain. It 
appears hence, with what perpetual affection Esau was loved by Isaac; 
for although the holy man justly regarded his son's wives with aversion, 
and his mind was exasperated against them, he never failed to act with 
the greatest kindness towards his son, as we shall afterwards see. We 
have elsewhere spoken concerning polygamy. This corruption had so far 
prevailed in every direction among many people, that the custom, though 
vicious, had acquired the force of law. It is not, therefore, surprising 
that a man addicted to the flesh indulged his appetite by taking two 
Chapter XXVII. 
1 And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, 
so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto 
him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, [here am] I. 
2 And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death: 
3 Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, 
and go out to the field, and take me [some] venison; 
4 And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring [it] to me, that I 
may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die. 
5 And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to 
the field to hunt [for] venison, [and] to bring [it]. 
6 And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy 
father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying, 
7 Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless 
thee before the LORD before my death. 
8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command 
9 Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the 
goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he 
10 And thou shalt bring [it] to thy father, that he may eat, and that he 
may bless thee before his death. 
11 And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother [is] a 
hairy man, and I [am] a smooth man: 
12 My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a 
deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing. 
13 And his mother said unto him, Upon me [be] thy curse, my son: only 
obey my voice, and go fetch me [them]. 
14 And he went, and fetched, and brought [them] to his mother: and his 
mother made savoury meat, such as his father loved. 
15 And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which [were] 
with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son: 
16 And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and 
upon the smooth of his neck: 
17 And she gave the savoury meat and the bread, which she had prepared, 
into the hand of her son Jacob. 
18 And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here 
[am] I; who [art] thou, my son? 
19 And Jacob said unto his father, I [am] Esau thy firstborn; I have 
done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my 
venison, that thy soul may bless me. 
20 And Isaac said unto his son, How [is it] that thou hast found [it] so 
quickly, my son? And he said, Because the LORD thy God brought [it] to 
21 And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel 
thee, my son, whether thou [be] my very son Esau or not. 
22 And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, 
The voice [is] Jacob's voice, but the hands [are] the hands of Esau. 
23 And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his 
brother Esau's hands: so he blessed him. 
24 And he said, [Art] thou my very son Esau? And he said, I [am]. 
25 And he said, Bring [it] near to me, and I will eat of my son's 
venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought [it] near to him, 
and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank. 
26 And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my 
27 And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his 
raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son [is] as the 
smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed: 
28 Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the 
earth, and plenty of corn and wine: 
29 Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy 
brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed [be] every 
one that curseth thee, and blessed [be] he that blesseth thee. 
30 And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing 
Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his 
father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. 
31 And he also had made savoury meat, and brought it unto his father, 
and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son's 
venison, that thy soul may bless me. 
32 And Isaac his father said unto him, Who [art] thou? And he said, I 
[am] thy son, thy firstborn Esau. 
33 And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where [is] he 
that hath taken venison, and brought [it] me, and I have eaten of all 
before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, [and] he shall be 
34 And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great 
and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, [even] me 
also, O my father. 
35 And he said, Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy 
36 And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me 
these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath 
taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing 
for me? 
37 And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy 
lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with 
corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, 
my son? 
38 And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? 
bless me, [even] me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and 
39 And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling 
shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; 
40 And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it 
shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt 
break his yoke from off thy neck. 
41 And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father 
blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my 
father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob. 
42 And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she 
sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy 
brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, [purposing] to 
kill thee. 
43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban 
my brother to Haran; 
44 And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother's fury turn away; 
45 Until thy brother's anger turn away from thee, and he forget [that] 
which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from 
thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day? 
46 And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the 
daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such 
as these [which are] of the daughters of the land, what good shall my 
life do me? 
1. "And it came to pass that when Isaac was old." In this chapter Moses 
prosecutes, in many words, a history which does not appear to be of 
great utility. It amounts to this; Esau having gone out, at his father's 
command, to hunt; Jacob, in his brother's clothing, was, by the artifice 
of his mother, induced to obtain by stealth the blessing due by the 
right of nature to the firstborn. It seems even like child's play to 
present to his father a kid instead of venison, to feign himself to be 
hairy by putting on skins, and, under the name of his brother, to get 
the blessing by a lie. But in order to learn that Moses does not in vain 
pause over this narrative as a most serious matter, we must first 
observe, that when Jacob received the blessing from his father, this 
token confirmed to him the oracle by which the Lord had preferred him to 
his brother. For the benediction here spoken of was not a mere prayer 
but a legitimate sanction, divine]y interposed, to make manifest the 
grace of election. God had promised to the holy fathers that he would be 
a God to their seed for ever. They, when at the point of death, in order 
that the succession might be secured to their posterity, put them in 
possession, as if they would deliver, from hand to hand, the favour 
which they had received from God. So Abraham, in blessing his son Isaac, 
constituted him the heir of spiritual life with a solemn rite. With the 
same design, Isaac now, being worn down with age, imagines himself to be 
shortly about to depart this life, and wishes to bless his firstborn 
son, in order that the everlasting covenant of God may remain in his own 
family. The Patriarchs did not take this upon themselves rashly, or on 
their own private account, but were public and divinely ordained 
witnesses. To this point belongs the declaration of the Apostle, "the 
less is blessed of the better." (Heb. 7: 7.) For even the faithful were 
accustomed to bless each other by mutual offices of charity; but the 
Lord enjoined this peculiar service upon the patriarchs, that they 
should transmit, as a deposit to posterity, the covenant which he had 
struck with them, and which they kept during the whole course of their 
life. The same command was afterwards given to the priests, as appears 
in Num. 6: 24, and other similar places. Therefore Isaac, in blessing 
his son, sustained another character than that of a father or of a 
private person, for he was a prophet and an interpreter of God, who 
constituted his son an heir of the same grace which he had received. 
Hence appears what I have already said, that Moses, in treating of this 
matter, is not without reason thus prolix. But let us weigh each of the 
circumstances of the case in its proper order; of which this is the 
first, that God transferred the blessing of Esau to Jacob, by a mistake 
on the part of the father; whose eyes, Moses tells us, were dim. The 
vision also of Jacob was dull when he blessed his grandchildren Ephraim 
and Manasseh; yet his want of sight did not prevent him from cautiously 
placing his hands in a transverse direction. But God suffered Isaac to 
be deceived, in order to show that it was not by the will of man that 
Jacob was raised, contrary to the course of nature, to the right and 
honour of primogeniture. 
  2. "Behold, now I am old, I know not the day of my death." There is 
not the least doubt that Isaac implored daily blessings on his sons all 
his life: this, therefore, appears to have been an extraordinary kind of 
benediction. Moreover, the declaration that he knew not the day of his 
death, is as much as if he had said, that death was every moment 
pressing so closely upon him, a decrepit and failing man, that he dared 
not promise himself any longer life. Just as a woman with child when the 
time of parturition draws near, might say, that she had now no day 
certain. Every one, even in the full vigour of age, carries with him a 
thousand deaths. Death claims as its own the foetus in the mother's 
womb, and accompanies it through every stage of life. But as it urges 

the old more closely, so they ought to place it more constantly before 
their eyes, and should pass as pilgrims through the world, or as those 
who have already one foot in the grave. In short, Isaac, as one near 
death, wishes to leave the Church surviving him in the person of his 
  4. "That my soul may bless thee." Wonderfully was the faith of the 
holy man blended with a foolish and inconsiderate carnal affection. The 
general principle of faith flourishes in his mind, when, in blessing his 
son, he consigns to him, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the 
right of the inheritance which had been divinely promised to himself. 
Meanwhile, he is blindly carried away by the love of his firstborn son, 
to prefer him to the other; and in this way he contends against the 
oracle of God. For he could not be ignorant of that which God had 
pronounced before the children were born. If any one would excuse him, 
inasmuch as he had received no command from God to change the accustomed 
order of nature by preferring the younger to the elder; this is easily 
refuted: because when he knew that the firstborn was rejected, he still 
persisted in his excessive attachment. Again, in neglecting to inquire 
respecting his duty, when he had been informed of the heavenly oracle by 
his wife, his indolence was by no means excusable. For he was not 
altogether ignorant of his calling; therefore, his obstinate attachment 
to his son was a kind of blindness, which proved a greater obstacle to 
him than the external dimness of his eyes. Yet this fault, although 
deserving of reprehension, did not deprive the holy man of the right of 
pronouncing a blessing; but plenary authority remained with him, and the 
force and efficacy of his testimony stood entire, just as if God himself 
had spoken from heaven; to which subject I shall soon again allude. 
  5. "And Rebekah heard." Moses now explains more fully the artifice by 
which Jacob attained the blessing. It truly appears ridiculous, that an 
old man, deceived by the cunning of his wife, should, through ignorance 
and error, have given utterance to what was contrary to his wish. And 
surely the stratagem of Rebekah was not without fault; for although she 
could not guide her husband by salutary counsel, yet it was not a 
legitimate method of acting, to circumvent him by such deceit. For, as a 
lie is in itself culpable, she sinned more grievously still in this, 
that she desired to sport in a sacred matter with such wiles. She knew 
that the decree by which Jacob had been elected and adopted was 
immutable; why then does she not patiently wait till God shall confirm 
it in fact, and shall show that what he had once pronounced from heaven 
is certain? Therefore, she darkens the celestial oracle by her lie, and 
abolishes, as far as she was able, the grace promised to her son. Now, 
if we consider farther, whence arose this great desire to bestir 
herself; her extraordinary faith will on the other hand appear. For, as 
she did not hesitate to provoke her husband against herself, to light up 
implacable enmity between the brothers, to expose her beloved son Jacob 
to the danger of immediate death, and to disturb the whole family; this 
certainly flowed from no other source than her faith. The inheritance 
promised by God was firmly fixed in her mind; she knew that it was 
decreed to her son Jacob. And therefore, relying upon the covenant of 
God, and keeping in mind the oracle received, she forgets the world. 
Thus, we see, that her faith was mixed with an unjust and immoderate 
zeal. This is to be carefully observed, in order that we may understand 
that a pure and distinct knowledge does not always so illuminate the 
minds of the pious as to cause them to be governed, in all their 
actions, by the Holy Spirit, but that the little light which shows them 
their path is enveloped in various clouds of ignorance and error; so 
that while they hold a right course, and are tending towards the goal, 
they yet occasional]y slide. Finally, both in Isaac and in his wife the 
principle of faith was preeminent. But each, by ignorance in certain 
particulars, and by other faults, either diverged a little from the way, 
or, at least, stumbled in the way. But seeing that, nevertheless, the 
election of God stood firm; nay, that he even executed his design 
through the deceit of a woman, he vindicates, in this manner, the whole 
praise of his benediction to his own gratuitous goodness. 
  11. "And Jacob said to Rebekah." That Jacob does not voluntarily 
present himself to his father, but rather fears lest, his imposture 
being detected, he should bring a curse upon himself, is very contrary 
to faith. For when the Apostle teaches, that "whatsoever is not of faith 
is sin," (Rom. 14: 23,) he trains the sons of God to this sobriety, that 
they may not permit themselves to undertake anything with a doubtful and 
perplexed conscience. This firm persuasion is the only rule of right 
conduct, when we, relying on the command of God, go intrepidly 
wheresoever he calls us. Jacob, therefore, by debating with himself, 
shows that he was deficient in faith; and certainly, although he was not 
entirely without it, yet, in this point, he is convicted of failure. But 
by this example we are again taught, that faith is not always 
extinguished by a given fault; yet, if God sometimes bears with his 
servants thus far, that he turns, what they have done perversely, to 
their salvation, we must not hence take a license to sin. It happened by 
the wonderful mercy of God, that Jacob was not cut off from the grace of 
adoption. Who would not rather fear than become presumptuous? And 
whereas we see that his faith was obscured by doubting, let us learn to 
ask of the Lord the spirit of prudence to govern all our steps. There 
was added another error of no light kind: for why does he not rather 
reverence God than dread his father's anger? Why does it not rather 
occur to his mind, that a foul blot would stain the hallowed adoption of 
God, when it seemed to owe its accomplishment to a lie? For although it 
tended to a right end, it was not lawful to attain that end, through 
this oblique course. Meanwhile, there is no doubt that faith prevailed 
over these impediments. For what was the cause why he preferred the bare 
and apparently empty benediction of his father, to the quiet which he 
then enjoyed, to the conveniences of home, and finally to life itself? 
According to the flesh, the father's benediction, of which he was so 
desirous, that he knowingly and willingly plunged himself into great 
difficulties, was but an imaginary thing. Why did he act thus, but 
because in the exercise of simple faith in the word of God, he more 
highly valued the hope which was hidden from him, shall the desirable 
condition which he actually enjoyed? Besides, his fear of his father's 
anger had its origin in the true fear of God. He says that he feared 
lest he should bring upon himself a curse. But he would not so greatly 
have dreaded a verbal censure, if he had not deemed the grace deposited 
in the hands of his father worth more than a thousand lives. It was 
therefore under an impulse of God that he feared his father, who was 
really God's minister. For when the Lord sees us creeping on the earth, 
he draws us to himself by the hand of man. 
  13. "Upon me be thy curse, my son." Here Rebekah sins again, because 
she burns with such hasty zeal that she does not consider how highly God 
disapproves of her evil course. She presumptuously subjects herself to 
the curse. But whence this unheeding confidence? Being unfurnished with 
any divine command, she took her own counsel. Yet no one will deny that 
this zeal, although preposterous, proceeds from special reverence for 
the word of God. For since she was informed by the oracle of God, that 
Jacob was preferred in the sight of God, she disregarded whatever was 
visible in the world, and whatever the sense of nature dictated, in 
comparison with God's secret election. Therefore we are taught by this 
example, that every one should walk modestly and cautiously according to 
the rule of his vocation; and should not dare to proceed beyond what the 
Lord allows in his word. 
  14. "And he went and fetched." Although it is probable that Jacob was 
not only influenced by a desire to yield obedience to the authority of 
his mother, but was also persuaded by her seasonings, he yet sinned by 
overstepping the bounds of his vocation. When Rebekah had taken the 
blame upon herself, she told him, doubtless, that injury was done to no 
one: because Jacob was not stealing away another's right, but only 
seeking the blessing which was decreed to him by the celestial oracle. 
It seemed a fair and probable excuse for the fraud, that Isaac, unless 
he should be imposed upon, was prepared to invalidate the election of 
God. Therefore Jacob, instead of simply declining from what was right in 
submission to his mother, was rather obeying the word of God. In the 
meantime (as I have said) this particular error was not free from blame: 
because the truth of God was not to be aided by such falsehoods. The 
paternal benediction was a seal of God's grace, I confess it; but she 
ought rather to have waited till God should bring relief from heaven, by 
changing the mind and guiding the tongue of Isaac, than have attempted 
what was unlawful. For if Balaam, who prostituted his venal tongue, was 
constrained by the Spirit, contrary to his own wish, to bless the elect 
people, whom he would rather have devoted to destruction, (Num. 22: 12,) 
how much more powerfully would the same spirit have influenced the 
tongue of holy Isaac, who was not a mercenary man, but one who desired 
faithfully to obey God, and was only hurried by an error in a contrary 
direction? Therefore, although in the main, faith shone preeminently in 
holy Jacob, yet in this respect he bears the blame of rashness, in that 
he was distrustful of the providence of God, and fraudulently gained 
possession of his father's blessing. 
  19. "And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau." At first Jacob was 
timid and anxious; now, having dismissed his fear, he confidently and 
audaciously lies. By which example we are taught, that when any one has 
transgressed the proper bounds of duty, he soon allows himself 
unmeasured license. Wherefore there is nothing better than for each to 
keep himself within the limits divinely prescribed to him, lest by 
attempting more than is lawful, he should open the door to Satan. I have 
before shown how far his seeking the blessing by fraud, and insinuating 
himself into the possession of it by falsehood, was contrary to faith. 
Yet this particular fault and divergence from the right path, did not 
prevent the faith which had been produced by the oracle from holding on, 
in some way, its course. In excusing the quickness of his return by 
saying that the venison was brought to him by God, he speaks in 
accordance with the rule of piety: he sins, however, in mixing the 
sacred name of God with his own falsehoods. Thus, when there is a 
departure from truth, the reverence which is apparently shown to God is 
nothing else than a profanation of his glory. It was right that the 
prosperous issue of his hunting should be ascribed to the providence of 
God, lest we should imagine that any good thing was the result of 
chance; but when Jacob pretended that God was the author of a benefit 
which had not been granted to himself, and that, too, as a cloak for his 
deception, his fault was not free from perjury. 
  21. "Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee." It hence appears 
that the holy man was suspicious of fraud, and therefore hesitated. 
Whence it may seem that the benediction was vain, seeing it had no 
support of faith. But it thus pleased God so to perform his work by the 
hand of Isaac, as not to make him, who was the instrument, a willing 
furtherer of his design. Nor is it absurd that Isaac, like a blind man, 
should ignorantly transfer the blessing to a different person from him 
whom he intended. The ordinary function of pastors has something of a 
similar kind; for since by the command of God, they reconcile men to 
him, yet they do not discern to whom this reconciliation comes; thus 
they cast abroad the seed, but are uncertain respecting the fruit. 
Wherefore God does not place the office and power with which he has 
invested them, under the control of their own judgment. In this way the 
ignorance of Isaac does not nullify the heavenly oracles; and God 
himself, although the senses of his servant fail, does not desist from 
the accomplishment of his purpose. Here we have a clear refutation of 
the figment of the Papists, that the whole force of the sacrament 
depends upon the intention of the man who consecrates; as if, truly, it 
were left to the will of man to frustrate the design of God. 
Nevertheless, what I have already so often said must be remembered, that 
however Isaac might be deceived in the person of his son, he yet did not 
pronounce the blessing in vain: because a general faith remained in his 
mind and in part governed his conduct. In forming his judgment from the 
touch, disregarding the voice, he did not act according to the nature of 
faith. And, therefore, with respect to the person, he was plainly in 
error. This, however, did not happen in consequence of negligence; since 
he diligently and even anxiously turned every way, that he might not 
deprive the firstborn of his right. But it pleased the Lord thus to 
render his senses dull, partly for the purpose of showing, how vain it 
is for men to strive to change what he has once decreed, (because it is 
impossible hut that his counsel should remain firm and stable though the 
whole world should oppose it,) and partly, for the purpose of 
correcting, by this kind of chastisement, the absurd attachment by which 
Isaac was too closely bound to his firstborn. For whence arose this 
minute investigation, except from the fact that an inordinate love of 
Esau, which had taken entire possession of his mind, turned him aside 
from the divine oracle? Therefore, since he yielded an excessive 
indulgence to natural feeling, he deserved in every way to be blinded. 
So much the greater care ought we to take that, in carrying on God's 
work, we should not give the reins to our human affections. 
  26. "Come near now, and kiss me." We know that the practice of kissing 
was then in use, which many nations retain to this day. Profane men, 
however, may say, that it is ludicrous for an old man, whose mind was 
already obtuse, and who moreover had eaten and drunk heartily, should 
pour forth his benedictions upon a person who was only acting a part. 
But whereas Moses has previously recorded the oracle of God, by which 
the adoption was destined for the younger son, it behoves us reverently 
to contemplate the secret providence of God, towards which profane men 
pay no respect. Truly Isaac was not so in bondage to the attractions of 
meat and drink as to be unable, with sobriety of mind, to reflect upon 
the divine command given unto him, and to undertake in seriousness, and 
with a certain faith in his own vocation, the very work in which, on 
account of the infirmity of his flesh, he vacillated and halted. 
Therefore, we must not form our estimate of this blessing from the 
external appearance, but from the celestial decree; even as it appeared 
at length, by the issue, that God neither vainly sported, nor that man 
rashly proceeded in this affair: and, truly, if the same religion dwells 
in us which flourished in the patriarch's heart, nothing will hinder the 
divine power from shining forth the more clearly in the weakness of man. 
  27. "See, the smell of my son is as the small of a field." The 
allegory of Ambrose on this passage is not displeasing to me. Jacob, the 
younger brother, is blessed under the person of the elder; the garments 
which were borrowed from his brother breathe an odour grateful and 
pleasant to his father. In the same manner we are blessed, as Ambrose 
teaches, when, in the name of Christ, we enter the presence of our 
Heavenly Father: we receive from him the robe of righteousness, which, 
by its odour, procures his favour; in short, we are thus blessed when we 
are put in his place. But Isaac seems here to desire and implore nothing 
for his son but what is earthly; for this is the substance of his words, 
that it might be well with his son in the world, that he might gather 
together the abundant produce of the earth, that he might enjoy great 
peace, and shine in honour above others. There is no mention of the 
heavenly kingdom; and hence it has arisen, that men without learning, 
and but little exercised in true piety, have imagined that these holy 
fathers were blessed by the Lord only in respect to this frail and 
transitory life. But it appears from many passages to have been far 
otherwise: and as to the fact that Isaac here confines himself to the 
earthly favours of God, the explanation is easy; for the Lord did not 
formerly set the hope of the future inheritance plainly before the eyes 
of the fathers, (as he now calls and raises us directly towards heaven,) 
but he led them as by a circuitous course. Thus he appointed the land of 
Canaan as a mirror and pledge to them of the celestial inheritance. In 
all his acts of kindness he gave them tokens of his paternal favour, not 
indeed for the purpose of making them content with present good, so that 
they should neglect heaven, or should follow a merely empty shadow, as 
some foolishly suppose; but that, being aided by such helps, according 
to the time in which they lived, they might by degrees rise towards 
heaven; for since Christ, the first-fruits of those who rise again, and 
the author of the eternal and incorruptible life, had not yet been 
manifested, his spiritual kingdom was, in this way, shadowed forth under 
figures only, until the fulness of the time should come; and as all the 
promises of God were involved, and in a sense clothed in these symbols, 
so the faith of the holy fathers observed the same measure, and made its 
advances heavenwards by means of these earthly rudiments. Therefore, 
although Isaac makes the temporal favours of God prominent, nothing is 
further from his mind than to confine the hope of his son to this world; 
he would raise him to the same elevation to which he himself aspired. 
Some proof of this may be drawn from his own words; for this is the 
principal point, that he assigns him the dominion over the nations. But 
whence the hope of such a dignity, unless he had been persuaded that his 
race had been elected by the Lord, and, indeed, with this stipulation, 
that the right of the kingdom should remain with one son only? 

(continued in part 6...)

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