Question: Were Rebekah and Jacob wrong in deceiving Isaac regarding the birthright (Genesis 27: 5-27)?
Answer: We cannot recommend that anyone follow a similar course to Jacob and his mother regarding their deception of Isaac; however, neither Rebekah nor Jacob are condemned in the Scriptures regarding this matter.
Among the Arabs it is still considered a mercy to deceive the aged in order to spare them from sorrow. Rebekah and Jacob knew that if Isaac learned that his firstborn son had so despised his birthright that he had sold it for a mess of pottage, it would have caused him much heartache and sorrow; therefore, they arranged by deception to spare him from dying of a broken heart.
Esau was dishonest in attempting to steal the birthright he had sold, with an oath, to Jacob. He apparently feared that the blessing of the firstborn would grant Jacob the majority of Isaac’s estate, so he even threatened to kill Jacob (Genesis 27: 41, 42). Obviously Esau desired the earthly things and not the Covenant blessing of God through Abraham. When Jacob fled for his life and left behind the entire earthly inheritance in Esau’s hands, the latter seemed satisfied; and Jacob was also satisfied, because he got the portion which he specially desired and prized above everything else.
Rebekah’s Act of Faith and Courage
When Jacob questioned his mother regarding the advisability of the deception, she assumed full responsibility (Genesis 27: 12, 13), for she remembered God’s revelation to her, that “the elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25: 23). Rebekah, relying on the Lord’s promise and with full assurance of faith, was willing to act, at considerable risk, so that Jacob should receive the birthright with its accompanying blessing. She also knew the profane and unsuitable character of Esau – that he considered the higher blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant as of little value, whereas Jacob longed for these blessings, to such an extent that he was willing to give up earthly advantages.
Rebekah and Jacob both knew that Esau had sold his birthright to Jacob, and that Jacob was merely claiming the accompanying blessing which was rightfully his. They also knew that Esau, completely disregarding his agreement with Jacob that was bound with an oath, was dishonestly seeking to obtain the birthright blessing which he had sold to Jacob with the birthright, and to which he no longer had a just claim. Furthermore, they knew that Esau only cared for the birthright blessing that pertained to the property.
God evidently approved of Rebekah and Jacob’s course and their acting by faith in Him, for shortly afterward God appeared to Jacob in a dream and confirmed the Covenant to him (Genesis 28: 10-15).
Esau and Jacob Typical Characters
The Apostle Paul explains that God used Esau and Jacob to work out a type (Romans 9: 10-14) (Hebrews 12: 16, 17). Esau, rejected from the higher favor of the birthright – the Covenant blessings, but obtaining a lower favor – Isaac’s property, types Fleshly Israel, rejected from the higher favor – the privilege of the Divine nature and Joint-heirship with Christ, but obtaining a lower favor – the chief place among the nations on earth during the Millennial Age.
And Jacob, receiving the higher blessing – the birthright and its blessings, but losing the lower blessing – Isaac’s property, types Spiritual Israel receiving the Divine nature and Joint-heirship with Christ, and losing the lower blessing – the chief place among the nations on earth during the Millennial Age.
Surely God was just in His dealings with the types – Jacob and Esau – even as He is just in what He has done and will do for their antitypes – Fleshly Israel and Spiritual Israel.