“The Voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau,” Gen 27:22 As I rediscover some of the powerful family stories in the Book of Genesis, I was recently drawn to the blatant act of deception that lies behind the verse quoted above. Perhaps you know the story. Isaac the father is old and blind; he tells his first-born son Esau that he wants to bless him. Before that happens, however, he sends Esau on an errand to kill game and prepare it for him. Unbeknownst to Isaac, his wife and younger son, Jacob, overhear his pledge to Esau. They devise a scheme to fool Isaac into giving the blessing to Jacob instead of Esau.
Jacob also goes out to prepare a meal for his father but, before presenting it to him, he covers his arms with fur. His brother Esau is a hairy man, and the hair on his arms will fool the blind Isaac into thinking that Esau indeed is bringing the meal for dad. Jacob, in his own voice, announces that he is the older son Esau. Isaac tells his son to approach so he can feel him, to see if his arms are hairy. Indeed, they are. Isaac is confused and speaks the line quoted above. Two of his remaining senses (touch and hearing) give him contradictory data. If we freeze the action at this point, we have a teaching moment for families and those in family business. What do you do when you are presented with contradictory data and you have an important decision to make? Do you plunge ahead and trust one of your senses? That is what Isaac did here, with disastrous consequences.
If I could have written a “Patriarchal Policy Manual” and given it to the first family of faith, one of the
policies would be: if you are presented with an urgent decision, though the data is contradictory, don’t go with your gut. Stop and massage the material until a truth emerges for you. Come to think of it, that might not be a bad lesson for us today.