Hebrews 11:20… By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come.
On the day that Abraham took Isaac upon the mountain to slay him, per God’s command (Gen. 22:1-2), there is no doubt that he learned about God’s promise to bless Abraham and his offspring. Isaac represented mankind on that altar of sacrifice, and when the man of faith, his father Abraham, demonstrated his strong faith, God provided a substitute for Isaac and spared his life by providing a ram instead of his son Isaac. That is the picture of Jesus Christ dying on mankind’s behalf. And Isaac lived it firsthand. He knew his life was over, and he probably had the same fears as anyone else would have had. Then God spared him, and that day Isaac learned about the God of heaven first hand. Up to that point Abraham had likely told Isaac all about the promise of the land, the seed, and the blessing (Gen. 12:1-3, 7). But on that day Isaac lived it, saw it, and believed it. It is likely that on that day Isaac’s faith was solidified.
Now one might expect Isaac to have lived a life full of faith, but strangely this was not so – at least not from the very brief account given of his life in Genesis 25:19-27:46. Although Isaac lived longer than any of the patriarchs the story of his life in the Bible is shorter than Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, or Moses. God did pass the promises onto Isaac (Gen. 26:3-4), and although these promises should have given him a sense of security and hope, Isaac seems to have lived in fear most of his life. When the Philistines of Gerar (near Gaza) questioned him about his wife Rebekah, he lied about her saying she was his sister. He was afraid they would kill him if she were his wife so that they could steal her from him (Gen. 26). When King Abimelech was informed of who Rebekah really was he showed more fear of God than Isaac did!
Even after Isaac became wealthy while living in Gerar he seems to have spent his life questioning God up to that point and grumbling about his lot. When things finally went his way he said, “At last the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land” (Gen. 26:22). When Isaac finally moved back into the land he came to Beersheba in the south, and then God repeated the covenant promises to him (Gen. 26:24-25).
Isaac’s life seems unfaithful at times, but at other times he was indeed faithful. His wife was barren, but she later gave birth to twins – Jacob and Esau. Esau was Isaac’s favorite son even though God made it clear it was Jacob who would be blessed and loved by God. Rebekah had to intervene through deception to get Jacob to receive Isaac’s blessing, but her deception was faithless. God worked through it anyway, but the whole story puts Isaac in a bad light.
The point of Isaac’s life, however, is his faith. The author of Hebrews, without condoning Isaac’s seemingly rebellious actions, points to the faith he had in blessing his sons at all. One thing is for sure, and that is that Isaac believed in God’s covenant blessings. This is revealed in Isaac’s blessing of his son – even though he thought he was blessing Esau (Gen. 27:27-29). Isaac believed God and looked to the future for God’s fulfillment of what He promised. The Greek text of Heb. 11:20 literally says, “By faith, even concerning things to come, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau.” In blessing them, Isaac literally “spoke well of them; he praised them.”
Food for Thought
The blessing was an act of faith because it concerned a time beyond their lives. When a person looks beyond their own life and into the future, they act on faith. Simply teaching our children about Christ and leaving them an inheritance – both spiritual and financial – is an act of faith because it plans for their eternal future. A person has strong faith when they know they’re saved – when they have the “assurance of things hoped for” – a certainty about God’s plan.
Hebrews 11:21… By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.
The next man of faith in Hebrews 11 is Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. God established His eternal covenant with Abraham and later with Isaac. Then He he established the same covenant with Jacob (Gen. 28:13-17) whom He later named Israel (Gen. 32:24-32).
The account of Jacob’s life has far more detail than that of Isaac. From the day he is born his life reveals a colorful character. He seems to have been an expert at deception and manipulation. He cunningly took his brother’s birthright, then he later deceived his aging father in a successful attempt to receive the blessing of the firstborn. His mother Rebekah may have taught him everything he knew, for she too appears very cunning (Gen. 27:5ff.). Jacob traveled away from home in order to avoid his brother’s conspiracy against his life, and he found himself employed by a man (Laban) who seems to have had all of Jacob’s negative qualities and more. It was this man for whom Jacob worked for 20 years, and also this man who became his father-in-law. Jacob married his two dauthers, Leah and Rachel, and worked as one of his hired hands.
At times Jacob acted wisely, and at times he was downright spineless, as in the case of his daughter who was raped by a foreigner (cf. Gen. 34). He had two wives and two concubines by which he had twelve sons – the tribes of Israel – and one daughter named Dinah. While reading the account of his life “faith” is not likely the first thing that comes to one’s mind about this man, but then again, no one’s life, if put under a microscope, would ever truly reveal a man of faith based simply upon his/her actions. People are sinful, and God works through those sins in order to bring about His eternal promises. Jacob was indeed a faithful man, and this is evident from what he believed about the future and how he blessed his sons concerning the future.
· Genesis 47:29-31; 48:8-20.
· “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers. And I give you one portion more than your brothers” (Gen. 48:21-22). What Jacob never possessed, he passed on to his sons in faith, knowing that God would be true to his word. He had the “assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things unseen.”
· Jacob’s faith is expressed in the content of his blessing: “Let them grow into a multitude… a multitude of nations” (Gen. 48:16, 19).
· Though Jacob was weak physically, his faith was strong. He believed at death that his descendants would possess the land.
Verse 21 says that Jacob died “leaning on the top of his staff.” But Genesis 47:31 says that he “bowed himself on the head of the bed.” The apparent contradiction is reconciled by the Hebrew word for “bed” and “staff” which are exactly alike in their Hebrew consonants. Of course Hebrew has no vowels in its original text; those were added sometime around AD 700. So “bed” and “staff” look identical without vowels. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew OT written in 250 BC) renders the passage in Genesis as “staff,” but later Jewish scribes placed vowel pointings that rendered it as “bed.” Now “top of the staff” is the likely original, and the rendering of “bed” in Gen. 47:31 would be a vowel pointing error added by later scribes.
Food for Thought
Hebrews 11:22… By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.
· Genesis 50:24-25… Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.”
· The word for “dying” in v. 22 is “to complete; to finish; to accomplish.” It is different from the word translated “dying” in relation to Jacob in v. 21.
Food for Thought
Hebrews 11:23-26… By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
Food for Thought
Hebrews 11:27-29… By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them. 29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.
Food for Thought
20 Πίστει καὶ περὶ μελλόντων εὐλόγησεν Ἰσαὰκ τὸν Ἰακὼβ καὶ τὸν
By faith also concerning being about to (PAPtcp) blessed (AAI) Isaac the Jacob and the
Ἠσαῦ. 21 Πίστει Ἰακὼβ ἀποθνῄσκων ἕκαστον τῶν υἱῶν Ἰωσὴφ
Esau. By faith Jacob while dying (PAPtcp) each of the sons of Joseph
εὐλόγησεν καὶ προσεκύνησεν ἐπὶ τὸ ἄκρον τῆς ῥάβδου αὐτοῦ. 22 Πίστει
blessed (AAI) and he worshipped (AAI) on the tip of the rod of him. By faith
Ἰωσὴφ τελευτῶν περὶ τῆς ἐξόδου τῶν υἱῶν Ἰσραὴλ ἐμνημόνευσεν καὶ
Joseph dying (PAPtcp) concerning of the Exodus of the sons of Israel remembered (AAI) and
περὶ τῶν ὀστέων αὐτοῦ ἐνετείλατο. 23 Πίστει Μωϋσῆς γεννηθεὶς ἐκρύβη
about of the bones of him he commanded (AMI). By faith Moses
τρίμηνον ὑπὸ τῶν πατέρων αὐτοῦ, διότι εἶδον ἀστεῖον τὸ παιδίον καὶ
οὐκ ἐφοβήθησαν τὸ διάταγμα τοῦ βασιλέως. 24 Πίστει Μωϋσῆς μέγας
γενόμενος ἠρνήσατο λέγεσθαι υἱὸς θυγατρὸς Φαραώ, 25 μᾶλλον
ἑλόμενος συγκακουχεῖσθαι τῷ λαῷ τοῦ θεοῦ ἢ πρόσκαιρον ἔχειν
ἁμαρτίας ἀπόλαυσιν, 26 μείζονα πλοῦτον ἡγησάμενος τῶν Αἰγύπτου
θησαυρῶν τὸν ὀνειδισμὸν τοῦ Χριστοῦ· ἀπέβλεπεν γὰρ εἰς τὴν
μισθαποδοσίαν. 27 Πίστει κατέλιπεν Αἴγυπτον μὴ φοβηθεὶς τὸν θυμὸν
τοῦ βασιλέως· τὸν γὰρ ἀόρατον ὡς ὁρῶν ἐκαρτέρησεν. 28 Πίστει
πεποίηκεν τὸ πάσχα καὶ τὴν πρόσχυσιν τοῦ αἵματος, ἵνα μὴ ὁ
ὀλοθρεύων τὰ πρωτότοκα θίγῃ αὐτῶν. 29 Πίστει διέβησαν τὴν ἐρυθρὰν
θάλασσαν ὡς διὰ ξηρᾶς γῆς, ἧς πεῖραν λαβόντες οἱ Αἰγύπτιοι