Once More, With Smelling

When Isaac became old he could hardly see. He could, though, sense who was around. One day he sensed his son Esau was nearby.

“Esau!!” Isaac called out.

“Here, Father.”

“Could you go out and kill a deer, make a savoury dish of it, and bring it to me to eat?”


“Yes, now.”

“I’m in the middle of making a new bow and arrow, Father. Later perhaps?”

“No. Now. You see, Esau, I could die at any moment I’m so old. Before I do, though, I want to give you my blessing. But I’ll only have enough strength to do this if I have some meat inside me.”

“If you insist” said Esau before getting together his hunting gear and going out.

Unbeknownst to Isaac and Esau, Rebekah had overheard their exchange. She summoned Jacob and told him what his father had just said to his brother.

“So, Jacob” said Rebekah, “I’d like you now to go to our herd of goats, pick out two young ones and bring them back to me. I’ll make from them a savoury dish for you to take to your father so he can bless you before he dies. Your father can give this blessing to only one of his and my sons, and I want that son to be you, Jacob, who are beautiful and the apple of my eye, not that ugly and smelly ape Esau.”

“But Mother” said Jacob, “Father will surely know I’m not Esau because I’m not hairy like him. If Father feels my smooth skin he’ll smell a rat. I’ll be cursed, not blessed.”

“Let the curse fall upon me if anything goes amiss” said Rebekah. “Go now and find two young goats.”

After Jacob returned with the goats and his mother had made a savoury dish out of them, she dressed Jacob in some of Esau’s clothes and put the goatskins on his hands and neck.

“These should fool your father if he feels your hands or neck” said Rebekah. “Here, take this savoury dish and give it to your father.”

“Who is that?” said Isaac when Jacob approached his bedside.

“Esau” said Jacob. His heart was hammering so fast he thought he might have a heart-attack. “H….H…Here’s the savoury dish you asked for, Father. Could you now give me your blessing?”

“It didn’t take long for you to kill the deer, bring the body back, cut it up and cook it. This must be a world record.”

“God put the deer in my way. It made things a lot quicker.”

“I’ll say” said Isaac as he began on his repast.

After chewing a while, Isaac said, “This doesn’t taste much like deer. If I didn’t know better I’d swear it’s goat.”

“It must be your taste buds” said Jacob, “if your eyesight has nearly gone because you’re so old, then your taste buds must be nearly gone too.”

“You have a point. But, just to put my mind at rest that you’re Esau, let me feel you.”

Isaac, after feeling Jacob’s hands and neck, said, “Despite that your voice sounds like Jacob’s, not Esau’s, your hands and neck feel like Esau’s, not Jacob’s. Tell me now, and be honest, are you really Esau?”

Jacob, his knees shaking, his heart hammering, his body sweating, his throat dry, squeaked, “Y…Y…Y…Yes Father, I…I…I’m Esau.”

“Come closer that I may smell your clothes”

Isaac put his nose to Esau’s clothes that Jacob was wearing, and several times sniffed noisily.

“These are Esau’s clothes alright” said Isaac, “No one but Esau would have a pong like that which I’m smelling. I’m now convinced, yes, you are Esau. Let me bless you now, son.”

Whereupon Isaac blessed Jacob.

Source: Genesis 27, 1-29

This entry was posted in Esau, Isaac, Jacob, Rebekah and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Once More, With Smelling

  1. Richard says:

    Esau may have an action in restitution. It’s a rather arcane topic so I’m not sure.

    He must not delay, though, for it is an action in Chancery and laches is a risk.

    Put him on to me and I’ll look into it more thoroughly – for an appropriate fee, of course.

    Let’s see if he heeds my warning.

  2. Philippe says:

    Did English law apply to the land where Esau lived? If so, Esau may well have been told the same as what you said, by legal luminaries of that time and place.

    If English law did not apply, would actions under the then equivalent of Chancery have come under the general rule of law, irrespective of legal code?

    As for laches, yes, being now 3500 years after that time, it might well be too late for Esau’s surviving descendants to seek damages if Esau at the time had never sought them.

    My next posting will deal with Esau’s reactions to Jacob’s perfidy. It may well reveal that Esau would be deemed to have mitigated any harm to himself sufficiently, so to invalidate any subsequent legal attempts for monetary restitution he might have thought to make.

  3. Richard says:

    Yes, English Law applied, and did so until The Ten Commandments was enacted.

    I may be able to restore Esau’s inheritance. These are discretionary remedies.

    If Jacob raises any question as to jurisdiction, I’ll send in a gunboat.

  4. jenny says:

    A story in which the hairy child is the disfavored one. The beginning of self-hating Jews.

  5. jenny says:

    You can see in these stories the roots of the tradition that Jewishness is passed down through the maternal line.

  6. Philippe says:

    @Richard – “…I’ll send in a gunboat….”

    An oar-propelled boat with spear or sword-wielding or slingshot-waving crew-members would be more like it.

    @Jenny – “….A story in which the hairy child is the disfavored one. The beginning of self-hating Jews……”

    Are you getting into Woody Allen territory here?

    “…..the tradition that Jewishness is passed down through the maternal line……..”

    Paul, in a recent comment on his blog concerning genealogy and family trees, said aphoristically, “…..motherhood is a fact and fatherhood a belief…….”.

    To find out who one’s ancestors were for sure, one should trace only through the maternal line. There is, and always has been, about a 20% chance that a husband of a woman bearing a child is not the father of that child.

  7. Richard says:

    @ Philippe

    “…..To find out who one’s ancestors were for sure, one should trace only through the maternal line…..”

    Is it not so that the “Y” chromosome now provides the surest way to trace ancestry?

  8. Philippe says:

    @Richard – “…..Is it not so that the “Y” chromosome now provides the surest way to trace ancestry?……..”.

    Knowing nothing of science I wasn’t aware of this. Thanks to Wiki I’ve just learned it is only males that have the Y chromosome.

    If the Y chromosome is indeed the surest way to trace ancestry, how does this get around the genealogists’ problem of the husband of any woman bearing a child not being certainly its father?

  9. Richard says:

    Not unsurprisingly, I do not understand the test, but it uses the fact that the “Y” Chromosome is simpler and undergoes fewer changes as it passes down the generations.

    This enables the “Y” chromosomes of two men to be compared to see if they might have a common ancestor in the male line. The further back in time the common ancestor, the greater the likelihood. Women can use the “Y” chromosomes of male relatives to trace their own male lines.

    The information is then used in conjunction with what is known about the surnames.

    Gleaned from:

  10. Richard says:

    Returning to the main theme of this post, there doesn’t appear to be the unreasonable delay required by laches, having regard to the leisurely pace of this blog.

    Before considering the point further, I shall require money on account.

  11. Philippe says:

    I had imagined you as different from the sort of run-of-the-mill lawyer who is in it only for the money. Your motives were pure, I had thought. You wanted only to fight Evil on the side of Good, I had thought. Thoughts of Mammon were as far removed from you as scorched desert sands are from a Laplander, I had thought………..

    Now, another illusion is punctured.

    First Father Christmas. Now this. What next……….?

  12. Richard says:

    Chancery exercises the so-called equitable jurisdiction to which certain inviolable maxims apply:


    You will note that one of these is equity does not aid a volunteer.

    It is inescapable, Philippe. No more dilly-dallying. Money up front (please).

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