Swords to Plowshares

Promoting a faith-based love for all creation.

Why in Genesis 27 does Isaac tell his son Esau to go out and hunt for him? Since Isaac is considered a righteous man, does this mean that God approves of hunting?

Isaac said [to his son Esau], “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death.3Now then, get your equipment—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.” (Genesis 27:2-4)

Most characters in the bible are complex characters. Even the prophets and heroes and other characters identified within the text as “good” or “righteous” often have flaws or make mistakes. Moses and Aaron failed to give glory to God when striking the rock for water when the Israelites were thirsty (Numbers 20:12). David committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12) and also shed much blood (1 Chronicles 28:3). Noah deviated from God’s instructions by building an altar and killing animals on it (Genesis 8:20). Peter was rebuked sharply by Jesus (Matthew 16:23), and all of the disciples lacked faith at one point or another (Luke 8:25, Luke 24:11). For Isaac to make this request to his son Esau definitely does not suggest that God approves of it, even though Isaac is counted among the righteous.

In my estimation, it sounds pretty clear from the language used to describe the request (“the tasty food that I like”) that Isaac was fulfilling the desires of his flesh. One of the takeaway messages from this account would therefore be to take up your cross daily and to always be vigilant, even to the end of life. As Jesus put it, “whoever endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). It’s also possible Isaac was testing his son just as his father Abraham was tested by God when asked to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:12). It is not clear since Jacob deceived Isaac before Esau fulfilled the request and so we don’t know from the story whether Isaac would have blessed Esau or not. If we assume it wasn’t a test, it would still only mean that Isaac approves of hunting, not that God approves of it.

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