Let us never forget, each and every time we approach the Scriptures, that the communication of the stories of the men, women, and the nation of Israel is designed to reveal God. Even in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, which is sometimes thought of as a commendation of the faithfulness of the men and women therein referenced, the actual message that comes ringing through quite loudly and ever so clearly, is that it was God that was faithful by granting faith to those that are mentioned so that He might accomplish His purposes through them. These stories are not necessarily communicated so as to provide us with examples to emulate, but rather, as the Apostle Paul would tell the church in Corinth, they were written and told again and again for the purpose of instruction, and as examples of God’s faithful actions according to His covenant (1 Corinthians 10:11).
If we ever find ourselves attempting to imitate one of these Biblical characters and their actions, whether good or bad, it is time to take a step back and examine what it is that we are supposed to be doing, and what it is that is providing our motivation towards imitation. If our motivation is to put ourselves in a position to enjoy the same types of blessings that they enjoyed, so in order to achieve that end we do what they did that seems good according to our own subjective observations, then our motivation is faulty. If we are attempting to imitate in the sense that we have a desire for God to use us in the establishment of His kingdom and in the accomplishment of the redemption that He is working out for His creation, without placing demands upon God in regards to the nature of the way in which He is going to use us, then it is more likely that we are taking the right approach.
That said, we look to Abraham’s family and to Isaac’s blessing of Jacob and Esau. According to a pattern that fills Genesis, this story begins with something akin to a deception, but it is not something that is incredibly overt at first glance. We read that “When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he was almost blind, he called his older son Esau and said to him, ‘My Son!... Since I am so old, I could die at any time. Therefore, take your weapons… and go out into the open fields and hunt down some wild game for me. Then prepare for me some tasty food, the kind I love, and bring it to me. Then I will eat it so that I may bless you before I die” (Genesis 27:1-4). Now why can it be said that this is a deception, though initial appearances to do not provide us with that perspective? It is because Isaac is speaking about his death, and making it seem as if it is imminent and could happen at any time.
According to the Scriptural record, Abraham had lived one hundred and seventy five years. Abraham’s father Terah (Isaac’s grandfather) lived, for two hundred and five years. At this point, Isaac was at least seventy-five years old, and ultimately, Genesis tells us that he lived to be one hundred and eighty years old. At the very least, Isaac would know that he had some pretty good genes working for him, and what he might expecting in the area of the duration of his life. Beyond that, we have almost the entire Scriptural history of the lives of Jacob and Esau, along with the births of all of Jacob’s children in the record that intervenes between Isaac speaking of his death and the actual time of his death. That record encompasses a minimum of twenty years, though it is probably a much longer period of time.
Regardless, and even though it is quite nearly impossible for a man to know when death will finally come upon him, it seems plausible to posit that Isaac was probably not actually terribly worried about death impinging upon him at that time. In addition, at this point it appears that Isaac’s brother Ishmael is still alive as well, as we read that Esau, in the wake of the blessings bestowed by his father, “Went to Ishmael” (28:9) to get a wife. He died relatively young, at the age of one hundred and thirty seven, meaning that Isaac was approximately one hundred twenty four years old when Ishmael passed away. At the minimum, Isaac is speaking of his death nearly sixty years before death will take him. So either Isaac was quite mistaken about his physical condition, or he was simply a pessimist that was always seeing death around the corner. A third option would be to consider that the record of Genesis has both he and his father talking about their fear of being killed by men that would take their wives, and that this was yet another entrance into the practice which seems to be a cornerstone in the edifice of their history, which is deception.