Isaac’s dual test in the blessings narrative: A new reading of Gen 27:18-29

Sarah Schwartz

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3 Scopus citations


This essay explores the meeting scene between Isaac and Jacob in Gen 27:18-29. The repetition of Isaac’s act of blessing in vv. 23 and 27 exposes the parallel structure of the scene, and Isaac’s dual test to determine his son’s identity. This structure emphasizes the importance of the sensory tests and Esau’s external identity markers—his hairy hands and the scent of the field—that convinced Isaac to bless the son standing before him. These identity markers are not merely technical; they are literary devices that point to Esau’s character and hint at the motivation behind Isaac’s desire to bless Esau instead of Jacob. These motives are clarified through an analysis of Esau’s traits, links to Isaac’s personality, and the nature of the blessings he had intended for Esau. The conclusions contribute to a better understanding of the scene and resolve some of the fundamental difficulties in the blessings narrative of Gen 27:1-28:9.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-711
Number of pages19
JournalJournal for the Study of the Old Testament
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


  • Birthright
  • Blessings
  • Esau
  • Gen 27
  • Isaac
  • Literary analysis


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