The Problems of Blessing

It’s hard to define ‘Blessing’.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this as well. It troubles me.
On my better days, it feels like the kind of thing I’d very much like to do: put my hand on someone and bless them.

  By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. (Hebrews 11:20)

This strikes me a charitable summary of the story. The details are altogether seamier, more tactile.

The old man Isaac: blind, feeling his way through the story.
Esau: rough.
Jacob: smooth.
Food, taste, odour: wild game; goat. Strong flavoured stew.
One blessing and two sons.

The Blessing is something worth deception. The Blessing is indivisible. The Blessing is something Isaac does. But his choice is made for him by Yahweh.

Isaac listening: straining against the veil on his senses. Voice. Hair. Smell.
The patriarchal biometric surveillance passed. The Blessing unlocked.

“Ah, the smell of my son
is like the smell of a field
that the LORD has blessed.
May God give you heaven’s dew
and earth’s richness—
an abundance of grain and new wine.
May nations serve you
and peoples bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.
May those who curse you be cursed
and those who bless you be blessed.”

But more shocking is the aftermath:
Esau: [loud and bitter]
“Bless me
—me too, my father!”
“Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”
“Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!”

Isaac ‘blesses’ Esau with a line by line confirmation of the Blessing to Jacob.

“Your dwelling will be
away from the earth’s richness,
away from the dew of heaven above.
You will live by the sword
and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,
you will throw his yoke
from off your neck.”

When Isaac blesses Jacob with The Blessing, he prays: ‘May… may… let it be’.
When Isaac ‘blesses’ Esau, he declares: ‘You will…you will…you will.’
Is this what it means to bless?
To pray at someone? To pray in their face, looking them in the eyes?
Is that why Isaac has to be blind?
Show Comments