Verse 29. "Isaac gave up the ghost-and was gathered unto his people" - See on "chap. xxv. 8".
Esau and Jacob buried him.] See chap. xxv. 9. Esau, as we have seen chap. 33., was thoroughly reconciled to his brother Jacob, and now they both join in fraternal and filial affection to do the last kind office to their amiable father. It is generally allowed that the death of Isaac is mentioned here out of its chronological order, as several of the transactions mentioned in the succeeding chapters, especially 37. and 38., must have happened during his life; but that the history of Joseph might not be disturbed, his death is anticipated in this place. It is supposed that he lived at least twelve years after Joseph was sold into Egypt.
THIS chapter contains several subjects which are well worthy of the reader's most serious attention.
1. That such a family as that of Jacob should have had false gods in it, is a matter not less astonishing than real: and suppose that we allow, as is very probable, that their images and rings were got from strangers, the Syrians and the Shechemites, yet their being tolerated in the family, though it is probable this was for a very short time, cannot be easily accounted for. It is true the LAW was not then given, and the unity of God not so particularly taught as it was afterwards. Besides, we have already seen that certain superstitions were compatible in those early times with general sincerity and attachment to the truth; those times and acts of ignorance were winked at, till superior light shone upon the world. Between many of the practices of Laban's family and those of the surrounding heathenish tribes, there might have been but little difference; and this was probably the reason why Dinah could so readily mix with the daughters of the land, chap. xxxiv. 1, which led to the fatal consequences already reviewed. Sin is like the letting out of water-when once a breach is made in the dyke, the stream becomes determined to a wrong course, and its progress is soon irresistible. Had not Jacob put away these strange gods, the whole family might have been infected with idolatry. This saying of one of the ancients is good, Vitia transmittit ad posteros, qui praesentibus culpis ignoscit. - SENECA. "He who is indulgent to present offenses, transmits sin to posterity." The first motions of it should be firmly resisted; after struggles are too often fruitless.
2. The doctrine of a particular and especial providence has another proof in this chapter. After the sanguinary conduct of Jacob's sons, is it not surprising that the neighbouring tribes did not join together and extirpate the whole family? And so they certainly would, had not the terror of God fallen upon them, ver. 5. Jacob and the major part of his family were innocent of this great transgression; and on the preservation of their lives, the accomplishment of great events depended: therefore God watches over them, and shields them from the hands of their enemies.
3. The impatience and fate of the amiable Rachel, who can read of without deploring? Give me children, said she, or else I die, chap. xxx. 1. Her desire was granted, and her death was the consequence! God's way is ever best. We know not what we ask, nor what we ought to ask, and therefore often ask amiss when we petition for such secular things as belong to the dispensations of God's providence. For things of this kind we have no revealed directory; and when we ask for them, it should be with the deepest submission to the Divine will, as God alone knows what is best for us. With respect to the soul, every thing is clearly revealed, so that we may ask and receive, and have a fullness of joy; but as to our bodies, there is much reason to fear that the answer of our petitions would be, in numerous cases, our inevitable destruction. How many prayers does God in mercy shut out! 4. The transgression of Reuben, of whatsoever kind, was marked, not only by the displeasure of his father, but by that of God also; see chap. xlix. 4.
It brought a curse upon him, and he forfeited thereby the right of primogeniture and the priesthood: the first was given to Judah, the second to Levi. Is it not in reference to this that our Lord addresses these solemn words to the angel of the Church of Philadelphia: Behold, I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, that NO MAN TAKE THY CROWN? A man, by sowing a grain of forbidden sweets, may reap an abundant harvest of eternal wretchedness. Reader, let not sin rob thee of the kingdom of God.
5. Here we have the death of Isaac recorded: most that can be said of his character has been already anticipated, see chap. 22., &c. He appears to have been generally pious, deeply submissive and obedient. He was rather an amiable and good, than a great and useful, man. If compared with his son Jacob, in the early part of their lives, he appears to great advantage, as possessing more sincerity and more personal piety. But if compared with his father Abraham, O, what a falling off is here! Abraham is the most perfect character under the Old Testament, and even under the New he has no parallel but St. Paul. Isaac, though falling far short of his father's excellences, will ever remain a pattern of piety and filial obedience.