Isaac or Esau?

Randy Leedy Rleedy at
Wed Aug 22 09:42:56 EDT 2001

John S. Waldrip wrote:

>>>In Hebrews 12.17 is found the phrase:



Do you think this refers to Esau or to Isaac?


Since I get only the digest, I don't know what other answers may have
been offered, but here's mine. I'm firmly convinced that the
"repentance" referred to is Isaac's, not Esau's. Why? Because whatever
this repentance is, it is something that Esau "sought diligently with
tears." When you read the Genesis account, you see Esau weeping and
begging for Isaac's blessing. But Isaac responds that he has already
blessed Jacob, implying that no change is possible (in spite of the
fact that Isaac certainly WANTS to bless Esau!). I take "repentance"
here as a simple change of mind. When Esau sought to inherit the
blessing, he was rejected, because (notice the GAR) there was no
possibility that Isaac could change his mind, withdraw Jacob's
blessing, and give it to Esau, no matter how much Esau wept and begged
for that blessing. 

The picture of Esau, then, is not that of a person who has come to
recognize the error of his ways and desperately wants to repent of his
wrongdoing and experience a change of heart but finds it impossible to
do so, as though God were unwilling to let him repent in the religious
sense. Someone who cries to God for repentance has ALREADY repented!
The picture is rather that of a sensual, materialistic man who now
faces the consequences of his ways and begs for a reversal of the
consequences apart from any reversal of his attitudes. The Genesis
account shows Esau concerned only about the blessing, not about his
own character.

This interpretation also fits the context in Hebrews very well. The
warning is that those who persist in a lifestyle of resistance to
God's ways will one day face consequences that no amount of begging
and crying will succeed in changing.

Blessings! (Acts 3:26)  [My standard closing seems to work quite well

Randy Leedy
Bob Jones University Seminary
Greenville SC
RLeedy at

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