Israel Drazin
Israel Drazin

What do we know about Isaac, the second patriarch?

Virtually all, if not all that we are told about Isaac is obscure, as with Abraham and Jacob. The Torah leaves out explanations for behaviors, leaving it to us to imagine what occurred and to derive meaning from our own ideas. The following are some examples of opaque events. 

  • Is there meaning we should find in the fact that Isaac was born when his dad and mom were ages 100 and 90 respectively? Is the Torah emphasizing that Isaac, like his son Jacob but not like his dad Abraham had a miraculous birth? Should we compare Isaac’s miraculous birth in Judaism to the miraculous births of Greek, Roman, and Christian figures?
  • Why is it only Isaac who has a single wife/woman from whom he has children? Abraham had three and Jacob four. Why did he have only a single issue from his wife, twins, while Abraham had eight sons and an unknown number of daughters (since the Bible rarely mentions female births) and Jacob had twelve sons and one daughter that we know about?
  • Why did Isaac have sex with his wife near an open window for all to see?
  • Why among the patriarchs, it is the wives Sarah and Rebecca who assure that their son will inherit from God’s promise to Abraham, while their husbands try to give the inheritance to another, Abraham to Ishmael and Isaac to Esau.
  • Why was Isaac blind? Was it a natural aging event, as maintained by the rational thinker Rashbam, or a punishment inflicted by God for preferring Esau over Jacob, as maintained by another sage, or the tears of an angel who cried at Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac that dropped into Isaac’s eyes, as stated in a Midrash. There are about a dozen other ideas by other rabbis. Why is there so much speculation?
  • What did Jacob gain when he gave his brother Esau food for his birthright? Did Jacob act properly? What is a birthright? Was he taking the initiative that his dad Isaac should have taken to give him the birthright?
  • Why did Isaac love his older son Esau more than he loved Jacob? Was Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks correct when he suggested in one of his books that a parent will love a child even when the child does not live up to his/her standard?
  • Isaac’s wife Rebecca loved Jacob more than Esau and talked Jacob into misleading his father to give him the blessing that Isaac wanted to give to Esau. Was this proper behavior? Even if blessings work, shouldn’t Isaac have nullified the blessing Jacob received because he gave it with the intent that he was giving it to Esau? Also, why should the blessing work, a blessing given fraudulently should have no effect, just like in contracts in America today.
  • Do blessings work?
  • Why did Jacob agree to the deception? Was the fraud played on Jacob by his sons who told him Joseph was killed and by his father in law Laban who switched the wife he gave Jacob, Leah instead of Rachael, punishment for his improper behavior?
  • Does the story of the deception indicate that Isaac and Rebecca had a dysfunctional family?
  • What does it mean that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the patriarchs of Judaism?
  • Can we list even one act that each performed that clearly shows them to be extraordinary, other than Abraham going to war to save his nephew Lot and praying that God not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah?
About the Author
Dr. Israel Drazin served for 31 years in the US military and attained the rank of brigadier general. He is an attorney and a rabbi, with master’s degrees in both psychology and Hebrew literature and a PhD in Judaic studies. As a lawyer, he developed the legal strategy that saved the military chaplaincy when its constitutionality was attacked in court, and he received the Legion of Merit for his service. Dr. Drazin is the author of more than 50 books on the Bible, philosophy, and other subjects.
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