Unlike another question that asks about the vague prophecy Rivkah was given about her twins, I ask specifically about Itzhak's statement to Esav:

... וְאֶת־אָחִיךָ תַּעֲבֹד ...׃ - And you shall serve your brother; Genesis.27.40

As I can see, most commentators skip this part of Isaac's prophecy. Unlike the other question, this verse has a proper grammatical form "את אחיך" similar to "אֶת ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ תִּירָא אֹתוֹ תַעֲבֹד", meaning serving and worshipping, this verse states clearly that Esav should subserve to Yaakov.

Was it really a blessing or a prophecy? If a blessing, what kind of blessing is that? If a prophecy, what does this mean for Esav and when was it fulfilled?

  • biu.ac.il/jh/parasha/vayshlah/reg2.html לפי המדרש יעקב קרא לעצמו 'א-ל',
    – The GRAPKE
    Nov 22, 2020 at 22:19
  • @TheGRAPKE And therefore...
    – Al Berko
    Nov 22, 2020 at 22:20
  • Further, one of the names of mashiach is Hashem. "Therefore" I do not know ( :-) ), but halo davar hu, as per your diyuk.
    – The GRAPKE
    Nov 22, 2020 at 22:30
  • @TheGRAPKE Did you mean that it says that Esov will serve God?
    – Al Berko
    Nov 22, 2020 at 22:34
  • No, I meant that Esav will serve Yaakov who is God's representative.
    – The GRAPKE
    Nov 22, 2020 at 22:47

3 Answers 3


Rav Hirsch says that as long as you (Eisav) insist on physical mastery of the world, then he will only come to lay it down at the feet of Yaakov. It is only when he understands the spiritual requirements of man will he understand what it means to be part of the family of Abraham.

As long as you persist in ruling, looking on and using every material conquest only as the step for further conquests, for so long you are in reality working for your brother (only proving to the world and ultimately to yourself, the futility and lack of security which the power of the sword really acquires I.L.). As long as you are רב, for so long will רב יעבד צעיר, only כאשר תריד when you com down by your own free will, voluntarily acknowledge and submit yourself to the ideals of your brother, will you emancipate yourself and stand on an equal footing to your brother

  • Interesting, doesn't he think that Eisov (Romi) gave the world the best thinkers, philosophers, scientists and artists of their time? Also, what does "he will only come to lay it down at the feet of Yaakov" mean?
    – Al Berko
    Nov 22, 2020 at 22:38
  • Also "submit yourself to the ideals of your brother", what ideas of ours exactly? Does he elaborate?
    – Al Berko
    Nov 22, 2020 at 22:40
  • 1
    @AlBerko The gemarah brings the point that no matter how good or advanced the materialistic advances, they still only are worth while if they serve Hashem. The ideals of your brother are what were taught through the entire Torah. I quoted the exact citation on that pasuk. The remainder are found in the rest of Rav Hirsch's comments. Nov 23, 2020 at 2:09
  • Where is the source for this?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Oct 9, 2023 at 19:57

The full pasuk is important for context:

וַיַּ֛עַן יִצְחָ֥ק אָבִ֖יו וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֑יו הִנֵּ֞ה מִשְׁמַנֵּ֤י הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ יִהְיֶ֣ה מֽוֹשָׁבֶ֔ךָ וּמִטַּ֥ל הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם מֵעָֽל׃ וְעַל־חַרְבְּךָ֣ תִֽחְיֶ֔ה וְאֶת־אָחִ֖יךָ תַּעֲבֹ֑ד וְהָיָה֙ כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר תָּרִ֔יד וּפָרַקְתָּ֥ עֻלּ֖וֹ מֵעַ֥ל צַוָּארֶֽךָ׃

And his father Isaac answered, saying to him, “See, your abode shall enjoy the fat of the earth and the dew of heaven above. Yet by your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow restive, you shall break his yoke from your neck.”

The Seforno says:

ופרקת עלו מעל צוארך. כי אמנם תהיה מלומד מלחמה ומוכן לגדולות אבל אם בשעובדך תפנה אל עבודת האדמה ושאר המלאכות לא תהיה חפשי לעולם משעבוד אחיך או משעבוד זולתו:

...Because indeed you will be a scholar of war and ready for greatness, but if in your work (בשעובדך) you turn to the work of the land and the other crafts, you will never be free from the servitude of your brother or the servitude of others.

  • We all know to read interpreters, but I don't understand what it means. Can you elaborate please on your understanding of this interpretation?
    – Al Berko
    Jan 12, 2023 at 16:50

I saw in Ramdu (Rav Moshe Dovid Valle) it's literal. That Esav (Edom, Rome) literally wound up worshipping a Jew (JC).

Trying to find source.

Found source - fascinating piece, I included the whole section but the area with the green highlight the most relevant section.

Rav Moshe Dovid Valle, Ohr olam, parsha toldot on that pasook, p.63 to 64

Rav Moshe Dovid Valle, Ohr olam, parsha toldot on that pasook, p.63 to 64

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