Chapter 28:1-9 (ESV) - Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women. Arise, go to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel your mother's father, and take as your wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother's brother. God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham!” Thus Isaac sent Jacob away. And he went to Paddan-aram, to Laban, the son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob's and Esau's mother.
Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women,” and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram. So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham's son, the sister of Nebaioth.
Question to consider: What sign in this passage points to the repentance of Isaac?
At the end of chapter 27, Rebekah made an appeal to Isaac that Jacob should go back to her hometown and marry from among the daughters of her brother, Laban, so that he would not take the path of Esau in marrying from among the Canaanites.
Her appeal must have done its work because Isaac finally realized that the true son of promise could not be someone who married from among the Canaanites. So before Jacob could leave, Isaac called to him and blessed him with the birthright that Esau had despised when offered the stew. Beyond the wealth and flocks and power of Isaac’s estate, the promise to take possession of the land was the true gift from God for it pointed to the everlasting kingdom that would be ushered in by Jacob’s descendant, Jesus. This blessing was given without deceit or manipulation. It is obvious that neither Jacob nor Isaac were worthy of this blessing, but it was brought about by the grace and sovereignty of God Almighty.
There are a couple of different rabbinical views on the motivation of Esau in marrying his uncle Ishmael’s daughter. The first is that Esau had his own realization that he had acted wickedly in marrying the Hittite women. So his marriage to Mahalath was an act of repentance. This is based on the fact that instead of becoming a man of war and exacting revenge on Jacob like he originally vowed, he prospers and deals peacefully with his brother after Jacob returned from Paddan-aram many years later.
The second view is that Esau formed a plot against Isaac with Ishmael to one day kill him, Jacob and all of his descendants in an attempt to inherit the blessing. This is based on the fact that Esau did not divorce the wicked Hittite wives.
If those are the only two options, I supposed I’d lean toward the first given that his encounter with Jacob many years later was peaceful. In his marriage to Mahalath, Esau seemed to have set aside his anger and built a life for himself and his family. Though he doesn’t divorce the Hittite women, it’s apparent that they no longer had influence over him.
Dear heavenly father, thank you for sovereignly bringing Isaac and Jacob to the place where the birthright was freely given without deceit or manipulation. Help us to trust that You are sovereignly bringing us to the consummation of Your plan of salvation for the world. While we wait for Christ’s return, we ask You to keep us focused on using the gifts You have given us to bring You glory and serve our neighbor. Amen.