21 And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not. 22 And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. 24 And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am. 26 And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son. 27 And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed:
Isaac is showing strong skepticism that this is, in fact, Esau before him. He is surprised that his son would be back so quickly with the venison and the voice sounds more like Jacob’s. And so he attempts to settle his mind, testing Jacob by feeling him, smelling him, and asking him questions.
Later, when the real Esau arrives for his blessing, Isaac immediately realizes what Jacob has done, showing that he still had misgivings, even after giving the blessing. But in truth, it didn’t matter. For God was not fooled, and the blessing was God’s to give. Isaac was merely the mouthpiece.
This chapter is full of charade and drama, and frankly I think it is nothing more than human theater. We like to think that we determine the hand of fate in our own lives, but all of our antics are only a façade, flashy but ultimately weightless. All we really choose is what sort of person we want to be, and everything that follows is determined by God. Jacob had chosen his identity, Esau had chosen his, and then God chose their according fates. And if Jacob had not fooled his father or if Isaac had figured out the trickery earlier…nothing would have changed, God would have still worked things out just as He intended.