The story of the stolen blessings is often understood as a contest between the two brothers for the legacy of Abraham and Isaac, with Isaac mistakenly taking Esau to be the worthy heir, and Rebecca, knowing the true nature of her elder son, devising the plan that would place Jacob at Isaac's bedside at the crucial moment.

However, a closer reading of the Torah's account indicates that Isaac was well aware of the difference between his two children. Jacob almost gave himself away when he said, in reply to his father's question about how he managed to find game so quickly, "The L-rd your G‑d sent me good speed"; Isaac knew that Esau did not speak that way, and immediately suspected that the son before him was Jacob rather than Esau.

In fact, by the time we reach the end of the story, it is quite clear that Isaac never intended to bequeath the spiritual legacy of Abraham—the Divine promise to make his seed a great nation and to give them the Holy Land as their eternal heritage—to Esau.

When Esau discovers that Jacob has received the blessings, he begs Isaac, "Bless me, too, my father!" "But I have made him your master," says Isaac, "I have given him [the blessings of] grain and wine. What can I do for you now, my son?" "Have you only one blessing, my father?!" sobs Esau. "Bless me too, my father!" Finally, Isaac blesses Esau that "Of the fatness of the land shall be your dwelling, and of the dew of heaven above" (the fat of the land and the dew of heaven themselves having already been granted to Jacob), and promises him that should the descendants of Jacob sin and become unworthy of their blessings, they will forfeit their mastery over Esau's descendants in material affairs. This is the best he can do for his beloved elder son.

But in the very next chapter we read how Isaac summons Jacob to him, and... blesses him. "May G‑d Almighty bless you," says Isaac, "make you fruitful, and multiply you, and you shall become a populous nation. And may He grant you the blessing of Abraham, to you and your descendants, that you may inherit the land of your dwelling, which G‑d has given to Abraham"--blessings which had not been included in his earlier benedictions to either son.

So Isaac never intended to make Esau the father of the people of Israel, never thought to bequeath the Holy Land to him, never considered him heir to "the blessing of Abraham." There were two distinct blessings in Isaac all along (Esau seems to have sensed this when he cried, "Have you only one blessing, my father?!"), intended for his two sons: Jacob was to be given the spiritual legacy of Abraham, while Esau was to be granted the blessings of the material world.

Isaac desired that a partnership should be formed between his two sons: that the scholarly, unworldly Jacob should devote himself to spiritual pursuits, while Esau should apply his cunning and worldliness to the constructive development of the material world, in support of and in harmony with Jacob's holy endeavors.

Rebecca disagreed: both worlds must be given to Jacob. There cannot be "two departments," for the material world cannot be entrusted to materialists. Only one who is steeped in the Divine wisdom can know how to make proper use of G‑d's world. Only one who possesses a spiritual outlook and value system will be able to master the physical reality rather than be mastered by it.