Despising the Birthright

The story of Esau and Jacob is a story of God’s will, God’s blessing, and the human response to the Lord.  In the case of Esau, I think he knew what God had said to Rebekah and he knew what was ahead of him.  And so he resented and despised his own birthright.

24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. 26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.

27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)

31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his birthright.
Genesis 25:24-34

This story sets up the story which comes two chapters later when Jacob steals the blessing meant for Esau.  Isaac has a special relationship and affection for Esau.  Rebekah feels the same for Jacob.  And they both know that the Lord has determined that Esau will serve Jacob in contradiction to the birth order.

As they grow, they continue to be different as can be, and the stew story is an example of the kind of banter I hear in my own home.  Trade-offs and haggling over anything that moves.  Boys are boys.

Except the birthright is something very meaningful.  Especially in this family.  It cannot be a secret from either of them or their parents that Isaac is the promised child in the family which God has predestined to bless.  Remember that Abraham was honoured by neighbouring kings because they could see God’s hand on the family.

Jacob and Esau know the stories.  They must.  And the Bible reveals that Esau despised his birthright.  It’s a very strange statement, especially in a vignette about stew, unless there is something much bigger afoot.  Esau may very well know that God spoke to Rebekah.  He may resent that Jacob is special.  And he may know already that the future holds something unique for the two of them.

And Esau is tapping out.  I don’t need all this crap.  I just want to hunt and eat.  And then go back to my man cave.  Literally.  Maybe he wishes he was born into a different family.

This is real life.  Happens all the time.  And in some cases, people who know God’s will, yet because it doesn’t go in the direction they desire, tap out or beg off.  Esau is one of those guys…


Marc Kinna


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