Perhaps never in all man's history has something so valuable been purchased for so little! The major flaw in Esau's character reveals itself in his careless disregard of the high value of his birthright in favor of an immediate, sensual satisfaction. Unfortunately, far too many of us are like him. Esau was a man, so to speak, who could not see two blocks down a straight road on a crystal-clear day. Because immediate concerns dominated his life, living by faith was extremely difficult for him.
Either he had no vision, or his personality demanded instant gratification. The things that he valued were those he could have right away. Notice verses 32 and 34. To paraphrase he says, "What good is the birthright if I have to wait for it?" Apparently, he either did not consider making a sacrifice to retain it at all or quickly passed over the thought. Therefore, he hungrily gratified his appetite and went his way, much like the harlot who, after plying her trade, unconcernedly says, "I have done no harm."
However, Moses writes, "Esau despised his birthright"! Despise is a strong word, meaning "to be scornful" or "to treat with contempt." Notice Paul's remarks about this in Hebrews 12:16: ". . . lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright." Paul judges him as "profane," which marks a person as irreverent toward what is sacred. The Greek word literally describes one standing in front of a temple (where God dwells) rather than within it, suggesting one not admitted into the body of true knowledge. Esau displays his profanity by treating something hallowed—his birthright—as if it were common.
Esau further demonstrates this perversity in his thinking in his choice of wives (Genesis 26:34-35). He is unconcerned about God, the things of God, and the future. His mind is elsewhere; he is worldly. The Christian must live in the present dealing with life's problems as they come to him, but always with the future, the Kingdom of God, in mind.
God's Word depicts Esau's worldliness through the medium of eating. Eating something he desired at the moment meant more to him than a tremendously valuable gift of God. Though he became very wealthy, the Bible ignores his death, which oftentimes indicates something ominous. It is worth meditating upon how much satisfying immediate cravings and yearnings, perhaps even for food, presents a stumblingblock to our pleasing God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Two)
How did Esau come to be of a mind that he could sell his birthright so easily? Can we follow the same path but in a spiritual sense? What must we do to cherish rather than despise our far more glorious inheritance?
What Esau despised was no small thing. Even if we disregard the earlier promises given to Abraham and Isaac of descendants as numerous as the sand of the seashore, the Promised Land of Canaan, royal dynasties, and the gates of their enemies, Esau stood to inherit a literal fortune. As we have learned over the years, the birthright contained a two-fold promise: physical promises and spiritual promises. We can see this in summary in Genesis 12:1-3:
Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
What a wonderful inheritance for Abraham's descendants! God promises a national homeland, national greatness (power and prosperity), and national prestige. Abraham's descendants would ultimately be a force for good on the planet, especially because from Israel would come the Messiah.
If we consider just what Esau would inherit when Isaac died, it still was quite a huge amount of wealth. In Genesis 24:35, Abraham's servant says to Rebekah's family, "The LORD has blessed my master greatly, and he has become great; and He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys." Just a chapter later, Moses records, "And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac," except for "gifts" that he bestowed on his other sons by his concubines (Genesis 25:5-6).
The birthright was customarily passed down from father to eldest son. Being Isaac's eldest son (verse 25), Esau would have stood to gain quite a lot, at least in the way of wealth. A bowl of lentils hardly compares to "flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys"! How could he have despised his awesome inheritance so easily?
What was Esau's problem? He did not treasure his inheritance! Jesus tells us in His Sermon on the Mount, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21). People usually only sell something when they value something else more. Esau did not place a high-enough value on the birthright, so he sold it for a pittance.
What Is Your Lentil Soup?
As the two became young men, their talents and personalities became evident, and it is here that another dimension enters into their rivalry. It seems that their parents played favorites, as unfortunately occurs too often in families. Such favoritism only heightens the competition between siblings.
This is the account of their first significant conflict, and the differences in their personalities come to the fore. Jacob had a nose for opportunity, and once he recognized that Esau was in a position of weakness, he started negotiating. He was very much a businessman and a wheeler-dealer, trying to get the advantage of his rival, but especially in the areas that really matter. Thus, he made a bold stroke, reaching for the birthright, that is, the double portion of inheritance that came to the firstborn.
By his reply, Esau showed that he had little grasp of the worth of the birthright. In fact, he valued his life far above his inheritance. He said to Jacob, in effect, "Look, if I survive, this birthright may be of some profit, but right now I will trade anything to live." In essence, he counted his birthright as worth no more than a meal! Esau's major problem was that he could not properly discern what was truly important. The Bible's portrait of him suggests that his complete attention fell on whatever was before him at the time, and thus he took no thought of the future, whether of blessings or problems or consequences. In wits, then, he was no match for cunning Jacob.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part One)
Genesis 25:27-29 helps us to zero in on what Esau treasured. Each of these short sentences tells us how much Esau treasured hunting. When a person is known to be skillful in some area, it can be assumed that he spent large amounts of time and energy honing his craft. That Isaac loved to eat the results of Esau's hunts validated the younger man in his love of hunting. Finally, when a man wearies himself by doing a task with all of his might, it points to where his interests lie—what he loves doing.
The Interlinear Bible renders Genesis 25:27 as, "And Esau became a man knowing hunting, a man of the field." "Field" is sadeh, translated as "country," "field," "ground," "land," or "soil." Vine's comments, "This word often represents the 'open field' where the animals roam wild." This verse could be read, "Esau was . . . a man of the wild," indicating where he felt most comfortable. He treasured his time out in the wild, and he had dedicated his life to pursuing the chase. By treasuring this "wild" existence over his birthright, Esau displayed how irresponsible he was toward it.
Would we want to bequeath our wealth to a child who was not preparing himself to govern it? It would be similar to the Prodigal Son taking his inheritance and squandering it (Luke 15:11-13). He, like Esau, was not disciplined and trained to govern it. If most of Esau's time was spent out in the wild, how would he have been able to tackle the responsibilities of governing flocks and herds, gold and silver, male and female servants, donkeys and camels, as well as being his family's head and leader?
Perhaps he should have stayed in the camp like Jacob so he would not have lost the vision of a wonderful time to come contained in his inheritance. Jacob obviously valued it, although he obtained it by trickery and deceit. He also showed himself capable of governing it, as he seemed to know plenty about managing flocks and herds, as Genesis 29-30 bear out. Laban prospered greatly from Jacob's expertise, and Jacob then prospered himself.
In Genesis 25:29, Esau came in from the field "weary." Some versions render it "faint." I can relate to this situation, having grown up hunting and fishing. In younger days, I would rather hunt than eat, and I often did. I remember coming home from a hunting trip on shaky legs, ready to eat anything, even if I did not like it. Esau came home in this condition and did his thinking and reasoning in this weakened state. Instead of reasoning with his head, he let his stomach decide.
His flesh was doing all the "thinking," as we see in his response to Jacob's opening offer: "And Esau said, 'Behold I am going to die; and what good is this birthright to me?'" (verse 32). Was he really so famished that he was going to die? Would he have said this had he been more involved with his inheritance and working with it?
If he had taken just a moment to think about his inheritance and what was involved, he would never have made such a rash decision. This could not have been the only food in the camp of a very wealthy man like Isaac; it was merely the first food he came to. Esau, the favorite of his father, could easily have gone to his father and told him what Jacob had tried to do and received food to satisfy his hunger. But he did not want to wait—he wanted immediate gratification of his fleshly desires. He thought he had to have it right away.
It is worthwhile to note that Esau sold his birthright when he came in from hunting and had his blessing stolen from him when he went out to hunt (Genesis 27:5). He lost his entire inheritance while doing what he liked to do the most—being out in the wilderness hunting. While there is nothing wrong with hunting, there is a lesson in Esau's single-minded pursuit of his physical desires.
What Is Your Lentil Soup?
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Genesis 25:29: