Esau’s Birthright


*   (Gen 25:21-34 NIV)  Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. {22} The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, "Why is this happening to me?" So she went to inquire of the LORD. {23} The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger." {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 a quiet man, staying 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.


This is the story of how Esau, first born son of Isaac and Rebekah, gave up his birthright. Let’s note a few things.

1.       Rebekah’s pregnancy was an answer to Isaac’s prayer.

2.       Isaac received double what he probably asked for.

3.       When Rebekah became aware of the extraordinary pregnancy she inquired of the Lord, “Why is this happening to me?"

4.       The Lord revealed to her that she would yield from her womb

*   Two nations.

*   The peoples would be separated.

*   One of the peoples would be stronger than the other.

*   The older would serve the younger.

5.       She had twin boys

6.       Esau was the firstborn; his name may refer to him being hairy or perhaps rough. He was also known as Edom, which refers to his red complexion.

7.       Jacob was born next. His name refers to him being born holding Esau’s heel. Jacob most often is considered a word meaning “Supplanter.”

8.       Esau became a skillful hunter.

9.       Jacob was a quiet man and not a hunter.

10.   Isaac loved Esau more than Jacob. Possibly because Esau was a skillful hunter.

11.   Rebekah loved Jacob more than Esau.

12.   Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentil stew.



Although Jacob was a schemer and a deceiver, in this case it was Esau who was at fault

*   (Heb 12:16 NIV)  See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.

Esau says he is famished and about to die. But that was clearly a great exaggeration. People fast for days and even weeks. The problem here is that Esau had very little character. He was willing to give up something of potentially great value for a bowl of stew to satisfy his immediate craving. God had great plans for the offspring of Isaac; and Esau with Jacob undoubtedly had heard of those plans from Isaac. Even if he didn’t believe what he had been told he still gave up the double portion of his inheritance for a single portion. And Isaac was not a poor man.


There is a lesson to be learned from the story.  Failure to trust in God can have serious consequences. Failure to control our desires and impulses can be very costly. Those people that most often succeed are those people that can resist the temptation of the immediate pleasure. There is an area near the checkout counter that is designed to catch impulse buyers. Frequently the people that can least afford it are the ones that are smokers. They will take the momentary relatively cheap immediate pleasure of a cigarette over the more expensive and more desirable pleasure. Marriage after marriage fails when a husband or wife profanes the marriage bed for a brief adulterous affair. Many of us are not all that different from Esau.


God new from the beginning what kind of man Esau would be. We know that from what he told Rebekah before the boys were born, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger."


Perhaps it was inevitable that Jacob would steal the blessing of the firstborn form Esau. Perhaps it was even the right thing. Nevertheless, both Jacob and Rebekah paid a dear price for their skullduggery. But that’s a story for another time.


For now I will close with a few words I think convey the path to destiny. You may have seen these words framed and hung in the dining room.


Be Careful

Be careful of your thoughts

For your thoughts become your words.


Be careful of your words

For your words become your actions.


Be careful of your actions

For your actions become your habits.


Be careful of your habits

For your habits become your character.


Be careful of your character

For your character becomes your destiny.