Esau was the older of the twin sons born to Isaac and Rebekah. As he grew older, Esau became a skilled hunter, a man of the open country, and it was perhaps this nature that was so contrary to Isaac's own, which endeared the boy so much to his father, despite the fact that Jacob, the younger twin, was so much more like him.
God on the other hand, wasn't too endeared with the elder brother, as it is said:
Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated. (Romans 9:13)
While this statement shocks many, it is possible to see why Esau didn't find favor in God's eyes. On one occasion, for instance, Esau returned home hungry after a hunt, and showing his utter disdain for his birthright, he sold it for a bowl of pottage!
Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, "Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!"
Jacob replied, "First sell me your birthright."
"Look, I am about to die," Esau said. "What good is the birthright to me?"
But Jacob said, "Swear to me first." So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
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.
The birthright tradionally secured those who possessed it superior rank and priestly office in the family, a double inheritance, and the promise of the Seed in which all nations of the earth were to be blessed. God given, to despise it must prove very offensive to God.
His attempts to reclaim it later by obtaining his ailing father's blessings were foiled by the deviousness of his brother who, masquerading as Esau, took Isaac's blessings instead. When Esau found out, he begged his father to bless him too.
Isaac answered Esau, "I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?"
Esau said to his father, "Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!" Then Esau wept aloud.
His father Isaac answered him,
"Your dwelling will be
away from the earth's richness,
away from the dew of heaven above.
You will live by the sword
and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,
you will throw his yoke
from off your neck." (Genesis 27:37-40)
His weeping was not weeping of repentance but of bitterness, and this was expressed in a threat to kill Jacob, who feld for fear of his life. It would be thirty years before he returned, but the reunion when it happened was a reconciliatary one. The reconciliation was complete when their father died. Both brothers met beside the grave after which Esau left Canaan permanently and established himself as a powerful and wealthy chief in the land of Edom.
Esau had three wives. Two were women from Canaan, but when Jacob ran away to Haran to live with his uncle Laban, Esau tried to reconcile with his parents by marrying his cousin Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael. The relationship led him to cast in his lot with the Ishmaelite tribes, and after driving the Horites out of Mount Seir, he settled in that region.
Image titled "For a Mess of Pottage" is part of Marilyn Belford's Art Quilts
. Copyright © Marilyn Belford 2002. All rights reserved.