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For overhead presentation: Esau Overhead
[Genesis 25, 26 & 27;
don’t read, just mark your place.] There
is no story throughout human history that is more tragic than the story of Esau.
Esau, as the first-born son, had it all:
His portion of the inheritance was the double portion and the birthright.
The birthright is the
advantages accruing to the eldest son. These
were not definitely fixed things in patriarchal times, but great respect was
paid to him in the household, and as the family widened into a tribe, this grew
into a sustained authority, undefined except by custom, in all matters of common
interest. [Numbers 7:2]
The "princes" of the congregation had probably rights of
primogeniture (the state of being the firstborn).
Gradually the rights of the eldest son came to be more
definite: (1) The functions of the priesthood in the family with the paternal
blessing. (2) A "double portion" of the paternal property was allotted
by the Mosaic Law. (3) The eldest son succeeded to the official authority of the
father. The first-born of the king was his successor by law.
(2 Chronicles 21:3) In
all these Jesus was the first-born of the father.
As Scripture shows, the birthright is not something that should be
lightly esteemed; it’s something that we should put a high value on. Esau’s story is a lesson for us all.
Isaac, the son of Abraham, found
himself in a similar situation as his father had been:
His wife was barren and he needed a son; children were a form of social
security. Not only did he
personally need one, but also God had promised that Abraham’s offspring would
be great. Isaac, however, did
not follow the same crooked policy as his father (concerning Hagar &
Ishmael), although we will see later that he followed a different crooked
policy. [Genesis 26:4]
Twenty years he continued unblessed with offspring, whose seed was to be
"as the stars". But in answer to their mutual prayers, Rebekah was
divinely informed that she was to be the mother of twins, who should be the
progenitors or direct forefathers of two independent nations; that the
descendants of the younger should be the more powerful and subdue those of the
other [2 Chronicles 21:8].
25:22] tells us [Genesis 25:22]. Apparently,
this was some time before she gave birth, and it was not quite normal.
She had apparently inquired of others and was told that it was not
normal, so she went to seek information from Jehovah. Sarah is informed that [Genesis 25:23]. It was as if they were already struggling for mastery.
When time for birth
came, [Genesis 25:25,26]. The name, “Esau”, is from uncertain origins.
The word Esau has been generally considered to imply made,
formed, perfected, or robust, etc. But it appears to be a dialectical variation
of the Arabic atha, to be covered with hair; whence athai, hairy,
as no doubt the word Esau imports, in allusion to the circumstance of his being
covered with red hair or down at his birth.
(If we derive it from asah it must signify made, performed,
and, according to some, perfected; [Arabic] esa in Arabic
signifies to make firm or hard, and also to come to man's
estate, to grow old. Probably
he had this name from his appearing to be more perfect, robust.)
we may not be certain where the name “Esau” originated, we do know where
this word “hairy” comes from. It
is from the Hebrew word “sa’ir”, which is translated in some places
as hairy and some places “kid”, as in goat.
Number 18:17 tells us that goats are holy.
The lost are never referred to as holy.
I did discover something interesting while studying, though.
I’ve often though, “How could anyone confuse a person, not matter how
hairy, with a goat?” I grew up
around animals my whole life, and I’ve never seen a hairy person who felt like
a goat. Well, the goats in Israel
have soft, supple fur that is often used for wigs.
So, Esau was a healthy, robust, Israeli goat.
whose name is from akab, to defraud, deceive, to supplant,
in other words, to overthrow a person by tripping up his heels. Hence
this name was given to Jacob, because it was found he had laid hold on his
brother's heel, which was symbolical of his supplanting Esau, and defrauding him
of his birthright. This is
appropriate both in the current situation here in Genesis 25:26 (the grabbing of
the heel at birth), and it will be appropriate in the future in which Jacob
boys grew, from the beginning, they were opposites in manner and custom.
Esau became “a cunning hunter, a man of the field,” i.e., a
man wandering about in the fields. What is the field? [Matthew 13:38; keep your
tells us Esau was his father's favorite, for “venison was in his mouth,”;
he was fond of it. But Jacob was
“a pious man” (verse 27 says “plain”, but it’s the same word); this
Hebrew word used here denotes a disposition that finds pleasure in the quiet
life of home. Not dwelling or
living in tents, but sitting in the tents at other times, pondering, in contrast
with the wild hunter's life led by his brother; hence he was his mother's
favorite. Esau is a man of the
world; Jacob is a man of faith.
When the boys were about fifteen years old, Esau came in from the field and
was faint with hunger. According to
the Targum of Jonathan (an explanatory translation or paraphrase sometimes
passed down orally), this happened in the day in which Abraham died.
[2 Kings 4:38; keep your place.] Pottage
is the food of mourners and prophets. This food, which was a dainty, possibly prepared for this
reason, would have been irresistibly tempting to someone just out of the field
who had not been successful. Esau,
was obviously unfamiliar with it, as he said (in the Hebrew), “Let
me eat, I pray thee, some of this red red thing”.
(Incidentally, from this, Esau received the name “Edom”, or
Jacob, a pious man,
realized the importance of the birthright; he esteemed it.
The birthright entailed not only the double portion of his father’s
worldly goods in the future, but also spiritual blessings (the blessing was
usually earned, but the birthright was automatic).
Esau, being a man of the world, did not esteem the spiritual blessings,
nor did he look to the future. His
mind was in the present in the world.
There is plenty of
evidence that he knew what he was giving away, but because of the daily risks he
took, he did not value the possibility of his inheritance.
How many of us today aren’t concerned with the future?
It could be the daily cares of life or it could just be an attitude of
“I’m number one”. But, you
need to be concerned with the future. Esau
showed himself to be a profane person who cared for nothing but the present. [Genesis 25:34] The
words in Genesis 25:34 judges and condemns the behavior of Esau.
He despised the birthright. “Despise”
means to hold in contempt or disdain; he despised the birthright.
Don’t despise the birthright; don’t be a profane person.
During the famine
talked about in chapter 26, Isaac and his family move to the land of the
Philistines. There, Esau, still
demonstrating his unconcern for righteousness, marries two daughters of the
Philistines instead of those of his family in Mesopotamia.
He didn’t just move one, but two of the idolatrous women into the
house. This undoubtedly created
much dissension and unrest in the family of Isaac.
I can almost feel the tension still, emanating from these pages.
When Isaac was 137
years old and knowing his death was eminent, he sent his eldest son out to the
field to bring back venison, which pleased Isaac greatly, after which, he would
bless him. (Isaac loves the world,
doesn’t he? Remember the field is
the world.) Scripture does not say
if Isaac was ignorant of, or simply ignoring the revelation of God that said the
elder shall serve the younger. Also,
Scripture does not say if Isaac was even aware of the sale of the birthright to
Jacob, so we can only assume he does. (The
blessing is usually part of the birth right; Isaac doesn’t seem to care that
Esau is unrighteous.) Isaac, as
much of the Christian world today, is not simply forgiving of unrighteousness,
but also accepting of the ways of the world if those ways please him, or if he
gains by those ways. How many of us
here today are guilty of this?
Isaac’s intentions, contrives a plan to get the blessing for Jacob.
Her intentions are good, but the methods are crooked.
Esau had sold the birthright to Jacob; even so, taking advantage of the
infirmities of an old man is not righteous.
If she had gone to Isaac and reminded him of the promise and of the
selling of the birthright and of the unrighteousness of
Esau (marrying the Canaanite and Hittite women), he would most likely have
voluntarily bestowed the blessing upon Jacob.
Instead, she used bad means to achieve good ends; the ends were the will
of God, but there were serious consequences for taking things into her own
The center of the chiastic structure is revealed when Esau returned from
the field and the deception of Rebekah and Jacob is discovered.
The words in [Genesis 27:30] are very important:
“Jacob is just going out” and “his brother hath come in” rings to
mind how they were born. Jacob
simply thinks he has realized his destiny as revealed in a revelation from
When the deception
was discovered, Isaac trembled violently (Genesis 27:33) and Esau cried with an
exceedingly great and bitter cry (Genesis 27:34). Isaac could not take back the blessing and the oracle from
God was fulfilled.
Esau stated his
hatred for his brother and vowed to kill him when his father died.
Rebekah had to heap more lies to cover the actions of the previous
deceptions. When she heard of
Esau’s intentions to kill Jacob, she wanted to send Jacob away to Laban’s.
But, in order to do this, she told Isaac that it was to prevent Jacob
from marrying a Hittite as Esau had done. By
her deceptions, she had lost (spiritually) one son (Esau); she didn’t want to
lose another one. Well… she lost
him any way; she never saw him again. Her
deceptions and her attempt at achieving the will of God through her own means
had cost her both sons.
Esau, seeing Jacob blessed and sent away to take a wife,
still wants to please his father. Knowing
that they see the Canaanite women as evil, he takes a daughter of Ishmael as his
wife. Remember, Ishmael was the
first child of Abraham, but not the blessed line.
Esau once again, turns to the way of the world and his own understanding
to please his father. By failing to take into account the spiritual, he is still
departed from righteousness. We
need to learn that we can’t achieve righteousness through our own worldly
After many years,
Jacob returned to the land. Esau
came out to meet him with 400 men, either to scare him or to show what a mighty
prince he had become. Jacob did not
know if Esau’s intentions were still to kill him. Think about it; the last time you saw your brother, he vowed
to kill you, you show up and he meets you with 400 men… When they met, Esau embraced him as a brother and gave him
The story of Esau
is one that teaches many spiritual lessons, but the types involved should be
considered at great length. These
types give a necessary foundation for understanding other spiritual truths.
10:11] [Hebrews 12:15,16]
“Profane” means treating something sacred with irreverence or
contempt or one who debases by an unworthy use.
We are admonished to not be as Esau.
Don’t be a goat!
In type, what was Esau? Matthew
13:38 says, “and the field is the world”.
In type, Esau was a man of the field or a man of the world.
(Where do goats eat and live?) We
are not to live for this world because [Galatians 6:8].
By living in the
world, we are losing our inheritance. What
is inheritance? It is the
birthright of the first-born; it’s what we get from our Father.
Esau forfeited his birthright; his inheritance; to satisfy fleshly
gratification; it was his to lose! To
receive the birthright, one must be the first-born son; mature.
But, we can lose it. This is
not talking about salvation, because, thank God, we can never lose that!
Being a first-born son first requires being a son.
In all three sections of Scripture where Christians are
presently referred to as “sons,” adoption is also in view.
In both Romans and Galatians, in the Greek text, the word huiothesia (the
word translated as “adoption”, or literally “son-placing”) appears in
the context of the verses where Christians are referred to as “sons”.
(Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5) In
Hebrews, adoption is seen in the context as well, though from a different
perspective. It is seen following the verses referring to Christians as
“sons” (in Hebrews 12:16,17 —verses forming the heart of the fifth and
final major warning in the book, dealing with Esau [the firstborn] forfeiting
his birthright). We can see that as
Christians, we must be adopted or placed as a first-born son, to receive an
inheritance in the coming Kingdom. We
can lose that inheritance! This is
not talking about salvation!
Finally, we have types of those who are called and those
who are elect. The called must come
from the family; the elect are chosen from the called. Jacob and Esau were both called; Esau lost out.
Not all Christians are called; not all who are called will be elected.
was a man who potentially had everything that could be desired, but he wasted it
all on one moment’s gratification of the flesh.
He lived for the world instead of for the spiritual.
Let Esau’s life serve as an antitype:
Don’t live for the world; don’t be a goat.
Live for God today, and esteem your inheritance.
Don’t live in the field and try to please man through your own designs;
live for God that you may achieve the blessed hope and be adopted as a
first-born son that you may receive a double portion.
Serve God that you may be found acceptable in His sight and that your
inheritance won’t be laid waste as was Esau’s.