Vol. 7, No. 8
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Esau returned home exhausted from his hunting excursion in the field. Driven by hunger, his first thoughts turned to the all-you-can-eat buffet at "the Tent Dweller's Restaurant" (Genesis 25:27). The Record says, "And Esau said to Jacob, 'Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary'" (v. 30). The Hebrew phrase translated, "feed me," means let me swallow or let me gulp. Table manners didn't matter to Esau; he simply wanted his usual1 hearty meal of red lentil soup.2
According to the waiter, the "current market price" for the soup of the day was one birthright. "But Jacob said, 'Sell me your birthright as of this day'" (v. 31). The hunter's need for sustenance was so intense that he agreed to the exorbitant price (v. 32). Jacob offered his elder sibling a bowl of soup on the condition that Esau would make an oath3 before God as to his intentions. Esau consented and the two brothers exchanged destinies over a single meal. Call it a patriarchal "power lunch."
The birthright referred to the right of the first (born) or "primogeniture." It was typically4 bestowed upon a man's eldest son and included at least three factors: (1) a double-portion of the father's estate (Deuteronomy 21:17), (2) the responsibility of providing for the family's physical welfare, and (3) spiritual oversight of the entire clan (Genesis 18:19; cf. 22:9; 26:25; 35:1).
Sadly, the only aspect of the birthright that absorbed Esau's thinking was the double-portion (cf. Genesis 27:31). He was a man of "the here and now" and attached no value to the eternal aspects of his inheritance. Note: "And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright" (Genesis 25:34). It is interesting to observe that Scripture judges Esau's conduct--not Jacob's.5 The word "despise" means to disesteem. It is elsewhere rendered disdain or condemn. Esau underestimated his heritage. It would have not only given him possession of Isaac's property, but it would have put him in the ancestral line of the Promised Seed (cf. Genesis 12:1-3; 17:1-8; Galatians 3:16)!6 Commenting on this occasion, the Hebrew writer said, "Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright" (Hebrews 12:16). To "profane" something is to make that which is sacred common or temporal. This is exactly what Esau did; he sold his hallowed birthright for a simple bowl of red soup.
"How foolish," you might say. How foolish, indeed. Brethren, how many of us are guilty of quite the same thing today? How many of us trade time with our wives and children for our vocation? We exchange our eternal lineage (cf. Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:1; 2 Timothy 1:5) for temporal wealth and prestige. How many of us trade a thorough study of the Sacred Word for hours of watching television? How many of us trade Sunday evening communion with the Sovereign God of the universe for a football game (i.e., the Super Bowl) on Sunday night? (Ironically, some "shepherds" of the local flock even move or cancel worship services for such an event!) Shades of Esau! How many of us trade Lord's Day morning worship for late-night activities Saturday evening?
How many of us change entertainment and recreation for the opportunity and privilege of serving needy saints? How many of us trade involvement in secular service organizations (e.g., Kiwanis, Rotary, etc.) for the honor of teaching a Bible class in our home congregation? How many of us trade the blessing a generous contribution for excessive credit card debt?
Beloved, we like Esau, have a birthright (Romans 8:16-17; Hebrews 12:23). And when we fail to live up to its demands and privileges, we forfeit the inheritance our Father wants to bestow upon us (cf. 2 Peter 3:9). Esau paid far too much for the soup of the day. What about you, dear child of God? Will you cherish your right of the first, or will you despise it (Matthew 16:26)? Think about it.
1 Evidently he had eaten Jacob's soup before (v. 29).
2 Lentils referred to the edible seeds from a plant pod.
3 An oath was a promise made with a solemn appeal to God to render judgment in the event the promise was not accomplished.
4 Exception (1 Chronicles. 5:1-2).
5 Jacob had the right goal, but not the right method. He tried to "help" God (v. 23) along by his own actions.
6 Note: "Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob..." (not Esau) (Matthew 1:2).