Space dictates we be brief in the summary of the text that brings about our question for this article. Genesis chapter twenty-five records how Esau, the older of the two sons of Isaac, sold his birthright to his younger brother, Jacob (Gen. 25:24-34). The standard for the time was that the first born son received a double portion of his fathers estate as well as receiving a blessing from his father. This was considered his “birthright”. Esau literally traded his birthright to his younger brother for some bread and pottage of lentiles.
There are a number of questions that might arise concerning this event and there are also a number of lessons that we might glean from it. We might first consider whether the actions of the younger brother might be far from noble to say the least. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are presented as the fathers of the nation of Israel and always presented in high esteem. Yet, the actions of Jacob in this situation might be questionable. What righteous person could possibly withhold food already prepared from a brother who is hungry and faint? How could that younger brother even consider asking for his brother’s birthright in exchange for a bit of food? Cain asked God if he was his brother’s keeper (Gen. 4:9). Though an answer was not needed for that question, we can know assuredly that the answer is, “yes, you are your brother’s keeper” (Matt. 25:34-40). Another consideration along these same lines however involves the fact that it was God’s intention that the elder would serve the younger (Gen. 25:23). Since Esau was the elder and due the birthright, and in addition to that Isaac loved Esau more than he did Jacob, it was by way of trickery here and later when Rebekah interferes with the status quo by having Jacob feign being Esau to receive the blessing due to Esau (Gen. 27), that Jacob was the one who became the vein through which the entire nation of Israel would come. Though it may not seem fair and just, what God intended to come to pass is just exactly what came to pass.
Secondly, what could possibly posses a man to make such a rash, thoughtless and foolish deal as Esau made with his brother. Esau was already back among his people and could surely find food to eat without making such a deal. The value of the two offers of the deal were ridiculously unequal. It was like someone saying they will give you a marble for the family farm. The discrepancy of value is far, far too large for it to be reasonable. So what could possibly posses a man to agree to such a deal? Based upon what we see in verse thirty-two, Esau had a case of spiritual myopia. He was looking at the here and now rather than the then and there. An inheritance in the future may well have seemed a small thing at the time, but later when he realizes his loss, he realizes just how vast a loss it was (Gen. 27). It would do us well to recognize that that one day, we will be judged of our actions upon this earth and in this life. We will have to give account of ourselves before the Lord (II Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:12; Acts 17:31). The price of making a ridiculous deal for some tidbits of pleasure in this life in exchange of an eternal life in heaven will be devastating to say the least. Esau said, “…and what profit shall this birthright do to me?” (Gen. 25:32). Jesus said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37).
Now, it would not be unthinkable that many would scoff at what Esau did, saying that no one could be that crazy. Yet, if one spends time in the Bible, he will find time after time that others made just such foolish deals as well. They traded their relationship with God for things that could be considered trivial to say the least. Start with the first two humans to live upon the face of the earth and explain how they could be so foolish as to trade their relationship with God for a piece of fruit when they had an abundance of fruit at their disposal? Explain how a man after God’s own heart, David the king of Israel, could jeopardize his position in the eyes of the Lord for a night in the arms of another woman when he had wives of his own and the freedom to take more. And of course, explain the rationale for one of the Lord’s chosen apostles to betray Him for a mere thirty pieces of silver.
Oh, but you say that you certainly would not have fallen prey to such foolish decisions as did those just mentioned either? Let us see. There are multitudes of people today who refuse to obey the truth of the gospel of Christ for multitudes of reasons. Sometimes it is simply because that is not what they have always believed or practiced. Sometimes it is because it is not what is popular and people might call them names for standing firm on God’s word. It may be that they are too interested in the material things of this life or that they enjoy the lust of the flesh too much to give them up to serve God. In every one of these cases, just as with Esau and the others mentioned, it is a foolish deal. It is simply not worth it to trade your soul for a bowl of soup. Esau “despised his birthright” (Gen. 25:34). You can do the same! (Send any questions of comments to: email@example.com)
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.