The right of the firstborn is known to us from the pages of the Holy Scriptures, where we learn that, from the earliest period of biblical history, the firstborn on the male side of a Jewish family was cherished by God. He also enjoyed special privileges, both legal and spiritual: he was given authority over his brothers. In today’s article, you will find some information about Esau, son of Isaac, and his brotherhood story.
Esau was the son of Isaac, his firstborn son who sold his birthright. Because he disobeyed God’s plans, Esau was murdered by Hushim, his brother’s nephew.
The birthright could have been traded, just as the exchange between Jacob and Esau was. The first dispute over the right of the firstborn in Scripture occurs when Jacob proposes to his elder² brother, Esau, son of Isaac, to give him the right of the firstborn for a meal of lentils. Not long after, Jacob also gained his father’s blessing by cunning. In his Epistle t,o the Romans, Apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, referring to this biblical episode, emphasizes precisely the divine decision.
Also, Rebekah, having twin children with Isaac, our father, and not yet born, and not yet having done anything good or bad, that the will of God might be done according to the election, not of works, but of Him who calls, it was said to her that the elder should serve the younger, as it is written: Jacob I loved, and I saw I hated.
What does the Bible say about Esau?
According to the Scriptures, Esau, son of Isaac, said that the need for food was more important than the inheritance at that moment and accepted the bargain. The thread of his life shows us that he was foolish and unwise: he married a Canaanite woman and lived from today to tomorrow without thinking about the future.
The Bible calls him worldly, which means that he was exclusively interested in the fleeting things of this world. His descendants became a tribe of nomads, while his descendants formed the people of promise.
The Bible says about Esau, son of Isaac:
- he was very hairy
- was born with red hair
- he was a hunter
The Bible also tells us that God changed his name to Edom, which means red. And it was given to Esau, Isaac’s firstborn and Jacob’s twin brother, when he sold his birthright to the latter for a bowl of lentils. The land the Lord gave to Esau, son of Isaac, was outside the land of Phagaducha, was called Edom, and his descendants were called Edomites.
Biography of Esau, son of Isaac
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Biblical places from the times of Esau, the son of Isaac
- Transjordan- Where is this region, and what is its significance?
- Edom- Is Edom a biblical land?
- Mount Seir- Where is located the actual Mount of Seir?
Meaning of Esau in the Bible
There once was a man named Isaac. At age 60, Isaac had twin sons, Esau and Lyakhov. Esau, son of Isaac, became a skilled hunter, a man of the game, while Lakhov, on the other hand, had more peaceful pursuits. One day, Esau came home tired and hungry. When he saw his brother stirring in a bowl of soup, probably made of lentils that smelled very tasty, he said to him: Jacob, give me some of your soup. I’m starving. And so Rebekah and Jacob’s plan to steal the birthright was fulfilled.
Esau in the Bible means hairy. The red and hairy one is the symbol of those who remain under the power of the devil. Esau, however, also represents the synagogue, which had integrity, but lost it through the sensual, literalist interpretation of the Law, later replaced by the Church represented by Jacob.
The hair indicates animality, the turning towards the telestial, and the redness is reminiscent of the color of the lentil boil, the greed of the womb from which bodily sins derive.
Key Verse related to Esau
See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral or godless like Esau, who sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son and firstborn for a single meal.
Why did God choose Jacob over Esau?
It was through Isaac, his father, that Isaac was to acquire the divine gifts that Isaac had received from Abraham. Esau, son of Isaac, however, sells his birthright for a pot of lentils, placing more value on the satisfaction of the womb than on the spiritual stature of divine choice. Then, by marrying a foreign woman and not a woman of the same clan as Jacob, Esav becomes a source of bitterness to his parents. Esau has disregarded his birthright.
God chose Jacob over Esau because Esau neglected his birthright.
Things could have been reversed³, but God decided in His full sovereignty to love Jacob and hate Esau. The Edomites, the descendants of Esau, are named just a few verses later: the people against whom God has been forever arrayed. Esau was originally the chosen one. He was the firstborn and, therefore, the one entitled to inherit his father’s house and enjoy his father’s blessing. He was the one Isaac loved most.
Why didn’t Isaac bless Esau too?
Esau was Abraham’s grandson, also called God’s friend. He was fifteen years old when he attended his grandfather’s funeral. He had grown up on his grandfather’s knee, listening to him talk about God’s beautiful promises. According to the biblical account, it all falls apart on one ordinary day when a strong contender emerges against hunger: lentil soup. Paul relates that for a meal, Esau sold his birthright.
Isaac did not bless Esau, too, because he sold his birthright and betrayed him.
The case of the brothers Jacob and Esau is not the only one in Scripture regarding the exception to the rule of the firstborn. God paid more attention to Abel than to Cain, Joseph more than his older brothers, and David more than his older brothers. Emperor David left his throne to Solomon, one of his younger sons.
Who are the modern descendants of Esau?
Edom was a mountainous land where men like Esau, son of Isaac, solid and skilled hunts, could survive. The Bible records that soon after Isaac’s death, Isav settled on Mount Seir, driving out the Horites. The land lies along the road the Israelites followed, the Road of Kings. It stretched from the Gulf of Aqaba, with the port city of Elath, to Moab and Judah in the north.
The modern descendants of Esau are the Edomites. That is the nation of Jews nowadays.
They have four life stages: birth, maturity, marriage, age, and death. The first actual event in the Jewish life cycle is the ceremony that marks the acceptance of the newborn child into the congregation of Israel, the Jewish people. For a boy, it is Brit Milah, circumcision. For a girl, it is the ceremony of receiving a name. Edom remained under Israeli occupation with Israelite governors. After Solomon, it became a territory belonging to Judah. At one point, the Edomites joined the Ammonites and Moabites in a revolt against Jehoram.
- The Edomites prospered in southern Palestine for the next four centuries until Judah Maccabeus conquered them.
- His mind didn’t perceive that he was always blessed. And that by his birth, he was worshipping God. He would be given to rule his house and the whole nation. God would have strengthened him in his portion of the inheritance if he had been a soberer in deed and thought.
- The firstborn had the right of inheritance and held the central authority in the family and community. And inherited all the positions held by his father, not to mention receiving most of the family wealth.
The Lord chose Esau, son of Isaac, but he did not want this. And this was known even before he was born. Because from his mother’s womb, he was fighting with his brother, who considered himself more worthy of the title. God did not turn his face away from him, however, and blessed him with a life of 147 years and a reconciliation with his brother, who had deceived him with a simple plate of food.