Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.Genesis 25:32
Esau's weakness and fall in the presence of his overmastering temptation.
I. Esau's good qualities are very evident, being of the kind easily recognized and easily popular among men, the typical sportsman who is only a sportsman, bold and frank and free and generous, with no intricacies of character, impulsive and capable of magnanimity. The very opposite of the prudent, dexterous, nimble man of affairs, rather reckless indeed and hotheaded and passionate. His virtues are, we see, dangerously near to being vices. Without self-control, without spiritual insight, without capacity even to know what spiritual issues were, judging things by immediate profit and material advantage, there was not in him depth of nature out of which a really noble character could be cut. This damning lack of self-control comes out in the passage of our text, the transaction of the birthright. Coming from the hunt hungry and faint, he finds Jacob cooking porridge of lentils and asks for it. The sting of ungovernable appetite makes him feel as if he would die if he did not get it. Jacob takes advantage of his brother's appetite and offers to barter his dish of pottage for Esau's birthright. Esau was hungry, and before his fierce desire for food actually before him such a thing as a prospective right of birth seemed an ethereal thing of no real value. He feels he is going to die, as a man of his type is always sure he will die if he does not get what he wants when the passion is on him; and supposing he does die, it will be poor consolation that he did not barter this intangible and shadowy blessing of his birthright. 'Behold I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birth right do to me?'
II. This scene where he surrendered his birthright did not settle the destiny of the two brothers—a compact like this could not stand good for ever, and in some magical way substitute Jacob for Esau in the line of God's great religious purpose. But this scene, though it did not settle their destiny in that sense, revealed the character, the one essential thing which was necessary for the spiritual succession to Abraham; and Esau failed here in this test as he would fail anywhere. His question to reassure himself, 'What profit shall this birthright do to me?' reveals the bent of his life, and explains his failure. True self-control means willingness to resign the small for the sake of the great, the present for the sake of the future, the material for the sake of the spiritual, and that is what faith makes possible. He had no patience to wait, no faith to believe in the real value of anything that was not material, no self-restraint to keep him from instant surrender to the demand for present gratification. This is the power of all appeal to passion, that it is present with us now, to be had at once. It is clamant, imperious, insistent, demanding to be satiated with what is actually present. It has no use for a far-off good. It wants immediate profit.
III. But it is not merely lack of self-control which Esau displays by the question of our text. It is also lack of appreciation of spiritual values. In a vague way he knew that the birthright meant a religious blessing, and in the grip of his temptation that looked to him as purely a sentiment not to be seriously considered as on a par with a material advantage. How easy it is for all of us to drift into the class of the profane, the secular persons as Esau; to have our spiritual sensibility blunted; to lose our appreciation of things unseen; to be so taken up with the means of living that we forget life itself and the things that alone give it security and dignity. We have our birthright as sons of God born to an inheritance as joint heirs with Christ. We belong by essential nature not to the animal kingdom, but to the Kingdom of Heaven; and when we forget it and live only with reference to the things of sense and time, we are disinheriting ourselves as Esau did.
—Hugh Black, University Sermons, p. 121.
Reference.—XXV. 32.—J. C. M. Bellew, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 139.
Esau Despised His Birthright
Dr. Marcus Dods says: 'It is perhaps worth noticing that the birthright in Ishmael's line, the guardianship of the temple at Mecca, passed from one branch of the family to another in a precisely similar way. We read that when the guardianship of the temple and the governorship of the town fell into the hands of Abu Gabshan a weak and silly man, Cosa, one of Mohammed's ancestors, circumvented him while in a drunken humour, and bought of him the keys of the temple, and with them the presidency of it, for a bottle of wine. But Abu Gabshan being gotten out of his drunken fit, sufficiently repented of his foolish bargain, from whence grew these proverbs among the Arabs: More vexed with late repentance than Abu Gabshan; and more silly than Abu Gabshan—which are usually said of those who part with a thing of great moment for a small matter.'
References.—XXV. 34.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Genesis, p. 198. J. Keble, Sermons for Lent to Passiontide, p. 104. C. C. Bartholomew, Sermons Chiefly Practical, p. 183. W. Bull, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii. p. 100. Archbishop Benson, Sundays in Wellington College, p. 190. G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 77. J. Keble, Sermons for Lent to Passiontide, p. 104. XXV.—F. W. Robertson, Notes on Genesis, p. 71.
And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.
And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim.
And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.
And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.
But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.
And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years.
Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.
And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre;
The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.
And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi.
Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's handmaid, bare unto Abraham:
And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam,
And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa,
Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah:
These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations.
And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people.
And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria: and he died in the presence of all his brethren.
And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham begat Isaac:
And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian.
And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the LORD.
And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.
And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.
And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.
And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.
And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.
And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:
And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.
And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.
And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.
Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.