Genesis 25:29

I. THE TWO KINGDOMS, that of material force and that of moral power, are thus represented in contrast and rivalry.

II. GOD'S WAYS AND MAN'S WAYS CONTRASTED. The partialities of the parents foster the special faults of the children. Esau is more the man of fleshly impulse because Isaac loved him for his venison. Jacob is more the crafty supplanter because Rebekah by her favoritism encouraged him to take advantage of his brother.

III. THE IMPORTANCE OF HOME LIFE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHARACTER. The sins of parents are generally in some form transmitted to children. Esau's new name was Edom, memento of his selfish succumbing to appetite. Jacob's new name was Israel, memento of the victory which by the grace of God he obtained. "Esau despised his birthright." It was the natural working of a sensual nature. We begin by yielding to the lower impulses without thinking how they bind their cords round us. At last we lose the power of distinguishing a mere passing evil from an overwhelming danger, and when we ought to fight, cry, I am at the point to die; then in wretched collapse all goes. What is this birthright, what profit?

1. The loss of the sense of responsibility.

2. The absorbing hunger after present gratification.

3. The blindness to all proportion in life.

4. The dullness and stupidity of the animalism which does not even care for the very birthright itself, though it is an earthly advantage.

These are the fearful payments which they have to render who, like Esau, give themselves up to a mere life of the flesh. - R.







Esau despised his birthright.
The story of the birthright shows us what kind of a man Esau was: hasty, careless, fond of the good things of this life. He had no reason to complain if he lost his birthright. He did not care for it, and so he had thrown it away. The day came when he wanted his birthright, and could not have it, and found no place for repentance that is, no chance of undoing what he had done — though he sought it carefully with tears. He had sown, and he must reap. He had made his bed, and he must lie on it. And so must Jacob in his turn.

I. IT IS NATURAL TO PITY ESAU, BUT WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO DO MORE; WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO FANCY FOR A MOMENT THAT GOD WAS ARBITRARY OR HARD UPON HIM. Esau is not the sort of man to be the father of a great nation, or of anything else great. Greedy, passionate, reckless people like him, without due feeling of religion or the unseen world, are not the men to govern the world or help it forward.

II. GOD REWARDED JACOB'S FAITH BY GIVING HIM MORE LIGHT; by not leaving him to himself and his own darkness and meanness, but opening his eyes to understand the wondrous things of His law, and showing him how that law is everlasting, righteous, not to be escaped by any man; how every action brings forth its appointed fruit; how those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind.

III. IT IS THE STEADY, PRUDENT, GOD-FEARING ONES, WHO WILL PROSPER ON THE EARTH, and not poor, wild, hot-headed Esau. But those who give way to meanness, covetousness, falsehood, as Jacob did, will repent it, the Lord will enter into judgment with them quickly.

(C. Kingsley, M. A.)

In forfeiting his birthright to his younger brother, Esau gave up —

1. The right of priesthood inherent in the eldest line of the patriarch's family;

2. The promise of the inheritance of the Holy Land;

3. The promise that in his race and of his blood Messiah should be born. Esau parted with all this because, as he said in the rough, unreflective common-place strain which marks persons of his character even now, and which they mistake for common sense — "He did not see the good of it all." "What good shall this birthright do me?"

I. IN MATTERS OF KNOWLEDGE WE FIND MEN DESPISING. THEIR BIRTHRIGHT. Knowledge is power; but as the maxim is used now, it is utterly vulgarizing. Knowledge not loved for itself is not loved at all. It may bring power, but it brings neither peace nor elevation to the man who has won it. If we cultivate knowledge for the sake of worldly advantage, what are we doing but blaming farewell to all that is lasting or spiritual in knowledge and wisdom, and taking in exchange for it a daily meal?

II. AGAIN, AS CITIZENS, MEN DESPISE THEIR BIRTHRIGHT. If, when it is given them to choose their rulers, they deliberately set aside thinkers; if they laugh at and despise the corrupt motives which affect the choice of rulers, and yet take no serious step to render corrupt motive impotent — then there is a real denial and abnegation of citizens to act on the highest grounds of citizenship.

III. WE ARE IN DAILY DANGER OF SELLING OUR BIRTHRIGHT IN RELIGION. Esau's birthright was a poor shadow to ours. Esau had priesthood; we are called to be priests of a yet higher order. Esau had earthly promises; so have we. Esau had the promise of Messiah; we have the knowledge of Messiah Himself.

IV. THE LOST BIRTHRIGHT IS THE ONE THING THAT IS IRRETRIEVABLE Neither good nor bad men consent that a forfeited birthright should be restored.

(Archbishop Benson.)

Esau repeats here, as we all of us repeat, the history of the fall. Man's first sin was despising his birthright. The fruit of the tree was Eve's mess of pottage; the friendship, the Fatherhood of God, was the birthright which she despised.

I. WHAT IS A BIRTHRIGHT? Briefly, it is that which combines high honour with sacred duty; it confers dignity and power, but it demands self-abnegation and unselfish work. Each of us is born with a birthright. God's infinite realm is large enough to confer on each one of us ,a title, and to demand in return a correspondent duty and work. The prize we strive for and have a right to strive for is the wealth of the universe through eternity.

II. WHAT IS IT TO DESPISE A BIRTHRIGHT? ESAU despised his birthright by holding it cheaper than life. All shrinking from the pain and sacrifice which are ever found in the path of duty is a despising of the birthright, a counting ourselves unworthy of the place in the mansion which God has made us to occupy.

III. THE INEVITABLE FRUIT: the brand of reprobate. Esau was rejected as "under proof." God sought a son: He found a slave; He marked him, like Cain, and sent him away. The birthright which we despise as a possession will haunt us as an avenger, and will anticipate upon earth the gloom of the second and utter death.

(J. B. Brown, B. A.)

Esau may be regarded as the founder of the Epicurean sort, of all whose motto and philosophy of life is, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." Such is the chief lesson of this history. But this history, considered in itself, shows us that both the parties to this bargain are to blame. It was unrighteous business, and altogether discreditable to the two brothers engaged in it. This is evident if we —

I. CONSIDER THE PARTIES ENGAGED IN THIS TRANSACTION AS ORDINARY MEMBERS OF SOCIETY.

1. As to Jacob's conduct.

(1)It was marked by unkindness unworthy of a brother. His conduct was most unfeeling.

(2)It was marked by low cunning. To take an unfair advantage of his brother's need was a mean device.

2. As to Esau's conduct.

(1)He abandoned himself to the delights and temptations of appetite.

(2)He was lacking in a true sense of honour and nobility.

(3)He was unconcerned for the peace of the future.

II. CONSIDER THE PARTIES ENGAGED IN THIS TRANSACTION AS RELIGIOUS MEN.

1. As to Jacob's conduct.

(1)It was irreverent. This birthright was a sacred thing, dignified with a religious importance; yet Jacob, in a most profane manner, mixes it up with things secular. He makes it a commercial business of the meanest order.

(2)It showed a want of faith in God.

(3)It was contrary to the broad, free spirit of true piety.

2. As to Esau's conduct.

(1)It showed a powerlessness to resist temptation.

(2)It was profane.

(a)He preferred the present to the future.

(b)He preferred the sensual to the spiritual.

(c)He preferred the near and certain to the distant and probable.

(T. H. Leale.)

Let us consider —

I. WHETHER THERE BE NOT A BIRTHRIGHT WHICH WE MAY SELL; OR BLESSINGS TO THE ENJOYMENT OF WHICH WE ARE BORN, BUT WHICH WE MAY FORFEIT. Compare our state with that of —

(1)The inferior creatures;

(2)The fallen angels;

(3)The heathen.

II. FOR WHAT CONSIDERATION THEY WHO SELL THIS BIRTHRIGHT PART WITH IT.

(J. Benson, D. D.)

1. They differed in appearance.

2. They differed in pursuits.

3. They differed most in character.

I. THE BIRTHRIGHT.

1. Not worldly prosperity.

2. Not immunity from sorrow.

3. The birthright was a spiritual heritage.It gave the right — which ever belonged to its possessor — of being the priest of the family or clan. It carried the privilege of being the depositary and communicator of the Divine secrets. It constituted a link m the line of descent by which the Messiah was to be born into the world. The right of wielding power with God and men; the right of catching up and handing on — as in the old Greek race — the torch of Messianic hope; the right of heirship to the promises of the covenant made to Abraham; the right of standing among the spiritual aristocracy of mankind; the right of being a pilgrim of eternity, owning no foot of earth, because all heaven was held in fee — this, and more than this, was summed up in the possession of the birthright.

II. THE BARTER. We cannot exonerate either of these men from blame. Jacob was not only a traitor to his brother, but he was faithless towards his God. Had it not been distinctly whispered in his mother's ear that the elder of the brothers should serve the younger? Had not the realization of his loftiest ambition been pledged by One whose faithfulness had been the theme of repeated talks with Abraham, who had survived during the first eighteen years of his young life? He might have been well assured that what the God of Abraham had promised He was able also to perform; and would perform, without the aid of his own miserable schemes. But how hard is it for us to quietly wait for God! We are too apt to outrun Him; to forestall the quiet unfolding of His purposes; and to snatch at promised blessings before they are ripe. And as for Esau, we can never forget the beacon words of Scripture, "Look diligently, lest there be any profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright" (Hebrews 12:15). Yet let us, in condemning him across the ages, look close at home. How many are there amongst ourselves, born into the world with splendid talents; dowried with unusual powers; inheritors of noble names; heirs to vast estates; gifted with keys to unlock any of the many doors to name, and fame, and usefulness — who yet fling away all these possibilities of blessing and blessedness, for one brief plunge into the Stygian pool of sensual indulgence! And the appeals to sense come oftenest when we are least expecting them. These appeals, moreover, come in the most trivial things. One mess of pottage; one glass of drink; one moment's unbridled passion; one afternoons's saunter; a question and an answer; a movement or a look. It is in such small things — small as the angle at which railway lines diverge from each other to east and west — that great alternatives are offered and great decisions made.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

Homilist.
I. A TRUE IDEA OF LIFE. Esau felt himself at the point of death, and all men are at this point.

1. The period of our mortal life.

2. The nature of our mortal life. The moment we begin to live, that moment we begin to die.

II. A TRUE IDEA OF WEALTH. Esau felt that his birthright was nothing to him when he died, and how patent this truth! Lessons:

1. To the aspirant for wealth. How foolish this eagerness. You are reaching after that which is no sooner clasped than let go for ever.

2. To the possessor of wealth.

(1)Do not set your heart upon your possessions, because you will soon leave them.

(2)Use them for purposes that will yield you happiness for ever.

(Homilist.)

Homilist.
I. THE CUNNING MAN.

1. He waited for the right opportunity.

2. He employed the likeliest means of gaining his object.

3. He took no account of natural ties.

4. He made the compact irrevocable.

II. THE SENSUAL MAN.

1. He lacked resolution.

2. He despised an honourable position.

3. He lost sight of the future. Conclusion: Both characters are unjustifiable.

(Homilist.)

Hundreds and thousands of people are showing exactly the same sort of contempt for spiritual privileges which God. extends to them to-day as Esau showed for the birthright. The hundreds and thousands with whom the present overbears the future; who allow the body, with its appetites and passions, to drown the voice of conscience, or obscure the vision of promise; who place things temporal before things spiritual, the world before heaven, the present before the eternal; who say of spiritual privileges, "What profit shall they be to me?" or, "What earthly use are they?" Let us take one or two very common and ordinary examples.

1. How few recognize the privilege of public worship as a privilege, as well as a clear duty! How readily is the privilege exchanged for something else, at the very smallest opportunity! — a country walk, a chat with a friend who happens to drop in just as you are starting for church, a call, some pleasure which might very well wait. A man hears the church bell ringing, and he debates within himself whether he will go or not go. It is just the merest matter of self-pleasing. There is no thought of the duty he owes to God; and as for the privilege, he would stare at you if you suggested it. "Privilege! Where is the privilege? What profit am I going to get out of it? It will not increase my wages, or find me work, or lower the price of bread! Privilege! What are you thinking about?" And so it ends in his finding "something better to do"! Something, that is, that is pleasing to the senses, or which helps him temporally. In other words, "he eats and drinks, and goes his way, and despises his Christian birthright."

2. Or take the case of one's private devotions; the reading of the Bible, and so forth. You are later than you should be in getting up. That puts other things late. There is much to be done which must be done, but something must be sacrificed, something must give way, What is it to be? The adornment of the body must not be neglected; household business must not be interfered with; prayers! they must give way. "I have no time to say any prayers this morning! " "No time! " No time for communion with God; for that which will make all the difference to your whole day! But then, it is a spiritual privilege!

3. I need hardly remind you of the contempt of that greatest of all privileges, which is so sadly common, the Holy Communion.

(J. B. C. Murphy, B. A.)

I. JACOB'S BARGAIN. Selfish and impatient.

II. ESAU'S SIN.

1. Sensuality.

2. Worldliness.

3. Recklessness.

(W. S. Smith, B. D.)

This blessing was principally spiritual and distant, having respect to the setting up of God's kingdom, to the birth of the Messiah, or, in other words, to all those great things included in the covenant with Abraham. This was well understood by the family; both Esau and Jacob must have often heard their parents converse about it. If the birthright which was bought at this time had consisted in any temporal advantages of dignity, authority, or property to be enjoyed in the lifetime of the parties, Esau would not have made so light of it as he did, calling it "this birthright," and intimating that he should soon die, and then it would be of no use to him. It is a fact, too, that Jacob had none of the ordinary advantages of the birthright during his lifetime. Instead of a double portion, he was sent out of the family with only "a staff" in his hand, leaving Esau to possess the whole of his father's substance. And when more than twenty years afterwards he returned to Canaan, he made no scruple to ascribe to his brother the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power, calling him "my lord Esau," and acknowledging himself as his "servant." The truth is, the question between them was, which should be heir to the blessings promised in the covenant with Abraham. This Jacob desired, and Esau despised, and in despising such high blessings was guilty of profaneness.

(A. Fuller.)

I. THE WEARY HUNTER.

II. THE CRAFTY DESIGNER.

III. THE UNFAIR ADVANTAGE. Learn:

1. Divine wisdom is better than human craft.

2. Generosity is more noble than selfishness.

3. A good object will not justify unworthy means.

4. What was our birthright, compared with what Jesus has secured for us?

(J. C. Gray.)

1. Gracious hearts take up those spiritual things which carnal men refuse.

2. Good souls may desire the best security for spiritual privileges, even in the way of having them from men. Swear to me, &c.

3. Souls spiritual are instantly desirous of spiritual things. This day.

4. The just desires of good men may be an occasion of sin to the wicked.

5. It is proper for wicked hearts to swear and sell away all the tokens of spiritual advantages.

6. God's providence orders wicked hearts in putting away from themselves mercy which was otherwise bequeathed by grace to them (ver. 33).

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

1. Heavenly souls easily part with earthly for heavenly things, lentils for a birthright.

2. Carnal souls go away very well contented with sensual portions.

3. Sensual men despise and count vile the choicest of spiritual privileges.

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

Lentils were and are extensively and carefully grown in Egypt, Palestine, and Syria; those of Egypt were, at a later period, particularly famous; and the manner of cooking them is even immortalized on monuments. They are not only used as a pottage, but in times of scarcity, and more generally by the poor, they are baked into bread, either alone or mixed with barley. Lentils and rice, boiled in equal quantities, form still one of the favourite dishes in many parts of the East. When cooked, they are of a yellowish brown colour, approaching to red; some species, growing on a red soil, have this colour naturally; and hence Esau, in his haste, calls the dish simply the red one. The fact, that lentils were among the cheapest and most common articles of vegetable food, enhances the force and point of our narrative. The privileges which the birthright legally confers; the double portion of the father's property; the higher authority in the family; the greater social influence; all these advantages, in this instance enhanced by spiritual blessings as their most precious accompaniment, could have no value for one who regarded his existence merely as the transitory play of an hour; and who was indifferent to the esteem of others, because he had not risen to understand the dignity of mankind. If we were to expect a historical allusion in this fact also, the probable supposition offers itself, that indeed the Edomites, who were masters of the wide tracts from the Red Sea along the whole mountain of Seir, up to the very frontiers of Palestine, might, with a little exertion, have extended their dominion over the land of Canaan; that, with a little degree of ambition and self-control, they might have become a respected and mighty nation; but that their thoughtless and ferocious habits kept them in the dreary solitudes, far from the chief scenes of history and civilization. It is known that the Mohammedans long kept the memory of this transaction alive by distributing daily to poor people and to strangers lentils prepared in a kitchen near the grave at Hebron, where they believed the cession of the birthright took place.

(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)

The people of the East are exceedingly fond of pottage, which they call keel. It is something like gruel, and is made of various kinds of grain, which are first beaten in a mortar. The red pottage is made of kurakan, and other grains, but is not superior to the other. For such a contemptible mess, then, did Esau sell his birthright. When a man has sold his fields or gardens for an insignificant sum, the people say, "The fellow has sold his land for pottage." Does a father give his daughter in marriage to a low-caste man, it is observed, "He has given her for pottage." Does a person by base means seek for some paltry enjoyment, it is said "For one leaf" (namely leaffull) "of pottage he will do nine days' work." Has a learned man who has given instruction or advice to others stooped to anything which was not expected from him, it is said "The learned one has fallen into the pottage pot." Of a man in great poverty, it is remarked, "Alas! he cannot get pottage." A beggar asks, "Sir, will you give me a little pottage?" Does a man seek to acquire great things by small means, "He is trying to procure rubies by pottage." When a person greatly flatters another, it is common to say, "He praises him only for his pottage." Does a king greatly oppress his subjects, it is said, "He only governs for the pottage." Has an individual lost much money by trade, "The speculation has broken his pottage pot." Does a rich man threaten to ruin a poor man, the latter will ask, "Will the lightning strike my pottage pot?"

(Roberts.)

Luther was told of a nobleman who, above all things, occupied himself with amassing money, and was so buried in darkness that he gave no heed to the word of God, and even said to one who pleaded with him, "Sir, the gospel pays no interest." "Have you no grains?" interposed Luther; then he told this fable: — "A lion making a great feast, invited all the beasts, and with them some swine. When all manner of dainties were set before the guests, the swine asked, 'Have you no grains?'" "Even so"; continued Luther, "even so it is in these days with carnal men; we preachers set before them the most dainty and costly dishes, such as everlasting salvation, the remission of sins, and God's grace; but they, like swine, turn up their snouts and ask for money. Offer a cow a nutmeg and she will reject it for old hay."

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Which brother presents the more repulsive spectacle of the two in this selling of the birthright it is hard to say. Who does net feel contempt for the great, strong man, declaring he will die if he is required to wait five minutes till his own supper is prepared; forgetting, in the craving of his appetite, every consideration of a worthy kind; oblivious of everything but his hunger and his food; crying, like a great baby, "Feed me with that red!" So it is always with the man who has fallen under the power of sensual appetite. He is always going to die if it is not immediately gratified. He must have his appetite satisfied. No consideration of consequences can be listened to or thought of; the man is helpless in the hands of his appetite — it rules and drives him on, and he is utterly without self-control; nothing but physical compulsion can restrain him. But the treacherous and self-seeking craft of the other brother is as repulsive; the cold-blooded, calculating spirit that can hold every appetite in check, that can cleave to one purpose for a life-time, and, without scruple, take advantage of a twin-brother's weakness. Jacob knows his brother thoroughly, and all his knowledge he uses to betray him. He knows he will speedily repent of his bargain, so be makes him swear he will abide by it. It is a relentless purpose he carries out — he deliberately and unhesitatingly sacrifices his brother to himself. Still, in two respects, Jacob is the superior man. He can appreciate the birthright in his father's family, and he has constancy.

(M. Dods, D. D.)

Had the birthright been something to eat, Esau would not have sold it. What an exhibition of human nature! What an exposure of our childish folly and the infatuation of appetite! For Esau has company in his fall. We are all stricken by his shame. We are conscious that if God had made provision for the flesh we should have listened to Him more readily. "But what will this birthright profit us?" We do not see the good it does: were it something to keep us from disease, to give us long unsated days of pleasure, to bring us the fruits of labour without the weariness of it, to make money for us, where is the man who would not value it — where is the man who would lightly give it up? But because it is only the favour of God that is offered, His endless love, His holiness made ours. this we will imperil or resign for every idle desire, for every lust that bids us serve it a little longer.

(M. Dods, D. D)

Old Testament Anecdotes.
A Sunday-school teacher remarked that he who buys the truth makes a good bargain. I inquired if any scholar recollected an instance in Scripture of a bad bargain. "I do," replied a boy, "Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage." A second said, "Judas made a bad bargain when he sold his Lord for thirty pieces of silver." A third boy observed, "Our Lord tells us that he makes a bad bargain who to gain the whole world loses his own soul."

(Old Testament Anecdotes.).

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