Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.
Jacob’s name meant “supplanter.” This account shows us how Jacob lived up to that name. Esau, as the firstborn twin, was to be the recipient of the birthright blessing from his father Isaac. But Jacob, understanding the value of the birthright more than Esau did, desired the birthright for himself and his descendants. Jacob schemed to get the birthright blessing from his brother.
On a particular day, Jacob was cooking a stew when Esau came in from the fields very hungry. He was so hungry that he felt physically weak and desired food immediately (verse 29). Jacob, seizing on Esau’s moment of weakness, offered to feed him in return for Esau’s birthright blessing. Esau, being driven by his hunger and emotion, foolishly reasoned that he would die without Jacob’s stew—and what good would the birthright be to a dead man?
Esau then swore to sell his birthright to Jacob in return for the stew (verse 33). We are told that Esau “despised his birthright” (verse 34). This does not mean that Esau hated his birthright—later we will see that it did have value to him (Genesis 27:38). This means that Esau did not place a high enough value on the birthright. He allowed his momentary hunger to cloud his judgment and did not think past the feeling in his belly to grasp what he was truly giving up and how it would affect his descendants.
The book of Hebrews draws a spiritual lesson from Esau’s action. Esau is used as an example of someone who falls from God’s way and becomes bitter and spiritually defiled (Hebrews 12:15). We are warned not to be a “profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright” (verse 16).
The point for Christians today is that we must value our spiritual inheritance as the most precious thing in our lives and not give it up for anything! We are called to inherit the spiritual promises made to Abraham (Galatians 3:29). Our inheritance is eternal life in the Kingdom of God (Romans 8:17; Titus 3:7; James 2:5).
We should not regard anything—neither food nor any care of this life—as more valuable than that inheritance!
To learn more about the inheritance you were destined to receive, read our article on the purpose of life.
Tomorrow on the Daily Bible Verse Blog: “Abraham Kept God’s Laws.”