The Sale of a Birthright.

Plate 5: Isaac telling Esau to hunt for meat at left and Jacob and Rebekah at right, from Genesis 27, after a lost fresco in the basamento of Bay 5 of the Vatican Loggia by Pietro Santi Bartoli is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

Bible Stories

Now that Esau had reached adulthood, he had little interest in either his birthright or the blessing that God had promised. But Jacob, who was a very clever man, had a strong desire to own the birthright that was going to pass to Esau once their father passed away. Once, Esau returned home after a day of hunting, exhausted and hungry. When he glanced over at Jacob, he saw that Jacob was holding a bowl of tasty food that he had just prepared for supper. And Esau said:

“Give some of the crimson-colored substance that’s in the dish to me.” Will you not be so kind as to share some of it with me? “I am hungry.”

And Jacob’s response was, “I will give it to you, but first and foremost, you must sell your birthright to me.”

And Esau responded, “What good is the birthright to me in this situation when I am so close to losing my life from starvation?” “You are allowed to enjoy my inheritance, provided that you also give me something to eat.”

After that, Esau made Jacob a solemn vow that he would hand over his birthright to Jacob in exchange for a bowl of food. It was not proper for Esau to care so little about his birthright and God’s blessing, but it was also not fair for Jacob to deal with his brother in such a selfish manner.

In the years that followed, when Esau was forty years old, he eventually got married to two different women. Although this would be considered very immoral in our day, back then it was not considered immoral at all; in fact, even morally upright men were allowed to have many wives. However, Esau chose to wed two women from the people of Canaan, and both of these ladies worshipped idols instead of the one and only true God. And they taught their children to pray to idols as well. As a result, those who came from Esau—the people who were his descendants—were very wicked and lost all knowledge of God.

Isaac and Rebekah were very saddened by the fact that their son Esau chose to wed women who worshipped idols rather than God. Despite this, Isaac loved his energetic son Esau more than he loved his quiet son Jacob. However, Rebekah preferred Jacob over Esau.

Isaac eventually reached an advanced age, becoming frail and blind to the point that he could hardly see anything. One day he spoke to Esau:

“I am quite old, and I do not know how much longer I have left to live, my son.” But before I pass away, I would like to pray that the blessing of God be upon you, your children, and all of your descendants. You are my eldest child, and I love you very much. “Go out into the fields and with your bow and arrows capture some animal that is excellent for food, and then bring me a plate of prepared meat that you know I adore, and once I have eaten it, I will give you the blessing.” Now, Esau should have explained to his father that the blessing was no longer his to claim since he had already parted ways with it and given it to his brother Jacob. But he did not share this information with his father. He set out into the forest to go hunting in order to track down the species of meat that his father enjoyed eating the most.

At this point, Rebekah was listening carefully, and she overheard every word that Isaac said to Esau. She was well aware that it would be more beneficial for Jacob than Esau to get the blessing; furthermore, she loved Jacob more than she did Esau. Therefore, she called and informed him of what Isaac had said to Esau. She continued by saying:

“If you, my son, listen to what I have to say and carry it through, the blessing will be bestowed upon you rather than your brother.” You should go to the pastures and bring me two young kids from the goats, and I shall prepare them in the same manner that Esau does the meat that he prepares for your father. “And you will take it to your father, and your father will mistake you for Esau, and he will bestow the blessing on you, even though it actually belongs to you.”

“Now, my son, pay attention to what I say.”
But Jacob answered, “You are aware that Esau and I are not alike in any way.” His neck and arms are hairy, but mine are smooth. He has facial hair as well. When my father examines me, he will discover that I am not Esau. As a result of this, I am worried that instead of bestowing a blessing upon me, he will instead cast a curse upon me.

But Rebekah reassured her son, “It makes no difference; just carry out the instructions I’ve given you, and I’ll look after you.” “Do not be afraid; if there is any danger, it will come to me; therefore, bring the meat here as immediately as possible.”

Then Jacob went and collected a pair of young kids from one of the flocks, and his mother prepared a dish of food using those young kids so that it would have a flavor that was just to Isaac’s taste. Rebekah then went and retrieved some of Esau’s clothing and clothed Jacob in them. She also put some of the skins of the kids on his neck and hands so that his neck and hands would feel rough and hairy to the touch.

Then Jacob went inside the tent belonging to his father, who had brought the meal, and while trying to sound as much like Esau as possible, he said:

“Here I am, my father.”
And Isaac answered, “Who are you, my son?”

And Jacob said, “I am Esau, your eldest son; I have done as you have commanded me; now sit up and eat the meal that I have cooked, and then give me your blessing as you have promised me.”

And Isaac asked, “How come you were able to find it in such a short amount of time?”

Jacob responded by saying, “Because the Lord your God guided me in the right direction and blessed me with success,”

Isaac was unsure that it was his son Esau, so he told him to “come close and let me feel you, so that I may know that you are really my son Esau.” Jacob did as he was told, and Isaac was convinced that it was his son.

And Jacob drew near to Isaac’s bed, and Isaac stretched out his hand and caressed Jacob on his face, neck, and hands, and then he declared, “I am your father.”

“May the nations of the world bow down to you.”
“The hands seem to be those of Esau, even if the voice sounds like it belongs to Jacob.” “Are you really my son, Esau?”

And Jacob deceived his father by claiming, “I am,” even though he was not.

The elderly man then ate the meal that Jacob had brought him, and he kissed Jacob, thinking that Jacob was Esau. After that, he bestowed the blessing on Jacob and said to him, “Be blessed.”

“I pray that God would bless you with an abundance of grain and wine, as well as the dew from heaven and the riches of the ground.” You deserve to have all people and countries surrender to you and kneel at your feet. I pray that you will have authority over your brother and that your family and the descendants that come from you will have authority over his family and the offspring that he has. “Those who bless you should be blessed, while those who curse you should be cursed.”

After Jacob had finished receiving the blessing, he immediately got to his feet and started running away. He had hardly left the house when Esau returned from hunting with a dish of food that he had prepared earlier in the day. And then he stated:
“Please allow my father to sit up and bless me once he has eaten the meal that I have brought for him.”

Isaac responded by asking, “Why, who are you?”

Esau said, “I am your son, your eldest son, Esau.”

And Isaac, trembling, spoke the following words: “Who then is the person who came into the room and delivered the meal to me?” “I also blessed him as I was eating his meal, and I believe that he will remain blessed.”

When Esau heard this, he realized immediately that he had been tricked, and he wailed loudly and angrily, “I have been cheated!” “Oh, my dear Father, my younger brother has disinherited me by robbing me of my blessing, just as he did when he stole my birthright.” But are you unable to bestow a second blessing upon me as well? “Have you handed over all of your belongings to my brother?”

And Isaac told him everything he had said to Jacob and made him the leader of his brother’s family.

But Esau pleaded with Isaac for yet another blessing, and Isaac responded as follows:

“My son, the wealth of the land and the dew of heaven will be incorporated into the construction of your home.” You are going to live by your sword, and the descendants of yours are going to serve the descendants of his. But in due time, they will break their chains, throw off the yoke of your brother’s authority, and establish their independence.

All of this occurred years afterwards. The descendants of Esau settled in a region known as Edom, which was located to the south of the country of Israel, where Jacob’s ancestors had originally settled. After a period of time had passed, the Israelites rose to power over the Edomite people, and after some more time had passed, the Edomite people won their independence from the Israelites. But all of this occurred many hundreds of decades after the event.

Since Jacob’s people worshipped God, while Esau’s people followed in the path of the idols and became evil, it was preferable for Jacob’s descendants, those who came after him, to receive the blessing rather than Esau’s people.


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