What did Esau despise on the day he gave up his birthright?

Second of two parts on Esau’s disregard for the birthright

31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. 32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? 33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright. Genesis 25:31-34

Although etymologically the word “firstborn” refers to the first of the generation to be born, in the Bible it is not necessarily reserved for the first son, according to the order of his birth. We know of cases where the first son was not necessarily the recipient of the birthright. The case of Ishmael and Isaac, the case of Reuben among the twelve sons of Jacob, and the case of our study, the case of Jacob and Esau.

These “exceptional” cases lead us to understand that more than a genetic trait, the birthright is a spiritual attribute to preserve through the firstborn the mysteries of Revelation that are given by God to man, hence the importance in the Bible of not mixing the holy lineage with the pagan nations of the earth,[1] in the book of Ezra, and the care not to join in yoke with the infidels, in the epistles of the apostle Paul.[2]

More than inheritance benefit, the birthright consists of succession of God’s purpose for a generation, including all the spiritual benefits of what it means to be the firstborn of a caste.

In the light of the latter, it is important to note that in the account of the formation of Adam and Eve, the writer highlights as a conclusion that God formed “male” and “female”, and uses for this purpose the terms (זָכָ֥ר zā-ḵār) and (נְקֵבָ֖ה ne-qê-ḇāh),[3] respectively, in substitution of the known ones (אִ֖ישׁ ish), for “male”, and (אִשָּׁ֔ה ishá),[4] for “female”; the purpose of this change of terms for the same two persons is not only with the exclusive interest of separating the sexes, but more, to highlight the value of “generation” that is established by them; this emphasis is highlighted in a reference by the apostle Paul in the book of Acts of the Apostles,

and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; Acts 17:26

Thus, to be firstborn means to be the heir of a covenant;[5] to be firstborn means to be the person who carries the “right” of succession;[6] to be firstborn means to have God’s authority to operate God’s purposes on earth.[7]

From this vision, the birthright acquires in the Bible a primordial value within the relationship of man with God, and in that sense every firstborn son is considered as the opportunity of the parents to initiate in their generation a covenant of fidelity to God,[8] the first fruits of the crops (production), and of the animals, are the best way to honor God.[9]

God for his part establishes through the value of the birthright, the vision that His work on earth has the purpose of initiating processes of Revelation, so the Levites are considered firstborn of God,[10] and thus establishes the emergence of generations of Revelation, as stated in the words of Jesus to Peter: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.[11] In that same sense, Israel is the firstborn nation of God in terms of restoration,[12] Jesus is the firstborn of God from whom we take the image and likeness of the Father,[13] Jesus is also the firstborn from the dead,[14] thus implying that all who believe in Him will be raised from the dead in the same way as He was.

Returning to the case of Esau, what did Esau lose by giving up his birthright?

Esau lost the right to give birth to God’s people on earth

This is the part of the birthright that possibly stands out the most in biblical writings, mostly because of the fact that from Esau’s renunciation of the birthright, Jacob is presented as the line of succession from which God’s people eventually emerge.

and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: Genesis 12:2

17 And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? Genesis 18:17-18

And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: Exodus 4:22

Based on this fact, the apostle John warns in his epistle not to neglect the benefit of vocation in Jesus, because the same thing could happen to others as happened to Esau,

Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. 2nd. John 8

Esau lost the right to rule over the earth

God’s rule over the earth comes through Isaac’s firstborn;

27 And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed: 28 therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: 29 let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee. Genesis 27:27-29

Isaac gives prophetic fulfillment to God’s words in the Garden of Eden, where He stipulates and declares about the authority of the woman’s “son” on earth,

and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Genesis 3:15

Abraham received the promise that from his generation there would arise a nation that would regulate the blessing upon the earth, in remembrance of the mission given to Adam in Eden,

7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. 8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. Genesis 17:7-8

and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. Genesis 22:18

Rebecca, the mother of Jacob and Esau, had received the Revelation that one people would be stronger than the other: וּלְאֹם֙ מִלְאֹ֣ם יֶֽאֱמָ֔ץ (u-le-om mil-om ye-e-matz) Jacob is presented in the biblical account as being the least advantaged and the least suitable, but it is emphasized in the account that the strength of the strongest people consists in the value of the birthright in him.

that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; Genesis 22:17

Thus, by presenting him as the least suitable for this purpose, Jacob emerges as the proponent of a spiritual law, that the work of God is carried out not by human qualities, but by the willingness to put God before every personal interest,

So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. Romans 9:16

Esau lost the right to raise a priesthood according to the heart of God and to bring revelation on earth

The priesthood is not only a cultural element resulting from the religious development of the people, the priesthood means Revelation.

and the priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them the Lord thy God hath chosen to minister unto him, and to bless in the name of the Lord; and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried: Deuteronomy 21:5

Levi is Jacob’s third son.[15] The Levites were chosen to be permanent occupants of the priesthood, and they were constituted as such by virtue of their action in obeying the voice of God,

26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. 27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. 28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. 29 For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day. Exodus 32:26-29

The priesthood is not only an occupation, or a profession of a religious nature, it is the manifestation on earth of the mysteries of heaven,

35 And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed forever. 1 Samuel 2:35

Hence, because of this vision, the Apostle Peter discovers that those born of water and the Spirit are considered as the priests of the Most High God,

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 1st. Peter 2:9

Esau Lost the Right to Be Jesus’ Parent

At the head of Matthew’s gospel, we read: The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. If Jesus is the son of Abraham, Jesus is the son of the firstborn of His generation. The genealogy of Jesus is the genealogy of the firstborn. Esau lost the opportunity to be the initiator of a generation of redemption.

When the prophet Malachi establishes in his confrontation with the people that Esau was Jacob’s brother: Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob,[16] He does it by emphasizing that Esau had the right to have formed a people according to the will of God, he was entitled to have given life to a people according to the promise to Abraham, but he renounced to it; hence the expression: I have loved you, saith the Lord, emphasizes that God overcame the decision of Esau and kept His promise by giving life to the people through Jacob, who in comparison to his brother had no chance to be an heir.

Thus, by virtue of such a decision of God, the prophet Obadiah establishes judgment on both generations, and says:

17 But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. 18 And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the Lord hath spoken it. Obadiah 17-18

Esau chose to serve rather than to rule,

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. Genesis 25:23

Esau chose to live by his sword, that is, to live by his own efforts, and to serve his brother,

and by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother;… Genesis 27:40a

Esau could only have respite when he was strong enough to throw off the yoke that his brother would impose on him,

… and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck. Genesis 27:40b

How short-sighted Esau is! It all started on a whim, and because he despised his brother.

Is all this relevant to us? Yes, of course it does. The Apostle Paul established by the Spirit of God that the facts of the past are for our admonition,[17] therefore, the experience of Esau establishes a chair of correction. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews points out from this action of Esau the profaneness of his act, which on a whim scorned his birthright,

lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. Hebrews 12:16

The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews exhorts us to take care of what we have received for the work of the cross,

how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; Hebrews 2:3

The apostle Paul also exhorts us to guard salvation with fear and trembling,

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2:12

Many times, not having prophetic vision prevents us from seeing the greatness to which God wants to take us, and we fail the work that God has given us.

Would you like to collaborate with this ministry by helping us translate it into other languages?

All biblical quotations are taken from the King James Version.

Pastor Pedro Montoya

Twitter: @pastormontoya

WhatsApp 1 407 764 2699


[1] Ezra 9:2

[2] 2nd. Corinthians 6:14—15

[3] Genesis 1:27; 5:2

[4] Ídem 2:22—23

[5] Genesis 17:21

[6] Ídem 21:12

[7] Exodus 13:2; Numbers 3:41

[8] Exodus 13:2

[9] Ídem 22:29

[10] Numbers 3:12

[11] Matthew 16:17

[12] Exodus 4:22

[13] Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15; 1st. Corinthian 15:20—23

[14] Colossians 1:18

[15] Genesis 29:34

[16] Malachi 1:1—3

[17] 1st. Corinthians 10:11

What motivated Esau to give up his birthright?

First of two parts on Esau’s disregard for the birthright

31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. 32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? 33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. 34 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. Genesis 25:31-34

The scene of Esau’s contempt for his birthright is a sensitive case, very delicate when it comes to establishing interpretation about his deed, since an incorrect appreciation of his intention and act can lead us to build a distorted, and dangerous, spiritual platform of execution, if we want to elaborate on it.

Who hasn’t read about this fact before? This is a somewhat classic story within the Christian realm, and in many cases, even a “moral” story proposed from the pulpits to warn us of the care we should take about our salvation.

However, it seems to me that we have not done justice to this fact, and although we do not intend to change the course of history or the interpretation of it, the fact of entering with a “prejudice” into the analysis of the story constitutes us as constructors of injustice, and separates us from the teaching wisdom that the stories contain, in order to make the reader aware of the existence of a sovereign, righteous and perfect God, who chooses —and discards— people according to the wisdom with which they execute their actions,

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Proverbs 6:6

Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Proverbs 8:33

This fact led the prophet to establish as a principle of righteousness and wisdom that God had loved Jacob and rejected Esau,

2 I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, 3 and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Malachi 1:2-3

The story of the scene of Esau’s contempt for his birthright is not intended to make us bow down to one and discredit the other, that is not the purpose; the story is intended to make the reader understand precisely how a prejudiced and capricious attitude can eventually lead us to say things just to get out of the way, without having a real awareness of what we have just said.

How hungry could Esau have been that he could not wait to prepare his own food? Was Esau really too tired to give up his birthright in return? The story presents a misconception -the reader gets a misconception, rather- about why Esau desired to eat of the pottage which Jacob had prepared. The idea which the reader gets is that Esau was so faint from the hunger which he suffered that his desire to subsist outweighed, at that time, the value of the birthright.

This “false” idea arises because in the dialogue the expression that Esau returned from the field “tired” is presented together with his reflection on what use the birthright would be to him if he was going to die in the end; because of this, the reader thinks that Esau’s need to eat was so great that he felt that he would die if he did not eat something soon; which is not what is really described in the dialogue.

The writer is very careful in presenting this part of the story, and if we notice carefully, we will realize that although the writer concludes the story by saying that Esau despised the birthright, this story is presented as a continuity to the story of the birth of both; which, for interpretation purposes, the scene of Esau’s act of despising his birthright is actually a consequence of the “rivalry” that existed between the two even from their mother’s womb.

By the way the writer presents this part of the story of the two brothers, Jacob and Esau, twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah, Esau’s renunciation of his birthright does not appear as a total disregard of it, nor that he did not really believe that it would be of no use to him; the scene of the renunciation of it is presented as one more argument, of the many, which both used to take advantage of each other; in this case, to show Esau’s intention to deceive and take advantage of his brother Jacob.

Both recognized from childhood the value of the birthright, not so much for the material inheritance that it entailed, but more for the character of Revelation that both parents carried and that at some point they had transferred to their children, along with the presence of Abraham when he still lived among them.

Both carried the knowledge that they were Abraham’s grandchildren and that through them God would do great things among the nations. Abraham was one hundred years old when Isaac was born,[1] Isaac was sixty years old when both children were born,[2] Abraham died at the age of one hundred seventy five,[3] which means that Jacob and Esau were fifteen years old when Abraham died. They both knew first-hand the work of God among them, and they knew perfectly what God had set out to do with them.

Esau was his father’s favorite: Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison;[4] so Esau had a greater vow of trust before his father than Jacob did, did Esau need a birthright having his father on his side?

Esau had a craving to eat of the pottage which Jacob was preparing, that was all, a craving of Esau; What Esau did not expect was the way in which Jacob answered him. Esau entered into a dangerous game, did not measure the weight of the words and went on with his craving to take advantage of his brother, and though he interposed with an oath, he never believed that Jacob was capable of taking it.

The evidence of this is the way Esau reacts after learning that Isaac had blessed Jacob as the firstborn,

And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept. Genesis 27:38

The story confirms this. Let’s look at the scene in detail. First, let us look at the reflection that Esau elaborates at Jacob’s request: And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? In the first place. Esau is not saying, Behold, I am dying, Esau is admitting that at some point he is going to die, which shows the origin of the contempt of his birthright.

Esau’s reflection is elaborated by including his brother Jacob: Esau is also thinking, if it does not have more meaning for me, what value it will have for him.

Did Esau really disdain his birthright, or did he disdain Jacob?

The origin of the contempt for his birthright was based on the contempt for his brother. This story cannot be seen in isolation, it is necessary to understand that this story was part of a series of incidents of rivalry between them, each wanting to take advantage of the other, but in Esau it was based on contempt for his brother.

Therefore, the scene of the reunion of the two, twenty years after Jacob had left after receiving his father’s blessing, is a scene of reconciliation between the two, mainly of restoration for Esau, because for the first time in their lives, Esau did not want to take advantage of his brother,

And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself. Genesis 33:9

The contempt for God’s work and purposes, the contempt for Revelation, the contempt for being the protagonist of the spiritual operations of taking over territory, of the divine executions, does not begin with a direct contempt for them, it begins with the contempt for the people that God sent us to notify us of their existence.

Disdain for God and his work begins when we disdain those around us, particularly those who seem to have nothing to contribute. How can we love God’s work and hate God’s image and likeness at the same time? We rightly read in the writings of the apostle John,

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 1st. John 4:20

Of man’s most impious intentions, contempt for a person is one of the most serious. The apostle John classifies it in the same rank as a homicide,

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 1st. John 3:15

Hating another person arouses in him who hates the intention of discrediting, and even insulting, the one he hates. Jesus presented in his doctrine that this kind of passionism can lead a person to hell itself,

but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Matthew 5:22

We’re all potential Esau. We are Esau when we despise the person because of his nationality, when we despise the one who has no studies, the one who only seeks us out to ask; we are Esau when we do not see the purpose in God in the one who insists on helping us, correcting us, guiding and instructing us; we are Esau when we do not see the need to have someone around. We are Esau only when we turn to someone as a resource and not as a guide.

Many pastors have given up access to Revelation because of the contempt they have had for receiving teaching from others…

Esau corrected his attitude… Can we do it?

Would you like to collaborate with this ministry by helping us translate it into other languages?

All biblical quotations are taken from the King James Version.

Pastor Pedro Montoya

Twitter: @pastormontoya

WhatsApp 1 407 764 2699


[1] Genesis 21:5

[2] Idem 25:26

[3] Idem 25:7

[4] Ídem 25:28