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.

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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

… And if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. Luke 19:8

The story of Zacchaeus is one of the most shocking stories in the New Testament, because it leads us to understand the value of recognizing and correcting the misconceptions that led us to live in open resistance to God’s Will.

It is not easy to see and understand that what we are doing, and what we are accustomed to, is outside God’s Will. In fact, even when it comes to correcting the conduct of others it is easy to clearly see their wrongdoings, but when it comes to oneself there is always a justification for making us appear to others that we are not making any mistakes, even when the faults are evident.

The clear case is the case of David when he incurred in the action of taking Bath-sheba by wife, and the eventual exposure to the death of her husband by David’s instructions. There was a need for the prophet Nathan to present a hypothetical case for him to understand the gravity of his sin,

And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. 9Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 2 Samuel 12:7-9

Therefore, Zacchaeus’ story is a model of teaching, because Zacchaeus’ decision is not the result of someone’s confrontation, not even Jesus himself, for the concepts of public life under which he had lived until then.

The Gospels describe many accounts of similar cases, of Jesus dining and posing in the homes of publicans, and even Pharisees, and never before had one of them made a similar decision.

What drove Zacchaeus to act differently?

Two answers arise from this question, the first of them we find in the confrontation with David on behalf of God by the prophet Nathan: Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight?

Giving the prominence value that corresponds to the Word of God places us in the right position before His Will and allows us to see where we are going wrong. It is not that the Word of God is an alternative to which we can turn at any given time. The Word is the only spiritual strength that can bring us back to life and free us from our delusions,

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Zacchaeus valued every word, every expression, every teaching of Jesus during that night, from the very moment he met him,

And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. 6And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. Luke 19:5-6

That prominent value for the Word of Jesus led Zacchaeus to understand the perversity of the concepts of life that had governed his actions. The prominence of Jesus’ Word led Zacchaeus to be reconciled to God,

the half of my goods I give to the poor

Compare with the instruction of the prophet Micah,

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:8

Zacchaeus’ action of giving half of his goods to the poor was attributed to him as an act of perfection, according to Jesus’ declaration to the rich young man,

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Mathew 19:21

The restoration that a person can achieve for himself and for his house depends on the prominent value that he or she gives to the Word of God; but not the liturgical value or the symbolic value, but the value of doing it because He said it.

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: Mathew 7:24

We find a similar case at the time of the apostle Peter’s conversion to faith,

And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. 6And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake…   8When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. Luke 5:5-8

He who does not do it, does not value the Word of God and deceives himself,

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. James 1:22

Having little regard for the Word of God leads us to turn away from God and to live in open rebellion against Him.

There is a second value in Zacchaeus that allowed him to place himself in the corresponding position of pleasantness before God; it was the decision of Zacchaeus to compensate the damages of those whom he had defrauded,

… and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold

Zacchaeus understood that in order for man and woman to live free from persecution by the kingdom of darkness it is necessary that they release all debt of the flesh,

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. Romans 8:12

The problem of the “failures” that many believers suffer constantly in their lives of faith is due to debts of the flesh that they have not yet released. Zacchaeus handed over the ill-gotten money as a tax collector, thereby releasing the legal right that darkness could claim over his property.

Zacchaeus’ decision earned him the seal of approval and blessing from Jesus,

And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. Luke 19:9

Zacchaeus attracted for his generation the blessing of salvation, and he was included in the family of Abraham.

I constantly meet people who see in their situations an impossible case for God. Cases of poverty, of scarcity, of lack of wisdom to act; cases where many see God as unreachable.

These are quite similar cases to Zacchaeus, where in order to “see” Jesus and reach Him a greater effort is needed. They are the stories of many of those who live in our cities.

The solution is simple, it is not complicated: prominent value of the Word, to do, not to contemplate it. In the religious models of many, they believe that to value the Word is to have the Bible open in a psalm or in a particular section on the night table, which is an act of ominousness. God calls us to do the Word, not just recite it.

Second, to let go of the debts of the flesh: to repay damages, to forgive the past, to dispose of ill-gotten objects, even properties obtained in illicit ways. Get rid of everything that represented the salary of iniquity and arrogance. We cannot enter the Kingdom of God by bringing with us the works of the flesh,

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 1st. Corinthians 15:50

All biblical quotations are taken from the King James Version.

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Pastor Pedro Montoya

Twitter: @pastormontoya