Esau and Jacob

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Men in the Old Testament

  • Rebekah talks with God about the conflict in her body. (Gen. 25:22-24) God tells her the younger son shall rule the elder son.
  • Esau was born first, followed by Jacob.
  • Esau was red and hairy.
  • Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field.9
  • Jacob followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and was a semi-nomadic shepherd.
  • Esau lacked spiritual depth. He was a man of the moment.
  • Esau impetuously bargained away his birthright for a bowl of pottage.10
  • Pottage was a soup or stew made with vegetables and sometimes with meat.11
  • The birthright included the primary headship of the family, that is, rights as the eldest son, a double portion of the inheritance, priestly rights, and, in Abraham's family, heir to the covenant privileges.12
  • Isaac chose to avoid conflict with the Canaanites over the wells Abraham had dug. God told him not to be afraid.13 (Gen 26:15-24) This appears to be a turning point in Isaac's life. Up to this point he passively accepted what happened in his life; being used as the potential object of sacrifice; waiting for the selection of a bride; walking away from the strife over the first two wells; being heartsick over Esau's foreign wives. God tells him not to be afraid. Not to be afraid to make decisions? Not to be afraid of what others might think? Not to be afraid to live?
  • Esau was indifferent to his parents' wishes when he married not one but two Hittite women. (Gen 26:34)
  • Esau was 40 years old when he first married. He later married four more foreign wives.
  • Esau's offspring were called the Edomites. 17
  • Jacob and Esau were approximately 60 years old when Jacob stole Esau's blessing.
  • Isaac was 120 years old and blind when he asked Esau to prepare the meal of venison for the blessing.
  • Isaac thought he was ready to die, yet he lived another sixty years after blessing Jacob.
  • The blessing of Isaac certainly appears unalterable. "Acts of blessing in the OT rest on accepted conventions. If the blessing could not be revoked by Isaac, it was because no convention was available for its revocation. If there is such a convention, Isaac chooses not to make use of it. Esau, in asking for another blessing, appears to believe that no such convention exists."18
  • "One basic reason cited by Isaac for not retracting the blessing involves the consumption of a meal. (Gen 27:33) The meal was an integral part of a conventional blessing ritual, without which it would not have been valid."19
  • It was unnecessary for Jacob and his mother to conspire to steal the blessing. God had spoken to Rebekah when she was pregnant, and predicted that Esau would serve Jacob. (Gen. 25:23) Their trickery and deceit obtained something God would have provided freely had they behaved morally.20 A great lesson in yielding all to God!
  • The great deception produces suffering: "Isaac suffers for his preference for Esau, which was not determined by the will of God but by his weak affection: Esau suffers for despising the blessing of the firstborn:" Rebekah suffers in never seeing Jacob again: Jacob suffered a strain of hardship and deception at the hand of Laban.21


9 The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1963, p. 127.

10 Ibid. p. 127.

11 Lawrence O. Richards. Richards Complete Bible Dictionary. Iowa Falls: World Bible Publishers, 2002, p. 806.

12 J.R. Dummelow, ed. A Commentary on the Holy Bible. New York: Macmillan Co., 1908, p. 32.

13 Richards, p. 522.

17 Ibid, p. 345.

18 The New Interpreter's Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994, Vol 1, pp. 538-539.

19 Ibid, p. 539.

20 Richards, p. 538.

21 Dummelow, p. 33.

Bible Characters