“Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.’ Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, ‘Sell me your birthright as of this day.’ And Esau said, ‘Look, I am about to die, so what profit shall this birthright be to me?’ Then Jacob said, ‘Swear to me as of this day.’ So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.” Genesis 25:29-34
Can you imagine purchasing something so valuable for so little? I’ve seen a commentator liken it to exchanging a wedding ring for a $1 cheeseburger from the value menu. According to John W. Ritenbaugh (2001) in his online commentary Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Two), Esau’s major character flaw was that he valued immediate, sensual satisfaction over his birthright. He carelessly gave up the things of God to satisfy his appetite.
The Bible says Esau despised his birthright, meaning he treated it scornfully or with contempt. Hebrews 12:16 says “. . . lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.” Profane (unlike what you may think it to be) simply means being irreverent toward what is sacred. Esau treated his sacred God-given birthright carelessly, thus profaning it. After this exchange, Esau’s younger brother Jacob would have his name changed by God to Israel, the father of the Israelite nation.
In a camp as wealthy as their father Isaac’s, there are good chances Esau could have found something else to eat if he was willing to wait rather than go for immediate pleasure. He wasn’t really close to death or starvation, I don’t think, even though he dramatically said this to get his brother to give him some food. Rittenbaugh (2001) notes that Esau is unconcerned about God, the things of God, and the future; instead he is worldly. And too many of us are like him. We as Christians need to get out of the immediate gratification mode when dealing with life’s present circumstances and instead look toward the kingdom of God and what’s important to our Heavenly Father.
“God’s Word depicts Esau’s worldliness through the medium of eating. Eating something he desired at the moment meant more to him than a tremendously valuable gift of God” (Rittenbaugh, 2001). Finally, he comments and I wholeheartedly agree, “It is worth meditating upon how much satisfying immediate cravings and yearnings, perhaps even for food, presents a stumbling block to our pleasing God.”
When I read this commentary on these verses, I knew that there were times I had given up God’s good and pleasing will for my life to satisfy my immediate cravings…yes, even for something silly like food, which doesn’t feel so silly when you’re hungry. But, my desire is to please the Lord in every aspect of life and my prayer is to always consider God’s kingdom before making a rash choice.
Dear Lord, we praise You and thank You today for this word of God and for John Rittenbaugh’s commentary on it. Please forgive us where we have profaned what’s important to You by treating it as common or insignificant. Help us to always focus on the future and the good plans You have for us. Help us say ‘no’ when immediate sensual satisfaction in eating pleasure takes over our good judgment. May we always please You and value things that are valuable to You instead. Help us, Lord Jesus! We can’t do this without You! In Your Name we pray, AMEN!