Have you ever given something truly valuable up for a momentary gain? Whether this was a recent decision or one from many years ago, we can all be easily blinded at the moment to go after the lesser things. Esau is a character in the Bible who chose a temporary pleasure over a long-term blessing. In the story, Esau sells his birthright for soup. Today we are going to unfold the truths and applications behind this powerful biblical testimony.
Esau Sells Birthright for Soup Story
From the very beginning of his life, Esau was racing his brother Jacob to favoritism. Genesis 25:25-26 “The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.”
Bible Study Tools shares, “Esau was born first and thereby became legal heir to the family birthright which included, among other things, being heir to the Covenant between God and Abraham. This birthright was a link in the line of descent through which the Promised Messiah was to come (Numbers 24:17-19)."
As the twins grew older it is said that Isaac favored Esau because of how manly he was and Rebekah favored Jacob because of his gentleness. The partiality shown by their parents was sinful. James 2:9 says, “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” I can only imagine that Isaac and Rebekah’s choices spurred on the rivalry between the two brothers.
One day when Esau was out in the fields and came inside, Jacob was making stew. When Esau requested the stew, Jacob cunningly said, “Sell me your birthright now” (Genesis 25:31). Esau dramatically stated what use would the birthright be since he felt like he was going to die. So Esau swore to Jacob his birthright and Jacob gave his brother bread and lentil stew. After that, it says, “Esau despised his birthright.”
What Was the Meaning of Esau Selling His Birthright for Soup?
According to Bible Study Tools definition of birthright, “The first-born son had allotted to him also a double portion of the paternal inheritance,” “he became the priest of the family,” and “he inherited the judicial authority of his father.”
Esau traded a double portion, priestly position, and judicial authority in the family for stew. He gave up his blessings. Why would he do this? Why would he throw away these gifts? As we look forward to Genesis 27, Esau prepares for his blessing as if he did not swear it to Jacob. Maybe that oath to Jacob seemed like a joke to him? Maybe Esau did not take the stew situation seriously? Jacob and Rebekah then deceive the elderly Isaac, and Esau returns to discover the blessing is given to his brother.
Genesis 27:34-35 says, “As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” But he said, ‘Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.’”
Esau selling his birthright indicated his lack of respect for the position and privilege in which he obtained. His careless treatment of his God-given blessing shows his true focus was on temporary desires over a lifetime blessing.
How Often Do We Sell Our Birthright for Soup?
As we ponder how ridiculous it is that Esau would give over his birthright for a meal, it is hard not to see how we so often do the same exact thing. When God has a promise for us and a blessing if we follow His ways, but we decide to embrace a short-term pleasure, we miss out. An example is sexual purity. When the Lord clearly states in Scripture that sex is between one man and one woman in marriage, anything outside of that is stew. It might be a momentary pleasure, but it takes away from the blessing that God has promised within the covenant of marriage.
Another more literal example would be if you are trying to be healthier in your diet, but trade success for binge-eating in a weak moment. Or what about when we know there is great reward in seeking God’s Word, but we compromise and decide that other chores or to-dos are more important? When I think about all of the “stews” that I have pursued instead of God’s best, I am disappointed. However, instead of living in shame, I am able to live in the joy of not being the “firstborn,” but accepting the First Born of all creation, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15).
There cannot be an inheritance without a death. God came to Earth in the form of man. Jesus died for our inheritance so that we could receive the gift of eternal life with God in Heaven. Our birthright is sealed by the blood of Jesus and the Holy Spirit is our deposit of what is to come. The beautiful truth is that there is nothing we can do to mess up our birthright. Even though we traded our birthright for our sin, the Lord’s grace is greater. Even when we still choose stew instead of God’s ways, He forgives us and still welcomes us in. However, may we never dismiss the weight of our choices to be disobedient or denying the Lord’s ways. May His sacrifice lead us to true conviction and repentance that turns us around and thrusts us forward on His narrow path for our lives.
Lessons You Didn't Spy in This Story
Do not make Promises Lightly: Esau made a promise that he would give Jacob his birthright. Later he acts as if he never swore to Jacob. May we always remember that our commitments are significant. We need to be intentional and careful with what we guarantee to others.
Remain Humble in the Blessings: Esau could have easily flaunted his position to his brother and others. When God gives us a platform or a special job, may we always remember that we are His servants and He deserves the glory.
Show No Partiality: Isaac and Rebekah made the mistake of showing favoritism to their sons. Our own sins can hurt others. May we be reminded that we should not show partiality. We could be the ones to fuel the fires of other Esaus and Jacobs. These brothers could have had a sweet relationship, but instead, they had a lifetime of competition.
Trusting in God as Provider: Betty Dunn from Crosswalk shares, “Worrying about the future. Example: Instead of trusting God would provide food for his hungry stomach in short order, Esau took the first food he saw! Reverend Kirchner extolls us to keep the faith and be grateful for what we have right now. We can trust God to provide for us in the future (Proverbs 3:5-6)."
Reconciliation Can Come Unexpectedly: Reverend Kyle Norman from Crosswalk shares, “There is also growth with Esau…Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept” (Genesis 33:4). Scripture doesn’t record what occurred in Esau’s life over those years, but it is safe to say that God softened in his heart.”
As we continue to personally study the relationship between Esau and Jacob, may we reflect on the significance of the adoption that we have through Christ. May we remember that Esau traded his great for mediocre and sadly we also do the same. Jesus is our greatest reward. Through Him, we can be true to our word, remain humble, show no partiality, trust in Him, and reconcile. Through the Holy Spirit, we can cling to the birthright and reject the stew that this world has to offer.
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Emma Danzey’s mission in life is to inspire young women to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. Emma is a North Carolina resident and green tea enthusiast! She is married to her husband Drew and they serve international college students. She enjoys singing, dancing, trying new recipes, and watching home makeover shows. During her ministry career, Emma recorded two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, ran the Refined Magazine, and served in music education for early childhood. Currently, she is in the editing stages of her first two writing projects: a Bible study on womanhood and a non-fiction book on singleness. You can visit her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com