Hebrews 12:16

16 that no one is 1sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

Hebrews 12:16 Meaning and Commentary

Hebrews 12:16

Lest there be any fornicator or profane person
The first of these is guilty of a sin against the second table of the law, as well as against his own body; and which is opposed to the holiness the apostle had before exhorted to; such who are guilty of it, are not to be continued in the communion of the church; and it is a sin, which, lived in not repented of, excludes from the kingdom of heaven: the latter is one who is a transgressor of the first table of the law; who is an idolater, a swearer, a despiser of public worship and ordinances, and who behaves irreverently in divine service, and mocks at the future state, as Esau; to whom both these characters seem to belong: and this agrees with what the Jews say concerning him: they have a tradition F23, that he committed five transgressions on the day he came out of the field weary.

``He committed idolatry: he shed innocent blood; and lay with a virgin betrothed; and denied the life of the world to come (or a future state); and despised his birthright.''

It is elsewhere F24 a little differently expressed.

``Esau, the wicked, committed five transgressions on that day: he lay with a virgin betrothed; and killed a person; and denied the resurrection of the dead; and denied the root, or foundation, (i.e. that there is a God,) and despised his birthright; and besides, he desired his father's death, and sought to slay his brother.''

It is common for them to say of him, that he was an ungodly man; and particularly, that he was a murderer, a robber, (Pawnw) , "and an adulterer" F25; and that he has no part in the world to come F26: who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright; the account of which is in ( Genesis 25:29-34 ) this includes all the privileges which he had a right unto by being the firstborn; as a peculiar blessing from his father; a double portion of goods; and dominion over his brethren: and it is commonly said by the Jews, that the priesthood belonged to the firstborn, before the Levitical dispensation; and that for this reason, Jacob coveted the birthright F1, Esau being a wicked man, and unfit for it. The birthright was reckoned sacred; it was typical of the primogeniture of Christ; of the adoption of saints, and of the heavenly inheritance belonging thereunto; all which were despised by Esau: and so the Jewish paraphrases F2 interpret the contempt of his birthright, a despising of his part in the world to come, and a denial of the resurrection of the dead: and his contempt of it was shown in his selling it; and this was aggravated by his selling it for "one morsel of meat"; which was bread, and pottage of lentiles, ( Genesis 25:34 ) . The Jewish writers speak of this bargain and sale much in the same language as the apostle here does; they say

F3 of him, this is the man that sold his birthright (Mhl rkk deb) , "for a morsel of bread"; and apply to him the passage in ( Proverbs 28:21 ) "for a piece of bread that man will transgress".

F23 Targum Jon. ben Uzziel in Gen. xxv. 29.
F24 Shemot Rabba, sect. I. fol. 89. 3. T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 16. 2.
F25 Tzeror Hammor, fol. 27. 1.
F26 Tzeror Hammor, fol. 26. 3.
F1 Bereshit Rabba, sect. 63. fol. 56. 2.
F2 Targum Hieros. & Jon. in Gen. 25. 34. Bereshit Rabba, ib.
F3 Tzeror Hammor, fol. 26. 4. & 27. 1.

Hebrews 12:16 In-Context

14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.
17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest

Cross References 1

  • 1. Hebrews 13:4; Genesis 25:33
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.