The son of Isaac, and twin brother of Jacob, Ge 25. He was the elder of the two, and was therefore legally the heir, but sold his birthright to Jacob. We have an account of his ill-advised marriages, Ge 26:34; of his loss of his father's chief blessing, and his consequent anger against Jacob, Ge 27; of their subsequent reconciliation, Ge 32-33; and of his posterity, Ge 36. He is also called Edom; and settled in the mountains south of the Dead Sea, extending to the gulf of Akaba, where he became very powerful. This country was called from him the land of Edom, and afterwards IDUMAEA, which see.
hairy, Rebekah's first-born twin son (Ge 25:25). The name of Edom, "red", was also given to him from his conduct in connection with the red lentil "pottage" for which he sold his birthright (Ge 25:30-31). The circumstances connected with his birth foreshadowed the enmity which afterwards subsisted between the twin brothers and the nations they founded (Ge 25:22-23,26). In process of time Jacob, following his natural bent, became a shepherd; while Esau, a "son of the desert," devoted himself to the perilous and toilsome life of a huntsman. On a certain occasion, on returning from the chase, urged by the cravings of hunger, Esau sold his birthright to his brother, Jacob, who thereby obtained the covenant blessing (Ge 27:28-29,36; Heb 12:16-17). He afterwards tried to regain what he had so recklessly parted with, but was defeated in his attempts through the stealth of his brother (Ge 27:4,34,38).
At the age of forty years, to the great grief of his parents, he married (Ge 26:34-35) two Canaanitish maidens, Judith, the daughter of Beeri, and Bashemath, the daughter of Elon. When Jacob was sent away to Padan-aram, Esau tried to conciliate his parents (Ge 28:8-9) by marrying his cousin Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael. This led him to cast in his lot with the Ishmaelite tribes; and driving the Horites out of Mount Seir, he settled in that region. After some thirty years' sojourn in Padan-aram Jacob returned to Canaan, and was reconciled to Esau, who went forth to meet him (Ge 33:4). Twenty years after this, Isaac their father died, when the two brothers met, probably for the last time, beside his grave (Ge 35:29). Esau now permanently left Canaan, and established himself as a powerful and wealthy chief in the land of Edom (q.v.).
Long after this, when the descendants of Jacob came out of Egypt, the Edomites remembered the old quarrel between the brothers, and with fierce hatred they warred against Israel.
("hairy, rough"); for at birth he "came out red (from whence his name EDOM), all over like an hairy garment" (Ge 25:25). The animal appearance marked his sensual, self willed, untamed nature, in which the moral, spiritual elements were low. Secar, "hairy," may have also originated the designation of his territory, mount Sier, i.e." thickly wooded," as he was in person "hairy." Jacob took hold of his twin brother in the womb when the latter was coming out first, from whence he got his name = supplanter (Ho 12:3). Esau like Nimrod was "a cunning (skillful) hunter," "a man of the field" or "desert," wild, restless, and selfindulgent, instead of following his fathers' peaceful pastoral life, "dwelling in tents." Isaac, with the caprice of affection whereby the quiet, parent loves the opposite to his own character, "loved Esau because he did eat of his venison," his selfishness herein bringing its own punishment.
Rebekah loved Jacob as "a plain man," i.e. upright, steady, and domestic; but her love too was wanting in regard to high principle. Reckless of the lawfulness of the means, provided she gained her end, she brought sorrow on both. From before the birth of both it was foretold her, "the elder shall serve the younger." Esau's recklessness of spiritual and future privileges, and care only for the indulgence of the moment, caused him to sell his birthright for Jacob's red pottage, made of lentils or small beans, still esteemed a delicacy in the East. The color was what most took his fancy; "feed me with that red, that red." "The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye" were his snare. He can hardly have been "at the point, to die" with hunger; rather his impatience to gratify his appetite made his headstrong will feel as if his life depended on it; I shall die if I don't get it, then "what profit shall this birthright do to me!" Nay, but "what is a man profiled if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul, or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mt 16:26.)
Jacob took an ungenerous and selfish advantage, which the Scripture does not sanction, and distrusting Esau's levity required of him art oath. Yet his characteristic faith appears in his looking on to the unseen future privileges attached to, the birthright (the priesthood of the family (Nu 8:17-19) and the progenitorship of Messiah independently of temporal advantages. Ge 48:22; 49:3-4) as heir of the everlasting promises to Abraham's seed (Ro 9:5,8). "Profane Esau for one morsel sold," and so "despised, his birthright." The smallness of the inducement aggravates the guilt of casting away eternity for a morsel. Unbelieving levity must have all its good things now (1Co 15:32); faith says with Jacob "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord" (Ge 49:18; compare Lu 16:25).
The nickname Edom," red," was consequently given Esau as the reproach of his sensual folly, a name mostly confined to his land and his posterity. By feigning to be Esau, Jacob, at his mother's suggestion, stole the father's blessing which God would have secured to him without guile and its retributive punishment, had he waited in simple faith. Isaac too erred through carnal partiality, which he sought to stimulate by eating his favorite's venison, determining to give to Esau the blessing in spite of the original divine intimation, "the elder shall serve the younger," and in spite of Esau's actual sale of the birthright to Jacob, and though Esau had shown his unworthiness of it by taking when he was forty years of age two Hittite wives from among the corrupt Canaanites, to his father's and mother's grief. Too late, when "afterward Esau would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears" (Heb 12:16-17).
There is an "afterward" coming when the unbeliever shall look back on his past joys and the believer on his past griefs, in a very different light from now. Contrast Heb 12:11 with Heb 12:17; so Ge 3:6,8, "the cool of the day "; Mt 25:11-12, "the foolish virgins." Esau found the truth of the homely proverb, "he that will not when he may, when he will shall have nay" (Pr 1:24-30; Lu 13:28,34-35; 19:42,44). What Esau found not was "place for repentance" of the kind which he sought, namely, such as would regain the lost blessing. Had Esau sought rear repentance he would have found it (Mt 7:7). He did not find it because this was not what he sought. His "tears" were no proof of true repentance, for immediately after being foiled in his desire he resolved to murder Jacob! He wept not for his sin, but for its penalty.
Before, he might have had the blessing without tears; afterward, however many he shed, he was rejected (Bengel). Tears are shed at times by the most hardened; failing to repent when so softened for the moment, they hardly ever do so afterward (1Sa 24:16-17, Saul: contrast David, Ps 56:8). Rebekah, hearing of the vengeful design of Esau against her favorite son, by recalling to Isaac's remembrance Esau's ill judged marriage secured the father's consent to Jacob's departure from the neighborhood of the daughters of Heth to that of his own kindred, and at the same time the confirmation of the blessing (Ge 27:46; 28:1). Esau then tried by marrying his cousin Mahalath, Ishmael's daughter, to conciliate his parents (Ge 28:8-9). Thus he became connected with the Ishmaelite tribes beyond the Arabah valley.
Soon after he began to drive the Horites out of mount Seir; and by the return of Jacob 29 years after, Esau was there with armed retainers and abundant wealth. It was not however until after his father's death that he permanently left Canaan, according to Isaac's blessing, to Jacob, his wives and family then first accompanying him (Ge 35:29; 36:6). Esau was moved by God in answer to Jacob's wrestling prayer to lay aside revenge and meet his brother with embraces, kisses, and tears (Pr 16:7). Love, and gifts in token of it, drove after drove, melted the violent but impulsive spirit of Esau. Jacob however, wisely fearing any collision which might revive the old grudge, declined accompanying Esau, but expressed a hope one day to visit mount Seir; his words," I will lead on softly ... until I come unto my lord unto Seir," cannot mean he then intended going there, for he was avowedly going toward Succoth and Shechem (Genesis 32-33).
The death of their father Isaac more than 20 years afterward was probably the next and last occasion of the brothers meeting. They united in paying him the last sad offices (Ge 35:29). Then Esau, by this time seeing that Jacob's was the birthright blessing and the promised land, withdrew permanently to his appointed lot, mount Seir (Ge 32:3; De 2:5-12). He carried away all his substance from Canaan there, to take full possession of Seir and drive out its original inhabitants. "Living by his sword" too, he felt Edom's rocky fastnesses better suited for his purpose than S. Palestine with its open plains. (See EDOM, (See AHOLIBAMAH, (See BASHEMATH.)
The prophecy of Isaac," Thou shalt serve thy brother, and ... when thou shalt have the dominion thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck," was fulfilled to the letter. At first Esau prospered more, dukes being in Edom before any king reigned in Israel (Ge 36:31), and while Israel was in bondage in Egypt Edom was independent. But Saul and David conquered the Edomites (1Sa 14:47; 2Sa 8:14), and they were, excepting revolts, subject to Judah until Ahaz' reign; then they threw off the yoke (2Ki 16:6; 2Ch 28:7). Judas Maccabeus defeated, and his nephew Hyrcanus conquered, and compelled them to be circumcised and incorporated with the Jews; but an Idamean dynasty, Antipater and the Herod's, ruled down to the final destruction of Jerusalem.
1. The name is best explained as meaning 'tawny' or 'shaggy' (Ge 25:25); Edom or 'ruddy' was sometimes substituted for it (Ge 25:30), and Esau is represented as the progenitor of the Edomites (Ge 36:9,43; Jer 49:8 ff., Ob 1:8). He displaced the Horites from the hilly land of Seir, and settled there with his followers (Ge 32:3; 36:8; De 2:12). His career is sketched briefly but finely by weaving incidents collected from two sources (Jahwist and Elohist; in the early part, chiefly the former), whilst the Priestly writer is supposed to have contributed a few particulars (Ge 26:34 f., 28:9, 36). The standing feature of Esau's history is rivalry with Jacob, which is represented as even preceding the birth of the twins (Ge 25:22; Ho 12:3). The facts may be collected into four groups. The sale of the birthright (Ge 25:29 ff.) carried with it the loss of precedence after the father's death (Ge 27:29), and probably loss of the domestic priesthood (Nu 3:12-13), and of the double portion of the patrimony (De 21:17). For this act the NT calls Esau' profane' (Heb 12:16), thus revealing the secret of his character; the word (Gr. beb
A twin son with Jacob of Isaac and Rebekah, though Esau was actually the first-born. He is described as "red, all over like a hairy garment;" with this his name corresponds, which signifies 'hairy.' Ge 25:25. The first thing we read of him is the selling of his birthright to his over-reaching brother Jacob, for a mess of pottage. Concerning this he is called in the N.T. a profane person, because he valued not that which was the gift of God. He afterwards sought the blessing carefully with tears, but found no place of repentance. Ge 25:29-34; Heb 12:16,Heb 12:17.
Jacob, through want of faith in God, surreptitiously obtained the blessing of his father (who, contrary to God's election, intended it for Esau), in which Isaac said that he had made Jacob Esau's lord, and given all his brethren to be his servants. The blessing of Esau was "Thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; and by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass, when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck." Ge 27:37-40. Esau hated his brother, and intended, when the days of mourning for his father were ended, to kill him. The words of Isaac were fulfilled. David put garrisons throughout all Edom (where the descendants of Esau dwelt, Ge 36:8) and all they of Edom became his servants, 2Sa 8:14; but later on in the days of Joram, Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah; and though Joram was able to punish them, yet Judah was growing weaker, and 'Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, unto this day.' 2Ki 8:20-22. Obadiah announces Edom's final judgement: no remnant is restored. See EDOM.
Esau had three wives (see BASHEMATH) and a numerous posterity, which increased to a powerful tribe. When he went to meet Jacob he was accompanied by four hundred men. It may be God had warned Esau, as He did Laban, not to hurt Jacob; or possibly his anger may have abated: for when they approached, "Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept." They were thus happily reconciled, and at the death of Isaac his two sons buried him. Ge 33:4; 35:29.
In Mal 1:2-3 Esau is referred to as having been hated by Jehovah, whereas Jacob had been loved. This is quoted by Paul in Ro 9:13, where God's sovereignty is being enforced. It was foretold that the elder should serve the younger before they were born, and before they could have done either good or bad: this was God's sovereignty. But it was not foretold that God would hate Esau; it is not mentioned till the close of the Old Testament, after Esau in his descendants had displayed his unrelenting enmity to Israel, and Esau personally had long before that despised the gift of God in his birthright. The passage in Malachi is thought by some to refer to the nations which descended from the two brothers.
(hairy), the eldest son of Isaac, and twin-brother of Jacob. The singular appearance of the child at his birth originated the name.
Esau's robust frame and "rough" aspect were the types of a wild and daring nature. He was a thorough Bedouin, a "son of the desert." He was much loved by his father, and was of course his heir, but was induced to sell his birthright to Jacob. Mention of his unhappy marriages may be found in
The next episode in the life of Esau is the loss of his father's covenant blessing, which Jacob secured through the craft of his mother, and the anger of Esau, who vows vengeance.
... Later he marries a daughter of Ishmael,
and soon after establishes himself in Mount Seir, where he was living when Jacob returned from Padan-aram rich and powerful, and the two brothers were reconciled.
Twenty years thereafter they united in burying Isaac's body in the cave of Machpelah. Of Esau's subsequent history nothing is known; for that of his descendants see EDOM.
See Edom, Idumaea or Idumea
ESAU, son of Isaac and Rebekah, born A.M. 2168, B.C. 1836. When the time of Rebekah's delivery came, she had twins, Ge 25:24-26: the first-born was hairy, therefore called Esau; that is, a man full grown or of perfect age; but some derive Esau from the Arabic gescha or gencheva, which signifies a hair cloth. Esau delighted in hunting, and his father Isaac had a particular affection for him. On one occasion, Esau, returning from the fields greatly fatigued, desired Jacob to give him some red pottage, which he was then preparing. Jacob consented, provided Esau would sell him his birthright. Esau complied, and by oath resigned it to him, Ge 25:29-34. Esau, when aged forty, married two Canaanitish women, Judith, daughter of Beeri, the Hittite; and Bashemath, daughter of Elon, Ge 26:34. These marriages were very displeasing to Isaac and Rebekah, because they intermingled the blood of Abraham with that of Canaanite aliens. Isaac being old, and his sight decayed, directed Esau to procure him delicate venison by hunting, that he might give him his chief blessing, Genesis 27. The artifice of his mother, however, counteracted his purpose; and she contrived to impose upon Isaac, and to obtain the father's principal blessing for her son Jacob. Esau was indignant on account of this treachery, and determined to kill Jacob as soon as their father should die. Rebekah again interposed, and sent Jacob away to her brother Laban, with whom he might be secure. During the period of separation, which lasted several years, Esau married a wife of the family of Ishmael; and, removing to Mount Seir, acquired great power and wealth. When Jacob returned, after a long absence, to his father's country, with a numerous family, and large flocks and herds, he dreaded his brother's displeasure; but they had an amicable and affectionate interview. After their father's death, they lived in peace and amity; but, as their possessions enlarged, and there was not sufficient room for them in the land in which they were strangers, Esau returned to Mount Seir, where his posterity multiplied under the denomination of Edomites. (See Edom.) The time of his death is not mentioned; but Bishop Cumberland thinks it is probable that he died about the same time with his brother Jacob, at the age of about one hundred and forty-seven years, Genesis 25-36.
2. On the most important part of this history, the selling of the birthright, we may observe,
(1.) That although it was always the design of God that the blessing connected with primogeniture in the family of Abraham should be enjoyed by Jacob, and to exercise his sovereignty in changing the succession in which the promises of the Abrahamic covenant might descend; yet the conduct of Rebekah and Jacob was reprehensible in endeavouring to bring about the divine design by the unworthy means of contrivance and deceit; and they were punished for their presumption by their sufferings.
(2.) That the conduct of Esau in selling his birthright was both wanton and profane. It was wanton, because he, though faint, could be in no danger of not obtaining a supply of food in his father's house; and was therefore wholly influenced by his appetite, excited by the delicacy of Jacob's pottage. It was profane, because the blessings of the birthright were spiritual as well as civil. The church of God was to be established in the line of the first-born; and in that line the Messiah was to appear. These high privileges were despised by Esau, who is therefore made by St. Paul a type of all apostates from Christ, who, like him, profanely despise their birthright as the sons of God. See BIRTHRIGHT.