Esau [Ē’sôu]—hairy. The eldest son of Isaac and twin brother of Jacob by Rebekah. His name is associated with his appearance at birth (Gen. 25:25).
This cunning hunter and man of the field (Gen. 25:27) supplies us with one of the tragic biographies among the men of the Bible. He is prominent in God’s portrait gallery as the man rejected of God because he had sold his birthright. Let us briefly sketch what Scripture records of “Esau, who is Edom.” Had he retained his birthright we might have read “Esau, who is Israel.” The wrong act, however, left a black mark upon his future history.
He was a profane person. What a terrible epitome! It is like a label fastened to Esau as he disappears from Bible history (Heb. 12:16). The word “profane” does not mean that he delighted in profanity, but that he was a man of the earth who lived for worldly things and nothing else. With many good qualities, Esau was of the earth, earthy.
He sold his birthright. As the elder son of his father, even although he came from the womb only a half-hour before his twin brother, Jacob, he was entitled by law and custom to receive twice as much as a younger son’s portion, and to be regarded in due time as the head of the family. But we all know the story of how, for a mess of pottage, he bartered away his spiritual and temporal rights. The record says that Esau sold his birthright because he “despised” it. How easily some men part with the rich blessings they are heirs to!
His was a fruitless repentance. Esau lifted up his voice and cried, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” But his repentant prayer was directed, not to God, but to Isaac. In the whole of Genesis Esau does not mention the name of God. Had Esau’s repentance been Godward, what a different story we would have had! Esau only repented of his bargain, not of his sin. Such a bargain turned out to be a bad one, and he was sorry for it. Further, all Esau sought was restitution, not pardon. He had lost one blessing, and sought another.
Under grace the penitent sinner who has wasted his substance has a Saviour to turn to, and repenting of his sin, finds mercy. Esau, even with his tears, found no mercy. God was not in his thoughts, and he had therefore to abide by the consequences of what he had brought upon himself. Yet he learned his lesson, for Esau called his firstborn Eliphaz, “strength of God,” and his second son Reuel, “joy of God.”