This week’s Torah Reading is found in Genesis 25:19 thru Genesis 28:9
I confess I don’t like this portion of Genesis where it deals with Jacob’s manipulation of Esau and the stealing of his birthright. While reading this passage this morning my spirit was agitated. Could it be because that attitude of manipulation, hiding ones motives, and not being forthright in all ones relationships at times is self centered? After all, we all have sinned and come short of God’s best. So, after reading Genesis 26 this morning, I asked God why does this passage bother me? Because if we are not careful we all have the propensity to be like Jacob, conniving and manipulative. Last November I posted the following Blog in my Wellspring Israel Blog page. I think it answers this Dilemma.
Jacob made a stew. Esau returns from hunting, exhausted and famished. When he sees the stew he exclaims, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished!” The Hebrew is even more comical. He uses a verb more appropriate to describe “slopping the pigs.” In his desperation, he cannot quite formulate the word for soup, so he stammers around calling it, “red, red stuff.” “Quick, slop me some of that red, red stuff!” he begs. Jacob, on the other hand, replies calmly and deliberately and in clear legal terms, “Sell me as this day (from this day on) your birthright.” There are no hidden terms, no fine print, and no deceitful bait-and-switch. It is a straightforward and honest offer.
Esau should have refused. He should have been insulted that Jacob would suggest such a sacrilege. Jacob asked him to forfeit everything that Abraham and Isaac had cherished—the entire covenant, the land of Canaan, the blessings and the promises, the future destiny of the nation, all for the price of a bowl of soup.
Instead of refusing the offer, Esau briefly considered it and accepted the terms. He said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” This was hyperbole. His life was not in danger; he was not about to die. He let his appetite dictate his will. His desire for red, red stuff, at the moment, outweighed the value of being Isaac’s firstborn.
Whenever we allow our appetites to rule us, we follow in the footsteps of Esau. A disciple of Yeshua should not let his desire for “red, red stuff” dictate his decisions. Opportunities to honor or despise his birthright in the kingdom pass before him on a daily basis. He is constantly placed in positions where he must decide between what he craves and what is right. A man controlled by his appetites is a godless man. All forms of materialism and greed fall into the same category. Some people desire power, control, and prestige. Others will find that physical addictions and substance abuse dictate their decisions in life. For many men and women, sexual temptation is the “red, red stuff” for which they are willing to compromise their spiritual birthright. All of these are signs of the spirit of Esau. The writer of the book of Hebrews warns us:
Let there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. (Hebrews 12:16-17)
Disciples of Yeshua are children of Jacob, not children of Esau. Our animal nature does not rule us. We belong, not to our appetites, but to the Master. Our heads must rule our hearts: “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13).
Esau accepted Jacob’s offer. The Hebrew of the Torah artfully describes Esau’s cavalier exit with a succinct series of one-word verbs: “He ate; he drank; he rose; he left, and he despised his birthright.”