“So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his brother, Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn” (Genesis 25:33-34, NLT).
Esau and Jacob were twin sons of Isaac. As they grew up, Esau, the firstborn of the twins, was an outdoorsman and preferred by his father, Isaac. Jacob was a homebody and preferred by his mother, Rebekah.
We see these personality traits on display in this story for Esau had been out in the woods, possibly hunting, while Jacob was at home cooking. When Esau came home exhausted and hungry, he asked Jacob for some stew. Jacob said he would trade Esau some stew for Esau’s rights as the firstborn son. Esau swore an oath selling his birthright to his brother for the price of a meal.
The birthright that Jacob usurped from Esau and Esau gave away is what is paramount to this story because it represented the covenant with God–God’s promise to Abraham and Isaac and their heirs. So it was not insignificant on the part of Esau that he was willing to trade his future inheritance from his father (and God) for a meal to satisfy his immediate hunger.
Undoubtedly, Jacob took advantage of the desperation of Esau to acquire his birthright. But, Esau held God’s promise in contempt and bargained it away. That is why the Hebrews writer considered Esau’s behavior godless and immoral: “Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal.” (Hebrews 12:16).
While Jacob obtained God’s promise deviously, Esau demonstrated a total lack of regard, even contempt, for God’s promise.
The recipients of God’s promises should be people of conviction, not compromise. And, we should never compromise our favored standing with God to gratify a personal need or pleasure. Such compromise shows contempt for the grace and promises of God and by biblical standards is godless and immoral behavior.
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? (I Corinthians 6:19, NLT)