Blaine Robison, M.A.
Delivered 18 November 2017
The Birthright Bargain
Jacob said, "Sell now your birthright to me." 32 Esau said, "Behold, I
am at the point to die and what is this birthright to me?" 33 Jacob
said, "Swear to me now." And he swore to him, and sold his birthright to
Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils, and he ate and
drank, and got up and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright."
order to understand the significance of the birthright bargaining we
need to consider the description Moses provides in verse 27 of the two
adult men. This is my translation. "And the boys grew up, and Esau was a
man, a skillful hunter, a man of the field, and Jacob was a complete
man, dwelling in tents." In other words, Esau was "a man's man," the
rugged outdoor type who spent his time in the boonies and became a
skillful hunter. Esau apparently hunted for sport and his prowess along
with the game he brought home appealed to his father. Yet, with their
extensive flocks there was no need to kill wild game for food. Esau is
later described in Scripture as an immoral and godless man who became a
grief to his parents because of his ungodly associations.
other hand Moses describes Jacob as a "complete" man. The Hebrew adjective
tam means "perfect, complete, morally innocent, or having integrity."
This is the same word used to describe Noah (Gen 6:9) and Job (Job 1:1, 8;
and the character
expectation God had of Abraham (Gen 17:1). However, Bible scholars do not
want to accord Jacob the same status as Noah and Job and inexplicably render
tam in the case of Jacob as "quiet," "peaceful," "plain," or "mild."
Check your own version. The translation may be influenced by the fact that
Jacob stayed home with his family, thus occupying most of his time caring
for the flocks and herds of his father. Some interpreters have demeaned
Jacob by calling him as a "mama's boy." But, the description of Moses
affirms that Jacob was a reliable, "mature" godly person, not a carnal
playboy like his brother.
ancient times "birthright" referred to the rights of the firstborn son and
included two important rights. First, the firstborn gained leadership
authority over the clan. Second, the firstborn would inherit a double
portion of the father's property. With two sons the father's goods would be
divided into three parts, and the firstborn took two parts, and the second
son the rest.
this family birthright also included important responsibilities inherent in
the covenant God made with Abraham. Most important of these was maintaining
the Messianic line that would produce the Seed of Salvation, first promised
to Chavah (Gen 3:15), then to Abraham (Gen 22:17-18). Esau did not possess
the character worthy of these great privileges and responsibilities. By
God's decree the birthright belonged to Jacob (verse 23). God's choice is
not so unusual. In the Messianic line only Abraham and Yeshua were firstborn
sons in lists where brothers are mentioned!
Bible readers are understandably uncomfortable with the tactic employed by
Jacob. He should have simply trusted God to accomplish His sovereign choice.
However, Jacob could not be sure that the other two key parties would carry
out God's will. Isaac had been co-opted by his stomach, so his obedience to
the divine will was not a sure thing. Jacob also knew the character of his
brother. The bargain he offered, then, was actually a spiritual test. He
wanted to establish just how much interest Esau had in the birthright and
being a godly leader. There was nothing unfair about the contract. Esau
could have said no. So, we should not fault Jacob because Esau agreed to the
course, later Esau complained to his father that Jacob had taken his
birthright, but that was a lie. Esau's willingness to sell his birthright
for so little is truly shocking, but in doing so revealed his rejection of
the weightier responsibilities of those in the Messianic line. In reality
Esau had nothing to complain about. He eventually gained everything he could
hope for in terms of wealth and power. As Yeshua said of the hypocrites,
Esau had his reward in this life. Jacob gained an everlasting reward. The
names of his twelve sons are engraved on the gates of the New Jerusalem.
developed a root of bitterness that was passed on to his descendants. Divine
judgments were later pronounced on Edom for their wickedness. Just as the
line of the Messiah came from Jacob we could also say the spirit of
anti-Messiah was manifested in the line of Esau. The descendants of his son
Amalek opposed Israel during the exodus. Moreover Haman, the descendant of
the Amalek tried to destroy the Jewish people in the time of Esther. Then
Herod the Great who ordered the slaughter of babies to kill Yeshua was of
bargain of Jacob served the will of God. God's plan from the beginning was
to bless the world through Jacob and make him a company of nations. You
could say that settling the matter of birthright assured a place in the
Messianic kingdom for Gentiles. Jacob may not have realized it at the time,
but what he did, he did for me and for you.
Copyright © 2017 by
Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.