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Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Esau

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("hairy, rough"); for at birth he "came out red (from whence his name EDOM), all over like an hairy garment" (Genesis 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 (Hosea 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?" (Matthew 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 (Numbers 8:17-19) and the progenitorship of Messiah independently of temporal advantages. Genesis 48:22; Genesis 49:3-4) as heir of the everlasting promises to Abraham's seed (Romans 9:5; Romans 9:8). "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 (1 Corinthians 15:32); faith says with Jacob "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord" (Genesis 49:18; compare Luke 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" (Hebrews 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 Hebrews 12:11 with Hebrews 12:17; so Genesis 3:6; Genesis 3:8, "the cool of the day "; Matthew 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" (Proverbs 1:24-30; Luke 13:28; Luke 13:34-35; Luke 19:42; Luke 19:44). 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 (Matthew 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 (1 Samuel 24:16-17, Saul: contrast David, Psalms 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 (Genesis 27:46; Genesis 28:1). Esau then tried by marrying his cousin Mahalath, Ishmael's daughter, to conciliate his parents (Genesis 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 (Genesis 35:29; Genesis 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 (Proverbs 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 (Genesis 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 (Genesis 32:3; Deuteronomy 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 (Genesis 36:31), and while Israel was in bondage in Egypt Edom was independent. But Saul and David conquered the Edomites (1 Samuel 14:47; 2 Samuel 8:14), and they were, excepting revolts, subject to Judah until Ahaz' reign; then they threw off the yoke (2 Kings 16:6; 2 Chronicles 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.


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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Esau'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fbd/e/esau.html. 1949.

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