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Holman Bible Dictionary

Esau

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(ee' ssayyoo) Personal name whose meaning is not known. Son of Isaac and Rebecca; elder twin brother of Jacob (Genesis 25:24-26 ; Genesis 27:1 ,Genesis 27:1,27:32 ,Genesis 27:32,27:42 ; 1 Chronicles 1:34 ); father of the Edomite nation (Genesis 26:1 ; Deuteronomy 2:4-29 ; Malachi 1:2-3 ). At birth his body was hairy and red “and they called his name Esau” (Genesis 25:25 ,Genesis 25:25,25:30 ; Genesis 27:11 ,Genesis 27:11,27:21-23 ). The second born twin, Jacob, father of the nation Israel, held Esau's heel at birth (Genesis 25:22-26 ); thus depicting the struggle between the descendants of the two which ended when David lead Israel in the conquest of Edom (2 Samuel 8:12-14 ; 1 Chronicles 18:13 ; compare Numbers 24:18 ).

From the first Jacob sought to gain advantage over Esau (Hosea 12:3 ). Esau, the extrovert, was a favorite of his father and as a hunter provided him with his favorite meats. Jacob was the favorite of his mother Rebecca.

As a famished returning hunter, Esau, lacking self-control, sold his birthright to Jacob for food (Genesis 25:30-34 ). Birthright involved the right as head of the family (Genesis 27:29 ) and a double share of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:15-17 ). This stripped Esau of the headship of the people through which Messiah would come. Thus, the lineage became Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Having lost his birthright, he was still eligible to receive from Isaac the blessing of the eldest son. Rebecca devised a deception whereby Jacob received this blessing (Genesis 27:1-30 ).

Esau blamed Jacob for all his problems failing to realize that the character flaw revealed in his selling of his birthright followed him all of his life. Esau received a blessing, but neither he nor his descendants were to occupy the fertile land of Palestine (Genesis 27:39 ). At age 40 he married two Hittite wives (Genesis 26:34-35 ).

Years later the two brothers were reconciled when Jacob returned from Mesopotamia. Esau had lived in the land of Seir. As Jacob neared Palestine, he made plans for confronting his wronged brother and allaying his anger. Esau, with an army of 400, surprised Jacob, his guilty brother, and received him without bitterness (Genesis 33:4-16 ).

The two reconciled brothers met again for the final time at the death of their father (Genesis 35:29 ). Though their hostility was personally resolved, their descendants continue to this day to struggle against one another.

Nelson Price


Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Esau'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/e/esau.html. 1991.

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