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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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son of Isaac and Rebekah, born A.M. 2168, B.C. 1836. When the time of Rebekah's delivery came, she had twins, Genesis 25:24-26 : the first-born was hairy, therefore called Esau; that is, a man full grown or of perfect age; but some derive Esau from the Arabic gescha or gencheva, which signifies a hair cloth. Esau delighted in hunting, and his father Isaac had a particular affection for him. On one occasion, Esau, returning from the fields greatly fatigued, desired Jacob to give him some red pottage, which he was then preparing. Jacob consented, provided Esau would sell him his birthright. Esau complied, and by oath resigned it to him, Genesis 25:29-34 . Esau, when aged forty, married two Canaanitish women, Judith, daughter of Beeri, the Hittite; and Bashemath, daughter of Elon, Genesis 26:34 . These marriages were very displeasing to Isaac and Rebekah, because they intermingled the blood of Abraham with that of Canaanite aliens. Isaac being old, and his sight decayed, directed Esau to procure him delicate venison by hunting, that he might give him his chief blessing, Genesis 27. The artifice of his mother, however, counteracted his purpose; and she contrived to impose upon Isaac, and to obtain the father's principal blessing for her son Jacob. Esau was indignant on account of this treachery, and determined to kill Jacob as soon as their father should die. Rebekah again interposed, and sent Jacob away to her brother Laban, with whom he might be secure. During the period of separation, which lasted several years, Esau married a wife of the family of Ishmael; and, removing to Mount Seir, acquired great power and wealth. When Jacob returned, after a long absence, to his father's country, with a numerous family, and large flocks and herds, he dreaded his brother's displeasure; but they had an amicable and affectionate interview. After their father's death, they lived in peace and amity; but, as their possessions enlarged, and there was not sufficient room for them in the land in which they were strangers, Esau returned to Mount Seir, where his posterity multiplied under the denomination of Edomites. ( See EDOM. ) The time of his death is not mentioned; but Bishop Cumberland thinks it is probable that he died about the same time with his brother Jacob, at the age of about one hundred and forty-seven years, Genesis 25-36.

2. On the most important part of this history, the selling of the birthright, we may observe, (1.) That although it was always the design of God that the blessing connected with primogeniture in the family of Abraham should be enjoyed by Jacob, and to exercise his sovereignty in changing the succession in which the promises of the Abrahamic covenant might descend; yet the conduct of Rebekah and Jacob was reprehensible in endeavouring to bring about the divine design by the unworthy means of contrivance and deceit; and they were punished for their presumption by their sufferings.

(2.) That the conduct of Esau in selling his birthright was both wanton and profane. It was wanton, because he, though faint, could be in no danger of not obtaining a supply of food in his father's house; and was therefore wholly influenced by his appetite, excited by the delicacy of Jacob's pottage. It was profane, because the blessings of the birthright were spiritual as well as civil. The church of God was to be established in the line of the first-born; and in that line the Messiah was to appear. These high privileges were despised by Esau, who is therefore made by St. Paul a type of all apostates from Christ, who, like him, profanely despise their birthright as the sons of God. See BIRTHRIGHT .

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Esau'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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