Live into Your Birthright
By: Noelle Kirchner
Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)
Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”
“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”
But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright. – Genesis 25:29-34
Our passage ends with Esau upset, and rightfully so. He has just squandered his birthright. Typically reserved for the firstborn son, a birthright entailed a leadership position in the family and a double measure of inheritance. Further, the inheritance in question was no small amount. Earlier in Genesis 25:5, we read that Abraham had given everything he owned to Isaac, who was Jacob and Esau’s father.
The process of a birthright following the eldest son is known as primogeniture. While it was the norm in the ancient Near East, it does not always happen in scripture. Indeed, the reversal found in our passage was predicted in an oracle from the Lord while Rebekah was pregnant with her twins, Jacob and Esau.