Hebrews 12:16
Parallel Verses
New International Version
See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.

New Living Translation
Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal.

English Standard Version
that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

New American Standard Bible
that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.

King James Bible
Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
And make sure that there isn't any immoral or irreverent person like Esau, who sold his birthright in exchange for one meal.

International Standard Version
No one should be immoral or godless like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

NET Bible
And see to it that no one becomes an immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Or lest a man be found among you as a fornicator, or debauched, like Esau, who for one meal sold his birthright.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Make sure that no one commits sexual sin or is as concerned about earthly things as Esau was. He sold his rights as the firstborn son for a single meal.

Jubilee Bible 2000
lest there be any fornicator or profane person as Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.

King James 2000 Bible
Lest there be any immoral, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.

American King James Version
Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

American Standard Version
lest there be any fornication, or profane person, as Esau, who for one mess of meat sold his own birthright.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau; who for one mess, sold his first birthright.

Darby Bible Translation
lest [there be] any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one meal sold his birthright;

English Revised Version
lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one mess of meat sold his own birthright.

Webster's Bible Translation
Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birth-right.

Weymouth New Testament
lest there be a fornicator, or an ungodly person like Esau, who, in return for a single meal, parted with the birthright which belonged to him.

World English Bible
lest there be any sexually immoral person, or profane person, like Esau, who sold his birthright for one meal.

Young's Literal Translation
lest any one be a fornicator, or a profane person, as Esau, who in exchange for one morsel of food did sell his birthright,
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

12:12-17 A burden of affliction is apt to make the Christian's hands hang down, and his knees grow feeble, to dispirit him and discourage him; but against this he must strive, that he may better run his spiritual race and course. Faith and patience enable believers to follow peace and holiness, as a man follows his calling constantly, diligently, and with pleasure. Peace with men, of all sects and parties, will be favourable to our pursuit of holiness. But peace and holiness go together; there can be not right peace without holiness. Where persons fail of having the true grace of God, corruption will prevail and break forth; beware lest any unmortified lust in the heart, which seems to be dead, should spring up, to trouble and disturb the whole body. Falling away from Christ is the fruit of preferring the delights of the flesh, to the blessing of God, and the heavenly inheritance, as Esau did. But sinners will not always have such mean thoughts of the Divine blessing and inheritance as they now have. It agrees with the profane man's disposition, to desire the blessing, yet to despise the means whereby the blessing is to be gained. But God will neither sever the means from the blessing, nor join the blessing with the satisfying of man's lusts. God's mercy and blessing were never sought carefully and not obtained.

Pulpit Commentary

Verses 16, 17. - Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited (i.e. desired to inherit) the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. The word "fornicator" is to be understood literally, not figuratively (as Ebrard) of spiritual fornication (see ἁγιασμὸν, ver. 14). Βέβηλος ("profane") denotes one outside the sphere of sanctity, and so debarred from sacred privileges. Esau is appropriately adduced as a notable instance in the Old Testament of a person thus profane, and especially, in the way of warning, of one who lost irrecoverably the privileges which in his profaneness he had scorned. It is immaterial whether Esau himself is intended to be designated as a fornicator (πόρνος) as well as profane (βέβηλος). The essential moral of his history is this: being the firstborn of Israel, and so the primary inheritor of the promises made to Abraham, he set no store by the privilege, and so lost it irretrievably. In early life he so lightly esteemed his birthright as the eldest born (carrying with it, as is supposed, in the patriarchal age, the priesthood of the family, and in his case, as might be presumed, the custody and transmission of the promises) that he parted with it for the gratification of a passing appetite. His words on that occasion expressed the limit of his aims and interests: "Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?" Later in life he nevertheless presented himself to claim the blessing of the firstborn from his dying father, but found that he had been forestalled. It does not appear that he had meanwhile changed his mode of life or made amends for his former carelessness; still, he felt now that he had lost something worth having, and was grieved exceedingly. But not even his "great and exceeding bitter cry" availed then to recover what was forfeited. And so neither he nor his seed had part or lot in the Abrahamic promises: the time of opportunity was gone forever. There is some doubt with regard to the latter part of ver. 17,

(1) as to whether "it" (αἰτήν) in "he sought it" refers to "repentance" (μετανοίας) or to "the blessing" (τὴν εὐλογίαν);

(2) as to what "place of repentance" means. If "it" refers to "repentance," it is difficult to see how Esau's own repentance can be meant; for not only does seeking repentance with tears seem in itself to imply the capability of it, but also the "great and exceeding bitter cry" to which allusion is made was, not because he could not himself repent, but because he could not get the blessing. Hence, if "it" refers to "repentance," it must be repentance, i.e. change of mind, in Isaac that is meant, or rather in God, against whose will Isaac could not go; cf. "God is not a man... that he should repent" (Numbers 23:19). Of such change of mind and purpose it may be meant that Esau found no place. This seems to be the view of many modern interpreters, though not of Bengel, De Wette, Bleek, Hofmann, Delitzsch, Alford, or of Luther, Calvin, Grotius, or any of the Greek Fathers. Against it is the consideration that such is not the more obvious meaning of "he found no place of repentance," taken by itself, especially as μετανοία is always elsewhere in the New Testament (though not always in the LXX.) used for a person's change of mind with respect to his own misdoings (cf. supra, Hebrews 6:6). Difficulty on this ground is removed if, taking the clause, "for he found no place of repentance," as parenthetical, we refer αὐτὴν to τὴν εὐλογίαν, preceding. This is by no means a forced construction of the sentence, and it is supported (as above intimated) by the fact that in Genesis it is the blessing itself that Esau is expressly said to have craved in his "great and exceeding bitter cry:" "Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept." Thus we may render either, "When he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance [i.e. of change of mind in the bestower of the blessing], though he sought it [i.e. such change of mind] with tears;" or, "When he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected (for he found no place of repentance), though he sought it [i.e. the blessing] with tears." If, the latter rendering being adopted, Esau's own repentance be intended, the idea maybe, either that there was no place left in which even a real repentance could avail, or that of a real repentance he had become incapable; for his tears might be those only of vexation and remorse, not expressing any more appreciation than before of the birthright in its religious aspect. Ebrard's remark, that his conduct as related in Genesis 33, shows "a changed heart," and hence a true repentance, is not to the point. For all that there appears is that he had got over his angry feeling towards his brother; it is by no means implied - rather the contrary - that he would have preferred his destiny to his own, or that his views of life had risen above thoughts of worldly prosperity. We observe, further, that nothing is implied one way or the other as to Esau's own salvation; it is only the privilege of being the patriarch of the chosen seed that he is said to have thus irrecoverably forfeited. But his example is adduced as a warning to Christians with regard to their still more precious inheritance, which does involve their own eternal prospects. The warning to them is similar to those of Hebrews 6:4, etc., and Hebrews 10:26, etc., to the effect that sacred privileges, if persistently slighted, may be lost beyond recovery. And if the passage before us seems to imply, according to one view of it, what the former ones were found not to do, the possible inefficacy of a true repentance, however late, - we may say that, even if this is implied of Esau with respect to his lost blessing, it is not therefore necessarily implied of Christians with respect to their personal salvation; or that, if it is implied of them, it is not till their probation in this life is over that a "place of repentance" in this sense can for them be found no more (cf. the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1, etc.); also Matthew 7:22, etc.; Luke 13:24, etc.). One of Dr. Newman's Parochial Sermons ("Life the Season of Repentance," vol. 6. 'Sermon' 2) strikingly sets forth this view. See also 'Christian Year' (Second Sunday in Lent), with the appended note: "Esau's probation, as far as his birthright was concerned, was quite over when he uttered the cry in the text. His despondency, therefore, is not parallel to anything on this side the grave."

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Lest there be any fornicator or profane person,.... The first of these is guilty of a sin against the second table of the law, as well as against his own body; and which is opposed to the holiness the apostle had before exhorted to; such who are guilty of it, are not to be continued in the communion of the church; and it is a sin, which, lived in not repented of, excludes from the kingdom of heaven: the latter is one who is a transgressor of the first table of the law; who is an idolater, a swearer, a despiser of public worship and ordinances, and who behaves irreverently in divine service, and mocks at the future state, as Esau; to whom both these characters seem to belong: and this agrees with what the Jews say concerning him: they have a tradition (w), that he committed five transgressions on the day he came out of the field weary.

"He committed idolatry: he shed innocent blood; and lay with a virgin betrothed; and denied the life of the world to come (or a future state); and despised his birthright.''

It is elsewhere (x) a little differently expressed.

"Esau, the wicked, committed five transgressions on that day: he lay with a virgin betrothed; and killed a person; and denied the resurrection of the dead; and denied the root, or foundation, (i.e. that there is a God,) and despised his birthright; and besides, he desired his father's death, and sought to slay his brother.''

It is common for them to say of him, that he was an ungodly man; and particularly, that he was a murderer, a robber, "and an adulterer" (y); and that he has no part in the world to come (z): who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright; the account of which is in Genesis 25:29 this includes all the privileges which he had a right unto by being the firstborn; as a peculiar blessing from his father; a double portion of goods; and dominion over his brethren: and it is commonly said by the Jews, that the priesthood belonged to the firstborn, before the Levitical dispensation; and that for this reason, Jacob coveted the birthright (a), Esau being a wicked man, and unfit for it. The birthright was reckoned sacred; it was typical of the primogeniture of Christ; of the adoption of saints, and of the heavenly inheritance belonging thereunto; all which were despised by Esau: and so the Jewish paraphrases (b) interpret the contempt of his birthright, a despising of his part in the world to come, and a denial of the resurrection of the dead: and his contempt of it was shown in his selling it; and this was aggravated by his selling it for "one morsel of meat"; which was bread, and pottage of lentiles, Genesis 25:34. The Jewish writers speak of this bargain and sale much in the same language as the apostle here does; they say (c) of him, this is the man that sold his birthright , "for a morsel of bread"; and apply to him the passage in Proverbs 28:21 "for a piece of bread that man will transgress".

(w) Targum Jon. ben Uzziel in Genesis 25.29. (x) Shemot Rabba, sect. I. fol. 89. 3. T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 16. 2.((y) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 27. 1.((z) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 26. 3.((a) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 63. fol. 56. 2.((b) Targum Hieros. & Jon. in Genesis 25. 34. Bereshit Rabba, ib. (c) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 26. 4. & 27. 1.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

16. fornicator—(Heb 13:4; 1Co 10:8).

or profane—Fornication is nearly akin to gluttony, Esau's sin. He profanely cast away his spiritual privilege for the gratification of his palate. Ge 25:34 graphically portrays him. An example well fitted to strike needful horror into the Hebrews, whosoever of them, like Esau, were only sons of Isaac according to the flesh [Bengel].

for one morsel—The smallness of the inducement only aggravates the guilt of casting away eternity for such a trifle, so far is it from being a claim for mercy (compare Ge 3:6). One single act has often the greatest power either for good or for evil. So in the cases of Reuben and Saul, for evil (Ge 49:4; 1Ch 5:1; 1Sa 13:12-14); and, on the other hand, for good, Abraham and Phinehas (Ge 12:1, &c.; Ge 15:5, 6; Nu 25:6-15).

his birthright—Greek, "his own (so the oldest manuscripts read, intensifying the suicidal folly and sin of the act) rights of primogeniture," involving the high spiritual privilege of being ancestor of the promised seed, and heir of the promises in Him. The Hebrews whom Paul addressed, had, as Christians, the spiritual rights of primogeniture (compare Heb 12:23): he intimates that they must exercise holy self-control, if they wish not, like Esau, to forfeit them.

Hebrews 12:16 Additional Commentaries
A Call to Holiness
15See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
Cross References
Genesis 25:33
But Jacob said, "Swear to me first." So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

1 Timothy 1:9
We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers,

Hebrews 13:4
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
Treasury of Scripture

Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

any fornicator.

Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but fornicators …

Mark 7:21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, …

Acts 15:20,29 But that we write to them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, …

1 Corinthians 5:1-6,9-11 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and …

1 Corinthians 6:15-20 Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I …

1 Corinthians 10:8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and …

2 Corinthians 12:21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and …

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, …

Ephesians 5:3,5 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not …

Colossians 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are on the earth; fornication, …

1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you should …

Revelation 2:20-23 Notwithstanding I have a few things against you, because you suffer …

Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, …

Revelation 22:15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and fornicators, and murderers, …

as Esau.

Genesis 25:31-34 And Jacob said, Sell me this day your birthright…

Genesis 27:36 And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he has supplanted …

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