Genesis 25:27

I. THE TWO KINGDOMS, that of material force and that of moral power, are thus represented in contrast and rivalry.

II. GOD'S WAYS AND MAN'S WAYS CONTRASTED. The partialities of the parents foster the special faults of the children. Esau is more the man of fleshly impulse because Isaac loved him for his venison. Jacob is more the crafty supplanter because Rebekah by her favoritism encouraged him to take advantage of his brother.

III. THE IMPORTANCE OF HOME LIFE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHARACTER. The sins of parents are generally in some form transmitted to children. Esau's new name was Edom, memento of his selfish succumbing to appetite. Jacob's new name was Israel, memento of the victory which by the grace of God he obtained. "Esau despised his birthright." It was the natural working of a sensual nature. We begin by yielding to the lower impulses without thinking how they bind their cords round us. At last we lose the power of distinguishing a mere passing evil from an overwhelming danger, and when we ought to fight, cry, I am at the point to die; then in wretched collapse all goes. What is this birthright, what profit?

1. The loss of the sense of responsibility.

2. The absorbing hunger after present gratification.

3. The blindness to all proportion in life.

4. The dullness and stupidity of the animalism which does not even care for the very birthright itself, though it is an earthly advantage.

These are the fearful payments which they have to render who, like Esau, give themselves up to a mere life of the flesh. - R.







And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter.
I. A man of strong physical nature, a man of passion, with little self-restraint.

II. A man of swift impulse.

III. A man reckless of consequences. The present, the immediate, arrests him.

IV. Esau had no sense of spiritual things.

(L. D. Bevan.)

I. Esau was full of healthy vigour and the spirit of adventure, exulting in field sports, active, muscular, with the rough aspect and the bounding pulse of the free desert. Jacob was a harmless shepherd, pensive and tranquil, dwelling by the hearth and caring only for quiet occupations. Strength and speed and courage and endurance are blessings not lightly to be despised; but he who confines his ideal to them, as Esau did, chooses a low ideal, and one which can bring a man but little peace at the last. Esau reaches but half the blessing of a man, and that the meaner and temporal half; the other half seems seldom or never to have entered his thoughts.

II. So side by side the boys grew up; and the next memorable scene of their history shows us that the great peril of animal life — the peril lest it should forget God altogether and merge into mere uncontrolled, intemperate sensuality — had happened to Esau I For the mess of pottage the sensual hunter sells in one moment the prophecy of the far future and the blessing of a thousand years. Esau's epitaph is the epitaph of a lifetime recording for ever the consummated carelessness of a moment. Esau, "a profane person, .... who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright." Jacob, with all the contemptible faults which lay on the surface of his character, had deep within his soul the faith in the unseen, the sense of dependence on and love to God which Esau did not even comprehend.

1. Cultivate the whole of the nature which God has given you, and in doing so remember that the mind is of more moment than the body, and the soul than both.

2. Beware lest, in a moment of weakness and folly, you sell your birthright and barter your happy innocence for torment and fear and shame.

(Archdeacon Farrar.)

I. His STRENGTH: A HUNTER. Hunting in itself is a delight lawful and laudable, and may well be argued for from the disposition that God hath put into creatures. He hath naturally inclined one kind of beasts to pursue another for man's profit and pleasure. He hath given the dog a secret instinct to follow the hare, the hart, the fox, the boar, as if he would direct a man by the finger of nature to exercise those qualities which His Divine wisdom created in them.

1. This practice of hunting hath in it delight.

2. Benefit. Recreations have also their profitable use, if rightly undertaken.(1) The health is preserved by a moderate exercise.(2) The body is prepared and fitted by these sportive to more serious labours, when the hand of war shall set them to it.(3) The mind, wearied with graver employments, hath thus some cool respiration given it, and is sent back to the service of God with a revived alacrity.

II. HIS POLICY: A CUNNING HUNTER.

1. He had a ravenous and intemperate desire. This appears from three phrases he used:(1) "Feed me, I pray thee" (ver. 30); satisfy, saturate, satiate me; or, let me swallow at once, as some read it. The words of an appetite insufferable of delay.(2) To show his eagerness, he doubles the word for haste: "with that red, with that red pottage;" red was his colour, red was his desire. He coveted red pottage; he dwelt in a red soil, called thereon Idumea; and in the text, "therefore was his name called Edom."(3) He says, "I am faint," and (ver. 32) "at the point to die," if I have it not. Like some longing souls that have so weak a hand over their appetites, that they must die if their humour be not fulfilled.

2. His folly may be argued from his base estimation of the birthright; that he would so lightly part from it, and on so easy conditions as pottage.

3. Another argument of his folly was ingratitude to God, who had in mercy vouchsafed him, though but by a few minutes, the privilege of primogeniture; wherewith divines hold that the priesthood was also conveyed.

4. His obstinacy taxeth his folly, that, after cold blood, leisure to think of the treasure he sold, and digestion of his pottage, he repented, not of his rashness, but (ver. 34) "He did eat, and drink, and rose up, and went his way" — filled his belly, rose up to his former customs, and went his way without a Quidfeci? Therefore it is added, "he despised his birthright." He followed his pleasures without any interception of sorrow or interruption of conscience. His whole life was a circle of sinful customs; and not his birthright's loss can put him out of them.

5. Lastly, his perfidious nature appeareth, that though he had made an absolute conveyance of his birthright to Jacob, and sealed the deed with an oath, yet he seemed to make but a jest of it, and purposed in his heart not to perform it. Thus literally; let us now come to some moral application to ourselves. Hunting is, for the most part, taken in the Holy Scripture in the worst sense. So (Genesis 10:9) Nimrod was a hunter, even to a proverb; and that "before the Lord," as without fear of His majesty. Now, if it were so hateful to hunt beasts, what is it to hunt men? The wicked oppressors of the world are here typed and taxed, who employ both arm and brain to hunt the poor out of their habitations, and to drink the blood of the oppressed Herein observe —

I.The persons hunted.

II.The manner of hunting; and,

III.The hounds.

1. The poor are their prey: any man that either their wit or violence can practise on.

2. You hear the object they hunt; attend the manner. And this you shall find, as Esau's, to consist in two things — force and fraud. They are not only hunters, but cunning hunters.

3. Now for their hounds. Besides that they have long noses themselves, and hands longer than their noses, they have dogs of all sorts. Beagles, cunning intelligencers — the more crafty they are, the more commendable, Their setters, prowling promoters; whereof there may be necessary use, as men may have dogs, but they take them for mischievous purposes. Their spaniels, fawning sycophants, who lick their master's hands, but are brawling ever at poor strangers. Their great mastiffs; surly and sharking bailiffs, that can set a rankling tooth in the poor tenants' ribs. Thus I have shown you a field of hunters; what should I add, but my prayers to heaven, and desires to earth, that these hunters may be hunted? The hunting of harmful beasts is commended: the wolf, the boar, the bear, the fox, the tiger, the otter. But the metaphorical hunting of these is more praiseworthy; the country wolves, or city foxes, deserve most to be hunted.

(T. Adams.)

Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.

I. JACOB WAS THE FATHER OF THE JEWISH RACE, AND A TYPICAL JEW. If we can understand the life of Jacob, we can understand the history of his people. The extremes which startle us in them are all in him. Like them, he is the most successful schemer of his times; and, like them, he has that deep spirituality, that far-seeing faith, which are the grandest of all qualities, and make a man capable of the highest culture that a human spirit can receive. Like them, he spends the greatest part of his life in exile, and amid trying conditions of toil and sorrow; and, like them, he is inalienably attached to that dear land, his only hold on which was by the promise of God, and the graves of the heroic dead.

II. JACOB HAS SO MANY POINTS OF CONTACT WITH OURSELVES.

1. His failings speak to us.

2. His aspirations speak to us.

3. His sorrows speak to us.

III. IN JACOB WE CAN TRACE THE WORKINGS OF DIVINE LOVE. "Jacob have I loved" (Malachi 1:2).

1. It was pre-natal love.

2. It was fervent love.

3. It was a disciplinary love.

IV. JACOB'S LIFE GIVES A CLUE TO THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION (see Romans 9:11). Election refers largely, if not primarily, to the service which the elect are qualified to render to their fellows throughout all coming time.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

I. THAT CONDUCT IN THE DAYS OF YOUTH FOREBODES THE PROCEDURE OF AFTER DAYS.

II. THAT THE BIBLE INDICATES THE RIGHT WAY OF GROWING UP INTO A WORTHY MANHOOD.

III. THAT NATURAL TENDENCIES MUST BE UNDER CONTROL FROM THE OUTSET OF LIFE. Conclusion: Read this item in the life of Jacob and Esau —

1. To learn in what you may be tending to wrong.

2. To impress you with the truth that there are critical hours in every one's life.

3. To realize that there is present help against yielding.

(D. G. Watt, M. A.)

I. FRATERNAL DISSIMILARITY.

II. PARENTAL PARTIALITY.

III. CONJUGAL, CONTRARIETY. Lessons:

1. The responsibility of parents.

2. The need of love as a cementing influence in home life.

3. The baseness of unbrotherliness.

4. The downward course of sin.

(T. S. Dickson.)

Two things are observable in the holy patriarchs, and commendable to all that will be heirs with them of eternal life.

1. Their contempt of the world. They that dwell in tents intend not a long dwelling in a place. They are moveables, ever ready to be transferred at the occasion and will of the inhabiter. "Abraham dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise" (Hebrews 11:9). The reason is added, "for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." These saints studied not to enlarge their barns, as the rich cosmopolite (Luke 12.), or to sing requiems to their souls, in the hoped perpetuity of earthly habitations. "Soul, live; thou hast enough laid up for many years." Fool! he had not enough for that night. They had no thought that their houses should continue for ever, and their dwelling-places to all generations; thereupon calling their lands after their own names (Psalm 49:11). God convinceth the foolish security of the Jews, to whom He had promised (by the Messiah to be purchased) an everlasting royalty in heaven, by the Rechabites (Jeremiah 35:7), who built no houses, but dwelt in tents, as if they were strangers, ready on a short warning for removal. The Church esteems heaven her home, this world but a tent, a tent which we must all leave, build we as high as Babel, as strong as Babylon. When we have fortified, combined, feasted, death comes with a voider, and takes away all.

2. Their frugality should not pass unregarded. Here is no ambition of great buildings; a tent will serve. How differ our days and hearts from those! The fashion is now to build great houses to our lands, till we have no lands to our houses; and the credit of a good house is made, not to consist in outward hospitality, but in outward walls.

(T. Adams.)

1. The principal is to please God, whose displeasure against double-dealing the sad examples of Saul for the Amalekites, of Gehazi for the bribes, of Ananias for the inheritance, testify in their destruction. Whose delight in plain-dealing Himself affirms: "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" (John 1:17).

2. The credit of a good name, which is a most worthy treasure, is thus preserved. The riches left thee by thy ancestors may miscarry through others' negligence; the name not, save by thy own fault. It is the plain-dealer's reward, his name shall be had in estimation; whereas no faith is given to the dissembler, even speaking truth. Every man is more ready to trust the poor plain-dealer than the glittering, false-tongued gallant.

3. It prevents and infatuates all the malicious plots of enemies. God, in regard to thy simplicity, brings to nought all their machinations. Thou, O Lord, hadst respect to my simple pureness. An innocent fool takes fearless steps, and walks as securely as if it stood girt with a wall of brass.

4. It preserves thy state from ruin. When by subtlety men think to scrape together much wealth, all is but the spider's web, artificial and weak. What plain-dealing-gets, sticks by us, and infallibly derives itself to our posterity. If thou wouldst be good to thyself and thine, use plainness.

5. It shall somewhat keep thee from the troubles and vexations of the world.

6. The curses of the poor shall never hurt thee. Though the causeless curse shall never come, yet it is happy for a man so to live that all may bless him. Now the plain man shall have this at last. Gallant prodigality, like fire in flax, makes a great blaze, a hot show, but plain hospitality, like fire in solid wood, holds out to warm the poor, because God blesseth it. So I have seen hot spurs in the way gallop amain; but the ivy bushes have so stayed them, that the plain traveller comes first to his journey's end.

7. It shall be thy best comfort on thy death-bed: the conscience of an innocent life. On this staff leans aged Samuel: "Whose ox or ass have I taken?"

8. Lastly, thou shalt find rest for thy soul. Thou hast dealt plainly; so will God with thee, multiplying upon thee His promised mercies.

(T. Adams.)

I. Although Jacob obtained, in virtue of his election, a certain priority over Esau, yet was Esau also, equally with Jacob, the subject of Divine sovereignty.

II. The appointment of God's sovereignty concerning these two brothers did in no wise determine their eternal destinies, but only the sphere of their human histories.

III. It may have been the case that the positions severally assigned to both Jacob and Esau in the family of Isaac, were just those which were best adapted to ensure the blessedness of both. Perhaps the only way to bring such a disposition as Esau's to esteem his birthright in Isaac was to transfer it to another. And that this discipline was not lost on Esau the event distinctly shows.

(W. Roberts.)

I. They grew bodily. Natural provision for this. Food, air, exercise, increase bulk of body. Explain. Grew in stature and in strength.

II. They grew mentally. Natural provision for this. Memory a storehouse for facts. Judgment a mill for grinding them up and digesting them. Some boys are careless, dull, disobedient, self-willed, grow slowly, become men bodily and remain children in mind. Providential provision for mental growth. Books, schools, &c. These boys had not these things.

III. They grew very unlike each other. Sketch their differences, bodily, mentally, morally. See rest of verse. Brothers often unlike in temper, taste, &c. With all mental and other differences they should be alike pious. "Boy father of the man."

IV. They grew up into history. Which became the most prominent? Why? The practice of prayer at length made Jacob the better man. lie overcame evil. Esau degenerated. Learn: You are all growing bodily: are you growing mentally? Do you grow in wisdom and in grace, and in the favour of God and man? Are you growing like Christ, growing up into Christ, growing more fit for heaven?

It has been pointed out that the weakness in Esau's character which makes him so striking a contrast to his brother is his inconstancy.

"That one error

Fill him with faults; makes him run through all the sins."Constancy, persistence, dogged tenacity is certainly the striking feature of Jacob's character. He could wait and bide his lime; he could retain one purpose year after year till it was accomplished. The very motto of his life was, "I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me." He watched for Esau's weak moment, and took advantage of it. He served fourteen years for the woman he loved, and no hardship quenched his love. Nay, when a whole lifetime intervened, and he lay dying in Egypt, his constant heart still turned to Rachel, as if he had parted with her but yesterday. In contrast with his tenacious, constant character stands Esau, led by impulse, betrayed by appetite, everything by turns and nothing long. To-day despising his birthright, to-morrow breaking his heart because for its loss; to-day vowing he will murder his brother, to-morrow falling on his neck and kissing him; a man you cannot reckon upon, and of too shallow a nature for anything to root itself deeply in.

(M. Dods, D. D.)

One ship is as good as another in the harbour. It is outside of the harbour that the comparative merits of different vessels are made to appear. There their qualities, whether superior or inferior, show themselves. It is what ships do on the sea that determines that one is better or worse than another. And as with ships, so with men. Two men start about alike on the morn of life. They go along at first about together. But follow them five or ten years, and about the fifth, the sixth, or the seventh year, the one — a man of pleasure, a godless man, a man that does not believe in a Divine supervision of the affairs of this world — begins to degenerate; while the other — a sober Christian man, who believes that God controls the world and all that are in it — in the beginning lays his foundation, going down so deep that he seems for a time to burrow like a marmot; but then, little by little, he begins to work upward, and he builds so that every hour men see that he is building strongly and surely.

(H. W. Beecher.)

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