29 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: 30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. 31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. 32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? 33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.
Here we have the famous scene of Esau selling his birthright for a mess of pottage. Of course, God had already foretold that his covenant blessings would be continued through Jacob, not Esau, and I wonder whether Jacob was aware of that prophecy, or if he was fulfilling it unknowingly.
There are those who decry Jacob for taking advantage of his brother, though personally his methods have in these verses have never disturbed me. Esau might have said “I am at the point to die,” but he was still walking and talking, hardly the behavior of someone who is literally at death’s door. And if Esau was willing to trade the blessings of God to satiate his hunger, then he didn’t deserve to have it in the first place. He was literally valuing the things of the body more than the things of God. Even after Esau had taken care of his physical needs it then describes him as simply rising up and walking away, not showing the slightest sign of remorse at the priceless birthright that he had just given up.
And no doubt Esau’s temporal-focused mindset was evident in the way he lived his life, even before this moment. Jacob would have known that his brother would never honor and cherish God’s birthright in the same way that he would. Perhaps part of the reason why Esau was willing to sell the birthright was because he knew it, too.
There is a good deal of supposition from me in all of that, but I do think there is enough room for doubt that we shouldn’t try to judge Jacob on the matter. Maybe he was in the wrong, but also maybe he was not. And in any case, this whole exchange was only a bit of human theatrics, it did not actually change either man’s destiny. God had already determined where the blessings would go years prior, and Esau and Jacob were merely playing into his foreordained plan.