25 27When the lads grew up, Esau became skilled in hunting, a man of the field, and Jacob became a simple man who stayed among the tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau for he hunted game for his mouth, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
29 Once, when Jacob was boiling boiled stew, Esau came in from the field, famished, 30 and said to Jacob, “Let me gulp down some of the red-stuff, that red-stuff, for I am weary.” Therefore they called his name Edom/Red One.
31 Jacob said, “Right here-and-now, sell me your birthright.”
32 Esau said, “Since I’m at the point of death, what good to me is a first-born right?”
33 Jacob said, “Swear. Here-and-now.” And he swore and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew. He ate, drank, rose, and went off. Thus did Esau spurn the birthright.
The twins grew. Growth and multiplying, on their own, are not signifiers of maturity. Growth alone is not a basis for moral judgment. This is confirmed in a system that desires maximum, short-term capitalistic profit. The description of this grown indicates Esau grew in the skill of hunting. Jacob, whose name carries a Hebrew root meaning “crooked heart” is said to have grown to be a “simple” person. A combination of deviousness and innocence describes tricky leaders down to this day—pragmatically underhanded.
Isaac “loved” Esau for his belly’s sake. There is no reason given for Rebekah’s love of Jacob other than proximity in the tents.
Then, one day, the story begins with Esau returned from a hunt, weary and famished. Esau speaks gutturally, wanting to “gulp” (like an animal in a feedlot) nameless food (red, red stuff). He is a crude appetite impatient for satisfaction.
Jacob goes beyond simply reaching for primogeniture by grasping a heel to taking advantage of Esau’s hunger. Jacob the Slyly Simple could have seen this time coming and even prepared it as a trap. The Hebrew phrase about boiling boiled-stew can indicate something cooked up as in stirring up trouble. It can also go so far as to indicate intentional harm.
Esau, feeling compelled to gulp food—now!—dismissed any thought of inheritance or, anachronistically, retirement. In a moment, the transaction is over. Esau is renamed Edom (Red), the name by which his descendants will be known. As in every family feud, the displaced descendants will become a stumbling block for their usurper.
Esau, who brought meat from the field to satisfy Isaac’s stomach, is taken in by a vegetarian stew from the garden. Jacob, second-born, has the first half of what is needed to become the primary heir—a birthright sold by Esau for a mess of pottage.
Esau does seem to be unfit for tribal leadership. There are questions to be raised about the ethics of Jacob and his current fitness to be a tribal leader. Both lads need additional experience to mature.