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.
The narrative of Jacob and Esau is provided as an introduction before Moses returns to the story of Isaac. These passages are a foundation that will explain why Jacob and Rebekah felt justified to deceive Isaac and rob Esau of his legal due. The point here is that Esau did not regard his birthright and sold it to Jacob. In the ancient, heathen world and even up to today in some countries the oldest son was to inherit his father’s property and religious duties within the family. Esau was willing to sell his sacred right and privilege to his brother.
The question will become, now that Esau swore to give up his birthright and sold it for a bowl of stew, how to get Isaac to bless Jacob first and grant him the birthright.
Sod, we can figure out from the context is made or cooked. Notice how sod is used again in 2Chronicles 35:13. Sodden used to be the past participle of to seethe or boil. Sod is short for that.
Exodus 16:23 And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.
Exodus 23:19 The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.
Pottage is soup or stew.
2Kings 4:38 And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets.
Esau will sell his birthright for a bowl of red stew and Edom comes from that. Edom, according to Strong’s dictionary, means red.
This is why the Red Sea is called the Red Sea.
1Kings 9:26 And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Eziongeber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red sea, in the land of Edom.
What is the birthright that Esau surrendered to Jacob for a meal? As the oldest Esau was, by custom, to inherit his father’s wealth and be head of the family, and his father’s standing before God. It was also of religious significance among the heathen, as the eldest son would inherit the family, the wealth, and the religious responsibilities to maintain the family gods and the family fire as De Coulanges tells us in his book The Ancient City. Later, Jacob’s son, Rueben, will forfeit his birthright by a grievous sin against his father. Esau surrendered his birthright to be the head of the family for a meal. Of course, we know that God chose Jacob but in retrospect Esau gave up the privilege of having the Messiah come through his lineage, of having God come to earth to live as a man, the Son of God and the Son of man in one person, through his descendants, for a bowl of soup.
Notice it says that Esau despised his birthright. Despise is a synonym of hate in the Bible. It simply means to hold in contempt or to disregard or to view someone lower in your eyes than they should be naturally.
Proverbs 5:12 And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof;
Amos 5:21 I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.
Matthew 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Despise is the opposite of honoring someone or something, meaning to hold them in low esteem.
1Samuel 2:30 Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.
Understanding this will help you understand difficult verses such as this where in comparison to Christ it is said;
Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
We can find examples in this in Americans who despise their right to vote and don’t do it, not out of protest, but just because they don’t think it’s a big deal. It’s not worth the trouble to them. We find examples of this in Christians who despise uniting with other Christians in worship as the Church, not because they have moved to a new place and don’t know any Christians or believe that that institutional churches are not Biblical, but, because it’s too much trouble and they’d rather sleep in.
Esau is an example of a great many people in the world throughout history. And so, it is said that God held him in contempt, as well;
Malachi 1:2 I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob,3 And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.
Romans 9:13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.