The Importance of Esau’s Introduction

James Coakley
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When Esau is introduced in Genesis 25, here is what Moses communicates about his first actions, first words, and physical description:

  • First Actions: He is portrayed as a skillful hunter and an outdoorsman (Gen. 25:27).
  • First Words: “Let me eat some of that red stew” (Gen. 25:30).
  • Physical Descriptors: red and hairy (Gen. 25:25)

Keep in mind that this content was intentionally selected out of many things that could have been used to describe Esau. If we take this information and reflect on how it develops Esau as a character, several traits come to the surface that paint a portrait of Esau.

For instance, the fact that he is described as red and hairy (so hairy, in fact, that Jacob later clothes himself in goat skin to mimic his brother when he steals his blessing!) not only explains why he is such an effective hunter (because of his camouflage from all this hair) but also subtly foreshadows his more brutish, animal-like nature as someone who prefers to live in the wild.

In addition, his first words—the churlish way in which he asks for something to eat—show that his stomach is his main motivator.

These details clearly portray Esau in animal-like fashion. Like an animal, he wants instant gratification, and he shows no capacity to understand the long-term benefits of keeping his birthright. Esau looks animal-like, spends a lot of time in open fields like an animal, and brutishly talks like we envision an animal would communicate. This first impression of Esau accurately gives the reader a portrait of his overall general character traits that define the way we encounter him in later texts.

For Further Reading:

14 Fresh Ways to Enjoy the Bible

by James Coakley

The Bible is God’s masterpiece and gift to you—claim it for all that it’s worth. The Bible is the most read book in all the world....

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