by John Thomas Lowe
As firstborn, Esau is the natural heir and Isaac's successor.
Esau is the elder son of Isaac in the Hebrew Bible. The Christian New Testament alludes to him in the Epistles to the Romans and the Hebrews; he is mentioned in the Book of Genesis and Obadiah and Malachi.
Died: Cave of the Patriarchs, Hebron
Children: Eliphaz, Jeush, Jaalam, Korah, Reuel
Parents: Isaac, Rebecca
Grandchildren: Omar, Mizzah, Hatam
Yaqub ibn Ishaaq ibn Ibrahim (Arabic: literally: "Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham" romanized: Yaqub; also later Israel, Arabic: israaeel; Classical/Quranic Arabic: israaeel), also known as Jacob, is a prophet in Islam. He is acknowledged as a patriarch of Islam. Muslims believe that he preached the same monotheistic faith as did his forefathers: Abraham (Ibrāhīm), Ishmael (Ismail), and Isaac (Ishaaq).
Jacob is mentioned sixteen times in the Quran. Two further references to Isra'il are believed to be mentions of Jacob. In most of these references, Jacob is mentioned alongside fellow Hebrew prophets and patriarchs as an ancient and pious prophet who stayed in the "company of the elect." Muslims hold that Jacob was the son of Isaac and that he preached the Oneness of God throughout his life. As in Christianity and Judaism, Islam holds that Jacob had twelve sons, each of which would father the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Jacob plays a significant role in the story of his son, Joseph (Yūsif). The Quran clarifies that God made a covenant with Jacob, and Jacob was made a faithful leader by God's command. His grandfather (Ibrahim), father (Ishaq), uncle (Ismail), son (Yusuf), and himself are all prophets of Islam.
The biblical Book of Genesis speaks of the relationship between fraternal twins Jacob and Esau, sons of Isaac and Rebecca. The story focuses on Esau's loss of his birthright to Jacob and the conflict between their descendant nations because Jacob deceived their aged and blind father, Isaac, to receive Esau's birthright/blessing from Isaac.
This conflict was paralleled by the parents' affection for their favored child: "Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob." Even since conception, their conflict was foreshadowed: "And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it is so, why am I thus? Moreover, she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two types of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people, and the elder shall serve the younger."
Genesis 25:26 states that Esau was born before Jacob, who came out holding on to his older brother's heel as if he was trying to pull Esau back into the womb so that he could be firstborn. Jacob's name means he grasps the heel, a Hebrew idiom for deceptive behavior.
• 2Blessing of the firstborn
• 4Views of the birthright
In Genesis, Esau returned to his brother, Jacob, being famished from the fields. He begged his twin brother to give him some "red pottage" (paralleling his nickname, Hebrew: אדום, adom, meaning "red"). Jacob offered to give Esau a bowl of stew in exchange for his birthright (the right to be recognized as firstborn), and Esau agreed.
The birthright (bekah) has to do with both position and inheritance. By birthright, the firstborn son inherited the family's leadership and the judicial authority of his father. Deuteronomy 21:17 states that he was also entitled to a double portion of the paternal inheritance.
In the interpretation of Daniel J. Elazar, Esau acts impulsively: "Esau demonstrates that he does not deserve to be the one who continues Abraham's responsibilities and rewards under God's covenant, since he does not have the steady, thoughtful qualities which are required... Jacob shows his willingness as well as his greater intelligence and forethought. What he does is not quite honorable, though not illegal. The title that he gains is at least partially valid, although he is insecure enough about it to conspire later with his mother to deceive his father to gain the blessing for the firstborn as well."
Later, Esau marries both Hittite women locals, violating Abraham's (and God's) injunction not to take wives from among the Canaanite population. Again, one gets the sense of a headstrong person who acts impulsively, without sufficient thought. His marriage is described as a vexation to both Rebecca and Isaac. Even his father, who has a strong affection for him, is hurt by his actions. According to Daniel J. Elazar, this action alone forever rules out Esau as the bearer of patriarchal continuity. Esau could have overcome the sale of his birthright; Isaac was still prepared to give him the blessing due to the firstborn. However, acquiring foreign wives meant the detachment of his children from the Abrahamic line. Despite the deception on the part of Jacob and his mother to gain Isaac's patriarchal blessing, Jacob's vocation as Isaac's legitimate heir in the continued founding of the Jewish people is reaffirmed.
Elazar suggests the Bible indicates that a bright, calculating person, even less than honest at times, is preferable as a founder over a bluff, impulsive one who cannot make discriminating choices.
Blessing of the firstborn
Pronouncing the blessing was considered the act of formally acknowledging the firstborn as the principal heir.10
In Genesis 27:5–7, Rebecca overhears Isaac telling Esau, "Bring me venison and prepare a savory food, that I may eat, and bless thee before the LORD before my death." Rebecca counsels Jacob to pretend to be Esau to obtain the blessing in his brother's stead. He dressed in Esau's best clothes and disguised himself by covering his arms in lambskin so that if his blind father touched him, he would think Jacob was his more hairy brother. Jacob brought Isaac a goat meat dish prepared by Rebecca to taste like venison. Isaac then bestowed the blessing (*bekhorah), which confers a prophetic wish for fertility (vv. 27–28) and dominion (v.29), on Jacob before Esau's return.
*bekhorah - The Semitic root B-K-R means "early" or "first" in Ancient Near East Semitic languages. Biblical Hebrew contains various verbs from the B-K-R stem with this association. The plural noun bikkurim (vegetable first fruits) also derives from this root. The masculine noun bekhor, firstborn, is used of sons, as "Canaan begat Sidon his firstborn" (Genesis 10:15), whereas the feminine noun, and female equivalent, is bekirah (בְּכִירָה), firstborn daughter. Derived from bechor is the qualitative noun bekhorah (בְּכוֹרָה) ("birthright"), related to primogeniture.
Rebecca intervenes to save her younger son Jacob from being murdered by her elder son, Esau. Esau is furious and vows to kill Jacob as soon as their father has died. She explains to Isaac that she has sent Jacob to find a wife among her people. At Rebecca's urging, Jacob flees to a distant land to work for his mother's brother, Laban.
Jacob does not immediately receive his father's inheritance. Having fled for his life, Jacob leaves behind the wealth of Isaac's flocks and land and tents in Esau's hands. Jacob is forced to sleep out on the open ground and then work for wages as a servant in Laban's household. Jacob, who had deceived his father, is in turn deceived and cheated by his uncle Laban concerning Jacob's seven years of service (lacking money for a dowry) for the hand of Laban's daughter Rachel, receiving his older daughter Leah instead. However, despite Laban, Jacob eventually becomes so rich as to incite the envy of Laban and Laban's sons.
Genesis 32-33 tells of Jacob and Esau's eventual meeting according to God's commandment in Genesis 31:3 and 32:10 after Jacob had spent more than 20 years staying with Laban in Padan-Aram. The two men prepare for their meeting like warriors about to enter battle. Jacob divides his family into two camps such that if one is taken, the other might escape. Jacob sends messengers to Esau and gifts meant to appease him.
Jacob gets the name Israel after wrestling with the Angel of God while traveling to Esau. His hip is knocked out of joint, but he keeps on wrestling and gains Israel's name.
After encountering the angel, Jacob crosses over the ford Jabbok. He encounters Esau, who seems initially pleased to see him, which attitude of favor Jacob fosters through his gift. Esau refuses the gift at first, but Jacob humbles himself before his brother and presses him to take it, which he finally does. However, Jacob does not trust his brother's favor to continue for long, so he makes excuses to avoid traveling to Mount Seir in Esau's company. He further evades Esau's attempt to put his men among Jacob's bands. Finally, he completes his brother's deception again by going to Succoth and then to Shalem, a city of Shechem, instead of following Esau at a distance to Seir. The next time Jacob and Esau meet is at their father's burial, Isaac, in Hebron.
Views of the birthright
The narrative of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob, in Genesis 25, states that Esau despised his birthright. However, it also alludes to Jacob being deceitful.
Rebecca later helps Jacob in receiving his father's blessing disguised as Esau. Isaac then refuses to take Jacob's blessing back after learning he was tricked and does not give this blessing to Esau but, after Esau begs, gives him an inferior blessing. The deception may have been deserved in Esau's mother and father's eyes.