That’s a very good question! Let’s read the account you are referring to in Genesis 25:27-34. “So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.’ Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, ‘Sell me your birthright as of this day.’ And Esau said, ‘Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?’ Then Jacob said, ‘Swear to me as of this day.’ So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright” (NKJV).

It is obvious from this narrative that “Esau was the bad one,” for it ends with the words “Esau despised his birthright.” To gratify the lusts of his flesh (his “appetite”) he was willing to part with the birthright, which shows us that he placed little or no value on the birthright. One might be thinking, “What exactly is the birthright.” The birthright was a blessing from God bestowed upon the firstborn son. This is seen clearly in Deuteronomy 21:16-17, “On the day that he bequeaths his possessions to his sons…he must bestow firstborn status on…the true firstborn…a double portion of all that he has…the right of the firstborn is his.” This blessing of the birthright included a “double portion of his father’s possessions AND he would become the head of the family/tribe as well. Thousands of years later we read this of Esau in Hebrews 12:16, “Lest there be any fornicator or PROFANE PERSON LIKE ESAU, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.” The word “profane” means “unhallowed,” which is the opposite of “sacred.” Esau did NOT look upon his birthright as a sacred blessing from God.

Now as to Jacob, he was NOT innocent in the matter, for he surely knew his brother well enough to know that he thought more of immediate gratification than the future blessing of the birthright. Jacob wasn’t really “deceptive” in gaining the birthright, but he was willing to take advantage of Esau’s weakness and inability to appreciate his God-given blessing of the birthright. To Jacob’s credit, he DID value the birthright, knowing that it would also place him in the godly line through which the Messiah would eventually be born.

We can’t end this meditation without pointing to another incident in the life of these two brothers where Jacob was indeed “the bad one.” I would encourage you to read Genesis 27:1-38. Isaac is nearing death and he desires to “bless his firstborn son Esau” before he dies (verses 1-4). Rebekah heard Isaac speaking of this to Esau and before Esau returns from hunting game she concocts a plan to deceive Isaac by having Jacob PRETEND TO BE ESAU so he can get the final blessing of the firstborn son. Together they hatch a plan where Jacob brings his father game while wearing his brother’s clothes and putting animal hair on his hands and neck, and asks him for his blessing (verses 5-25). Isaac, thinking it was indeed Esau, blessed him (verses 26-29). After Jacob departed Esau returned from his hunt and realized that his brother had indeed stolen his blessing (verses 30-36). So, Jacob (and his mother!) used deception to gain the blessing of the firstborn.

The tragedy of this whole story is that God had already determined that Jacob would get the blessing of the firstborn and this was revealed before Esau and Jacob were born. Genesis 25:23 states, “And the LORD said to her (Rebekah): ‘Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from you body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and THE OLDER SHALL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” Rebekah KNEW Jacob would be given “first place.” She no doubt told Jacob of this many times, yet because they lacked the faith to allow God to work out His purposes for Jacob in His own time and in His own way, they resorted to deception in order to procure the blessing of the firstborn. (286.1) (DO)