One day when Jacob had cooked some stew, ‘Esau came in from the open country, exhausted, and said to Jacob, “Please! Let me gulp down some of that red stuff — that red stuff! I’m exhausted!”–Genesis 25:29-30
This might not strike us as strange in our day and age but notice that Jacob was cooking.
In those times only the women did the cooking.
It was a woman’s task and it would have been considered very shameful for a man to be doing the cooking.
It just wasn’t done.
So why was Jacob doing the cooking?
The answer is that this is a scene that Jewish tradition calls “sitting shiva” which refers to the rites of mourning the dead.
In other words, there had been a death in the family.
The lentil stew or soup that Jacob was making is the traditional “meal of mourning“.
The reason he was doing the cooking is because the rules dictate that immediate family members (father, mother, brother, sister, spouse) cannot do the cooking.
The ancient Hebrew sages practically all agree that it was Abraham who had just died and since Jacob was a grandchild, he wasn’t an immediate family member and was thus qualified to cook for those in mourning.
The ancient rabbis have much to say about the character of Esau in contrast with that of Jacob’s.
Esau knew that his grandfather Abraham had died but rather than be with the family to comfort them, he was out having fun hunting.
Esau lived for the pleasures of the flesh as indicated by his attitude that had him flippantly sell his birthright for a bowl of mourning stew.
Verse 27 says that Esau was a cunning hunter.
There are only two places in the Holy Scriptures where a man is called a hunter.
The Hebrew word is “TSAYID“.
The first man to be called a hunter was the evil Nimrod and the second man is Esau.
In the Bible, there is a strong negative connotation to the word hunter.
It means somebody who enjoys killing animals just for the sake of it.
A cold, ruthless nature captures the nuance of the word.
In comparison, Jacob is called a “peaceful man”.
The Hebrew word is “TAM” and it more means blameless or guiltless.
Jacob and Esau are being held up for comparison.
So the last verse says that Esau “despised his birthright“.
It seems like God knew what he was doing when he declared beforehand that it would be Jacob and not Esau who would be granted firstborn privileges.
NEXT TIME WE BEGIN GENESIS CHAPTER 26