Fausset's Bible Dictionary 
("hairy, rough"); for at birth he "came out red (from whence his name EDOM), all over like an hairy garment" ( Genesis 25:25). The animal appearance marked his sensual, self willed, untamed nature, in which the moral, spiritual elements were low. Secar , "hairy," may have also originated the designation of his territory, mount Sier, i.e." thickly wooded," as he was in person "hairy." Jacob took hold of his twin brother in the womb when the latter was coming out first, from whence he got his name = supplanter ( Hosea 12:3). Esau like Nimrod was "a cunning (skillful) hunter," "a man of the field" or "desert," wild, restless, and selfindulgent, instead of following his fathers' peaceful pastoral life, "dwelling in tents." Isaac, with the caprice of affection whereby the quiet, parent loves the opposite to his own character, "loved Esau because he did eat of his venison," his selfishness herein bringing its own punishment.
"Rebekah loved Jacob" as "a plain man," i.e. upright, steady, and domestic; but her love too was wanting in regard to high principle. Reckless of the lawfulness of the means, provided she gained her end, she brought sorrow on both. From before the birth of both it was foretold her, "the elder shall serve the younger." Esau's recklessness of spiritual and future privileges, and care only for the indulgence of the moment, caused him to sell his birthright for Jacob's red pottage, made of lentils or small beans, still esteemed a delicacy in the East. The color was what most took his fancy; "feed me with that red, that red." "The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye" were his snare. He can hardly have been "at the point, to die" with hunger; rather his impatience to gratify his appetite made his headstrong will feel as if his life depended on it; I shall die if I don't get it, then "what profit shall this birthright do to me!" Nay, but "what is a man profiled if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul, or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" ( Matthew 16:26.)
Jacob took an ungenerous and selfish advantage, which the Scripture does not sanction, and distrusting Esau's levity required of him art oath. Yet his characteristic faith appears in his looking on to the unseen future privileges attached to, the birthright (the priesthood of the family ( Numbers 8:17-19) and the progenitorship of Messiah independently of temporal advantages. Genesis 48:22; Genesis 49:3-4) as heir of the everlasting promises to Abraham's seed ( Romans 9:5; Romans 9:8). "Profane Esau for one morsel sold," and so "despised, his birthright." The smallness of the inducement aggravates the guilt of casting away eternity for a morsel. Unbelieving levity must have all its good things now ( 1 Corinthians 15:32); faith says with Jacob "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord" ( Genesis 49:18; compare Luke 16:25).
The nickname Edom," red," was consequently given Esau as the reproach of his sensual folly, a name mostly confined to his land and his posterity. By feigning to be Esau, Jacob, at his mother's suggestion, stole the father's blessing which God would have secured to him without guile and its retributive punishment, had he waited in simple faith. Isaac too erred through carnal partiality, which he sought to stimulate by eating his favorite's venison, determining to give to Esau the blessing in spite of the original divine intimation, "the elder shall serve the younger," and in spite of Esau's actual sale of the birthright to Jacob, and though Esau had shown his unworthiness of it by taking when he was forty years of age two Hittite wives from among the corrupt Canaanites, to his father's and mother's grief. Too late, when "afterward Esau would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears" ( Hebrews 12:16-17).
There is an "afterward" coming when the unbeliever shall look back on his past joys and the believer on his past griefs, in a very different light from now. Contrast Hebrews 12:11 with Hebrews 12:17; so Genesis 3:6; Genesis 3:8, "the cool of the day "; Matthew 25:11-12, "the foolish virgins." Esau found the truth of the homely proverb, "he that will not when he may, when he will shall have nay" ( Proverbs 1:24-30; Luke 13:28; Luke 13:34-35; Luke 19:42; Luke 19:44). What Esau found not was "place for repentance" of the kind which he sought, namely, such as would regain the lost blessing. Had Esau sought rear repentance he would have found it ( Matthew 7:7). He did not find it because this was not what he sought. His "tears" were no proof of true repentance, for immediately after being foiled in his desire he resolved to murder Jacob! He wept not for his sin, but for its penalty.
"Before, he might have had the blessing without tears; afterward, however many he shed, he was rejected" (Bengel). Tears are shed at times by the most hardened; failing to repent when so softened for the moment, they hardly ever do so afterward ( 1 Samuel 24:16-17, Saul: contrast David, Psalms 56:8). Rebekah, hearing of the vengeful design of Esau against her favorite son, by recalling to Isaac's remembrance Esau's ill judged marriage secured the father's consent to Jacob's departure from the neighborhood of the daughters of Heth to that of his own kindred, and at the same time the confirmation of the blessing ( Genesis 27:46; Genesis 28:1). Esau then tried by marrying his cousin Mahalath, Ishmael's daughter, to conciliate his parents ( Genesis 28:8-9). Thus he became connected with the Ishmaelite tribes beyond the Arabah valley.
Soon after he began to drive the Horites out of mount Seir; and by the return of Jacob 29 years after, Esau was there with armed retainers and abundant wealth. It was not however until after his father's death that he permanently left Canaan, according to Isaac's blessing, to Jacob, his wives and family then first accompanying him ( Genesis 35:29; Genesis 36:6). Esau was moved by God in answer to Jacob's wrestling prayer to lay aside revenge and meet his brother with embraces, kisses, and tears ( Proverbs 16:7). Love, and gifts in token of it, drove after drove, melted the violent but impulsive spirit of Esau. Jacob however, wisely fearing any collision which might revive the old grudge, declined accompanying Esau, but expressed a hope one day to visit mount Seir; his words," I will lead on softly ... until I come unto my lord unto Seir," cannot mean he then intended going there, for he was avowedly going toward Succoth and Shechem (Genesis 32-33).
The death of their father Isaac more than 20 years afterward was probably the next and last occasion of the brothers meeting. They united in paying him the last sad offices ( Genesis 35:29). Then Esau, by this time seeing that Jacob's was the birthright blessing and the promised land, withdrew permanently to his appointed lot, mount Seir ( Genesis 32:3; Deuteronomy 2:5-12). He carried away all his substance from Canaan there, to take full possession of Seir and drive out its original inhabitants. "Living by his sword" too, he felt Edom's rocky fastnesses better suited for his purpose than S. Palestine with its open plains. (See Edom , (See Aholibamah , (See Bashemath .)
The prophecy of Isaac," Thou shalt serve thy brother, and ... when thou shalt have the dominion thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck," was fulfilled to the letter. At first Esau prospered more, dukes being in Edom before any king reigned in Israel ( Genesis 36:31), and while Israel was in bondage in Egypt Edom was independent. But Saul and David conquered the Edomites ( 1 Samuel 14:47; 2 Samuel 8:14), and they were, excepting revolts, subject to Judah until Ahaz' reign; then they threw off the yoke ( 2 Kings 16:6; 2 Chronicles 28:7). Judas Maccabeus defeated, and his nephew Hyrcanus conquered, and compelled them to be circumcised and incorporated with the Jews; but an Idamean dynasty, Antipater and the Herod's, ruled down to the final destruction of Jerusalem.
Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary 
The elder brother of Jacob, who despised the blessing, and was rejected. In the history of those two brothers, we have enough to answer and silence all cavils respecting distinguishing grace from God's own testimony. (See Genesis 25:21-23; Malachi 1:3; Romans 9:1-33 throughout.) But while this doctrine concerning distinguishing grace is fully displayed in the history of Jacob and Esau from those Scriptures, there is one point more relating to Esau which deserves to be particularly considered, and the more so, from the misapprehension of many respecting it. I mean what is said by the apostle of the rejection of Esau's repentance. ( Hebrews 12:16-17) By a mistake both of the cause which gave birth to this man's repentance, and of the nature of that repentance itself, many erroneous opinions have been formed upon it. A short attention to the passage as given by the apostle, under the Holy Ghost's teaching, will put this subject in a clear light, and explain this seeming difficulty. The passage is as follows: "Lest there be any fornicator or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." Now, if the reader will compare what is here said with the account given by the Holy Ghost, how he sold his birthright. ( Genesis 25:29-34) he will discover the contempt which he put upon his birthright, and the consequent resentment of God. This is the first thing to be observed in this transaction. The covenant blessing he still despised. This he wholly disregarded, and never repented that he had so done. And if the reader looks attentively to what the Apostle hath said concerning his repentance, he will next discover, that Esau's repentance was not in respect to the promised blessing, in spiritual things conveyed to Jacob, but mere temporal possessions. Jacob was made Esau's lord, and Esau himself, by selling his birthright, had consented to it; of this he repented, and sought it carefully with tears, to prevail upon his father Isaac to call it back, hoping the known partiality of the father to him would prevail over his natural feelings. "And hence he cried with an exceeding bitter cry, and said, Hast thou but one blessing, my father, bless me, even me, also, O my father!" ( Genesis 27:34-38) The reader will perceive, that in this whole account here nothing but the natural feelings at work. The repentance of Esau is wholly concerning earthly possessions, and not a word spoken about the covenant blessing given to Abraham concerning the rejection of Esau's repentance is the rejection of his earthly father Isaac, and hath nothing to do with the rejection of the Lord. Esau offered no repentance to God. The blessing in Christ he regarded no more then, than he did when he sold his birthright. This was not in Esau's concern. Esau was still the same profane person as ever. So that, if men who read their Bibles would read them attentively on this point, and beg the great Author of his written word, even God the Holy Ghost, to instruct them, they would learn to make a proper distinction between what Paul calls the sorrow of the world, which worketh death, and that godly sorrow which worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of. ( 2 Corinthians 7:10) The former, like Esau's, is wholly from nature the latter, Paul describes, is from grace. The one is man's own creating, and wholly concerning, earthly things; the other is the Lord's creating, and wholly refers to heavenly things. The repentance that begins in a man's own heart from his own disappointments in worldly pursuits, ends as it began, and produceth death. The repentance which is from above and leads to true sorrow of soul, riseth to the source from whence it first came, and bringeth forth life. And this is confirmed by what the apostle declared; "Christ is exalted as a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins." ( Acts 5:31)
Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament 
(1) St. Paul ( Romans 9:10-13) uses the pre-natal oracle regarding Esau and his brother ( Genesis 25:22-23) as an illustration of the principle of Divine election. Before they were born, when neither had any merit or demerit, the elder was destined to serve the younger. As the prophet Malachi ( Malachi 1:2-3) has it, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’ In both of the OT passages quoted there was a reference not merely to the children but to their descendants. The first part of the oracle runs, ‘Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be separated from thy bowels’ ( Genesis 25:23); and the Prophet’s words are, ‘Was (or ‘is,’ Revised Version margin) not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I (have) loved Jacob; but Esau (have) I hated, and made his mountains a desolation, and gave (given) his heritage to the jackals of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith,’ etc. ( Malachi 1:3-4).
St. Paul is engaged in proving that the Divine promise has not failed though the majority of the children of Abraham have been excluded (or have excluded themselves by unbelief) from a share in its fulfilment in Christ. His purpose is to sweep away a narrow, particularistic doctrine of election, according to which God’s action ends in Israel, and to replace it by a grand universalistic conception, according to which the world, or all humanity, is the end of the Divine action, and election itself is controlled by an all-embracing purpose of love. He accomplishes his purpose partly by a very effective argumentum ad hominem . The Jews so little understood the humbling principle of election, which ascribes all the merit of salvation to God, that they prided themselves on having been chosen, while their neighbours, Ishmael and Edom, had been rejected. Since Jacob-in the prophetic words which were so dear to them-had been loved and Esau hated, it was clear to them that they were the objects of a peculiar Divine favour. To turn the edge of this argument, St. Paul had only to remind them that many of the rejected- e.g. Esau and all his descendants-were children of Abraham. If God could make a distinction in the chosen family in former times, without being untrue to His covenant, He might do so again. A whole nation might lose its birthright like Esau.
(2) The writer of Hebrews ( Hebrews 12:16) instances Esau as a profane person, who for a single meal (ἀντὶ βρώσεως μιᾶς) sold his birthright. ‘Profane’ (βέβηλος), when applied to things, means ‘unconsecrated,’ ‘secular. The word occurs in the Septuagintof Leviticus 10:10, ‘ye shall put difference between the holy and the common (τῶν βεβήλων).’ It was the fault of Esau, who was not without admirable qualities, that he made no such distinction. To him the most sacred things were common, because he had no spiritual discernment. He despised ‘this birthright’ ( Genesis 25:32) as a thing of no worth. He did not despise the blessing which had material advantages attached to it, and he imagined he could retain it even after he had sold the birthright. But the poignant moment of disillusionment came, when he realized that the blessing was gone beyond recall. His regrets were vain: ‘he found no place for repentance.’ This signifies that there was no means of undoing what he had done; the past was irreparable.
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible 
ESAU . 1 . The name is best explained as meaning ‘tawny’ or ‘shaggy’ ( Genesis 25:25 ); Edom or ‘ruddy’ was sometimes substituted for it ( Genesis 25:30 ), and Esau is represented as the progenitor of the Edomites ( Genesis 36:9; Genesis 36:43 , Jeremiah 49:8 ff., Obadiah 1:8 ). He displaced the Horites from the hilly land of Seir, and settled there with his followers ( Genesis 32:3; Genesis 36:8 , Deuteronomy 2:12 ). His career is sketched briefly but finely by weaving incidents collected from two sources (J [Note: Jahwist.] and E [Note: Elohist.]; in the early part, chiefly the former), whilst the Priestly writer is supposed to have contributed a few particulars ( Genesis 26:34 f., Genesis 26:28 :9, 36). The standing feature of Esau’s history is rivalry with Jacob, which is represented as even preceding the birth of the twins ( Genesis 25:22 , Hosea 12:3 ). The facts may be collected into four groups. The sale of the birthright ( Genesis 25:29 ff.) carried with it the loss of precedence after the father’s death ( Genesis 27:29 ), and probably loss of the domestic priesthood ( Numbers 3:12-13 ), and of the double portion of the patrimony ( Deuteronomy 21:17 ). For this act the NT calls Esau’ profane’ ( Hebrews 12:16 ), thus revealing the secret of his character; the word (Gr. bebÃ§los ) suggests the quality of a man to whom nothing is sacred, whose heart and thought range over only what is material and sensibly present. To propitiate his parents, Esau sought a wife of his own kin ( Genesis 28:8-9 ), though already married to two Hittite women ( Genesis 26:34-35 ). His father’s proposed blessing was diverted by Jacob’s artifice; and, doomed to live by war and the chase ( Genesis 27:40 ), Esau resolved to recover his lost honours by killing his brother. Twenty years later the brothers were reconciled ( Genesis 33:4 ); after which Esau made Seir his principal abode, and on the death of Isaac settled there permanently ( Genesis 35:29 , Genesis 36:6 , Deuteronomy 2:4-5 , Joshua 24:4 ).
By a few writers Esau has been regarded as a mythical personage, the personification of the roughness of IdumÃ¦a. It is at least as likely that a man of Esau’s character and habits would himself choose to live in a country of such a kind ( Malachi 1:3 ); and mere legends about the brothers, as the early Targums are a witness, would not have made Esau the more attractive man, and the venerated Jacob, in comparison, timid, tricky, and full of deceits. Against the historicity of the record there is really no substantial evidence.
2 . The head of one of the families of Nethinim, or Temple servants, who accompanied Nehemiah to Jerusalem ( 1Es 5:29 ); see Ziha.
R. W. Moss.
Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary 
son of Isaac and Rebekah, born A.M. 2168, B.C. 1836. When the time of Rebekah's delivery came, she had twins, Genesis 25:24-26 : the first-born was hairy, therefore called Esau; that is, a man full grown or of perfect age; but some derive Esau from the Arabic gescha or gencheva, which signifies a hair cloth. Esau delighted in hunting, and his father Isaac had a particular affection for him. On one occasion, Esau, returning from the fields greatly fatigued, desired Jacob to give him some red pottage, which he was then preparing. Jacob consented, provided Esau would sell him his birthright. Esau complied, and by oath resigned it to him, Genesis 25:29-34 . Esau, when aged forty, married two Canaanitish women, Judith, daughter of Beeri, the Hittite; and Bashemath, daughter of Elon, Genesis 26:34 . These marriages were very displeasing to Isaac and Rebekah, because they intermingled the blood of Abraham with that of Canaanite aliens. Isaac being old, and his sight decayed, directed Esau to procure him delicate venison by hunting, that he might give him his chief blessing, Genesis 27. The artifice of his mother, however, counteracted his purpose; and she contrived to impose upon Isaac, and to obtain the father's principal blessing for her son Jacob. Esau was indignant on account of this treachery, and determined to kill Jacob as soon as their father should die. Rebekah again interposed, and sent Jacob away to her brother Laban, with whom he might be secure. During the period of separation, which lasted several years, Esau married a wife of the family of Ishmael; and, removing to Mount Seir, acquired great power and wealth. When Jacob returned, after a long absence, to his father's country, with a numerous family, and large flocks and herds, he dreaded his brother's displeasure; but they had an amicable and affectionate interview. After their father's death, they lived in peace and amity; but, as their possessions enlarged, and there was not sufficient room for them in the land in which they were strangers, Esau returned to Mount Seir, where his posterity multiplied under the denomination of Edomites. ( See Edom . ) The time of his death is not mentioned; but Bishop Cumberland thinks it is probable that he died about the same time with his brother Jacob, at the age of about one hundred and forty-seven years, Genesis 25-36.
2. On the most important part of this history, the selling of the birthright, we may observe, (1.) That although it was always the design of God that the blessing connected with primogeniture in the family of Abraham should be enjoyed by Jacob, and to exercise his sovereignty in changing the succession in which the promises of the Abrahamic covenant might descend; yet the conduct of Rebekah and Jacob was reprehensible in endeavouring to bring about the divine design by the unworthy means of contrivance and deceit; and they were punished for their presumption by their sufferings.
(2.) That the conduct of Esau in selling his birthright was both wanton and profane. It was wanton, because he, though faint, could be in no danger of not obtaining a supply of food in his father's house; and was therefore wholly influenced by his appetite, excited by the delicacy of Jacob's pottage. It was profane, because the blessings of the birthright were spiritual as well as civil. The church of God was to be established in the line of the first-born; and in that line the Messiah was to appear. These high privileges were despised by Esau, who is therefore made by St. Paul a type of all apostates from Christ, who, like him, profanely despise their birthright as the sons of God. See Birthright .
Morrish Bible Dictionary 
A twin son with Jacob of Isaac and Rebekah, though Esau was actually the first-born. He is described as "red, all over like a hairy garment;" with this his name corresponds, which signifies 'hairy.' Genesis 25:25 . The first thing we read of him is the selling of his birthright to his over-reaching brother Jacob, for a mess of pottage. Concerning this he is called in the N.T. a profane person, because he valued not that which was the gift of God. He afterwards sought the blessing carefully with tears, but found no place of repentance. Genesis 25:29-34; Hebrews 12:16,17 .
Jacob, through want of faith in God, surreptitiously obtained the blessing of his father (who, contrary to God's election, intended it for Esau), in which Isaac said that he had made Jacob Esau's lord, and given all his brethren to be his servants. The blessing of Esau was "Thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; and by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass, when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck." Genesis 27:37-40 . Esau hated his brother, and intended, when the days of mourning for his father were ended, to kill him. The words of Isaac were fulfilled. David put garrisons throughout all Edom (where the descendants of Esau dwelt, Genesis 36:8 ) and all they of Edom became his servants, 2 Samuel 8:14; but later on in the days of Joram, Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah; and though Joram wasable to punish them, yet Judah was growing weaker, and 'Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, unto this day.' 2 Kings 8:20-22 . Obadiah announces Edom's final judgement: no remnant is restored. See EDOM.
Esau had three wives (see BASHEMATH)and a numerous posterity, which increasedto a powerful tribe. When he went to meet Jacob he was accompaniedby four hundred men. It may be God had warned Esau, as He did Laban, not to hurt Jacob; or possibly his anger may have abated: forwhen they approached, "Esau ran to meet him, and embracedhim, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept." They were thushappily reconciled, and at the death of Isaac his two sons buriedhim. Genesis 33:4; Genesis 35:29 .
In Malachi 1:2,3 Esau is referred to as having been hated by Jehovah, whereas Jacob had been loved. This is quoted by Paul in Romans 9:13 , where God's sovereignty is being enforced. It was foretold that the elder shouldserve the younger before they were born, and before they could have done either good or bad: this was God's sovereignty. But it was not foretold that God would hate Esau; it is not mentioned till the close of the Old Testament, after Esau in his descendants had displayed his unrelenting enmity to Israel, and Esau personally had long before that despised the gift of God in his birthright. The passage in Malachi is thought by some to refer to the nations which descended from the two brothers.
Holman Bible Dictionary 
Genesis 25:24-26 Genesis 27:1 27:32 27:42 1 Chronicles 1:34 Genesis 26:1 Deuteronomy 2:4-29 Malachi 1:2-3 Genesis 25:25 25:30 Genesis 27:11 27:21-23 Genesis 25:22-26 2 Samuel 8:12-14 1 Chronicles 18:13 Numbers 24:18
From the first Jacob sought to gain advantage over Esau ( Hosea 12:3 ). Esau, the extrovert, was a favorite of his father and as a hunter provided him with his favorite meats. Jacob was the favorite of his mother Rebecca.
As a famished returning hunter, Esau, lacking self-control, sold his birthright to Jacob for food ( Genesis 25:30-34 ). Birthright involved the right as head of the family ( Genesis 27:29 ) and a double share of the inheritance ( Deuteronomy 21:15-17 ). This stripped Esau of the headship of the people through which Messiah would come. Thus, the lineage became Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Having lost his birthright, he was still eligible to receive from Isaac the blessing of the eldest son. Rebecca devised a deception whereby Jacob received this blessing ( Genesis 27:1-30 ).
Esau blamed Jacob for all his problems failing to realize that the character flaw revealed in his selling of his birthright followed him all of his life. Esau received a blessing, but neither he nor his descendants were to occupy the fertile land of Palestine ( Genesis 27:39 ). At age 40 he married two Hittite wives ( Genesis 26:34-35 ).
Years later the two brothers were reconciled when Jacob returned from Mesopotamia. Esau had lived in the land of Seir. As Jacob neared Palestine, he made plans for confronting his wronged brother and allaying his anger. Esau, with an army of 400, surprised Jacob, his guilty brother, and received him without bitterness ( Genesis 33:4-16 ).
The two reconciled brothers met again for the final time at the death of their father ( Genesis 35:29 ). Though their hostility was personally resolved, their descendants continue to this day to struggle against one another.
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary 
As the firstborn of Isaac’s twin sons, Esau was entitled to the family birthright. This meant that, upon his father’s death, he would receive twice the inheritance of any other sons and become family head. Moreover, in the case of Isaac’s firstborn, it included headship of God’s chosen people and the right to possess the land of Canaan. But Esau was an unspiritual and irresponsible person, preferring temporary benefits to lasting blessings. Foolishly he sold his birthright to his ruthless twin, Jacob ( Genesis 25:29-34; Hebrews 12:16).
The custom was for the father to confirm the birthright by giving his special blessing before he died. Esau tried to gain this blessing ahead of Jacob, but again Jacob’s cunning defeated him ( Genesis 27:1-29). Overcome with misery and anger, Esau tried to kill Jacob, but Jacob found out and escaped ( Genesis 27:30-38; Genesis 27:41-45; Hebrews 12:17).
Although God’s purpose was that his promises to Abraham and Isaac be fulfilled through Jacob and not Esau, that did not excuse either of them for their disgraceful behaviour ( Genesis 25:23; Romans 9:10-13). Nevertheless, God had a blessing for Esau. Esau would not father the nation that God would make his own, but he would father a nation that would establish a name for itself in the region. This was the nation Edom, which occupied the barren regions south and east of the Dead Sea ( Genesis 27:39-40; see Edom ).
Esau confirmed his position as being outside God’s covenant blessings by marrying firstly two local Hittite women, and later a daughter of Ishmael ( Genesis 26:34-35; Genesis 28:8-9). When Jacob returned to Canaan after twenty years, Esau went to meet him. Fearful of what might happen, Jacob begged Esau’s mercy, but Esau responded with such generous forgiveness that the dreaded meeting turned into a happy reunion ( Genesis 32:1-21; Genesis 33:1-16). The two brothers met again when together they buried their father Isaac ( Genesis 35:27-29).
Smith's Bible Dictionary 
E'sau. (Hairy). The eldest son of Isaac, and twin brother of Jacob. The singular appearance of the child at his birth originated the name. Genesis 25:25. Esau's robust frame and "rough" aspect were the types of a wild and daring nature. He was a thorough Bedouin, a "son of the desert." He was much loved by his father, and was, of course, his heir, but was induced to sell his birthright to Jacob. Mention of his unhappy marriages may be found in Genesis 26:34.
The next episode in the life of Esau is the loss of his father's covenant blessing, which Jacob secured through the craft of his mother, and the anger of Esau, who vows vengeance. Genesis 27:1. Later, he marries a daughter of Ishmael, Genesis 28:8-9, and soon after, establishes himself in Mount Seir, where he was living when Jacob returned from Padan-aram, rich and powerful, and the two brothers were reconciled. Genesis 33:4. Twenty years thereafter, they united in burying Isaac's body in the cave of Machpelah. Of Esau's subsequent history, nothing is known; for that of his descendants. See Edom .
Easton's Bible Dictionary 
Genesis 25:25 Genesis 27:28,29,36 Hebrews 12:16,17 Genesis 27:4,34,38
At the age of forty years, to the great grief of his parents, he married ( Genesis 26:34,35 ) two Canaanitish maidens, Judith, the daughter of Beeri, and Bashemath, the daughter of Elon. When Jacob was sent away to Padan-aram, Esau tried to conciliate his parents ( Genesis 28:8,9 ) by marrying his cousin Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael. This led him to cast in his lot with the Ishmaelite tribes; and driving the Horites out of Mount Seir, he settled in that region. After some thirty years' sojourn in Padan-aram Jacob returned to Canaan, and was reconciled to Esau, who went forth to meet him (33:4). Twenty years after this, Isaac their father died, when the two brothers met, probably for the last time, beside his grave (35:29). Esau now permanently left Canaan, and established himself as a powerful and wealthy chief in the land of Edom (q.v.).
Long after this, when the descendants of Jacob came out of Egypt, the Edomites remembered the old quarrel between the brothers, and with fierce hatred they warred against Israel.
People's Dictionary of the Bible 
Esau ( Ç'Saw ), or Edom ( Ç'Dom ). Son of Isaac and Rebecca, and twin brother of Jacob. Genesis 25:25; Genesis 36:1. The most important events of his life are intimately connected with the life of Jacob. See Jacob. His family settled on Mount Seir, east of Jordan, which was hence called Edom, and bis descendants were the Edomites, one of the most powerful and formidable nations of that age. The prophecies concerning Esau and Edom have been literally fulfilled. His family has become extinct, "cut off forever," so that there is none "remaining of the house of Esau," Obadiah 1:18; Jeremiah 49:17; Ezekiel 25:13, and "the things of Esau" have been "so searched out and his hidden things sought up," Obadiah 1:6, "that not a relic can be found in their ancient dwellings." See Edom.
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary 
The son of Isaac, and twin brother of Jacob, Genesis 25:1-34 . He was the elder of the two, and was therefore legally the heir, but sold his birthright to Jacob. We have an account of his ill-advised marriages, Genesis 26:34; of his loss of his father's chief blessing, and his consequent anger against Jacob, Genesis 27:1-46; of their subsequent reconciliation, Genesis 32:1-33:20; and of his posterity, Genesis 36:1-43 . He is also called Edom; and settled in the mountains south of the Dead Sea, extending to the gulf of Akaba, where he became very powerful. This country was called from him the land of Edom, and afterwards Idumaea which see.
Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types 
Genesis 25:25 (c) This is a type of the flesh and the life of selfishness in contrast with Jacob and the life of faith. ( Hebrews 12:16).
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 
(Hebrews Esav', עֵשָׂו , Hairy [see Genesis 25:25; his surname EDOM was given him from the Red pottage, Genesis 25:30]; Sept. and N.T. ᾿Ησαῦ ), the eldest son of "Isaac, Abraham's son" ( Genesis 25:19) by Rebekah, "the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian, of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian." The marriage remaining for some time (about 19 years; comp. Genesis 25:20; Genesis 25:26) unproductive, Isaac entreated Jehovah, and Rebekah became pregnant. Led by peculiar feelings "to inquire of Jehovah," she was informed that she should give birth to twins, whose fate would be as diverse as their character, and, what in those days was stranger still, that the elder should serve the younger. On occasion of her delivery, the child that was born first was "red, all over like a hairy garment; and they called his name Esau." Immediately afterwards Jacob was born. B.C. 2004. This was not the only remarkable circumstance connected with the birth of the infant. Even in the womb the twin brothers struggled together ( Genesis 25:22). Esau was the firstborn; but, as he was issuing into life, Jacob's hand grasped his heel. The bitter enmity of two brothers, and the increasing strife of two great nations, were thus foreshadowed ( Genesis 25:23; Genesis 25:26). From the special attention drawn to his hairy appearance, one would suppose that the name Esau ( עֵשִׂו ), or Esav, was intended to give expression to that quality. So have many learned men in recent as well as former times held, though they are obliged to resort to the Arabic for the etymological explanation; a word very similar in Arabic, signifying hairy. The older Hebrew commentators, however, derived it from the verb עָשָׂח , Asuh', to Make, and explained the word as signifying "made," "complete," "full-grown" — viewing the hair as an indication of premature manly vigor. But the Jews of the present day seem more disposed to fall in with the other derivation (for example, Raphall in loco). The unusual covering of hair, which not only distinguished Esau as a child, but kept pace with his growth, and in mature life gave his skin a kind of goat-like appearance ( Genesis 27:16), was undoubtedly meant to be indicative of the man; it was a natural sign, coeval with his very birth, by which his parents might descry the future man-as one in whom the animal should greatly preponderate over the moral and spiritual qualities of nature-a character of rough, self-willed, and untamed energy. From the word designating his hairy aspect, sear ( שֵׂעִר ), it is not improbable that the mountain-range which became the possession of his descendants was called Mount Seir, though it is also possible that the rough, wooded appearance of the mountain itself may have been the occasion of the name. (See Seir).
In process of time the different natural endowments of the two boys began to display their effects in dissimilar aptitudes and pursuits. While Jacob was led by his less robust make and quiet disposition to fulfill the duties of a shepherd's life, and pass his days in and around his tent, Esau was impelled, by the ardor and lofty spirit which agitated his bosom, to seek in the toils, adventures, and perils of the chase his occupation and sustenance; and, as is generally the case in natures like his, he gained high repute by his skill and daring, which allied him to the martial exercises of the Canaanites ( Genesis 25:27). He was, in fact, a thorough Bedawy, a "son of the desert" (so we may translate אַישׁ שָׂדֶה , man of the field), who delighted to roam free as the wind of heaven, and who was impatient of the restraints of civilized or settled life. His old father, by a caprice of affection not uncommon, loved his willful, vagrant boy; and his keen relish for savory food being gratified by Esau's venison, he liked him all the better for his skill in hunting ( Genesis 25:28). A hunter's life is of necessity one of uncertainty as well as hardship; days pass in which the greatest vigilance and the most strenuous exertions may fail even to find, much less capture game (see Thomson, Land And Book, 2:399). The hunting tribes of North America often find themselves, after severe and long-continued labor and watching, unprovided with food, and necessitated to a length of abstinence which would be fatal to persons bred in towns or living by the ordinary pursuits of the field. Esau had on one occasion experienced such a disappointment, and, wearied with his unproductive efforts, exhausted for want of sustenance, and despairing of capturing any prey, he was fain to turn his steps to his father's house for succor in his extremity. On reaching home he found his brother enjoying a darefully prepared dish of pottage: attracted by the odor of which, he besought Jacob to allow him to share in the meal. His brother saw the exigency in which Esau was, and determined not to let it pass unimproved. Accordingly, he put a price on the required food. Esau was the elder, and had, in consequence, immunities and privileges which were of high value. The surrender of these to himself Jacob made the condition of his complying with Esau's petition. Urged by the cravings of hunger, alarmed even by the fear of starvation, Esau sold his birthright to his younger bother, confirming the contract by the sanction of an oath. Jacob, having thus got his price, supplied the famishing Esau with needful refreshments. Jacob took advantage of his brother's distress to rob him of that which was dear as life itself to an Eastern patriarch. The birthright not only gave him the headship of the tribe, both spiritual and temporal, and the possession of the great bulk of the family property, but it carried with it the covenant blessing ( Genesis 27:28-29; Genesis 27:36; Hebrews 12:16-17). Yet, though Esau, under the pressure of temporary suffering, despised his birthright by selling it for a mess of pottage ( Genesis 25:34), he afterwards attempted to secure that which he had deliberately sold ( Genesis 27:4; Genesis 27:34; Genesis 27:38; Hebrews 12:17). It is evident the whole transaction was public, for it resulted in a new name being given to Esau. He said to Jacob, "Feed me with that same Red ( הָאָרֹם ); therefore was his name called Edom" ( אדֵוֹם ; Genesis 25:30). It is worthy of note, however, that this name is seldom applied to Esau himself, though almost universally given to the country he settled in, and to his posterity. (See Edom). The name "Children of Esau" is in a few cases applied to the Edomites ( Deuteronomy 2:4; Jeremiah 49:8; Obadiah 1:18), but it is rather a poetical expression.
Arrived now at forty years of age, Esau married two wives in close succession. B.C. cir. 1963. Some unhappy feelings appear to have previously existed in the family; for while Esau was a favorite with his father, in consequence, it appears, of the presents of venison which the youth gave him, Jacob was regarded with special affection by the mother. These partialities, and their natural consequences in unamiaible feelings, were increased and exaggerated by Esau's marriage. His wives were both Canaanites, and, on .account of their origin, were unacceptable to Isaac and Rebekah. The latter was especially grieved. "I am weary," she said ( Genesis 27:46), "of my life, because of the daughters of Heth." Esau thus became alienated from the parental home. Even his father's preference for him may have been injuriously affected. The way was in some measure smoothed for the transference of the coveted birthright to the younger son.
There is much apparent confusion in the accounts of Esau's wives and their relatives and posterity, as given in Genesis 26:34; Genesis 28:9; Genesis 36:2-5; Genesis 36:10-30; Genesis 36:40-43; 1 Chronicles 1:35-42; 1 Chronicles 1:51-54, which may be adjusted by the following combination:
(1.) His first wife was Adah, the daughter of Elon the Hittite ( Genesis 36:2), or an aboriginal Canaanite. (See Hittite). In Genesis 26:34, she is incorrectly called Bashemath, apparently by confusion with the name of his third wife, although her parentage is correctly given. Her only child was Eliphaz, who was therefore Esau's first-born ( Genesis 36:10; Genesis 36:15; 1 Chronicles 1:35).
(2.) Esau's second wife was Aholibamah, the daughter of Anah, as all the accounts agree except that in Genesis 26:34, where, by some error or variation of names, she is called Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hittite. This Anah, in Genesis 36:2; Genesis 36:14, is called the daughter of Zibeol, but from Genesis 36:20; Genesis 36:24-25, and 1 Chronicles 1:38, it is evident that he was the son of Zibeon, his brother being Ajah, and his only children a son Dishon and this daughter Aholibamah. We may also remark that this Anah and this Dishon had each an uncle of the same name respectively ( Genesis 36:20-21), and the name Aholibamah belonged subsequently to a chieftain of an Edomitish-tribe ( Genesis 36:41). Zibeon was a son of Seir, the original settler of the mountain which went by his name. His descendants were properly called Horites ( Genesis 36:20; Genesis 36:29), but in Genesis 36:20 he is called a Hivite, a term frequently interchangeable for heathenish tribes, as Hittite, in Genesis 26:34, is twice used for the same purpose. This connection of Esau with the original inhabitants of Idumaea will explain his subsequent removal to that region, and the eventual supremacy of his descendants there. His children by Aholibamah were Jeush, Jaalam, and Korah.
(3.) Esau's third wife, taken, not like the former, from foreign families, but from kindred stock, was Bashemath (otherwise called Mahalath), sister of Nebajoth and daughter of Ishmael, who bore him Reuel ( Genesis 36:3-4; Genesis 28:9). This elucidation substantially agrees with that proposed by Prof. Turner (Companion to Genesis, page 323), after Hengstenberg. These sons of Esau rose to the importance of sheiks ("dukes") in their respective families (those by Ahoe libamah being especially so styled, Genesis 36:18) and this was naturally more emphatically the case with his grandsons ( Genesis 36:15-16, where the name Korah is an interpolation, and Amalek is reckoned along with the legitimate children of Eliphaz; comp. the parallel account in 1 Chronicles 1:36, where the name Timna is in like manner interpolated), who were probably cotemporaneous with the native sheiks mentioned in 1 Chronicles 1:29-30, or but little later-the gradual superiority of the Esauites over the Horites appearing from the fact that the heirs of the latter ( 1 Chronicles 1:22-28) are not named with this distinction (comp. 1 Chronicles 1:20-21). This double line of chieftains of the respective tribes appears to have continued for a long time; for in the subsequent list of native kings ( 1 Chronicles 1:31-39) and heads of the Edomitish part of the inhabitants ( 1 Chronicles 1:40; 1 Chronicles 1:43), coming down in parallel lines to about the time of the Exode (but from what point dated is uncertain), each appears to have regularly succeeded his predecessor, not by hereditary right indeed, but by that species of common consent, founded upon acknowledged pre-eminence, which is to this day recognized in the election of Arab emirs. (See Edomite).
The time for the fulfillment of the compact between the brothers has at length arrived. Isaac is "sick unto death." His appetite, as well as his health, having failed, is only to be gratified by provocatives. He desires some savory venison, and gives the requisite instructions to Esau, who accordingly proceeds in quest of it. On this Rebekah begins to feel that the critical time has come. If the hated Hittites are not to enter with her less favored son into possession of the family property, the sale of the birthright (the original idea of which she may have suggested to the "plain man," her son Jacob) must now in some way be confirmed and consummated. One essential particular remained — the father's blessing. If this should be given to Esau, all hope was gone; for this, like our modern wills, would hand the inheritance and the accompanying headship of the tribe to Esau and his wives. Isaac, however, had lost his sight — indeed, all his senses were, dull and feeble. It was therefore not very difficult to pass off Jacob upon him as Esau. Rebekah takes her measures, and, notwithstanding Jacob's fears, succeeds. Isaac, indeed, is not without suspicion, but a falsehood comes to aid Jacob in his otherwise discreditable personation of Esau. The blessing is pronounced, and thus the coveted property and ascendency are secured. The affectionate endearments which pass between the deceiver and the abused old blind father stand in painful contrast with the base trickery by which the mother and the son accomplished their end.
This episode in the history of Esau and Jacob is still more painful than the former, as it fully brings out those bitter family rivalries and divisions which were all but universal in ancient times, and which are still a disgrace to Eastern society. Esau, however, returns from the field, approaches his decrepid and sightless father, declaring who he is. "And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed." On this Esau becomes agitated, and entreats a blessing for himself — "Bless me, even me also, O my father." Urging this entreaty again and again, even with tears, Isaac at length said to him, "Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; and by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck" ( Genesis 27:1-46). Thus, deprived forever of his birthright, in virtue of the irrevocable blessing, Esau but too naturally conceived and entertained a hatred of Jacob, and he vowed vengeance. But, fearing his aged father's patriarchal authority, he secretly congratulated himself: "The days of mourning for my father are at hand, then will I slay my brother Jacob" ( Genesis 27:1-46). Thus he imagined that by one bloody deed he would regain all that had been taken from him by artifice. But he knew not a mother's watchful care. Not a sinister glance of his eyes, not a hasty expression of his tongue, escaped Rebekah. Words to the above effect which Esau let drop were repeated to his mother, who thereupon felt that the life of her darling son, whose gentle nature and domestic habits had won her heart's affections. was now in imminent peril; and she prevailed on her younger son to flee to his uncle Laban, who lived in Haran, there to remain until time, with its usual effect, should have mitigated Esau's wrath. B.C. 1927. The sins of both mother and child were visited upon them by a long and painful separation, and all the attendant anxieties and dangers. By a characteristic piece of domestic policy, Rebekah succeeded both in exciting Isaac's anger against Esau, and obtaining his consent to Jacob's departure — "And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob take a wife such as these, what good shall my life do me?" Her object was attained at once. The blessing was renewed to Jacob, and he received his father's commands to go to Padan-aram ( Genesis 27:46; Genesis 28:1-5.)
When Esau heard that his father had commanded Jacob to take a wife of the daughters of his kinsman Laban, he also resolved to try whether by a new alliance he could propitiate his parents. He accordingly married his cousin Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael ( Genesis 28:8-9). This marriage appears to have brought him into connection with the Ishmaelitish tribes beyond the valley of Arabah. He soon afterwards established himself in Mount Seir; still retaining, however, some interest in his father's property in Southern Palestine. It is probable that his own habits, and the idolatrous practices of his wives and rising family, continued to excite and even increase the anger of his parents; and that he, consequently, considered it more prudent to remove his household to a distance. He was residing in Mount Seir when Jacob returned from Padan-aram, and had then become so rich and powerful that the impressions of his brother's early offences seem to have been almost completely effaced. Jacob, however, feared lest his elder brother might intercept him on his way, to take revenge for former injuries.
He accordingly sent messengers to Esau, in order, if possible, to disarm his wrath. Esau appears to have announced in reply that he would proceed to meet his returning brother. When, therefore, Jacob was informed that Esau was on his way for this purpose with a band of four hundred men, he was greatly distressed, in fear of that hostility which his conscience told him he had done something to deserve. What, then, must have been his surprise when he saw Esau running with extended arms to greet and embrace him? and Esau "fell on his neck, and kissed him, and they wept." Jacob had prepared a present for Esau, hoping thus to conciliate his favor; but, with the generous ardor which characterizes, and somewhat of the disinterestedness which adorns, natures like his, Esau at first courteously refused the gift: "I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself" ( Genesis 33:1-20). But doubts and fears still lurked in the mind of Jacob, and betrayed him into something of his old duplicity; for, while he promises to go to Seir, he carefully declines his brother's escort, and immediately after his departure turns westward across the Jordan ( Genesis 32:7-8; Genesis 32:11; Genesis 33:4; Genesis 33:12; Genesis 33:17). B.C, 1907. The whole of this rencounter serves to show that, if Jacob had acquired riches, Esau had gained power and influence as well as property; and the homage which is paid to him indirectly and by implication on the part of Jacob, and directly, and in the most marked and respectful manner, by the females and children of Jacob's family, leads to the supposition that he had made himself supreme in the surrounding country of Idumaea. (See Edom).
It does not appear that the brothers again met until the death of their father, about twenty years afterwards. Mutual interests and mutual fear seem to have constrained them to act honestly, and even generously towards each other at this solemn interview. They united in laying Isaac's body in the cave of Machpelah. B.C. 1883. (See Rost, Pietas Esavi inparentes, Bautzen, 1788.) Then "Esau took all his cattle, and all his substance, which he had got in the land of Canaan" — such, doubtless, as his father, with Jacob's consent, had assigned to him — "and went into the country from the face of his brother Jacob" ( Genesis 35:29; Genesis 36:6). He now saw clearly that the covenant blessing was Jacob's, that God had inalienably allotted the land of Canaan to Jacob's posterity, and that it would be folly to strive against the divine will: He knew also that as Canaan was given to Jacob; Mount Seir was given to himself (comp. Genesis 27:39; Genesis 32:3; and Deuteronomy 2:5), and he was therefore desirous, with his increased wealth and power, to enter into full possession of his country, and drive out its old inhabitants ( Deuteronomy 2:12). Another circumstance may have influenced him in leaving Canaan. He "lived by his sword" ( Genesis 27:40), and he felt that the rocky fastnesses of Edom would be a safer and more suitable abode for such as by their habits provoked the hostilities of neighboring tribes than the open plains of Southern Palestine. Esau is once more presented to us ( Genesis 36:1-43) in a genealogical table, in which a long line of illustrious descendants is referred to "Esau, the father of the Edomites" ( Genesis 36:43).
The country to which Esau, with his immense family and flocks, retired, was the tract of Mount Seir, from which they gradually dispossessed the thinly scattered population that preceded them in its occupancy, and which they continued to hold for many generations. It was a region entirely suited to the nomadic and roving character of the race. But in regard to the relationship between them and the seed of Israel, the remote descendants of Esau proved less pliant or generous than their progenitor; for from the time that Israel left the land of Egypt, when the two families again came into contact, the posterity of Esau seemed to remember only the old quarrel between the respective heads of the races, and to forget the brotherly reconciliation. A spirit of keenest rivalry and spite characterized their procedure towards Israel; through many a bloody conflict they strove to regain the ascendency which the decree of heaven had destined in the other direction; and in the times of Israel's backsliding and weakness they showed themselves ever ready, according to the prophetic word of Isaac, "to break his yoke from off their neck," and to drive the evil to the uttermost. But it was a fruitless struggle; the purpose of Heaven stood fast; the dominion remained with the house of Jacob; and in the course of the Maccabbean wars the children of Esau finally lost their independent existence, and became substantially merged in the house of Israel. The decree of Heaven, as we have said, had so fixed it; but that decree did not realize itself arbitrarily; the preference for Israel and his seed was no senseless favoritism; from the first the qualities were there which inevitably carried along with them the superiority in might and blessing; while, on the other hand, in Esau's carnalism, sensuality, godlessness, the destiny of his race was already indicated. (See Idumaea).
If the historical outline now given is supported by the scriptural narrative, the character of Esau has not ordinarily received justice at the hands of theologians. The injurious impression against him may be traced back to a very ancient period. The Targum of Jonathan (at Genesis 25:34) sanctioned and spread, if it did not originate, the misjudgment by unwarrantable additions to the account given in Genesis. The reason, it states, why Esau did not at once slay his brother was lest, as happened in the case of Cain and Abel, another man-child might be born, and thus he should still be deprived of his inheritance; he therefore resolved to wait till the death of Isaac, when the murder of Jacob would leave him in safe and undisputed possession. Representations made in the Talmud are of a similar tendency (Otho, Lex. Rabb. Page 207; Wetstein, N.T. 2:437; comp. Philo, Opp. 1:551; 2:441, 675). The Arabians likewise commemorate him (Hottinger, Hist. Orient. page 53 sq.). Cedrenius gives (Hist. Eccl. page 34) the story of his having been killed by an arrow discharged byJacob. The fathers of the Church, particularly Augustine, regard Esau as the representative of the damned, while they admire Jacob as that of the elect (see Stempel, De salute Esavi, Jena, 1678), basing these views upon an erroneous interpretation of such passages as Romans 12:16; Romans 9:13. (Shuckford's Connections, 2:174; Clarke's Comment. on Genesis 27:1-46; Genesis 35:1-29; Kitto's Daily Illustr. in loc.; Niemeyer, Charakt. 2:153 sq.; Baumgarten, Allg. Welthist. 2:50 sq.; Bauer, Hebr. Gesch. 1:147; Hochheimer, Im Orient. 1841, No. 35; Sherlock, Works, 5; Dupin, Nouv. Bibl. 4; Evans, Script. Biog. 1; Roberts, Sermons, page 134; Puckle, Sermons, 1:96; Simeon, Works , 1:211; Alcock, Apology For Esau, Plymouth, 1791; Townsend, Sermons , page 253; Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 2:1.) (See Jacob).
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature 
E´sau (hairy, rough). The origin and meaning of the name are not quite free from ambiguity; Simon deriving it from a word signifying covered with hair; and some such reason as this implies, seems involved in the passage . Cruden, however, explains the name as meaning one who does, an actor or agent. His surname of Edom (red) was given him, it appears , from the red pottage which he asked of Jacob. Esau was the eldest son of 'Isaac, Abraham's son' by Rebekah, 'the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan-aram, the sister to Laban the Syrian.' The marriage remaining for some time (about 19 years: compare; ) unproductive, Isaac entreated Jehovah, and she became pregnant. Led by peculiar feelings 'to inquire of Jehovah,' Rebekah was informed that she should give birth to twins, whose fate would be as diverse as their character, and, what in those days was stranger still, that the elder should serve the younger. On occasion of her delivery the child that was born first was 'red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.' Immediately afterwards Jacob was born.
In process of time the different natural endowments of the two boys began to display their effects in dissimilar aptitudes and pursuits. While Jacob was led by his less robust make and quiet disposition to fulfill the duties of a shepherd's life, and pass his days in and around his tent, Esau was impelled by the ardor and lofty spirit which agitated his bosom, to seek in the toils, adventures, and perils of the chase, his occupation and sustenance; and, as is generally the case in natures like his, he gained high repute by his skill and daring.
A hunter's life is of necessity one of uncertainty as well as hardship; days pass in which the greatest vigilance and the most strenuous exertions may fail even to find, much less capture, game. Esau had on one occasion experienced such a disappointment, and, wearied with his unproductive efforts, exhausted for want of sustenance, and despairing of capturing any prey, he was fain to turn his steps to his father's house for succor in his extremity. On reaching home he found his brother enjoying a carefully prepared dish of pottage: attracted by the odor of which he besought Jacob to allow him to share in the meal. His brother saw the exigency in which Esau was, and determined not to let it pass unimproved. Accordingly he puts a price on the required food. Esau was the elder, and had in consequence immunities and privileges which were of high value. The surrender of these to himself Jacob makes the condition of his complying with Esau's petition. Urged by the cravings of hunger, alarmed even by the fear of instant death, Esau sold his birth-right to his younger brother, confirming the contract by the sanction of an oath. Jacob having thus got his price, supplied the famishing Esau with needful refreshments.
Arrived now at years of maturity, Esau, when 40 years of age, married two wives, Judith and Bashemath. Some unhappy feelings appear to have previously existed in the family; for while Esau was a favorite with his father, in consequence, it appears, of the presents of venison which the youth gave him, Jacob was regarded with special affection by the mother. These partialities, and their natural consequences in unamiable feelings, were increased and exaggerated by Esau's marriage. Even his father's preference of him may have been injuriously affected. The way was thus in some measure smoothed for the transference of the coveted birthright to the younger son.
The time for the fulfillment of the compact between the brothers at length arrived. Isaac is 'sick unto death.' His appetite, as well as his strength, having failed, is only to be gratified by provocatives. He desires some savory venison, and gives the requisite instructions to Esau, who accordingly proceeds in quest of it. On this Rebekah begins to feel that the critical time has come. If the hated Hittites are not to enter with her less favored son into possession of the family property, the sale of the birthright must now in some way be confirmed and consummated. One essential particular remained—the father's blessing. If this should be given to Esau, all hope was gone; for this, like our modern wills, would hand the inheritance and the accompanying headship of the tribe to Esau and his wives.
Isaac, however, had lost his sight—indeed, all his senses were dull and feeble. It was therefore not very difficult to pass off Jacob upon him as Esau. Rebekah takes her measures, and, notwithstanding Jacob's fears, succeeds. Isaac, indeed, is not without suspicion, but a falsehood comes to aid Jacob in his otherwise discreditable impersonation of Esau. The blessing is pronounced, and thus the coveted property and ascendancy are secured. The affectionate endearments which pass between the deceiver and the abused old blind father, stand in painful contrast with the base trickery by which mother and son had accomplished their end.
Esau, however, returns from the field, approaches his decrepit and sightless father, declaring who he is. 'And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him?—yea, and he shall be blessed.' On this Esau becomes agitated, and entreats a blessing for himself—'Bless me, even me also, O my father.' Urging this entreaty again and again, even with tears, Isaac at length said unto him, 'Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; and by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck' .
Thus, deprived forever of his birthright, in virtue of the irrevocable blessing, Esau but too naturally conceived and entertained a hatred of Jacob, and even formed a resolution to seize the opportunity for slaying him, which the days of mourning consequent on the approaching decease of their father would be likely to afford. Words to this effect, which Esau let drop, were repeated to his mother, who thereupon prevailed on her younger son to flee to his uncle Laban, who lived in Haran, there to remain until time, with its usual effect, might have mitigated Esau's wrath. Meanwhile Esau had grown powerful in Idumaea, and when, after many years, Jacob intended to return within the borders of the Jordan, he feared lest his elder brother might intercept him on his way, to take revenge for former injuries. He accordingly sent messengers to Esau, in order, if possible, to disarm his wrath. Esau appears to have announced in reply, that he would proceed to meet his returning brother. When, therefore, Jacob was informed that Esau was on his way for this purpose with a band of four hundred men, he was greatly distressed, in fear of that hostility which his conscience told him he had done something to deserve. What then must have been his surprise when he saw Esau running with extended arms to greet and embrace him? and Esau 'fell on his neck, and kissed him, and they wept.' Jacob had prepared a present for Esau, hoping thus to conciliate his favor; but Esau at first courteously refused the gift—'I have enough, my brother, keep that thou hast unto thyself' (Genesis 33).
The whole of this rencontre serves to show that if Jacob had acquired riches, Esau had gained power and influence as well as property; and the homage which is paid to him indirectly, and by implication, on the part of Jacob, and directly, and in the most marked and respectful manner, by the females and children of Jacob's family, leads to the supposition that he had made himself supreme in the surrounding country of Idumaea.
Esau from this time appears but very little in the sacred narrative. He was ready to accompany Jacob, or to send with him an escort, probably for protection, but Jacob's fears and suspicions induced him to decline these friendly offers; and they separated on the same day that they met, after an interview in which Jacob's bearing is rather that of an inferior to his lord than that of a brother, and Esau's has all the generousness which a high nature feels in forgiving an injury and aiming to do good to the injurer. The latter, we are merely told, 'returned on his way to Seir' .
Jacob and Esau appear together again at the funeral rites which were paid to their deceased father; but the book of Genesis furnishes no particulars of what took place.
Esau is once more presented to us (Genesis 36) in a genealogical table, in which a long line of illustrious descendants is referred to 'Esau, the father of the Edomites' .
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 
ē´sô ( עשׂו , ‛ēsāw , "hairy"; Ἠσαύ , Ēsaú ): Son of Isaac, twin brother of Jacob. The name was given on account of the hairy covering on his body at birth: "all over like a hairy garment" ( Genesis 25:25 ). There was a prenatal foreshadowing of the relation his descendants were to sustain to those of his younger brother, Jacob ( Genesis 25:23 ). The moment of his birth also was signalized by a circumstance that betokened the same destiny ( Genesis 25:26 ).
The young Esau was fond of the strenuous, daring life of the chase - he became a skillful hunter, "a man of the field" ( 'ı̄sh sādheh ). His father warmed toward him rather than toward Jacob, because Esau's hunting expeditions resulted in meats that appealed to the old man's taste ( Genesis 25:28 ). Returning hungry from one of these expeditions, however, Esau exhibited a characteristic that marked him for the inferior position which had been foretokened at the time of his birth. Enticed by the pottage which Jacob had boiled, he could not deny himself, but must, at once, gratify his appetite, though the calm and calculating Jacob should demand the birthright of the firstborn as the price ( Genesis 25:30-34 ). Impulsively he snatched an immediate and sensual gratification at the forfeit of a future glory. Thus he lost the headship of the people through whom God's redemptive purpose was to be wrought out in the world, no less than the mere secular advantage of the firstborn son's chief share in the father's temporal possessions. Though Esau had so recklessly disposed of his birthright, he afterward would have secured from Isaac the blessing that appertained, had not the cunning of Rebekah provided for Jacob. Jacob, to be sure, had some misgiving about the plan of his mother ( Genesis 27:12 ), but she reassured him; the deception was successful and he secured the blessing. Now, too late, Esau bitterly realized somewhat, at least, of his loss, though he blamed Jacob altogether, and himself not at all ( Genesis 27:34 , Genesis 27:36 ). Hating his brother on account of the grievance thus held against him, he determined upon fratricide as soon as his father should pass away ( Genesis 27:41 ); but the watchful Rebekah sent Jacob to Haran, there to abide with her kindred till Esau's wrath should subside ( Genesis 27:42-45 ).
Esau, at the age of forty, had taken two Hittite wives, and had thus displeased his parents. Rebekah had shrewdly used this fact to induce Isaac to fall in with her plan to send Jacob to Mesopotamia; and Esau, seeing this, seems to have thought he might please both Isaac and Rebekah by a marriage of a sort different from those already contracted with Canaanitish women. Accordingly, he married a kinswoman in the person of a daughter of Ishmael ( Genesis 28:6 , Genesis 28:9 ). Connected thus with the "land of Seir," and by the fitness of that land for one who was to live by the sword, Esau was dwelling there when Jacob returned from Mesopotamia. While Jacob dreaded meeting him, and took great pains to propitiate him, and made careful preparations against a possible hostile meeting, very earnestly seeking Divine help, Esau, at the head of four hundred men, graciously received the brother against whom his anger had so hotly burned. Though Esau had thus cordially received Jacob, the latter was still doubtful about him, and, by a sort of duplicity, managed to become separated from him, Esau returning to Seir ( Genesis 33:12-17 ). Esau met his brother again at the death of their father, about twenty years later ( Genesis 35:29 ). Of the after years of his life we know nothing.
Esau was also called Edom ("red"), because he said to Jacob: "Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage" ( Genesis 25:30 ). The land in which he established himself was "the land of Seir," so called from Seir, ancestor of the Horites whom Esau found there; and called also Edom from Esau's surname, and, it may be, too, from the red sandstone of the country (Sayce).
"Esau" is sometimes found in the sense of the descendants of Esau, and of the land in which they dwelt ( Deuteronomy 2:5; Obadiah 1:6 , Obadiah 1:8 , Obadiah 1:18 , Obadiah 1:19 ).
The Nuttall Encyclopedia 
The eldest son of Isaac, who sold his birthright to Jacob for a mess of lentils; led a predatory life, and was the forefather of the Edomites.
- ↑ Esau from Fausset's Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Esau from Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary
- ↑ Esau from Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
- ↑ Esau from Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
- ↑ Esau from Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
- ↑ Esau from Morrish Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Esau from Holman Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Esau from Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Esau from Smith's Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Esau from Easton's Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Esau from People's Dictionary of the Bible
- ↑ Esau from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Esau from Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types
- ↑ Esau from Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
- ↑ Esau from Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature
- ↑ Esau from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
- ↑ Esau from The Nuttall Encyclopedia