“Esau said to Jacob, ‘Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” Genesis 25:30
I’ve done some pretty ridiculous things when I’m hungry.
Flagging blood sugar levels tend to make me pretty irritable, so I try to eat regular meals, and keep snacks handy when I’m going to be away from home for a while. But sometimes, busyness gets the best of me and I forget until I’m really hungry. I’ve been known to eat Nutella with a spoon under such circumstances. (Hey, it’s high in protein, right?)
But I hope I never let my hunger control me as completely as it did Esau.
I’m no stranger to male eating habits – even though two of men in my life are still preschoolers, all three of my guys can put the food away. I’m told it’s worse when they are teenagers, (Lord, help me!) and maybe that’s what Esau was in this passage. They are described in verse 25 as “grown up,” but it’s not unreasonable to imagine that Esau was the age of your average high school or college quarterback. And he could probably eat as much, too.
Esau was a man’s man, after all. He was a big, burly, hunter, and I’m quite sure that on that fateful day, he had worked up an appetite out there in the “open country,” (verse 27) but I think he may have been over exaggerating his hunger a little bit. When he first approaches Jacob, he describes himself as “famished” (verse 30). But when his cunning brother offers a trade, he takes the hyperbole a step further.
“‘Look, I am about to die,’ Esau said. ‘What good is the birthright to me?’” (verse 32).
It’s hard for us in the 21st century Western world to understand what a despicable thing this was for Esau to say. His birthright represented the portion of his father’s estate that he would inherit. His status within the large clan his grandfather, Abraham, had passed down to his father. His receipt of the covenant God had made with his family. It was honor, position, and wealth. And he threw it all away. Why? Because he was hungry.
This is why Genesis 25:34 says “Esau despised his birthright,” and why Hebrews 12:6 calls Esau “godless.”
While Matthew Henry’s commentary on Genesis describes Esau’s bite of stew as “as dear a morsel as ever was eaten since the forbidden fruit,” there are others in the Bible who made costly decisions by choosing to put something in their mouths.
Sisera, the commander of the army of Canaan, trusted housewife Jael, because he was on good terms with her husband. He was thirsty and sought refuge in her tent. When she gave him milk instead (or possibly yogurt), he let down his guard and fell asleep, trusting her generosity as a mark of her trustworthiness. She murdered him with a tent peg while he was sleeping, in fulfillment of Deborah’s prophecy that the battle’s victory would rest in the hands of woman. (Judges 4:9-21)
Samson was walking along the road to Timnah when he noticed that some honeybees had made use of the body of lion he’d killed sometime earlier. My NASB study Bible notes, “In the summer heat the carcass dried quickly, leaving a suitable cavity for the bees,” but I think I’d have to pretty hungry to even consider that as a food option. What’s worse than the fact that eating out of a lion is just plain disgusting, however, touching the lion was a violation of Samson’s Nazarite vows.
Before Samson was born, an angel had appeared to his mother and told her, “the boy is to be a Nazarite, set apart to God from birth.” (Judges 13:5) The specific guidelines associated with Nazarite separation were a part of the law that was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. God told the Israelites that the Nazartie “must not go near a dead body. Even if his own father or mother or brother or sister dies, he must not make himself ceremonially on account of them.” (Numbers 6:6-7) But Samson ate the honey anyway, beginning a whole chain of bad decisions and consequences that culminated in the death of his wife and her family.
Esau. Sisera. Samson. Three very different stories with one common thread.
Can you imagine how different these stories would be if those men had just said no?
And that is where we need to sit up and take note. I told you on Tuesday that I don’t intend to tell you what to eat or what not to eat, and that goes for this story, too. We cannot just avoid stew and milk and honey and think we are safe from becoming like these men.
I don’t know what your weakness is – sweet, salty, rich, meaty? Or maybe it’s not even for food. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how you pursue it. If you are willing to risk your safety, or go against God’s commands, or give up something irreplaceable to get it, that thing is most likely a sin to you.
And it may be hindering you from receiving all that God has for you. Hebrews 12:17 says that after Esau sold his birthright, “when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.”
Esau sought the blessing with tears, but his sin was in the way.
I love food, but I don’t want that to be my story, and I don’t want it to be your story, either. No matter what we choose to eat, we must not allow satiating our appetites take priority over obeying God and receiving his blessing, because He has so much more to give us than the meal that is in front of us.
As you pray over your meals today, take a moment to let God really search your heart. Let his Lordship reign in every area of your life, even the things you put into your mouth. Then you can say, without qualms, “Lord, please bless this food.”
This post is part of a 31-day series. A list of all the other posts in this series can be found here.