Who is…

Hebrew: עֵשָׂו —transliteration: Esav —possible meaning: hairy

Greek: Ἠσαῦ —transliteration: Esau

also known as: Edom and Red


Esau is a son of Isaac (son of Abraham) and Rebekah (Rebecca). He was the firstborn twin (Genesis 25:25). His twin brother is Jacob (aka Israel). Esau was born very red and hairy all over (Genesis 25:25).

When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. —Genesis 25:24-26 ESV

The circumstances connected with his birth foreshadowed the enmity which afterwards continued between the twin brothers and the nations they founded (Gen. 25:22-23; 25:26).

Early life

In time, Jacob—following his natural bent—became a shepherd, while Esau, a “son of the desert,” devoted himself to the perilous and toilsome life of a hunter.

On a certain occasion, on returning from the chase, urged by the cravings of hunger, Esau sold his birthright to his brother, Jacob, who thereby obtained the covenant blessing (Genesis 27:28-29; 27:36; Heb. 12:16-17).

Esau said to Jacob,

“Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.”

Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said,

“First sell me your birthright.”

Esau said,

“Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?”

And Jacob said,

“First swear to me”

so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. —Genesis 25:30-33 NASB

Edom means “red,” so a nickname for Esau was Red. The food he was given was probably red lentil pottage.

Afterward, he tried to regain what he had so recklessly parted with, but was defeated in his attempts through the stealth of his brother (Genesis 27:4; 27:34; 27:38).


At the age of 40 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.

Reconciliation with Jacob

After some 30 years’ sojourn in Padan-aram, Jacob returned to Canaan, and was reconciled to Esau, who went forth to meet him (Genesis 33:4).

20 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.

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.

New Testament

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. —Hebrews 11:20 NKJV

For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.”

And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” —Romans 9:6-13 NKJV

Streaming video— 
“Esau I Hated”
Sermon: “Those Whom God Hates He Often Gives Plenty” by Puritan Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). Edwards was elected president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in early 1758. He was the most eminent American philosopher-theologian of his time.
Christian Audio Sermons
Length: 27 minutes

Hebrews 12:15-17 warns of being like Esau:

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. —Hebrews 12:15-17 NKJV


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Article Version: July 8, 2021