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Esau, from the Hebrew word pronounced ay-sawv, meaning rough, or hairy, was the grandson of Abraham and Sarah, the slightly older twin son of Isaac and Rebekah. Also known as Edom, meaning red, he and Jacob (who God renamed Israel) formed one of the fiercest cases of sibling rivalry in all Bible History.

Jacob and Esau

The struggle between Jacob and Esau began right from their conception and birth:

The Blessing

"And Isaac entreated The Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and The Lord was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of The Lord. And The Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them." (Genesis 25:21-26 KJV)

Although (fraternal) twins, Jacob and Esau were very different in appearance and personality i.e. Esau was a "hairy man" while Jacob was a "smooth man" (Genesis 27:11 KJV). They were also each a favorite of one parent, a sure formula for trouble.

"And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob." (Genesis 25:27-28)

Then came the day that Esau foolishly sold his birthright to Jacob for that now-infamous pottage:

"And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright." (Genesis 25:29-34 KJV)

By means of a deceptive scheme set up by Rebekah, Jacob next managed to get Esau's blessing from the nearly-blind Isaac, then completing the transfer of the rights of the firstborn from Esau to Jacob (Genesis 27:1-40). Esau's response was a plan to kill Jacob, which was prevented when Rebekah heard of it and sent Jacob away to live with her brother Laban. (see Jacob and Laban).

Esau's family tensions continued with his marriages:

"And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father; Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham's son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife." (Genesis 28:8-9 KJV)

The reconciliation between Jacob and Esau occurred 30 year later upon Jacob's return to the land that God intended for Israel and his descendants (Genesis chapters 33 and 34). About 20 years later, when their father Isaac died, the two brothers buried him in Hebron. That may have been the last that Jacob and Esau ever saw of each other.

"And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him" (Genesis 35:29 KJV)

Esau then left the God-commanded land of Israel and established himself as a powerful nation in the land of Edom (Genesis 36:1-43).

Fact Finder: Was Esau the father of the Edomites?
Genesis 36:43

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