How Do Esau & Jacob Represent the Nations?

by Brittany McComas
There are many references to read throughout the Bible on Jacob and Esau.

There are many references to read throughout the Bible on Jacob and Esau.

Born of Isaac and Rebekah and grandsons of Abraham, Jacob and Esau were destined to be antagonists. Jacob and Esau were born of prophecy to be the predecessors of nations at war with one another. In Gen. 25:23 of the Bible, God spoke to Rebekah, "Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples shall be separated from your body." This is how it came to pass that Jacob and Esau would represent two nations of peoples.

The Story of Jacob and Esau

Twins, but not identical, they were actually opposites. From their very birth, these brothers struggled against each other. Jacob was the homebody and Esau the outdoorsman. Jacob was more spiritual, while Esau was of the flesh. Esau was so of worldly flesh that he traded his birthright for a bowl of soup. "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 swore unto him; and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright." -- Gen. 25:30-34.

Esau and Edom

Esau simply sold his birthright as desire of the flesh in that moment. He cared not for his spiritual birthright. This is the record of the Bible, and note it is repeated three times. "Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom ... .Thus dwelt Esau in Mount Seir: Esau is Edom. And these are the generations of Esau, the father of the Edomites in Mount Seir." -- Genesis 36:1, 8, 9. God wanted this to be remembered. The Edomites were descendants of Esau, just as the Israelites descendants of Jacob. "Edom" meaning red for that of the soup Esau sold his inheritance for. Located southeast of Israel, Mount Seir was a landmark of Edom.

Jacob and Israel

Jacob's name means deceiver, yet God made an example of him by changing him into a man of God. "God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things, and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him." -- 1 Cor. 1:27-29. With Jacob as a deceiver, there was no way that he could please God; however, Jacob unlike Esau believed in and treasured the word of God. Thus, God turned the heart of Jacob, the deceiver, into Israel, the man of God.

War of Edom and Israel

Edom and Israel never got along with each other. Many a fight went down between the two, and Edom harbored hatred toward Israel. "Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom the day of Jerusalem, who said, "Raze it, raze it, to its very foundation!" -- Psalm 137:7 King James Bible. Edom made it a point to cheer the Babylonians as they took Israel captive. When Israel fell of its sins, Edom rejoiced and raided the country. It even helped the Babylonians collect prisoners of war left from the initial struggle as stated in Obadiah, Chapter 10, of the King James Bible. It was then that God made several prophecies against Edom. As told in Ezekiel 35: "Thus says the Lord GOD: 'Behold, O Mount Seir, I am against you; I will stretch out My hand against you, and make you most desolate; I shall lay your cities waste, and you shall be desolate. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. Because you have had an ancient hatred, and have shed the blood of the children of Israel by the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, when their iniquity came to an end; therefore, as I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'I will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you; since you have not hated blood, therefore blood shall pursue you. Thus I will make Mount Seir most desolate, and cut off from it the one who leaves and the one who returns. And I will fill its mountains with the slain; on your hills and in your valleys and in all your ravines those who are slain by the sword shall fall. I will make you perpetually desolate, and your cities shall be uninhabited; then you shall know that I am the LORD.'" God promised Edom would never be rebuilt. Just as Edom lived in hate for Israel, its country would remain empty.

About the Author

Brittany McComas has been writing since 2000. She has served as a scriptwriter, freelance writer, editor, dramaturg and producer for theater, television, radio and film. She wrote for a television series that won a Royal Television Society Award. McComas holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater from West Virginia University and a Master of Arts in scriptwriting from Bath Spa University.

Photo Credits

  • An older man in overalls sitting outside reading the Bible. image by dvest from Fotolia.com