In the Book of Genesis, the question of birthright is the center of several narratives – most famously that of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca. Esau, the elder of the two, willingly sold his b’chora (birthright of the eldest) to Jacob in exchange for a bowl of lentils. 

What exactly did Esau sell, and why did Jacob want it? In Jewish law, the firstborn son (the b’chor) inherits a double portion. But Jacob was not simply seeking to have twice as much wealth as his brother. He understood that the most important inheritance was the spiritual inheritance that was to foster a continuation of the relationship with God that his grandfather Abraham had begun. Rebecca understood this as well and, therefore, pushed Jacob to be the one to receive Isaac’s blessing. (Since Esau had sold it to Jacob, it was legitimately his blessing.)

A significant insight into why Jacob sought to buy the birthright can be found in the final line of the blessing Isaac gave to Jacob: “Those who curse you shall be cursed, and those who bless you shall be blessed” (27:28-29). 

This is the essential element of the blessing and is an echo of God’s blessing to Abraham: “I will make you a great nation…and you will be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless you and curse them that curse you, and in you will all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3).

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *