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Spouse(s) Adah and Aholibamah, later Mahalath

According to the Book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible, Esau (pronounced /ˈiːsɔː/) (Hebrew עֵשָׂו, Standard Hebrew Esav, Tiberian Hebrew ʿĒśāw; Greek: Ἡσαῦ) was the fraternal twin brother[1][2][3] of Jacob (whom God renamed Israel)—the patriarch and founder of the Israelites.[4] Esau and Jacob were the sons of Isaac and Rebekah, and the grandsons of Abraham and Sarah. Esau was born first and when Jacob was born, he held onto Esau's heel (Genesis 25:26). Isaac was sixty years old when they were born, but Rebekah is believed to have been much younger. Abraham was still alive at that time, though he would have been 160 years old by that stage, and would live another fifteen years.

As the first born, Esau was entitled to inherit the wealth of his father Isaac after his death. However, he sold his birthright to Jacob[4] in exchange for a "mess of pottage" (meal of lentils) (Genesis 25:29–34). According to the Talmud, the sale of the birthright took place immediately after Abraham died.[5] The Talmudic dating would give both Esau and Jacob an age of 15 at the time.



The birth of Esau and Jacob, as painted by Benjamin West

Esau's name in Hebrew means "hairy", and, according to Genesis 25:25, it is a reference to his hairiness at birth. He is also called "Edom", which means red. Genesis relates this directly to his selling his birthright for some "red lentil stew" (Genesis 25:30), and the book also makes a point of mentioning that he was red when he emerged from the womb (Gen 25:25). The land which was inhabited by his descendants, Edom, contains a great abundance of red rock.


Genesis 36 details Esau's family. He took two wives from the women of Canaan: Adah or Basemath, the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah, the daughter of Anah the Hivite. Esau also married his cousin Mahalath or another Basemath,[6] daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth, upon hearing of his parents' displeasure with his marriage to Canaanite women. (Genesis 28:1–9)

Esau had five sons: Eliphaz with Adah; Reuel with Basemath (or Mahalath); and Jeush, Jalam and Korah with Aholibamah (Genesis 36:4–5).

Biblical description

The Bible depicts Esau as a hunter who prefers the outdoor life, qualities that distinguished him from his brother, who was a shy or simple man, depending on the translation of the Hebrew word "Tam" (which also means "relatively perfect man").[4] According to the Bible, Esau is the ancestor of the Edomites.[4] In the Book of Genesis, Esau is frequently shown being supplanted by his younger twin Jacob (Israel).

Genesis 25:19–25 narrates Esau's birth. He emerges from the womb with Jacob grasping his heel. He is described as follows: "Now the first came forth, red all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau."

Biblical significance

Genesis 25:29–34 shows him willingly selling his birthright to Jacob[4] in exchange for a "mess of pottage" (meal of lentils). Controversy has surrounded this scripture, in that some have noted that Esau may have been in danger of starving to death and was taken advantage of by Jacob in a vulnerable moment. Certainly, Jacob's refusal to share his food without exacting a high price from Esau is in conflict with Biblical principles for moral living such as charity and goodwill. However, others suggest that among the large entourage of Isaac's wealthy household, death from starvation would not likely have been a genuine danger simply on account of Esau not having caught anything while hunting that day. Owing to the strict law concerning draining the blood from an animal before eating it, Esau would not have expected to immediately eat what he killed and would probably have carried food while hunting. According to the Bible the food laws were given later to Moses. Rather, Esau's words about being close to death may have been dramatic exaggeration of the type frequently found in the Old Testament and that selling his birthright indicated Esau's lack of appreciation for the long-term value of such an intangible right when he was more interested in fulfilling his immediate needs.

Curiously, the Old Testament of the Bible does not tell us which of these views is correct, whether in God's eyes Esau was cheated by Jacob or whether Esau carelessly sold his birthright to Jacob. However, the New Testament Hebrews 12:15–16, depicts Esau as unspiritual for thoughtlessly throwing away his birthright. In Esau's mother and father's eyes, the deception may have been deserved. Rebekah later abets Jacob in receiving his father's blessing disguised as Esau. Isaac then refuses to take Jacob's blessing back after learning he was tricked, and does not give a second blessing to Esau (Genesis 27:34–40).

In Genesis 27:1–40, Jacob uses deception to trick their father Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing normally due to the eldest, instead of giving it to Esau. Jacob's deception also engenders controversy, while motivated in fact by Rebekah, the mother of both Jacob and Esau and Isaac's beloved wife. In Genesis 25:22–23,

And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire 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.

Genesis 25:28 explains the conflict between the parents and their children: "Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob." (emphasis added).

In Genesis 27:5–7, "Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game to bring home, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, "Behold, I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, saying, 'Bring me some game and prepare a savory dish for me, that I may eat, and bless you in the presence of the lord before my death.'". Rebekah then instructs Jacob in an elaborate deception through which Jacob pretends to be Esau, in order to steal from Esau Isaac's blessing and birthright—which in theory Esau had agreed to give to Jacob. As a result, Jacob becomes the spiritual leader of the family after Isaac's death and the heir of the promises of Abraham (Genesis 27:37).

Esau, naturally, is furious and vows to kill Jacob (Genesis 27:41). Once again Rebekah intervenes to save her youngest son Jacob from being murdered by her eldest son, Esau.

Therefore, at Rebekah's urging, Jacob flees to a distant land to work for a relative, Laban (Genesis 28:5). To engineer Jacob's escape unharmed, Rebekah invents a story about not wanting Jacob to marry a local Heth-ite woman (Genesis 27:46).

Esau married Canaanite women, but, upon hearing that this greatly displeased his parents, Esau married his cousin Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael (Genesis 28:6–9). Esau thus demonstrates loyalty to his parents and their wishes. However, the Bible portrays Rebekah's expression of displeasure with the women of the region as actually being only a ruse to facilitate Jacob's escape from Esau's murderous threats.

Jacob does not immediately receive his father's inheritance after the elaborate deception aimed at taking it from Esau. Jacob having fled for his life, leaves behind the wealth of Isaac's flocks and land and tents in Esau's hands. Jacob is forced to sleep out on the open ground and then work for wages as a servant in Laban's household. Jacob, who had deceived and cheated his brother, is in turn deceived and cheated by his relative Laban concerning Jacob's seven years of service (lacking money for a dowry) for the hand of Rachel, receiving Leah instead. However, despite Laban, Jacob eventually becomes so rich as to incite the envy of Laban and Laban's sons.

Meanwhile, Esau also shows forgiveness and reconciliation. In spite of this bitter conflict, Genesis 32–33 tells of Jacob and Esau's eventual reconciliation. Jacob sends multiple waves of gifts to Esau as they approach each other in hopes of Esau sparing his life. Esau refuses the gifts, as he is now very wealthy and does not need them. Jacob never apologizes to Esau for his actions through the sending of these gifts. Jacob nevertheless bows down before Esau and insists on his receiving the gifts. (After this, God confirms his renaming of Jacob as "Israel".) Nevertheless, commentaries through the ages have read—between the lines—of an animosity only superficially concealed.[7]

According to Jewish tradition, Esau was a rebellious son. He kept this life secret until he was 15, when he sold his birthright to Jacob. Abraham died earlier the same day, so that he would not witness the demise of his grandson Esau. The lentils Jacob was cooking were meant for his father Isaac, because lentils are the traditional mourner's meal for Jews. Jacob coerced Esau to sell his birthright, because he knew that Esau was not sufficiently responsible to receive it.

Book of Jubilees

In the Book of Jubilees (which is neither part of the Jewish nor most Christian canons), Esau's father, Isaac, compels Esau to swear not to attack or kill Jacob after Isaac has died. However, after the death of Isaac, the sons of Esau convince their father to lead them, and hired mercenaries, against Jacob in order to kill Jacob and his family and seize their wealth (especially the portion of Isaac's wealth that Isaac had left to Jacob upon his death). In the ensuing battle, Jacob kills Esau with an arrow. The sons of Jacob then defeat the rest of the attackers despite overwhelming odds.

Some of the sons of Esau are spared, but they are sworn to serve and pay fealty to Jacob.

Later history of Edom

Genesis 36 lists some of the early descendants of Esau and describes his people as settling in the hill country of Seir. His death is not recounted in the Bible. However, during the time that the Israelites were in captivity in Egypt, the Edomites established their own kingdom and had several kings before the Israelites established their monarchy.

Hundreds of years later, when the Israelites returned from captivity in Egypt during the Exodus, God commands the Israelites to honor and respect their "brothers" the Edomites, the descendants of Esau. The Israelites are commanded to be careful not to provoke the Edomites or take anything from them without paying for it. However, although the Bible does not record it in connection with those events, later God expresses anger at the Edomites for not showing the Israelites hospitality, such as in Numbers 20:14–22.

There are several Biblical references to hostility between the people of Israel and the people of Edom (e.g., 2 Samuel 8:12–14; 2 Kings 8:20–22; Psalm 137:7), and it is possible that some of the narrative of Genesis is intended to explain the origins and justification of that hostility. The Edomites (also known as Idumeans) came to be dominated by the larger kingdom of Israel, but from time to time fought wars with Israel throughout Israel's history.

Approximately 1000 years after Esau's and Jacob's common birthday, God expresses extreme anger and condemnation upon the Edomites such as in the prophesies of Malachi 1 and Obadiah 1. However, although the Bible follows the convention of describing the Edomites by the name of their long-dead patriarch Esau, the specific reasons given for God's anger involve then-recent sins of the Edomite people, not of the individual man Esau. Id.

The prophesies of Obadiah and Malachi indicate that the Edomite race will be destroyed during the end times. In Obadiah Chapter 1:18, it is declared: "And the house of Jacob shall be fire and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau shall become stubble, and they shall ignite them and consume them, and the house of Esau shall have no survivors, for the Lord has spoken."

According to Jewish tradition, Edomites were the progenitors of Rome. This may be due to the similarity of the Jacob-Esau story and Romulus-Remus myth—twins, who turned against each other. Because the Romans adopted Christianity as their religion and were the bedrock for western civilization, Christians and/or European nations and their descendents are sometimes referred to as Edomites. According to the same tradition through the prophecies in Obadiah and Malachi refer the Messianic age, where Edom will be punished for their cruelty to Israel during their exile.


  1. ^ Dayringer, Richard (1999). Life Cycle: Psychological and Theological Perceptions. Haworth Press. p. 54. ISBN 0789001713.  
  2. ^ Ochs, Carol (2001). Our Lives as Torah: Finding God in Our Own Stories. Jossey-Bass. p. 221. ISBN 0787944734.  
  3. ^ Pleins, J. David (2003). When the Great Abyss Opened: Classic and Contemporary Readings of Noah's Flood. Oxford University Press. p. 148. ISBN 0195156080.  
  4. ^ a b c d e Metzger & Coogan (1993). Oxford Companion to the Bible, pp. 191–2.
  5. ^ Bava Batra 16b.
  6. ^ Genesis 36:3
  7. ^ Navon, Divrei. "The Kiss of Esau" (pdf).  


  • Metzeger, Bruce M. (ed); Michael D. Coogan (ed.) (1993). The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-504645-5.  

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See also Esaú




From Hebrew עֵשָׂו, עשיו

Proper noun




  1. (Biblical) The son of Isaac and Rebekah and the older twin brother of Jacob.


Related terms


  1. One who forsakes a permanent interest for a more immediate but temporary interest




  • IPA: /ˈIsaʊ/

Proper noun


  1. (Biblical) Esau.
  2. A male given name.

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From BibleWiki

Meaning: hairy

Isaac and Rebekah's first-born twin son (Gen 25:25). The name Edom, "red", was also given to him from his conduct in connection with the red lentil "pottage" for which he sold his birthright (Gen 25:30ff).

The circumstances connected with his birth foreshadowed the enmity which afterwards subsisted between the twin brothers and the nations they founded (Gen 25:22ff).

In process of 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 huntsman. 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 (Gen 27:28ff; Heb 12:16f). He afterwards tried to regain what he had so recklessly parted with, but was defeated in his attempts through the stealth of his brother (Gen 27:4, Gen 27:34ff).

At the age of forty years, to the great grief of his parents, he married (Gen 26:34ff) 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 (Gen 28:8f) 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.

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

Twenty years after this, Isaac their father died, when the two brothers met, probably for the last time, beside his grave (Gen 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.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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(‘sw, hairy).

The eldest son of Isaac and Rebecca, the twin-brother of Jacob. The struggle of the two brothers, when still within Rebecca's womb, was prophetic of the lifelong opposition, deepening at times into hatred, which marked the relations between Esau and Jacob (Gen., xxv, 22 sq.). Esau, who came forth first, when grown up, became a skilful hunter, and was much loved by Isaac, who ate of his hunting (Gen., xxv, 24-28). "Coming faint out of the field", and much moved by the sight and savour of the pottage boiled by his brother, Esau said to Jacob, "Give me of this red pottage". No doubt already informed as to the import of the oracle revealed to Rebecca, Jacob was quick to draw advantage from the greed of his famished brother. Consenting to the condition imposed, Esau not only exchanged his first birthright for the red pottage, but even confirmed the sale by an oath, saying, "Lo, I die; what will the first birthright avail me? . . . .. And so taking bread and the pottage of lentils, he ate, and drank, and went his way; making little account of having sold his first birthright" (Gen., xxv, 29-34). That this transaction was widely known is justly inferred from the very name (Edom, red), which, though rarely given to Esau himself, is almost universally applied to his descendants. "Esau, being forty years old, married wives, Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hethite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon of the same place" (Gen., xxvi, 34). This selection of Chanaanite wives, who "both offended the mind of Isaac and Rebecca" (Gen., xxvi, 35), seemed to have caused peculiar suffering to Rebecca, who, speaking with her husband, declared, "I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the stock of this land I choose not to live" (Gen., xxvii, 46). Old and with eyes so dim he could not see, Isaac ordered Esau to take quiver and bow, so that after having prepared a savoury dish with the fruit of his hunting, he might receive the parting blessing, belonging to the eldest son. Esau, yielding ready obedience, went "into the field to fulfil his father's commandment". (Gen., xxvii, 1-5.) Meanwhile, clothed with the very good garments of his older brother, with hands and neck so carefully covered under the tender hides of the kids as to resemble the hairy skin of Esau, Jacob, following in every deetail the advice of Rebecca, knelt before Isaac, offered the savoury dish, and begged and obtrained the coveted blessing. Great then was the astonishment, and genuine the indignation, of the disappointed Esau, who "roared out with a great cry", on hearing the deceived Isaac declare, "thy brother came deceitfully and got thy blessing". Though sympathizing with his grief­stricken son, Isaac, realizing more fully the import of the oracle communicated to Rebecca, felt impelled to add: "I have blessed him, and he shall be blessed"; "I have appointed him thy lord, and have made all his brethren his servants". (Gen., xxvii, 6-37.) The restraining influence of the father's presence is admirably portrayed in the few words uttered by Esau: "the days will come of the mourning of my father, and I will kill my brother Jacob" (Gen., xxvii, 41). That this exclamation revealed a deep-seated purpose, the evident anxiety of Rebecca, the hasty flight of Jacob to Haran, and his long stay with his uncle Laban, clearly demonstrated. (Gen., xxvii, 42-xxxi, 38.) Indeed, even after a self-imposed exile of twenty years, the carefully instructed messengers sent to Esau in the land of Seir (Gen., xxxii, 3) and the strategic division of his household and flocks into two companies clearly indicate Jacob's abiding sense of distrust (Gen., xxxii, 4-8.

After extending a cordial welcome to his returning brother, Esau parted from Jacob and "returned, that day, the way that he came, to Seir" (Gen., xxxiii, 1-16), where he and his descendants became exceedingly rich (Gen., xxxvi, 1-8). The very name Edomite, given to the descendants of Esau (Edom), has served to perpetuate the remembrance of the circumstances attending Esau's birth and the sale of his first birthright. From the noteworthy preference of Jacob to Esau (Gen., xxv, 22 sq.), St. Paul (Rom., ix, 4-16) shows that in the mystery of election and grace God is bound to no particular nation and is influenced by no prerogative of birth or antecedent merit. When Isaac, old and full of days, had died, we find Esau with Jacob at Hebron, there to bury their father in the cave of Machpelah (Gen., xxxv, 28-29).

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.


—Biblical Data:

Jacob's elder brother (Gen. xxv. 25-34, and elsewhere; comp. Josh. xxiv. 4). The name alternates with "Edom," though only rarely applied to the inhabitants of the Edomitic region (Jer. xlix. 8-10; Obad. 6; Mal. i. 2 et seq.). The "sons of Esau" are mentioned as living in Seir (Deut. ii. 4, 5). The "mountain of Esau" (Obad. 8, 9, 19, 21) and the "house of Esau" (Obad. 18) are favorite expressions of Obadiah, while by others as a rule "Edom" is employed to denote the country or the people. In Genesis (xxv. 25, 30) "Edom" (red) is introduced to explain the etymology of the name. The real meaning of "Esau" is unknown, the usual explanation "densely haired" (= "wooded") being very improbable. "Usöos," in Philo of Byblos (Eusebius, "Præparatio Evangelica," i. 10, 7), has been identified with it, while Cheyne (Stade's "Zeitschrift," xvii. 189) associates it with "Usu" (Palai-Tyros).

Even before birth Esau and Jacob strove one against the other (Gen. xxv. 22), which led to the prediction that the "elder shall serve the younger" (ib. 23). The first, coming forth "red, all over like an hairy garment," was called "Esau." He grew up to be a "cunning hunter, a man of the field" (ib. 27). One day coming home from the field, Esau, hungry unto death, sells his birthright to Jacob for a mess of porridge, which event is turned to account to explain his name (ib. 30 et seq.). When forty years old Esau married Judith and Bashemath, the daughters of the Hittites Beeri and Elon (Gen. xxvi. 34, 35). The favorite of Isaac, he is called to receive the father's last blessing, but Rebekah treacherously substitutes Jacob for him (Gen. xxvii. 1-24). Discovering the fraud, Esau by much weeping induces the father to bless him also (Gen. xxvii. 38-40). Hating his brother Jacob, he vows to slay him as soon as the father shall have passed away. At his mother's advice Jacob takes refuge with Laban, his departure being explained to the father as an endeavor to prevent a repetition of marital alliance with the daughters of Heth, so great a source of grief in Esau's case (Gen. xxvii. 41-46). Esau thereupon takes a daughter of Ishmael to wife (Gen. xxviii. 9). After the return of Jacob the brothers make peace, but separate again, Esau passing on to Seir (Gen. xxxiii. 1-16, xxxvi. 6-8). No mention is made of his death.

—In Rabbinical Literature:

His Vicious Character.

Even while in his mother's womb Esau manifested his evil disposition, maltreating and injuring his twin brother (Gen. R. lxiii.). During the early years of their boyhood he and Jacob looked so much alike that they could not be distinguished. It was not till they were thirteen years of age that their radically different temperaments began to appear (Tan., Toledot, 2). Jacob was a student in the bet ha-midrash of Eber (Targ. Pseudo-Jonathan to Gen. xxv. 27), while Esau was a ne'er-do-well (ib.; "a true progeny of the serpent," Zohar), who insulted women and committed murder, and whose shameful conduct brought on the death of his grandfather, Abraham (Pesiḳ. R. 12). On the very day that Abraham died Esau went forth to hunt in the field, when he fell in with Nimrod, who for a long time previously had been jealous of him. Esau, lying in wait, pounced on the king, who was unaware of his proximity, and, drawing his sword, cut off the king's head. The same fate befell two attendants of Nimrod, who had, however, by their cries for help, brought the royal suite to the spot. Esau took to his heels, but carried off the garments of Nimrod—which were those of Adam (Targ. Pseudo-Jon. to Gen. xxvii. 15)—and concealed them in his father's house. It was when exhausted from running that he chanced upon Jacob, who cunningly took up a casual remark of his about the uselessness of the birthright, and trapped him into selling the latter as well as his share in the field of Machpelah, making and keeping a properly witnessed and sealed record of the transaction ("Sefer ha-Yashar," vi.).

According to Targ. Pseudo-Jon. to Gen. xxv. 29 and Pirḳe R. El. xxxv., the sale of the birthright took place while Jacob was preparing for his father the dish of lentils which was the usual meal offered to mourners, and over which words of comfort used to be said (comp. N. Brüll in Kobak's "Jeschurun,"viii. 30; B. B. 16b). Esau requested to eat thereof, and then sold his birthright; indulging in blasphemous speeches (Gen. R. lxiii.; Pes. 22b) and in denials of immortality (Targ. Pseudo-Jon. l.c.) and of God and the resurrection; so that he figures in tradition as one of the three great atheists (Tan., Toledot, 24; Sanh. 101b). Jacob's conduct toward his brother is accounted for by the fact that Esau had always refused to share his sumptuous repasts with him (Pirḳe R. El. l.c.).

Is the Cause of Isaac's Blindness.

Esau had won the affection of his father by lying words (Targ. Pseudo-Jon. to Gen. xxv. 28). Hypocrite that he was, he played the good son; never ministering to his father unless tricked out in Nimrod's garments, and asking questions concerning the duty of tithing straw (Pesiḳ. 199). Crafty at home, he was equally so abroad (Gen. R. lxiii.). Outrageous vices are charged against him (Gen. R. xxxvii., lxiii.). Rebekah, reading his character aright, and knowing by mysterious foresight what degraded peoples were to descend from him (Midr. Teh. to Ps. ix. 16), resorted to justifiable strategy in order to circumvent his receiving the blessing. The detection of the true character of Esau reconciled Isaac to the fact that he had bestowed the blessing on Jacob (Gen. R. lxvii.). It was on the eve of Pesaḥ that Isaac asked his son to prepare for him a meal of his favorite venison (Pirḳe R. El. xxxii.; Targ. Pseudo-Jon. to Gen. xxvii. 1). Esau was not successful in the chase that day; he had left behind him his Nimrod cloak, wearing which a man could at will capture wild animals (Targ. Yer. to Gen. xxvii. 31). Further, whenever Esau had taken an animal, God Himself had intervened, and an angel had surreptitiously unbound it (Gen. R. lxvii.), so as to give Rebekah time to carry out her scheme. As Esau threatened to avenge the deception, Jacob had to take refuge with Eber, the son of Shem, with whom he stayed fourteen years. Esau's fury increased to such an extent at Jacob's escape that he left Hebron and went to Seir, where he took several wives, one of them being Bashemath, whom he called "Adah." After six months he returned to Hebron, bringing his godless wives with him. Eliphaz was born unto him during this time ("Sefer ha-Yashar," l.c.). Grief at the idolatrous practises of Esau's wives caused Isaac's blindness, according to Tan., Toledot, while others hold the expression (image) ("from seeing"; Gen. xxvii. 1, Hebr.) to imply that Isaac had lost his sight previously from the effort not to see Esau's evil deeds (Pesiḳ. R. 12; Meg. 28a; Gen. R. lxv.). Esau was aware of the obnoxious character of his wives. He would not trust his garments to their care (Gen. R. l.c.); hence Rebekah was able to put them on Jacob. Esau spent most of his days visiting the shrines of idols, which vexed his father still more than his mother, who had not been reared in Abraham's family (Gen. R. lxiii.), and was thus not quite so much shocked at idol-worship.

At the end of fourteen years Jacob returns to Hebron. This inflames Esau once more, and he tries to kill him, causing Rebekah to send Jacob to Laban. Esau thereupon commissions his son Eliphaz to lie in wait for Jacob on the road and to kill him. He and ten men of his mother's clan meet Jacob, who, by giving them all he has, bribes them to spare his life. Esau is much vexed at the action of his son, but appropriates to himself all the gold and silver purloined from Jacob ("Sefer ha-Yashar," l.c.). In Gen. R. lxviii. Esau himself is said to have attacked Jacob, dispersing his escort. Having heard the parental injunction to his brother not to marry one of the daughters of Canaan, Esau, to reestablish himself in his parents' graces, now takes to wife Mahalath ("Sefer ha-Yashar," l.c.; comp. Gen. R. lxviii., a play on the name, to indicate that she eased Esau's conscience).

His Murderous Intentions Toward Jacob.

Increasing in wealth, Esau and his children have feuds with the inhabitants of Canaan. This induces him to locate at Seir ("Sefer ha-Yashar," l.c.). Laban, vexed at Jacob's departure, treacherously incites Esau to attack his brother on his way home. But Rebekah, apprised of Esau's intention, warns Jacob of the danger, and sends seventy-two of his father's servants to Mahanaim to his aid, with the advice that he should enter into peaceful relations with Esau. Messengers are despatched to Esau, who repulses them, vowing vengeance. Jacob beseeches God for help. Four angels are sent by God to appear each in turn before Esau "like 2,000 men, in four bands under four captains, riding on horses and armed with all sorts of weapons." Esau and his men flee and plead for mercy. He resolves to go and meet Jacob, who at his brother's approach is greatly troubled, but, noticing the greater alarm of the others, receives Esau with brotherly affection("Sefer ha-Yashar," l.c.). The kiss they exchange and the tears they shed at this meeting have been differently construed. The word (image) (Gen. xxxiii. 4), being dotted in the Masoretic text, indicates, according to some, that Esau really repented; while others maintain that even in this scene he acted the hypocrite (comp. Judas' kiss; Sifre, Num. ix. 10; Gen. R. lxxviii.; Ab. R. N. 34; Ex. R. v.). The latter view obtains in Targ. Pseudo-Jonathan to the verse: Jacob wept on account of the pain in his neck, which had been bitten by Esau; and Esau shed tears because his teeth hurt him, Jacob's neck having been turned into smooth stone or ivory (see Rashi ad loc.; Gen. R. lxxi.). Jacob was aware of the hypocrisy of Esau (Pirḳe R. El. xxxvii.), as appears from the latter's explanation offered to God when reproved for having profaned holy things by his gifts and address to Jacob. Esau had planned to kill his brother "not with arrows and bow but by [my] mouth" (Pirḳe R. El. l.c.) "and sucking his blood"; but the fact that Jacob's neck turned into ivory thwarted his intention.

Esau had, as stated above, previously plotted against Jacob's life. Remembering the failure of his son Eliphaz on that occasion, Esau resolves to lie in wait for Jacob at a spot on the road where he can not escape. Jacob, however, having a presentiment of evil, does not take that road, but turns toward the Jordan, praying to God, who works a miracle in his behalf, and gives him a staff whereby he smites and divides the river. Seeing this, Esau pursues and gets in front of him, when God causes Jacob to enter a place ("ba'arah") that has the appearance of a bath-house (like that at Tiberias). Esau stands guard over the door so that Jacob can not leave, but will have to perish inside. Jacob takes a bath, and God saves him (see Epstein, "Mi-Ḳadmoniyyot ha-Yehudim," pp. 107, 108, Vienna, 1887). Nevertheless, Jacob and Esau meet peaceably at their father's house (Pirḳe R. El. xxxviii.), and both sons at the death of Isaac vie in showing filial piety (ib.). At the division of Isaac's property Esau claims as the first-born the right to choose. On the advice of Ishmael he appropriates all the personal property, but agrees to Jacob's taking title to the land of Israel and the cave of Machpelah. A written instrument of this cession is made, whereupon Jacob orders Esau to leave the country. Esau withdraws (Gen. xxxvi.), and is compensated by one hundred districts in Seir (Pirḳe R. El. xxxviii.).

In the "Sefer ha-Yashar" Esau returns to Canaan from Seir (whither he had emigrated) upon hearing that Isaac is dying. Jacob also repairs thither from Hebron. Jacob and Esau with their respective sons bury Isaac in Machpelah. The division of the property is made on the proposal of Jacob, who leaves Esau to determine which he will take, the personal riches or the land. Nebajoth, Ishmael's son, urges Esau to take the movable property, since the land is in the hands of the sons of Canaan. This he does, leaving "nothing unto Jacob," who writes all particulars of the transaction in a book of sale, Esau returning with his wealth to Seir. In Gen. R. lxxxii. and lxxxiv. Esau is represented as emigrating from Canaan from shame at his former conduct.

Esau's Death.

Esau's death is not mentioned in the Bible. The Rabbis supply the information that it was brought about in an altercation with Jacob's sons over their right to bury their father in the cave of Machpelah (Soṭah 13a). The "Sefer ha-Yashar" gives full details of the dispute. Joseph invokes the "bill of sale" witnessed between Esau and Jacob after Isaac's death, and sends Naphtali to Egypt to fetch the document. Before quick-footed Naphtali returns, Esau unsuccessfully resorts to war, and is slain by Dan's deaf and dumb son, Hushim, who, though assigned to protect the women and children at Jacob's bier, upon seeing the commotion rushes on Esau, smites him with the sword and cuts off his head; whereupon Jacob is buried in the cave.

The Rabbis emphasize the fact that Esau's "hairy" appearance marked him a sinner (Gen. R. lxv.) and his "red" ("edom") color indicated his bloodthirsty propensities ("dam" = "blood"; Gen. R. lxiii.); they make him out to have been a misshapen dwarf (Gen. R. lxv.; Cant. R. ii. 15; Agadat Bereshit xl.) and the type of a shameless robber, displaying his booty even on the holy "bimah" (Midr. Teh. to Ps. lxxx. 6); but his filial piety is nevertheless praised by them (Tan., Ḳedoshim, 15, where his tears are referred to; ib., Toledot, 24, where the fact that he married at forty, in imitation of his father, is mentioned approvingly).

"Esau" (= Edom) later represents Rome.

—Critical View:

Esau is assumed to be the progenitor of the Edomites. His character reflects the disposition of this warlike people. The stories in Genesis purpose to account for their relations with the Israelites (Gen. xxv. 27, xxxii. 4, xxxiii. 1 et seq.), as well as to throw light on the fact that the "younger brother"—that is, the tribe or tribes that gained a foothold in the country at a later date—crowded out the "older," and thus acquired the "birthright" (Gen. xxv. 29 et seq., xxvii. 28 et seq.). These narratives belong to both the Elohist and the Jahvist writers, as does Gen. xxxvi., which reflects, in the form of a genealogy, the historical fact of Esau's mixture with Canaanites (Hittites) and Ishmaelites. To the priestly writer is due the statement that Esau's marriage, distasteful to his parents, leads to Jacob's being sent away (Gen. xxvi. 34, 35). The same authority is partly responsible for other names connected with Esau in Gen. xxxvi. 2, 3; xxvii. 46; xxviii. 1 et seq. Esau, according to this source (P), remains with his parents (Gen. xxxv. 29), and, after Jacob's return, leaves only because of the lack of room (Gen. xxxvi. 6, 7).

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
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Child of Isaac  +, and Rebekah  +
Married to Judith  +, Bashemath  +, and Mahalath  +


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia


  • Sex : Male


Son of Isaac and Rebekah

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See Wikipedia article Esau




  • Eliphaz with Adah
  • Reuel with Mahalath
  • Jeush with Oholibamah
  • Jalam with Oholibamah
  • Korah with Oholibamah


the Edomites


Book of Genesis


There is a contradiction as to the names of Esau's wives. More information here [1]

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