Hate is such a strong word, yet God says He hated Esau. If we don’t want to be on the receiving end of this hatred, it makes sense to find out why God hated Esau, doesn’t it?
The writer of Hebrews calls Esau sexually immoral and godless. In part one we saw that Esau’s priorities were wrong and he had no thought for consequences. But is that really a reason to be hated? Maybe, maybe not. But when we realize that by demanding instant gratification, Esau proved he didn’t care about the covenant promise God made with his father and grandfather. It had no value for him. God didn’t matter. Esau was godless.
But how was he sexually immoral?
First, let’s take a look back at his father, Isaac, and his grandfather, Abraham.
Abraham had one wife, Sarah. Even though she was barren, he remained faithful to her. Until, of course, she gave him her maid servant in an attempt to give him a son. But throughout their lives together, there was one woman for Abraham.
After Sarah’s death, Abraham turned his attention to procuring a wife for his son, Isaac. He didn’t want her to marry someone from Canaan. After all, God promised that his descendants were going to inherit the land, not the current residents. The current residents were idolaters, worshiping false gods. Abraham knew his family could have no part in that. So he sent his servant to get a wife for his son from his family, someone from the same background.
When Rebekah met Isaac, she was cloaked in a veil. Isaac had no idea what she looked like, but trusted God and his father that this was the best choice of a wife. How do we know this? It says that after the servant told Isaac everything, Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother’s tent and took her, and she became his wife and he loved her.
Rebekah was barren like his mother, Sarah. Isaac prayed for her for 20 years. Like his father, Isaac was committed to his wife. And like his father, Isaac was committed to God.
Esau, on the other hand, married two Canaanite women. Instead of trusting in God and in his parent’s choice for him, he took wives for himself. Not only was he not happy with one wife like his father, but these women were from the local idolatrous citizenry – the very ones that the promise said would be displaced.
As I’ve pointed out before, Esau was self-centered and didn’t learn much from his parents. He was so wrapped up in himself and his desires that he never bothered to notice that his parents weren’t happy with his choice of wives, that his marriage to them brought grief to his parents. (Gen 26:34)
In fact, it wasn’t until his parents sent Jacob back to their family to find a wife, that it dawned on him that his marriages displeased his parents.
Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take to himself a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he charged him, saying, “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan,” and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and had gone to Paddan-aram. So Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan displeased his father Isaac. (Genesis 28:6-9)
Esau was so self-absorbed, so desirous of pleasing himself, that he didn’t see what was going on around him. And isn’t that what sexual immorality does? It seeks to feed its own desires and satisfy its own pleasure.
By marrying daughters of Canaanites, Esau became one with idolators, thereby committing adultery against God. Why wouldn’t God hate this? He made a promise to Abraham, then confirmed it with Isaac, that they would be blessed with land, and with family, and would be a blessing to the whole world.
What can we learn from this?
Our relationships with the world can negatively affect our relationship with God. When it comes to marriage and close friendships, we should take Paul’s advice to the Corinthians, and not be tied up with those who do not worship the One True and Living God.
There’s more to learn from Esau. Be sure to come back for part three.
I don’t know if you plan to address Jacob in part three, but in defining one of Esau’s problems as having more than one wife, we know that Jacob married both Leah and Rachel and took their two maidservants as concubines, having children by all four women.
Of course Jacob did obey his parents by going to his family in Charan to choose a wife, and he did initially only want to marry Rachel, but married Leah first because of Laban’s trickery. In all likelihood, he was originally intending that Rachel be his only wife and, as you mentioned, Abraham too took Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant, as a concubine when Sarah couldn’t conceive (apparently a common practice in the ancient near east).
I think you are correct in saying that Esau had a malformed understanding of what would please his parents, at least as far as brides are concerned. When he discovered this, he attempted to correct the problem but only made it worse.
I wonder if the sexual immorality of Esau had to do with idolatry since many forms of idol worship involve sexual acts? Just a thought.
Hi James. I am not delving into Jacob in this series, but I was thinking about the Patriarchs and their marriages. I find it interesting that Isaac, the picture of Messiah, had only one wife. A true picture of faithfulness.
As to Jacob, I thought about how his marriage came about – he saw first, loved, then married. Whereas Isaac married, loved, then saw. Being involved in a singles ministry, this jumped off the page!
I agree that the sexual immorality also had to do with the practice of worshiping the false gods, but those thoughts ended up on the cutting room floor. I try to keep the posts short and when I can’t, they end up as series. The thrust of this post was more about the heart behind the immorality, than a physical act, but absolutely I agree this was part of it.