Tol’dot - “Generations” Bereshit 23:19-28:9

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19. And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son; Abraham fathered Isaac:
20. And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah for his wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Padan-Aram, the sister to Laban the Aramean:
21. And Isaac prayed to YHWH for his wife, because she was barren; and YHWH granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived:
22. And the children struggled together inside her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire YHWH:
23. And YHWH said to her, Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples shall be separated from your bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger:

Here we have the birth of two peoples, Esau and Ya’acov. There is much that it is very interesting in this parsha. Let us recount the events and try to understand:

GEN 25:27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob [was] a plain man, dwelling in tents.
GEN 25:28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of [his] venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.
GEN 25:29 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he [was]faint:
GEN 25:30 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.
GEN 25:31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.
GEN 25:32 And Esau said, Behold, I [am] at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
GEN 25:33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and He sold his birthright unto Jacob.
GEN 25:34 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.

Why would Esau, a mighty hunter, sell his birth-right for a bowl of soup? Some say that it was because he was starving to death because the next chapter starts by talking of a famine in the land and he has just come back from what appears to be an unsuccessful hunt. The story changes in the next chapter. I believe there is a better explanation as to why any man would sell his birth-right. We shall view all of chapter 27 of Jasher, as it is directly relevant to this issue:

Jasher 27:1 And Esau at that time, after the death of Abraham, frequently went in the field to hunt.
Jasher 27:2 And Nimrod king of Babel, the same was Amraphel, also frequently went with his mighty men to hunt in the field, and to walk about with his men in the cool of the day.
Jasher 27:3 And Nimrod was observing Esau all the days, for a jealousy was formed in the heart of Nimrod against Esau all the days.
Jasher 27:4 And on a certain day Esau went in the field to hunt, and he found Nimrod walking in the wilderness with his two men.
Jasher 27:5 And all his mighty men and his people were with him in the wilderness, but they removed at a distance from him, and they went from him in different directions to hunt, and Esau concealed himself for Nimrod, and he lurked for him in the wilderness.
Jasher 27:6 And Nimrod and his men that were with him did not know him, and Nimrod and his men frequently walked about in the field at the cool of the day, and to know where his men were hunting in the field.
Jasher 27:7 And Nimrod and two of his men that were with him came to the place where they were, when Esau started suddenly from his lurking place, and drew his sword, and hastened and ran to Nimrod and cut off his head.
Jasher 27:8 And Esau fought a desperate fight with the two men that were with Nimrod, and when they called out to him, Esau turned to them and smote them to death with his sword.
Jasher 27:9 And all the mighty men of Nimrod, who had left him to go to the wilderness, heard the cry at a distance, and they knew the voices of those two men, and they ran to know the cause of it, when they found their king and the two men that were with him lying dead in the wilderness.
Jasher 27:10 And when Esau saw the mighty men of Nimrod coming at a distance, he fled, and thereby escaped; and Esau took the valuable garments of Nimrod, which Nimrod's father had bequeathed to Nimrod, and with which Nimrod prevailed over the whole land, and he ran and concealed them in his house.
Jasher 27:11 And Esau took those garments and ran into the city on account of Nimrod's men, and he came unto his father's house wearied and exhausted from fight, and he was ready to die through grief when he approached his brother Jacob and sat before him.
Jasher 27:12 And he said unto his brother Jacob, Behold I shall die this day, And wherefore then do I want the birthright? And Jacob acted Wisely with Esau in this matter, and Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, for it was so brought about by Yahweh.
Jasher 27:13 And Esau's portion in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham had bought from the children of Heth for the possession of a burial ground, Esau also sold to Jacob, and Jacob bought all this from his brother Esau for value given.
Jasher 27:14 And Jacob wrote the whole of this in a book, and he testified the same with witnesses, and he sealed it, and the book remained in the hands of Jacob.
Jasher 27:15 And when Nimrod the son of Cush died, his men lifted him up and brought him in consternation, and buried him in his city, and all the days that Nimrod lived were two hundred and fifteen years and he died.
Jasher 27:16 And the days that Nimrod reigned upon the people of the land were one hundred and eighty-five years; and Nimrod died by the sword of Esau in shame and contempt, and the seed of Abraham caused his death as he had seen in his dream.
Jasher 27:17 And at the death of Nimrod his kingdom became divided into many divisions, and all those parts that Nimrod reigned over were restored to the respective kings of the land, who recovered them after the death of Nimrod, and all the people of the house of Nimrod were for a long time enslaved to all the other kings of the land.

So Esau sold his birth-right because he thought his life forfit. He had just killed Nimrod in the field while hunting. He had thought that he would not live for long, so of import was his birth-right to him? In such a circumstance, any of us might have done the same.

After this event, we learn that there is a famine in the land. Yitsach is warned not to go to Mitsrayim, but to stay in the land which  YHWH had given him. Yitsach makes the same error of his father, Avraham. He is dwelling in Gerar. He told the people that Rivkah was his sister because he was afraid that the men of the area would kill him and take his wife from him because of her beauty.

Abimilech, the king in that area had been through this once before. He saw how Yitsach and Rivkah played together and ascertained that she was his wife. He, appropriately, reprimanded Yitsach and warned the men of the land not to touch either of them on pain of death.

Later we have the blessings given and Ya’acov deceives his father Yitsach to give him Esau’s blessing. After it had been done, Esau plotted to kill Ya’acov because of the blessing which was taken by him, but planned to wait until after his father’s death and until the days of morning were completed. Rivkah overheard this and sought to have Ya’acov go into hiding until Esau’s anger had passed.

This actually worked to YHWH‘s advantage because he went to Laban in Haran and took a wife there from, again, among his kin. Esau had taken wives from the daughter’s of Heth, and they were a thorn in Yitsach and Rivkah’s side. Esau also saw that his father was not pleased with his wives, and went to Yishmael and took a wife from among his kin to please his father. So despite all that had happened, Esau still sought to honor his father and mother.