Genesis 25:29-34 29 Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) 31 Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
Something about reading the Bible will, on occasion, produce action. In my current reading plan for the beginning of 2010, Genesis came first (no surprise there), and I read the above passage just a few days ago. Ever since having read this passage (and the one two chapters later), I was not satisfied until I had stew, so yesterday I made some. (Apparently that is what “meditating on the word day and night” does. So now I am cautious. I made it through Exodus without causing a plague or making a gold calf, so hopefully when I get to Joshua I will make it through without slaying an Amalekite!) . I am not sure how to explain it. . . something about soft carrots, mushy potatoes, venison, caramelized onions and gravy just allured me, and I was not satisfied until I had it. Apparently, this was also a problem for Esau.
Now, as a student of the Old Testament and its enormous amount of narrative, I am generally against “moralizing” points of the text ( for example, “David slayed Goliath, so you do not let bullies pick on you on the playground!”). That type of hermeneutic (interpretation) is generally problematic at best. However, having “meditated” on this passage for the past several days, I think we can draw two likely and very different points:
1) (Esau) Fix your own dadburn stew! Yes, Esau, had you had the patience to wait on making your own stew, you would not have had to settle for your conniving brother Jacob’s scheme. It does not seem that patience was a virtue for the father of the Edomites. However, notice, that just two chapters later, he definitely knows how to cook, as his father Jacob asks him to. Not only does he know how to cook, he apparently knows how to include meat (a point I completely skidded over earlier). Perhaps his quite negative experience fueled his passion. This is where I drift into a point for us, perhaps, if we took the time to read and study the word for ourselves, instead of wait for someone else to feed it to us, we would not miss out on our birthright, being those who find nourishment from daily feasting upon the word. For me, reading the word for myself actually produced stew!
2) (Jacob) Share your stew! It is largely agreed (and not hard to come by if you read the text) that Esau was not the brightest crayon in the box. I do not mean to make light here, for it is true that many do not have the same tools, dare I say cookbooks, skills, and cookware, as trained individuals do in looking at and teaching the text. There is no doubt that Jacob is in the wrong here. Therefore, those of us who have the ability and patience to wait on the slow cooking, are obliged to share it with everyone else.
Happy Cooking (and eating)!
[P.S. Feedback particularly welcome from Old Testament scholars and people with good stew recipes.]