The lentil stew sat heavy in Esau’s stomach. It had been delicious, true, but served far too cold
for his liking. Jacob seemed to prefer it that way, but for Esau it had to be hot or nothing, and yet his ravenous hunger had looked past the paucity of heat. The bread, too, had seemed to him stale, though edible, and Esau wondered if Jacob had had it hidden away somewhere. The stew brought renewed vigour to his shaky legs; Esau no longer feared he was on the edge of starvation. But with renewed energy came a sharpened perspective, and he wondered whether he hadn’t been too hasty in selling his birthright to his brother. But surely it was all just a laugh? A simple oath, dashed off in the moment, couldn’t change the fact that Esau had come out of the womb first. It was his ankle Jacob held, not the other way around. And yet Esau felt uneasy as the taste of simmered stew faded from his tongue. He returned to his own hut.
Closing his rickety door, he could still hear Jacob humming loudly to himself, a jaunty tune, upbeat, punctuated by the clang of pots and cooking implements. Esau went to his parents’ home and found his mother Rebekah in the kitchen.
“I’ve sold my birthright to Jacob,” Esau said.
“What? Your birthright? How? And why would you ever do such a thing?” She was thinly slicing some vegetables, and kept her attention on her work. Esau thought he saw a smile flash across her lips before she could suppress it.
“For some lentil stew,” he said. “Jacob was making some and I was famished. On death’s door, really.”
“Death’s door, hm?” Rebekah grabbed her sons jowls in a hand, pinched them so his lips puckered grotesquely. “I just fed you a stack of hotcakes for breakfast this morning.”
“Sure,” he said, through his pursed lips. A jolt of pain caused him to pull back. “Too tight, mother, too tight. I’ve been working in the fields all afternoon. I was starving, but Jacob wouldn’t give me any stew unless I sold him my birthright. I’m not sure it was worth it. He serves the stuff so bloody cold.”
“Jacob has always envied you your precedence in the eyes of the Lord.”
“Maybe, but he’s got it now. Do you think I was rash?” Esau’s ruddy face flushed. “Can I have a few of those veggies?”
“I’m afraid not,” Rebekah said. “I’m preparing these for your older brother.”
“Older brother! But I’m the – ah. I see what you’ve done there.”
His mother grinned at him with what he felt was more malice than warmth. “Now now, I’m just teasing you, son. Only an oath before the Lord could confirm such a bargain.”
Esau stroked his beard.
“You didn’t swear by the Lord, did you boy?”
He scratched his head.
“Oh Esau, you foolish boy. You sold your birthright to Jacob for a bowl of his cold lentil stew?”
“And some bread. I think it was stale, though. Getting there, anyway.”
Rebekah let out a sharp bark of a laugh, covered her mouth with her hand. “Have you told your father?”
“No,” Esau said. “Do you think he’ll be upset?”
Rebekah put her hand on her son’s shoulder, and genuine compassion washed across her face for what seemed to him to be the first time. “Maybe you could beg the Lord for forgiveness.”
Esau’s face glowed with hope. “Do you think he would? Forgive me, I mean?”
She shrugged, and resumed cutting the vegetables. “It couldn’t hurt to try.”