The Text (Genesis 25:29-34)
29And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:
30And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.
31And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.
32And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
33And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.
34Then 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.
Summary of Events
Esau comes in from the field, feeling faint from hunger, and asks Jacob for some of the pottage he has made. Jacob asks Esau to sell his birthright in exchange for some of the pottage and Esau agrees.
The Spiritual Meaning
In this historical parable Jacob represents all of the true believers and Esau represents the unsaved:
"As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." (Romans 9:13)
Esau came in from the field feeling faint. The field signifies the world:
"The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one" (Matthew 13:38)
If we rely on this world for our spiritual nourishment we will always come up spiritually hungry and faint. As a picture of an unsaved individual, Esau came from the field hungry and faint.
The birthright was not stolen from Esau; Esau sold it. Jacob had a proper understanding of the birthright's value; Esau did not. Jacob was willing to give up the food that would temporarily satisfy the desires of the flesh in exchange for a future inheritance. This is a picture of the eternal inheritance the believers will receive:
"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34)
A child of God does not live for this world. He does not pursue the lusts of the flesh because he recognizes that these things are worthless in comparison to the eternal riches that lie ahead. When someone becomes saved, he gives up this world in exchange for this eternal inheritance.
Esau came desiring something to put an end to his hunger. Likewise, mankind is desperately seeking something to satisfy himself, and so he looks to money, possessions, drugs, friends, etc. He looks at the things this world can provide to satisfy the lusts of the flesh. He is not concerned with the eternal future; he is focused on the here and now. He has chosen to give up his eternal inheritance in exchange for the temporary pleasures this world can provide. Mankind, who was the rightful owner of the birthright, has given it up in exchange for this world. In order for Jacob to acquire it, the birthright had to be bought, and that's a picture of the fact that the believers receive the eternal inheritance because it was bought through Christ's work in paying for their sins.
Later Esau realized how horrible it was that he had lost his birthright and his father's blessing:
"And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father." (Genesis 27:34)
But by then it was too late. Likewise, there will come a day when unsaved individuals, people who do not have an eternal inheritance or the Father's blessing, will finally realize the horrible situation they are in and will cry out to God:
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" (Matthew 7:21-22)
Unfortunately, by then it will be too late:
"And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:23)