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Gluttony: How Esau Lost his Birthright to Jacob (Deferred Gratification as a Predictor of Success)

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.

31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.

32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?

I would first like to start off by mentioning that the Lord already foretold of Jacob being the heir when he told Rebekah that the older son shall serve the younger, so it's not exactly the case that Jacob took his birthright that day. It is more so that this action gives a glimpse of Esau's flawed personality and why he was unworthy to be the heir of Abraham's lineage.

To sympathize with Esau, It's not a man's fault that he’s hungry, so you can't really fault him merely for asking Jacob for food. We can also admit that Jacob was being a bit of a jerk in the situation, but that is a side-note. Though it was mean, Esau's response shows why Jacob was the rightful heir. Firstly, he was being overdramatic by saying he was going to die. He wasn't going to starve by being denied a presumably delicious lentil soup. Not only that, but I think he may have even invented using "I'm starving to death" as a figure of speech.

His whining about starving was not his greatest offence, but it was when he said "what profit shall this birthright do to me?" In some sense, he has a redeeming characteristic that he doesn't have a cut-throat ambition towards taking the reins (a reason why Abraham's children with Keturah were sent away to not dwell alongside Isaac). It isn't however that he transcended these ambitions, rather that he was stuck at a level below them. He was too focused on satisfying his appetites in the present moment to think of more important things, especially one which will have serious ramifications for his progeny. A "birthright" does not satiate his senses so he perceives it as something that does not profit him.

This is a personal take on defining key differences in gluttony compared to greed. Both involve the desire to want too much of something. The difference being that greed will cause a person to undergo pain and discomfort to attain excess, whereas gluttony involves attaining excess to avoid pain and discomfort. Gluttony is not treated as a serious sin in our society due to its seemingly harmless nature, but this story indicates its insidious nature as it caused a man to relinquish his legacy on a mere whim.

It is not just biblical, but there is science to back this up. There was a study called the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment where four year olds were presented with a marshmallow in front of them. They had the option of eating it right away, or they could wait fifteen minutes and they could receive two. The result of it was that the ones who were capable of waiting were much more successful later in life. They had higher test scores in school, better social skills, better coping skills, and they were less likely to get divorced or get addicted to drugs.

Just one verse shows all you need to know about Esau's character. It's a testament to how remarkable the bible is, as it often conveys so much information in only a few words.


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