Before Abraham’s death, he bestowed all he had upon Isaac. Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, gave birth to twin sons named Esau and Jacob. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, and Isaac later bestowed the birthright blessing—which included the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant—upon Jacob.
Ask several students to tell the class what their favorite food is. Then display or draw on the board a small treat or food item (for example, a small piece of candy). Ask students to imagine they could choose to have one small treat now, or they could wait until tomorrow and then receive an endless supply of their favorite food.
Which would you choose? Why?
How is this scenario like some of the situations we face in life?
As students study the choices of someone who traded a valuable possession for something of far less but immediate value, invite them to look for principles that can guide them in similar situations.
Summarize Genesis 25:1–18 by explaining that these verses recount Abraham’s final years on the earth, his death, and the death of Abraham and Hagar’s son, Ishmael. Before Abraham died, he married a woman named Keturah, who bore six sons. Keturah is referred to in the scriptures as a concubine (see 1 Chronicles 1:32). Explain that the word concubine is used to describe women in the Old Testament who, in the time and culture in which they lived, were legally married to a man but had a lower social status than a wife.
Ask a student to read Genesis 25:5–6 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what Abraham gave his sons before he died.
What did Abraham give Isaac? What did Abraham give his other sons?
Why do you think Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac instead of dividing his possessions evenly among all his sons?
Explain that Isaac received more than Abraham’s other children because of Isaac’s birthright. A son who held the birthright inherited not only his father’s lands and possessions, but also his father’s position as the spiritual leader of the family and the “authority to preside” (see Bible Dictionary, “Birthright”). The son was then responsible to use these resources to provide for the family’s needs. The birthright was often passed from a father to his eldest son. However, righteousness was more important than being the firstborn. The birthright Isaac received from Abraham also included all the blessings and responsibilities of the Abrahamic covenant.
Invite a student to read Genesis 25:20–21 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord blessed Isaac and his wife, Rebekah. (You may need to explain that entreat means to plead, such as in prayer, and barren means unable to conceive children.) Ask students to report what they find.
Explain that after Rebekah became pregnant, she felt a struggle within her womb that caused her concern. Ask a student to read Genesis 25:22–23 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what Rebekah did.
What did Rebekah do to learn why she felt a struggle within her womb?
What did the Lord teach Rebekah about the two children she would bear?
Point out the phrase “the elder shall serve the younger” in Genesis 25:23. Explain that this indicates the younger child would eventually inherit the birthright instead of the firstborn.
Invite a student to read Genesis 25:24–28 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, with half of them looking for the name and characteristics of the elder son, and the other half looking for the name and characteristics of the younger son. Invite students to report what they find.
Ask a student to read Genesis 25:29–31 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what Jacob asked of Esau in exchange for some pottage. (You may need to explain that the phrase “sod pottage” means that Isaac made soup.)
What would you have done in this situation if you had been in Esau’s position?
Refer to the food item you previously displayed or drew on the board, and remind the class of the question you asked about whether they would want a small treat right away or wait to receive an endless supply of their favorite food.
How is the choice Esau faced similar to the scenario with the treat?
Invite a student to read Genesis 25:32–34 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what Esau chose.
What do you think it means in verse 34 that “Esau despised his birthright”? (You may want to point out that Esau treated his birthright as though it had very little meaning or value.)
Summarize Genesis 26 by explaining that the Lord guided Isaac and blessed him both spiritually and temporally. By highlighting Isaac’s blessings, Genesis 26 can help us understand what Esau lost when he sold his birthright to Jacob.
Ask a few students to take turns reading aloud from Genesis 26:2–5, 12–14. Invite the class to follow along and look for ways the Lord blessed Isaac. You may want to invite students to mark what they find.
Remind students that if Esau had retained his birthright, he would have inherited all that Isaac had, just as Isaac inherited all that Abraham had.
Based on what you found in Genesis 26:2–5, 12–14, what blessings could Esau have inherited if he had retained his birthright?
Hold up a small bowl and ask students to ponder the choice Esau made.
Thinking about what you have learned about the birthright blessings Esau sold, how would you describe his decision to sell his birthright for a bowl of pottage?
Explain that Esau lost blessings not only because of his choice to sell his birthright, but also because of other poor choices he made. Ask a student to read Genesis 26:34–35 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for additional choices Esau made that deprived him of blessings.
According to Genesis 26:34, what kind of women did Esau marry? (Explain that Hittites were people who did not believe in God and worshipped idols instead.)
Why might these marriages have saddened Isaac and Rebekah? (You may need to explain that Esau’s choices in marriage hindered him, his wives, and his children from receiving the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant—including the covenant of eternal marriage that is required for us to receive eternal life.)
How was Esau’s choice to marry Hittite women similar to the choice he made to sell his birthright?
What principle can we learn from Esau’s choices and their consequences? (After students respond, you may want to use their words to write on the board a statement similar to the following: If we value temporary or worldly pleasures more than we value eternal blessings, then we may lose those blessings.)
To help students understand how this principle relates to them, you may want to give them copies of the following handout. You could ask students to complete the handout individually or in small groups.
After students have had sufficient time to complete the handout, consider inviting a few to share what they wrote with the class.
Explain that although Esau had sold his birthright to Jacob, their father, Isaac, still had the responsibility to bestow the birthright blessing on one of his sons. Summarize Genesis 27:1–33 by explaining that Isaac intended to give the birthright blessing to Esau. However, Rebekah had previously learned by revelation that Jacob was to receive the birthright (see Genesis 25:23). Rebekah instructed Jacob to approach Isaac, who was physically blind, and present himself as though he were Esau so that Jacob could receive the birthright blessing. Jacob reluctantly carried out this plan and received the blessing.
You may want to explain that the Lord intended from the beginning that the birthright blessing be given to Jacob. After Isaac learned that he had unknowingly bestowed the birthright blessing on Jacob, he could have revoked the blessing and cursed Jacob instead. However, Isaac declared that Jacob “shall be blessed” (Genesis 27:33)—indicating that the Lord’s will had been accomplished.
Invite a few students to take turns reading Genesis 27:34–38 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words or phrases that indicate how Esau felt after he learned the birthright blessing had been confirmed upon Jacob instead of on himself.
What principle can we learn from Esau’s response about the consequences of placing worldly or immediate desires above eternal priorities? (Students may use different words, but they might identify something similar to the following: Placing worldly or immediate desires above eternal priorities will eventually lead to sorrow and regret.)
Point out that it appears Esau did not immediately experience sorrow and regret. Rather, this occurred later when Esau began to experience the consequences of his poor choices.
Why do you think it is important to realize that we may not experience immediate sorrow and regret for our poor choices?
Summarize Genesis 27:39–46 by explaining that Esau did receive a blessing from Isaac. However, angry about losing the birthright blessing, Esau decided to kill Jacob. Rebekah directed Jacob to travel to Haran, where he could be safe from Esau.
You may want to invite students to testify of the principles you have discussed today. Consider adding your testimony to those shared. Assure students that any poor choices they make can be overcome through faith in Jesus Christ and repentance.
To help students apply what they have learned, display the following statement. Invite students to write this statement on a piece of paper and put the paper where they will see it often and be encouraged to make righteous choices.
“Think of the long view of life, not just what’s going to happen today or tomorrow. Don’t give up what you most want in life for something you think you want now” (Richard G. Scott, “Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer,” Ensign, May 1997, 54).