Hebrews – Chapter Twelve XXXII

by Ed Urzi

“Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright” (Hebrews 12:16 KJV).

In addition to this reference to Esau as a fornicator, Hebrews 12:17 also describes him as a “profane” individual. This word describes an irreligious person who holds little concern for his or her Creator and is disinterested in the things of God. While “profanity” is typically associated with inappropriate language, the word “profane” identifies someone like Esau, a man who conducted his life as if God did not exist.

The Amplified Bible uses the words “godless” and “sacrilegious” to add context to this description. The following commentary provides us with some additional insight into this passage…

“Beware of the profane person. This profanity (Gr bebelos) involves far more than one’s speech. It is a quality of one’s life. The author sees that quality exemplified within Esau, even though Esau was not a vile man. In fact, he was less of a crook than his brother Jacob. The author accurately focuses upon the one area that revealed Esau as profane—the selling of his birthright.

To profane is to regard something as unhallowed, to make something sacred to be common. Esau took that which God considered sacred and made it common. Being so totally concerned with his temporary and material needs, he gave them priority over his rights as the first-born son and his responsibilities as heir to the blessing of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 25:29–34).

Every Christian must beware lest he count as unimportant what God considers sacred. The result in Esau’s life was that afterward, when he wanted that blessing, he was rejected. He repented with tears, but the situation was irrevocable.” (1)

In light of these things, we should remember Jesus’ counsel from Matthew 6:33 as we prioritize the choices and decisions of life: “…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Judging from his decision to sell his birthright for a bowl of stew, we can say that Esau’s thought process was likely driven by questions like these…

  • Does this seem right to me at this moment?
  • How does this align with what I want?
  • Does this meet my immediate need?

If we follow a similar decision-making process, we will surely imitate Esau’s poor example. As another commentator observes, “Esau is the biblical example of a profane person who forfeited the grace and blessing of God, an attitude common to hedonistic humanity even today (see Ge 25:29-34).” (2)

(1) Edward E. Hindson and Woodrow Michael Kroll, eds., KJV Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 2578.

(2) Walters, John. “VII. Sixth Point: “Do Not Lose Heart” (12:3-13:19)” In Asbury Bible Commentary. 1166. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1992.