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In Genesis 25:29-34 we read that Esau sold his birthright to Jacob. Later, in Genesis 27, we see that Jacob has to plot with Rebekah in order to get that blessing. So, it appears as if Jacob was aware this blessing wasn't meant for him even though he had the birthright (or else he'd just speak directly with Esau).

Then in Hebrews 12:16-17

16 that there be no sexually immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that even afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.

it comes across as if the blessing was included in the birthright. What shall one extract from this? Is the blessing included in the birthright or not?

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Genesis 9:18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.)

Later, Noah cursed Canaan but blessed both Shem and Japheth. His blessings were not exclusively for the firstborn.

Genesis 25:28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Isaac loved Esau so much that he wanted to give him all the blessings.

After Jacob took the blessing deceitfully,

Genesis 27:36 Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”

Gensis 27:37 Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?”

38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.

Esau didn't think that there was only one blessing exclusively for the firstborn.

In Genesis 49, Jacob blesses all his sons.

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

It does not seem that only the firstborn was to receive a blessing from their father before he died.

Hebrews 12:16-17

16 that there be no sexually immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that even afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.

Esau sold his birthright, in a sense, fair and square. He couldn't really blame Jacob for that. Afterward, he kept his eyes of the blessing which he knew would be big because Isaac loved Esau more than Jacob. Esau had placed more value on the blessing than the birthright. He saw them as separate things. He belittled it over losing the birthright but cried over losing the blessing.

Genesis 25:34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.

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  • Right, they do look like two distinct things (birthright + blessing). And how'd you address Hebrews 12:16-17? – Tiago Martins Peres 李大仁 Jan 12 at 17:52
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    I added to my answer. – Tony Chan Jan 12 at 18:11
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The formal blessing of the birthright (usually the oldest son) had several functions:

  1. The birthright blessing came with a double portion of inherited land (Gen 48:22, Deut 21:17)
  2. The birthright also came with the acknowledgement that this (usually eldest) son would become the priest of the family
  3. The birthright also came with the acknowledgement that is son would be the leader of the family
  4. For some, this leader responsibility also came with the promise that he would be one of the progenitors of the promised Messiah.

In the case of Jacob's son, Reuben disqualified himself by his sin (Gen 49:4) and so the blessings of the birthright were dispersed among other sons:

  1. the double portion of land went to Jacob - his two sons were counted as a tribe each
  2. The priesthood went to Levi
  3. The leadership and (later) the royal family went to Judah
  4. Judah was also the progenitor of Christ

All this is contained within the birthright blessing. Esau initially shunned such spiritual matters and Jacob coveted them and obtained them by deception. According to Hebrews 12:16, 17, Esau later sought the blessing but it was too late.

Thus, the blessing confers the birthright. Its early primary function was to establish the line of inheritance before the father died to prevent fight about it afterward.

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  • «the birthright were dispersed among other sons», would it make sense to be more specific? It was transferred to Joseph by adopting his two sons (Gen. 48:20-22; 1 Chron. 5:1). Also, for clarification, so Esau was going against his word? (considering he gave away the birthright and was "tricking" Jacob?) – Tiago Martins Peres 李大仁 Jan 12 at 10:48
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The Blessing and the Birthright are two different things.


The Blessing includes the promise of power and of a future Messiah:

The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
— Genesis 49:10

This Blessing was given unconditionally, from God to Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Judah to … to David …. It was sure and certain to happen.


The Birthright is a promise of wealth and the name of Israel:

The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
Bless the lads [Joseph's sons Ephraim and Manasseh];
Let my name be named upon them,
And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”
— Genesis 48:16

This Birthright included the covenant between God and Abraham. It was contingent upon the people's obedience to God.


We see this distinction again after King Solomon's reign. The nation split into two, Judah retaining the royal line, and Joseph retaining the family name.

I've seen the two inheritances referred to as "grace and race".

There is a lot of discussion on this topic in Bibletools.org — What the Bible says about Scepter Promise.

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