I'm curious if there is any significance or connection between Esau's appearance and the prophets clothing. (Garment of hair)

Esau birth is described in Gen 25:25

The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau

He is describe as being born with his whole body being covered like a "garment of hair" or "cloak / mantel of hair". (which is where his name comes from.) This garment of hair of course becomes integral to his and his brothers Jakobs story with Jakob disguising himself in hairy animal skin in order to deceive his father into believing he is Esau and claim his birth right.

Later we see the Prophets of Israel adopt a distinctive attire which identifies them as prophets. It is described using the same wording as Esaus appearance. A "Garment of Hair"

EG: Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8

They replied, “He had a garment of hair] and had a leather belt around his waist.” The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.”

John the Baptist Mat 3:4

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist.

Also Zacharia 13:4

And on that day every prophet who prophesies will be ashamed of his vision, and he will not put on a hairy cloak in order to deceive.

Is anyone aware if this has been discussed by theologians ? Is there any potential meaning or connection made between Esau's story and the role of the prophets and their outfits ? I was curious if potentially the passing of "birth right" in Esaus story was meant to in some way represent the role of prophets. Curious if anyone has any insights or could point me towards reading material if they are aware of any that discuss this.

2 Answers 2


Maybe the hairiness is in relation to man's lower nature being compared to a beast? Beasts are hairy? So in contrast a born again person would not be any longer a beast and not 'hairy' in nature?

  • 1
    I was potentially thinking it (and Esaus story) might be linked to the ritual of the scapegoat at the day of attonement. That the prophets effectively acted as "scapegoats". Wearing animal hair as a kind of "sign act" to represent them taking on and atoning for the sins of the community. Wwas hoping someone had maybe examined it closer. Atonement seemeed to be alluded to in Hebrews 11:37. "They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground, "
    – Marshall
    Nov 25, 2021 at 19:53

Apart from "hairy" I fail to see a connection between Esau and John the Baptist. [Note, the word "garment does not appear in 2 Kings 1:8.]

However, the connection between Elijah and John the Baptist is unmistakable for the following reasons:

  • Both were dressed in the same garb as noted by the OP which appears to have been common for some of these prophets as noted in Zech 13:4.
  • Mal 4:5 prophesies that a prophet would arise, who would prophesy in the spirit and power of Elijah, before Jesus came. This was fulfilled by John the Baptist as explicitly stated by Jesus Matt 11;14, Luke 1:17, etc.

Note the comments of Ellicott -

An hairy man.—Literally, a lord of hair. This might refer to length of hair and beard (so LXX., δασὺς, “hirsute,” “shaggy”); or to a hairy cloak or mantle. The second alternative is right, because a hairy mantle was a mark of the prophetic office from Elijah downwards. (Comp. Zechariah 13:4, “a rough garment;” and Matthew 3:4, where it is said of John Baptist—the second Elias—that “he was clad in camel’s hair,” and had “a leather girdle about his loins.”) The girdle, as Thenius remarks, would not be mentioned alone. The common dress of the Bedawis is a sheep or goat’s skin with the hair left on.

  • I may ask a seperate followup question. I have been doing some reading and Im curious now if this relates to the ritual of 2 Goats of Yom Kippur and the crimson thread which is tied to the scapegoat which is sent into the wilderness. The twin story repeats in Gen 38:28 and again the one that comes out first - Zerah - is marked with red hair. A "crimson thread" is tied to their wrist. The red hair seems to be linked with the "First born" and the role they play.
    – Marshall
    Nov 26, 2021 at 8:54

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