Looking out for each other is important because there are consequences in life that certain sin brings. There are choices we might make that can never be reversed. This was the case with Esau. He was presented as sexually impure, given to lusts of the flesh. Hughes described him, “Esau was completely earthbound. All his thoughts were on what he could touch, taste, and suck. Instant gratification was his rule of thumb. He was void of spiritual values. Godless! Esau was like a living beer commercial—bearded, steroid-macho, with two things on his mind: sexual pleasure and physical pleasure – food, drink, sports and sleep. ‘Hey, you only go around once. You’ve got to get it while you can.’ He was the prototype of modern godlessness…”[1] This kind of lifestyle robs a person of the more important things in life as well as peace with God. It leads to regret and tears.

When Esau grew up and came to his senses it was too late for him. The author of Hebrews says of Esau in 12:17, “For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” The pursuit of the pleasures of this world will eventually leave you empty. The spiritual blessing he disregarded completely in his youth was something that Esau later wanted but was unable to have. He had cast it aside and nothing could give it back to him. The pursuit of the “gusto” of physical things destroyed his sensitivity to spiritual things. Carter observes, “The sinful nature, if allowed to remain and assert itself, will deaden and ultimately destroy the spiritual sensibilities and leave man incapable of sensing, responding to, or knowing God…”[2]

It appears that the writer of Hebrews is presenting the historical story of Esau to his readers hoping that they will hear it and take it to heart. He wants them to learn from Esau’s bad example. Unfortunately, the old saying “the only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history” is often the case for many. The “fool” as described in Proverbs falls into the same sinful traps repeatedly. The smart man falls once and learns from his failures. The wise man, on the other hand, watches others fall into the trap and avoids it himself.  The writer of Hebrews wants his readers, both the original ones and us, to be like the wise man. The writer is urging us as Brooks says, “Do not be like Esau, do not slight the favours of the gospel, do not prefer the temporal to the eternal or the material to the spiritual, do not choose the things of the body over the things of the soul, do not turn away from ‘the truth of Christ’.” [3]

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul, vol. 2, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 184.

[2] Charles W. Carter, “The Epistle to the Hebrews ,” in Hebrews-Revelation, vol. 6, The Wesleyan Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1966), 165.

[3] Richard Brooks, The Name High over All: A Commentary on Hebrews, Welwyn Commentary Series (Welwyn Garden City, UK: EP, 2016), 405.