Taking care of one another seems to have been the focus of Hebrews 12:15. We are charged with looking out for one another. Picking up on his exhortation, he adds in Hebrews 12:16 that we are to “see to it…that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.” There should be accountability in the church regarding our sexual conduct. There is nothing wrong with sex! It’s God’s creation as He made us male and female. It’s just that the society and the church should restrict those urges and restrain them within the bounds of matrimony. The word for “sexually immoral” is the Greek “pornos” from which we get pornography, but it literally means “fornication.” In general, it refers to sexual behavior outside of marriage. The writer says more about that in Hebrews 13:4. He writes, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

In Esau’s case the desires of the flesh took precedent in his life over the spiritual realities that were presented to him in the form of the blessings he received from his father as mentioned earlier in Chapter 11. According to ancient history and implied in the Genesis account of Esau, he was sexually impure. Hagner observes, “It is also clear that Esau is portrayed in Jewish tradition as guilty of sexual immorality.”[1] Kent Hughes does some great research on this issue. He writes, “Philo of Alexandria in his Questions and Answers on Genesis made this observation regarding Esau: “The hairy one is the unrestrained, lecherous, impure and unholy man.” The Palestinian Targum on Genesis 25:29 describes him as coming home exhausted on the same day he sold Jacob his birthright and saying that on “that day he had committed five transgressions,” one of which was adultery with a betrothed maiden. The indictment from extra-Biblical literature parallels the revelation of Holy Scripture – that Esau was a pornos subject to the whims of his tomcat nature – the archetype of the twentieth-century testosterone man. His essential sensuality made God quite unreal to him – as lust always does.” [2]

It seems to have come down to the fact that Esau had no interest in spiritual truths but lived his life going after all the gusto he could get. Brooks says, “The material took precedence for him over the spiritual. The ‘here and now’ was more important to him than the things to come. With his ‘birthright’ went the inheritance of his ‘blessing’, and he lost them both in a cavalier fashion.”[3] We should be looking out for each other in this regards.

[1] Donald A. Hagner, Hebrews, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 223.

[2] R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul, vol. 2, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 182.

[3] Richard Brooks, The Name High over All: A Commentary on Hebrews, Welwyn Commentary Series (Welwyn Garden City, UK: EP, 2016), 404.