Verse 34. "Pottage of lentiles" - See note "ver. 29".Thus Esau despised his birthright.] On this account the apostle, Heb. xii. 16, calls Esau a profane person, because he had, by this act, alienated from himself and family those spiritual offices connected with the rights of primogeniture. While we condemn Esau for this bad action, (for he should rather have perished than have alienated this right,) and while we consider it as a proof that his mind was little affected with Divine or spiritual things, what shall we say of his most unnatural brother Jacob, who refused to let him have a morsel of food to preserve him from death, unless he gave him up his birthright? Surely he who bought it, in such circumstances, was as bad as he who sold it. Thus Jacob verified his right to the name of supplanter, a name which in its first imposition appears to have had no other object in view than the circumstance of his catching his brother by the heel; but all his subsequent conduct proved that it was truly descriptive of the qualities of his mind, as his whole life, till the time his name was changed, (and then he had a change of nature,) was a tissue of cunning and deception, the principles of which had been very early instilled into him by a mother whose regard for truth and righteousness appears to have been very superficial. See on chap. 27.
THE death of Abraham, recorded in this chapter, naturally calls to mind the virtues and excellences of this extraordinary man. His obedience to the call of God, and faith in his promises, stand supereminent. No wonders, signs, or miraculous displays of the great and terrible God, as Israel required in Egypt, were used or were necessary to cause Abraham to believe and obey. He left his own land, not knowing where he was going, or for what purpose God had called him to remove. Exposed to various hardships, in danger of losing his life, and of witnessing the violation of his wife, he still obeyed and went on; courageous, humane, and disinterested, he cheerfully risked his life for the welfare of others; and, contented with having rescued the captives and avenged the oppressed, he refused to accept even the spoils he had taken from the enemy whom his skill and valor had vanquished. At the same time he considers the excellency of the power to be of God, and acknowledges this by giving to him the tenth of those spoils of which he would reserve nothing for his private use. His obedience to God, in offering up his son Isaac, we have already seen and admired; together with the generosity of his temper, and that respectful decency of conduct towards superiors and inferiors for which he was so peculiarly remarkable; see on chap. 23. Without disputing with his Maker, or doubting in his heart, he credited every thing that God had spoken; hence he always walked in a plain way. The authority of God was always sufficient for Abraham; he did not weary himself to find reasons for any line of conduct which he knew God had prescribed; it was his duty to obey; the success and the event he left with God. His obedience was as prompt as it was complete. As soon as he hears the voice of God, he girds himself to his work! Not a moment is lost! How rare is such conduct! But should not we do likewise? The present moment and its duties are ours; every past moment was once present; every future will be present; and, while we are thinking on the subject, the present is past, for life is made up of the past and the present. Are our past moments the cause of deep regret and humiliation? Then let us use the present so as not to increase this lamentable cause of our distresses. In other words, let us now believe-love-obey. Regardless of all consequences, let us, like Abraham, follow the directions of God's word, and the openings of his providence, and leave all events to Him who doth all things well.
See to what a state of moral excellence the grace of God can exalt a character, when there is simple, implicit faith, and prompt obedience! Abraham walked before God, and Abraham was perfect. Perhaps no human being ever exhibited a fairer, fuller portrait of the perfect man than Abraham. The more I consider the character of this most amiable patriarch, the more I think the saying of Calmet justifiable: "In the life of Abraham," says he, "we find an epitome of the whole law of nature, of the written law, and of the Gospel of Christ. He has manifested in his own person those virtues, for which reason and philosophy could scarcely find out names, when striving to sketch the character of their sophist - wise or perfect man. St. Ambrose very properly observes that 'philosophy itself could not equal, in its descriptions and wishes, what was exemplified by this great man in the whole of his conduct.' Magnus plane vir, quem votis suis philosophia non potuit aequare; denique minus est quod illa finxit quam quod ille gessit. The LAW which God gave to Moses, and in which he has proposed the great duties of the law of nature, seems to be a copy of the life of Abraham. This patriarch, without being under the law, has performed the most essential duties it requires; and as to the GOSPEL, its grand object was that on which he had fixed his eye-that JESUS Whose day he rejoiced to see; and as to its spirit and design, they were wondrously exemplified in that faith which was imputed to him for righteousness, receiving that grace which conformed his whole heart and life to the will of his Maker, and enabled him to persevere unto death. 'Abraham,' says the writer of Ecclesiasticus, xliv. 20, &c., 'was a great father of many people: in glory was there none like unto him, who kept the law of the Most high, and was in covenant with him. He established the covenant in his flesh, and when he was tried he was found faithful.'" See Calmet.
As a son, as a husband, as a father, as a neighbour, as a sovereign, and above all as a man of God, he stands unrivalled; so that under the most exalted and perfect of all dispensations, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he is proposed and recommended as the model and pattern according to which the faith, obedience, and perseverance of the followers of the Messiah are to be formed. Reader, while you admire the man, do not forget the God that made him so great, so good, and so useful. Even Abraham had nothing but what he had received; from the free unmerited mercy of God proceeded all his excellences; but he was a worker together with God, and therefore did not receive the grace of God in vain. Go thou, believe, love, obey, and persevere in like manner.