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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 12 - Verse 16

Verse 16. Lest there be any fornicator. The sin here referred to is one of those which would spread corruption in the church, and against which they ought to be especially on their guard. Allusion is made to Esau as an example, who, himself a corrupt and profane man, for a trifle threw away the highest honour which as a son he could have. Many have regarded the word here used as referring to idolatry, or defection from the true religion to a false one—as the word is often used in the Old Testament—but it is more natural to understand it literally. The crime here mentioned was one which abounded everywhere in ancient times, as it does now, and it was important to guard the church against it. See Barnes "Ac 15:20"; See Barnes "1 Co 6:18".

 

Or profane person. The word profane here refers to one who, by word or conduct, treats religion with contempt, or has no reverence for that which is sacred. This may be shown by words; by the manner; by a sneer; by neglect of religion; or by openly renouncing the privileges which might be connected with our salvation. The allusion here is to one who should openly cast off all the hopes of religion for indulgence in temporary pleasure, as Esau gave up his birthright for a trifling gratification. In a similar manner the young, for temporary gratification, neglect or despise all the privileges and hopes resulting from their being born in the bosom of the church; from being baptized and consecrated to God; and from being trained up in the lap of piety.

As Esau. It is clearly implied here that Esau sustained the character of a fornicator and a profane person, The former appellation is probably given to him to denote his licentiousness, shown by his marrying many wives, and particularly foreigners, or the daughters of Canaan. See Ge 36:2; comp. Ge 26:34,35. The Jewish writers abundantly declare that that was his character. See Wetstein, in loc. In proof that the latter appellation—that of a profane person—belonged to him, see Ge 25:29-34. It is true that it is rather by inference, than by direct assertion, that it is known that he sustained this character. The birthright, in his circumstances, was a high honour. The promise respecting the inheritance of the land of Canaan, the coming of the Messiah, and the preservation of the true religion, had been given to Abraham and Isaac, and was to be transmitted by them. As the eldest son, all the honour connected with this, and which is now associated with the name Jacob, would have properly appertained to Esau. But he undervalued it. He lived a licentious life. He followed his corrupt propensities, and gave the reins to indulgence. In a time of temporary distress, also, he showed how little he really valued all this by bartering it away for a single meal of victuals. Rather than bear the evils of hunger for a short period, and evidently in a manner implying a great undervaluing of the honour which he held as the firstborn son in a pious line, he agreed to surrender all the privileges connected with his birth. It was this which made the appellation appropriate to him; and this will make the appellation appropriate in any similar instance.

Who for one morsel of meat. The word meat here is used, as it is commonly in the Scriptures, in its primitive sense in English to denote, food, Ge 25:34. The phrase here, "morsel of meat," would be better rendered by "a single meal."

Sold his birthright. The birthright seems to have implied the first place or rank in the family; the privilege of offering sacrifice and conducting worship in the absence or death of the father; a double share of the inheritance; and in this instance the honour of being in the line of the patriarchs, and transmitting the promises made to Abraham and Isaac. What Esau parted with we can easily understand by reflecting on the honours which have clustered around the name of Jacob.

{a} "fornicator" 1 Co 6:13,18 {b} "for one morsel" Ge 25:33

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