Genesis 25

1 Even though Abraham was very old by this time, he married another woman and had six more sons. Abraham also had children by other concubines. While not specifically prohibited at this time, polygamy is not God's original design for marriage. Abraham would later send these extra sons into exile without an inheritance. This no doubt caused bitterness among them.
9 Of all his sons, only Isaac and Ishmael were present at his funeral. At least at this time they paid their respects despite the bitterness that might have been between them.
11 Despite the family situation, God blessed Isaac just as He promised.
17 It would seem that when people died physically, they did not "disappear." They are still considered people, and perhaps this gives us a glimpse into the idea that these people believed in life after death.
21 Isaac, being a man of prayer, asked God to do what only God could do. Isaac would not take a "substitute" wife; perhaps because he saw what trouble this caused for his father and brothers.
22 Rebekah was a woman of prayer. She was distraught at what was apparently a difficult pregnancy. She may not have known at the time that she was going to have twins, but there was a lot of jostling, and this was very uncomfortable.
23 God does answer Rebekah and gives a prophecy about what is to happen with the two children in her womb.

During these times the older child, even of twins, was considered more important. However, God indicates that the younger one will be the more important one in this case.

25 Children are usually born with little or no hair. Esau was hairy all over from the day he was born. Also, most children are red when born, but Esau was especially so. "Esau" means "hairy."
26 In the womb, hand clasping helps the unborn child develop arm strength. A newborn can be picked up if he claps onto adult fingers. Jacob apparently had this kind of clasp on his brother's heel. "Jacob" can mean both "heal catcher" and "trickster." Jacob would live up to both connotations.

Jacob and Esau were fraternal twins, not identical.

27 Esau was a rough and hearty outdoorsman. Jacob was reserved and preferred a more sedentary lifestyle.
28 Some say that if parents claim not to have a favorite child that they are lying. Isaac had a taste for wild game, and Esau was happy to provide it. Rebekah liked having someone around, and Jacob gladly provided that.
29 Hunters to not always catch their prey. Esau may have been hunting for several days, but came home empty handed. He was exhausted from the hunt. There may have been smaller animals available (unless their diet was similar to that described in the Mosaic Law) and wild fruits and vegetables, but either Esau did not find any or he simply did not want to take the time to gather them.
30 "Edom" means "red." He may have had reddish skin, as described in Gen 25:25, but it was this event that made his nickname stick. He was nicknamed after the red stew he ate in exchange for his birthright.
31 Jacob decided to take advantage of Esau's condition. This seems strange in a time when hospitality was highly honored. For a stranger, Jacob may have provided not only stew, but also may have gone out of his way to provide meat and bread. For his brother, however, he does not freely provide.

We do not know where Jacob would have picked up this kind of attitude, but we could suspect that he picked it up from his mother. Yes, she had once been very hospitable, but we will see later that she had become devious, even to the point of forming a conspiracy against Esau and her own husband.

The tradition of the birthright was very important during this time. The birthright meant that the oldest son would receive the family name and would become head of the household. The oldest son also traditionally received twice as much inheritance as his siblings. These were not strictly followed, as seen with Abraham and some of the other patriarchs (usually at God's command, though).

It seems that Jacob was envious of Esau for being born first. It was difficult for Jacob to accept being the second child by just a few minutes. He was determined to win the birthright and used this opportunity to his advantage.

There are secular records of people during this time selling their birthrights. This practice would later be prohibited in the Mosaic Law.

32 If a person's life is truly in peril, he may decide to give up future benefits to have a future, but that was not the case here. Esau was exaggerating. Considering that Jacob stayed close to home, Esau could have easily traveled a little farther and got a meal from his parents. Instead, Esau focuses on his short-term needs rather than the long-term effects.
33 Jacob wanted to make sure that this deal was sealed with a proper oath.

What is not clear about this transfer is whether Jacob now had both the birthright and his own inheritance, or traded his birthright for his brother's. If the former is true, then Jacob had made a deal that would give him the entire inheritance while Esau would be left with nothing.

34 Esau may have been so focused on his outdoor lifestyle that he had little appreciation for what his birthright meant. Perhaps Esau felt that he did not need an inheritance because he could live off the land. Perhaps the prospect of supporting a future family had not occurred to him yet. Perhaps he did not want to raise livestock, which is what he would have inherited. Whatever Esau's rational was, it is clear that giving up his birthright was a reprehensible act. Jacob's behavior was not good, but ultimately, Esau is responsible for losing his birthright.