16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.
Verse 16 shows the effect of allowing bitterness to grow in the soul.
16 lest there be any fornicator [immoral]
Since “fornicator” connects to the “profane” or godless of the next phrase, the word probably means spiritual fornication or unfaithfulness. Esau was not interested in spiritual things; that is why he disregarded his spiritual inheritance. Esau was a religiously immoral person. Nothing in the Old Testament indicates that he was sexually immoral.
or profane [common, godless] person
The word “profane” means godless or secular. This person will not allow himself to function beyond the material view of things. This is someone who does not appreciate the spiritual domain; he treats these things with contempt. Profane people regard matters of faith with little respect. They are godless.
Esau was the older brother of Jacob (Ge 25:24–26). Inheritance rights belonged to the firstborn son. However, he took foreign wives (Ge 26:34–35; 27:46). This was a problem because it led to idolatry. Esau was not only immoral but also godless. He had neither ethics nor faith.
Esau lost his inheritance for personal gratification. His misplaced values led him to give up his inheritance. His base system of values of immediate gratification for food cost him his inheritance. His birthright was of little value to him. Esau’s “profane” character showed itself in selling his birthright to satisfy his hunger. In doing this, he parted with his theocratic privileges; he declared himself a non-religious person.
who for one [single] morsel of food sold his birthright [inheritance right].
God gave the head of the home the birthright. Isaac, Esau’s father, as well as his father Abraham, received it by divine appointment. Esau was to receive it by divine appointment, but he sold it to satisfy his hunger.
Esau, as the elder son, was to receive a double portion of the inheritance from his father (Ge 43:33; Deut 21:17). This statement shows why Esau was “profane” or godless. The word “one” or single is emphatic. He sold his birthright for a single meal (Ge 25:29–34). It did not take much for Esau to disregard spiritual things. His desecrated character led him to sell his inheritance for the indulgence of a single meal. A small indulgence caused a great loss.
The birthright was a faith issue. It was something that originated in the first Jew—Abraham. Esau showed contempt for his godly heritage.
Temporal pleasure can forfeit eternal reward.
Esau is a prime example of someone who turned his back on the grace of God. He is an illustration of someone who forfeited his spiritual privileges.
The loss for Esau was not loss of salvation, but he failed to appropriate privilege. Esau lost his birthright but not sonship in the family (He 11:20). Both Jacob and Esau were sons. Later Esau reconciled with Jacob and received God’s blessings but not the blessing of the birthright.
The Christians of Hebrews failed to appropriate the finished work of Christ (He 5–6). This is especially true as it pertains to the grace of God. Those who do not apply God’s grace to their lives will undergo divine discipline, as the context of this chapter demonstrates (He 12:4–11).
Esau’s decision was a paradigm for those who treat their inheritance with little regard. To throw away our inheritance on a whim is characteristic of a profane person, a person who has a secular approach to life. Utter indifference to God’s promises is a cause for discipline.