“And Jacob boiled pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was tired.” (Gen 25:29)
Esau was tired. He is the first person in the Bible to be so described. Why was he tired? While he was no doubt tired physically, might there be a spiritual lesson here? Perhaps we can learn something from Esau’s exhaustion.
The history of the two brothers shows two clear attitudes. Jacob followed the God of his father and grandfather. Everything in his life shows that his primary interest was in learning about God. The scripture says that Esau came from the field. That field may symbolize the world, with its pleasures. He had been out seeking food for the belly, instead of food for the soul. Jacob, who had perhaps been studying God’s word, had settled for a quick bowl of soup, but Esau had spent effort seeking (and not finding) pleasure for his belly.
When we spend all our time in the world, seeking the things of the world, we will likewise come from the field tired. That is because the world may feed the body, but it has nothing to nourish our souls. When we spend time in the word our souls are refreshed. We can live on less of the world, because that nourishment (though necessary) is incidental to feeding the soul.
There is a story, told in 1 Samuel 14, that King Saul had sworn that anyone in his army that ate during a specific battle would be executed. Saul’s son, Jonathan, had not heard that oath, and so when he was tired and came upon some honey he ate and was refreshed. Perhaps it was of this incident that David thought when he wrote, “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps 119:103) Just as honey replenishes the body, God’s word replenishes the soul.
Even God needed rest and replenishment. “It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” (Ex 31:17) God realized that men would have to spend a lot of time involved in making their own livelihood. Therefore, he provided for the children of Israel a time to recharge themselves. God doesn’t want us tired, and especially not tired from earthly things. Although the sabbath was specifically for the Jews, and is not required for non-Jewish Christians, the principle of the sabbath is still valid. In America today we have gotten so busy that our supposed days off are sometimes more hectic than our work days. Whether fifteen minutes a day, or a day a week, we need to leave Esau’s fields and enter Jacob’s study hall. If God needed refreshing, how can we do without it?
Our time in God’s word, however, must be productive. If our minds are still in the field it will do us no good. God said as much to Isaiah. “To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” (Isa 28:12-13) If the Bible is no more than “line upon line” to us, we are no better off than if we were hunting with Esau. Instead we should spend more time in the word and less time in the world.