“Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.”
The story of Esau and Jacob has to be one of the most fascinating in all the scriptures. The opening volley of events happens rather quickly, and in just a few verses much unfolds, requiring several re-reads to take it all in.
The original Hebrew provides even more of a dynamic to the story. Firstborn we have Esau, whose name means ‘hairy’. We are told he was ‘red all over, like a hairy garment’, but this does not necessarily mean he had a lot of red hair – rather his skin itself may have been a reddish shade, and in addition he simply had a lot of hair. We see similar allusions to this later, as he also has a nickname ‘Edom’ which means red or earthy, and also later he settles in Seir, which means ‘hairy’.
Next we have Jacob, who comes into this world holding his brothers heel. The Hebrew (‘aqab), where Jacob’s name is derived, means ‘heel’, or ‘footstep’, and along those general lines may mean the end of something (‘eqeb) or deceitful (‘aqob). Ultimately we will see all of these things come into play in some way in Jacob’s life.