on Hebrews 12 :16
Lest there be any fornicator - Any licentious person who would turn the Gospel of the grace of God into lasciviousness.
Or profane person, as Esau - It is not intimated that Esau was a fornicator; and the disjunctive η, or, separates the profane person from the fornicator. And Esau is here termed profane, because he so far disregarded the spiritual advantages connected with his rights of primogeniture, that he alienated the whole for a single mess of pottage. See the note on Genesis 25:34. The word βεβηλος, which we translate profane, is compounded of βε, which in composition has a negative signification, and βηλος, the threshold of a temple or sacred edifice; and was applied to those who were not initiated into the sacred mysteries, or who were despisers of sacred things, and consequently were to be denied admittance to the temple, and were not permitted to assist at holy rites. Indeed, among the Greeks βεβηλος signified any thing or person which was not consecrated to the gods. Hence, in the opening of their worship, they were accustomed to proclaim,
Procul, O procul, este profani!
"Hence! O hence! ye profane."
Odi profanum vulgus, et arceo.
"I abominate the profane vulgar, and drive them from the temple."
The Latin profanus, from which we have our word, is compounded of procul a fano, "far from the temple," properly an irreligious man.
Sold his birthright - The first-born, in patriarchal times,
1. Had a right to the priesthood, Exodus 22:29.
2. And a double portion of all the father's possessions, Deuteronomy 21:17.
3. And was lord over his brethren, Genesis 27:29, Genesis 27:37; Genesis 49:3.
on Hebrews 12 :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 honor which as a son he could have. Many have regarded the word used here 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 the Acts 15:20 note; 1 Corinthians 6:18 note.
Or profane person - The word "profane" here refers to one who by word or conduct treats religion with contempt, or has no reverence for what 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 Genesis 36:2; compare Genesis 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 Genesis 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 birth-right, in his circumstances, was a high honor. 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 oldest son, all the honor 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 honor which he held as the first-born 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: Genesis 25:34. The phrase here, "morsel of meat," would be better rendered by "a single meal."
Sold his birthright - The birth-right 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 honor 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 honors which have clustered around the name of Jacob.
on Hebrews 12 :16
12:16 Esau was profane for so slighting the blessing which went along with the birth - right.