A Red Gamey Hunter Named Red Stewed the Red Stew •
Come on, let me eat some of that red stew, that red stew there, because I am starving…. (EHV)
There is quite a bit of wordplay and stylistic writing art in the Genesis story of Jacob and Esau. We will show you verses 25 through 30 of Genesis chapter 25, and a couple items of interest.
The first is a single Hebrew word carrying (on the surface) two entirely different meanings, and the writer’s use of this word and two meanings to make a point regarding Esau. In English, these words are hunter and game. In Hebrew tranliteration, the single word is tsayid.
The second is two Hebrew words which make similar sounds when spoken, and carry the same or related meaning, and again make a point regarding Esau. In English, the word is red, while the two Hebrew words are אַדְמֹנִי / ‘admoniy and אָדֹם / ‘adom.
The Hebrew sound and wordplay gives English Bible translators additional challenges, as these characteristics do not of course transfer into the English. Here are some sample translations, and we’ve highlighted our items of interest:
Gen 25:25-30 from the New English Translation:
25 The first came out reddish all over, like a hairy garment, so they named him Esau. 26 When his brother came out with his hand clutching Esau’s heel, they named him Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when they were born. 27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skilled hunter, a man of the open fields, but Jacob was an even-tempered man, living in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau because he had a taste for fresh game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 Now Jacob cooked some stew, and when Esau came in from the open fields, he was famished. 30 So Esau said to Jacob, “Feed me some of the red stuff—yes, this red stuff—because I’m starving!” (That is why he was also called Edom.) (NET)
From David Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible, which explicitly points out in brackets that Edom means red:
25 The first to come out was reddish and covered all over with hair, like a coat; so they named him ‘Esav [completely formed, that is, having hair already]. 26 Then his brother emerged, with his hand holding ‘Esav’s heel, so he was called Ya‘akov [he catches by the heel, he supplants]. Yitz’chak was sixty years old when she bore them. 27 The boys grew; and ‘Esav became a skillful hunter, an outdoorsman; while Ya‘akov was a quiet man who stayed in the tents. 28 Yitz’chak favored ‘Esav, because he had a taste for game; Rivkah favored Ya‘akov. 29 One day when Ya‘akov had cooked some stew, ‘Esav came in from the open country, exhausted, 30 and said to Ya‘akov, “Please! Let me gulp down some of that red stuff — that red stuff! I’m exhausted!” (This is why he was called Edom [red].) (CJB)
From the King James, which uses venison and notes that stew or soup are cooked in a pot:
25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. 26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them. 27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. 28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: 30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. (KJV)
From the 2019 Evangelical Heritage Version:
25 The first came out red all over, like a hairy garment. They named him Esau. 26 After that, his brother came out, with his hand grabbing Esau’s heel. So he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them. 27 The boys grew up. Esau was a skillful hunter, an outdoorsman. Jacob was a quiet man, who stayed home among the tents. 28 Now Isaac loved Esau more, because he ate Esau’s wild game. Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 Once Jacob was cooking stew, and Esau came in from the field, and he was starving. 30 Esau said to Jacob, “Come on, let me eat some of that red stew, that red stew there, because I am starving.” (That is why Esau was also called Edom.)(EHV)
From the New American Standard Bible, which eliminates one of the red stews:
25 Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. 26 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. 27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. 28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; 30 and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called Edom. (NASB)
Let’s walk through these verses and words:
In verse 27, Esau is a hunter:
צַיִד / transliteration: tsayid / pronunciation: tsah’·yid / typical meanings and translation choices: game, venison, hunter, hunting, victuals, provisions, catch
In 28, Isaac is a man with a taste for game. This is the same Hebrew word translated in the previous verse as hunter.
צַיִד / transliteration: tsayid / pronunciation: tsah’·yid / game, venison, hunter, hunting, victuals, provisions, catch
Esau the hunter is the game. The tsayid is the tsayid. The צַ֖יִד is the צַ֖יִד.
But not only is Esau both hunter and the game, he is in the stew, which in Hebrew is a similar sounding word.
In 30, Jacob is cooking or boiling or as we like to translate it, stewing some stew.
He is stewing: זוּד / translit: zuwd / pron: züd / boil, boil over, seethe, act presumptiously, arrogantly, proudly
… a stew: נָזִיד / trans: naziyd / nä·zēd’ / boiled food, soup, pottage, stew
Jacob is stewing Esau and he is about to boil over.
Furthermore, Esau is red in color, and his possible nickname is Red, or Edom. This red Esau/Edom is the father of the Edomites, named for the redness of their patriarch and the coloring of some of the sandstone formations in their territory. Likewise, the stew Esau salivates over is red:
In 25, Esau was born red:
אַדְמֹנִי / transliteration: ‘admoniy / pronunciation: ad·mō·nē’ / red, ruddy, reddish
In 30, Esau wants some of the red — darn right I said that red stuff:
אָדֹם / translit: ‘adom / pron: ä·dōm’ / red, ruddy
The word appears twice, back to back.
And in 30, therefore his name was called Red:
אֱדֹם / translit: ‘Edom / pron: ed·ōm’ / Edom (proper name, place), Edomites
By the way, we can find no English translations which use ruddy for Esau’s complexion. You might see for yourself how this word is used for David’s complexion and its meaning.
And there are other interesting things going on in this and nearby passages which we haven’t touched.
We wonder about the notion that the geographic area of Edom has reddish natural earthen coloring. A Google Earth satellite image seems to confirm the reddish hue of at least some areas of the region south and a bit east of the salty Dead Sea. Here is an area in southern, modern Jordan:
Thanks to the Blue Letter Bible, Bible Hub, and the Academic Bible / Deutsche Bible Geselleschaft website and the society’s keeping of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, plus Google Maps.
God’s blessings to you! And read the actual Bible for yourself! 🙂