He was given the name Edom (red) and is regarded as the ancestor of the Edomites (Genesis 36:1). The stories of Esau and Ishmael – with whom Esau shares more than a passing resemblance – intertwine when Esau travels to meet Ishmael and marries his daughter, Mahalath (Genesis 28:9).
A much despised figure in Judaism and Christianity, Esau is depicted as sinful and sensuous while the Qur’an includes no mention of him. In the New Testament, he is associated with all that is ungodly and with sexual immorality (Hebrews 12:16). Augustine identifies Esau as the Jewish people, representing all those who do not believe.
The deception of Esau (Genesis 27) was a hugely popular subject in art: Giotto’s frescoes in Assisi, 16th-century Dutch art, and several illuminated Jewish Bibles all interpret the episode in very distinctive ways, many concentrating on the pathos of the scene.