Esav (Esau) and Yaakov (Jacob) were twins. The first to be born was Esav, and he came out red (adom), and hairy all over, therefore they called his name Esav (Asui means fully formed). (Gen 26:25)
Later, when he grows up he will be given another name, Edom, (which means red). So we might think he was called “Red”, because he came out a redhead when he was born. But the Torah gives us a different reason for him being called “Red.”
Esav had been out hunting and returns home famished. Yaakov is cooking some red pottage (nazid). And Esav demands, “Give me some of that red stuff!”
And the verse continues, “…therefore they called his name “Red” – Edom (Gen 25:30). That’s a very strange reason to call him “Edom” for the rest of history.
And why does the above interaction about the pottage prompt Yaakov to ask Esav to sell his birthright; the birthright to carry on the mission of Avraham to bring God’s message to the world?
Rashi explains, that this was the day Avraham died, so he wouldn’t see Esav go on an evil path [instead of following Avraham’s ways]… and Yaakov was cooking a pot of red lentils, which was the traditional food given to a mourner [their father Yitzchak]. Why lentils? They are round and they signify the cycle of life [and the ultimate ressurrection of the dead, which comforts the mourners] which is why there is a custom to serve hard boiled eggs as well.
Esav only saw the “red,” which represented only the surface. He didn’t care or appreciate the underlying meaning of the meal. The death of Avraham and the continuity of his mission in the world.
Esav was supposed to be a co-leader,of the Jewish people. He would take care of the physical needs as King, and Yaakov would take care of the spiritual needs as teacher and priest. By only caring about the “red,” Esav was indicating to Yaakov that his truee essence had no interest in the spiritual world. Yaakov understood that he would have to take on both roles to carry on “the family business” and asked Esav to sell off his “share” of the business. (Incidentally that is why later on Yaakov would take on a second name Yisrael which represented his role as physical leader of the Jewish people, after he defeated the angel of Esav)
As a result of this story for the rest of history, Esav and his descendants will try to take back the birthright from Yaakov, so that Esav can control the land of Israel and create a kingdom based on physical might and hedonism devoid of spirituality. Oh by the way, the Talmud and Midrash tell us that Edom is Rome as well as Rome’s spiritual descendants whose mission is to destroy Israel.