“When Esau was forty years old, he took as wives Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. And they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah.” – Genesis 26:34-35 (NKJV)
Why would Esau’s wives grieve his parents, so much so that Rebekah told Isaac, “I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth” (Genesis 27:46)? Abraham had bought a burial plot from Ephron the Hittite, who revered him as a “mighty prince” (23:6, 16-18). However, the Hittites were still sinners, whom Isaac and Rebekah rightly abhorred. Reared in a heathen home and surrounded by heathen gods, Judith and Basemath did not know Jehovah. God had also promised Abraham that he would give Canaan to his descendants, land that belonged to the Hittites and other heathen tribes (Genesis 15:18-21). Esau was the firstborn son (25:25). According to the law of birthright, he inherited a double portion of his father’s property. Surely Isaac and Rebekah did not want that property to end up in heathen hands.
After Jacob left Canaan to find a wife, Esau compounded his sin by marrying his first cousin Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael and the sister of his firstborn son Nebajoth (Genesis 28:9). Ishmael was not the son of promise and, therefore, inheritor of Canaan. Isaac was. As with the Hittites, he and Rebekah did not want the land of promise to descend into heathen hands.
Esau’s wives also revealed his sinful heart. First, he took more than one wife (Genesis 2:18-24). Instead of righteous men like Abel, Enoch, and Noah, Esau followed the steps of Cain’s descendant Lamech (4:19). He also wanted to be like the polygamous Canaanites, just as Israel wanted a king in order to “be like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:20). Esau was not interested in spiritual separation. Finally, he loved and married the “daughters of Canaan” instead of taking a wife from his own people, as Abraham did for Isaac (Genesis 24:4, 36:2). Abraham had made his servant swear that he would “not take for a wife for [Isaac] from the daughters of the Canaanites” (24:3). Whom his grandfather abhorred, Esau admired.
Heathen wives were part and parcel of Esau’s profane nature (Hebrews 12:6). So was selling his birthright (Genesis 25:29-34). King Solomon told his son to “buy” truth, wisdom, instruction, and understanding (Proverbs 23:23). The merchant in Jesus’ parable “sold all that he had” to buy “the pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:45-46). Esau’s birthright had the same value, yet he sold it like a cheap trinket for a bowl of soup. He treated his birthright like merchandise. Esau also hated his righteous brother Jacob after he received the firstborn’s blessing (27:41), just as this sinful world hates Jesus Christ and his servants (John 15:18-19, 23-25).
If Isaac and Rebekah did not know Esau had sold his birthright, they could not ignore his wives. Isaac married one godly woman when he was forty years old (Genesis 25:20). When Esau turned forty, he married two heathen women. The irony alone must have grieved his parents.
Esau was reared in a godly home. He was fifteen when his grandfather Abraham died, fifty at the death of his ancestor Shem. So Esau would have heard stories about God’s call to Abraham and his journeys to and through Canaan. He would also have heard first-hand the story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac and God’s timely provision. Isaac and Rebekah probably told their sons many stories about their wedding and marriage too. So Esau could not have pled ignorance when he heard that his wives displeased his father (Genesis 28:8). Like Jacob, Esau was surrounded by God’s saints, words, and deeds. But he rejected Jehovah for Canaan’s daughters.
Many parents rear children like Esau. They take them to church, read the Bible, and pray. But when the children grow up, they forsake Jesus by marrying the things of this world – “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). They treat Jesus and the kingdom of heaven like trinkets. This reversal is a “grief of mind” to godly parents (Genesis 26:35). Daily they pray for their prodigal sons and daughters to return home and to repent and trust in Jesus. They pray for “a word fitly spoken” that will produce conviction (Proverbs 25:11).
Esau “found no place for repentance” after he had lost the firstborn’s blessing (Hebrews 12:17). Once given, it could not be taken back. We live in a new dispensation now, grace and mercy through Jesus Christ. Not all marriages with the world are forever, since some prodigals do return home. However, we must not be profane like Esau. We must not forsake Jesus and his kingdom for this passing world (1 John 2:17). If we are not in Christ when he returns to earth as the Righteous Judge (2 Timothy 4:8), we will find “no place for repentance” either. It will be too late.
 All Scripture verses are NKJV, unless otherwise noted.
 If one compares Genesis 26:34, 28:9, and 36:2-3, he or she will notice that the names and genealogies of Esau’s wives are filled with discrepancies. I didn’t try to unravel them.