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Hebrews 12:17

ESV For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
NIV Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.
NASB For you know that even afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
CSB For you know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, even though he sought it with tears, because he didn't find any opportunity for repentance.
NLT You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.
KJV For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

What does Hebrews 12:17 mean?

This verse completes a reference to Esau, the older brother of Jacob (Genesis 25:24–26). Esau was entitled to certain privileges as the firstborn, but he treated that status with recklessness and contempt. As a result, Esau lost out on those blessings. The prior verse referred to his attitude as "unholy," a serious charge. The key event demonstrating Esau's attitude towards his birthright was mentioned in the last verse, a story given in Genesis 25:29–34. There, Esau carelessly promised to sell his birthright to his younger brother, in exchange for a bowl of soup.

Here, the end result of Esau's mistake is explained. The prior verse used the Greek term bebēlos, also used to describe something "profane." Esau learned, the hard way, that he could not show contempt for his blessings, then expect to actually obtain them. When the time came to inherit his full blessing, Esau found it had been given to someone else (Genesis 27:34–35). In the context of this passage in Hebrews, this is meant to reinforce prior warnings. Earlier verses mentioned an Old Testament metaphor of a "bitter root;" this referred to a person who presumed they could sin against God without suffering the consequences (Hebrews 12:15; Deuteronomy 29:18–19). God does not take sin lightly (Hebrews 2:1–3), and He is especially offended when those who claim to know Him choose to ignore His will (Hebrews 10:26–31). Christians cannot expect to treat our relationship with Christ in a careless way without consequences.
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