a mess of pottage
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mess of pottage
Something of little, trivial, or no value but which appears to be attractive or valuable on first reckoning. An allusion to Esau in Genesis 25:29–32, who sells to Jacob his birthright to his family's estate for a bowl of lentil stew (pottage). Only after the economic crash did it become fully clear what messes of pottage these sub-prime mortgages proved to be for first-time homeowners. If we allow our obsession with job creation to undermine the health of the environment, humanity will ultimately end up selling its birthright for a mess of pottage.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
a mess of pottageLITERARY, OLD-FASHIONED
If someone exchanges something of lasting value for a mess of pottage, they foolishly exchange it for something of no lasting value. I think he has sold his soul for a mess of pottage. Note: A mess of pottage is a dish of vegetables. This expression comes from a story in the Bible, which tells how Esau was hungry and sold his privileges as first-born son to his brother Jacob in return for this meal. (Genesis 25:29-33)
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012