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.
See also: mess, of, pottage

a mess of pottage

LITERARY, 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)
See also: mess, of, pottage
References in periodicals archive ?
Similarly, the exciting Westway project, whose impact on Manhattan in the 20th century would have been comparable to that of Central Park in the 19th, was traded in for the mess of pottage of a brief additional subsidy for mass transit.
And what mess of pottage have you acquired in exchange for the rights of a free people?
Compared with this the undeniable goods of the academy seem to me a mess of pottage.
And this mess of pottage is being offered to the ex-Soviet people as payment for their revolutionary birthright--the ownership of the means of production.
Events may prove me wrong, but I think the city fathers of Manchester have sold their birthright for a mess of pottage.
After forcing his starving brother, Esau, to give up his birthright in return for a mess of pottage, Jacob collaborates with his mother, puts on Esau's clothes, wraps animal hides around his arms to simulate his brother's hairy limbs, and walks up to his elderly father.
There are too many in Government on the business front, who would betray this nation for a mess of pottage.
When, in what seems intended as a Cain and Abel reference, dirt farmer's son Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) offers to sell out his family's heritage for a metaphorical mess of pottage, Plainview heads for their California ranch, HW in tow as prop, to smooth-talk the old man into selling the drilling rights at a bargain price.
The tragedy is that the members of the Pulitzer family--Emily, Michael and their relatives--have traded their heritage for a mess of pottage--a very large mess of pottage, to be sure, but no more than that.
Now, again, Israel and those who build up the quality of life are to be sacrificed not for a mess of pottage (Esau), or 30 pieces of silver (Judas) but for oil (Blair, Thatcher, et al).
My love for my children makes me glad that I am what I am and keeps me from desiring to be otherwise; and yet, when I sometimes open a little box in which I still keep my fast yellowing manuscripts, the only tangible remnants of a vanished dream, a dead ambition, a sacrificed talent, I cannot repress the thought that, after all, I have chosen the lesser part, that I have sold my birthright for a mess of pottage.