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December 07th, 2021
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gary damronMY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron

 

Last week’s article ended with Jacob physically limping toward Canaan. But after wrestling with God, he was finally spiritually strong enough to lead a great nation. The only thing still needed was to seek out his older brother Esau, from whom he’d been estranged more than twenty years, and make things right. 

Many people have struggled this past year, and some of Jacob’s problems can serve to help in our struggles. Jesus, born later of Abraham’s seed, came to bring reconciliation between God and man and between family members. 

Much of Jacob’s life he had tried to work things out on his own. However, his stairway experience with God at Bethel, challenges during his years away from home, and finally the wrestling match with God broke his self-reliance and turned his spiritual weaknesses into strengths. Coming home to Esau brought back all the memories of Jacob’s own deceit and theft. It’s possible that all those years he’d kept in his mind the picture of his brother’s face, red with anger at being cheated out of the blessing. 

The first three verses of Genesis 33 begin, “Then Jacob raised his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So, he divided the children among Leah and Rachel, and the two slave women. He put the slave women and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.” 

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The bowing seven times had great significance in ancient Eastern culture. Though Jacob earlier had displayed a tendency to be assertive and prideful, in these acts he was indicating to Esau that his life had changed. The prophecy of Jacob’s dominance over his older brother (Genesis chapters 25, 27 and 37) would eventually be fulfilled, but not through anything Jacob did himself. 

Surprisingly, Esau seemed fully prepared for their meeting, and offered public forgiveness for all that had transpired in their past. He no doubt had also matured, and realized that his own impulsive personality had contributed: Remember he had carelessly sold his birthright for a cup of soup, and then flew into a rage when Isaac gave the blessing to Jacob. It’s possible he had grieved after his only brother left home, and maybe forgave him in his heart years before. The meeting of the twins is the first recorded episode of reconciliation of brothers in the Bible, made possible because both Jacob and Esau admitted their part in the wrongdoing. 

After an emotional reunion, Esau seemed to suddenly become aware of the throng of people behind Jacob. “He raised his eyes and saw the women and the children, and said, ‘Who are these with you?’ So [Jacob] said, ‘The children whom God has graciously given your servant’” (Genesis 33:5). Then one by one, the maids and wives and children all came and bowed before Esau, also indicating their submission and respect for the older family member. 

Jacob had brought along lavish gifts, which Esau tried to decline as he replied, “I have plenty”. I have no education in Hebrew, but have become intrigued with words and phrases in Genesis. Jacob answered with a phrase that also translates into plenty in English, but in Hebrew indicates more: “I have everything.” Esau spoke of a large quantity, while Jacob’s phrase meant sufficiency. The inheritance Jacob had envisioned decades before suddenly wasn’t important. Instead, he’d received true blessings from God himself during their encounters along the roads. 

Jacob pressed Esau to take the presents. “‘No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then accept my gift from my hand, for I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably’” (Genesis 33:10). Instead of appeasement, they became gifts of thanksgiving.

Let’s stop for a moment to talk about seeing someone’s face. This phraseology indicates a very close encounter, being in the presence of another person. Jacob on the morning after his wedding night had been shocked to find the face of his wife was not Rachel’s face (go back and read Genesis 29:23-25). He’d named the place where he’d wrestled with God Peniel, for he had seen God face to face (Genesis 32:30). And now his only brother’s face – which had been red and angry when Jacob fled many years before, was like the face of God. 

God had changed Jacob so much he could admit his guilt and be trusted. He had also changed Esau so that he was capable of accepting the apology and truly forgiving. The families of these twin brothers would become the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Edom. Scriptures in Amos chapter 9 and Obadiah 19-21 confirm that they would share in an inheritance, though “the kingdom will be the Lord’s”. 

Genesis chapter 33 is a tremendous story of reconciliation, renewal and restart that is so needed today. God’s promises to Abraham and Isaac were now being fulfilled as Jacob repented and returned to the promised land. 

 

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