Genesis: The Beginning
Jacob and Esau 1-31-16
READ: Genesis 32-33
In our lesson yesterday, we read about Jacob leaving the household of Laban in order to return to Canaan. Today, Jacob will seek to reconcile with Esau as he passes through the region of Seir (Edom; southern portion of the Dead Sea).
As Jacob moves his camp again, he encounters angels of God (he had met them earlier at Bethel). This really demonstrates God’s protection over Jacob; God promised and he never lies. We see Jacob praying to God; so he is a changed man from all that he has been through. He confesses he is unworthy before God.
Jacob sends some messengers ahead of him to greet his brother, Esau. Jacob describes himself as Esau’s servant and he sends livestock gifts ahead of his arrival. Jacob wants to appease Esau and prays he will forgive him. Jacob divides his camp and sends them in staggered groups heading toward Edom. However, Jacob spends the night alone in camp.
A man (the Angel of the LORD) comes and wrestles with Jacob until day break. Jacob is winning until the man touches his hip and dislocates it. The man begs to be released, but Jacob will not do so until the man blesses him. The man renames Jacob; he will now be called Israel “because he fought with God and with men and won” (v.28). The man never tells Jacob his name, but he blesses him as requested. In all the preceding years, Jacob blessed himself and did not wait for God. But, here he is begging for God to bless him. It is a sweet picture of a changed heart; a change only God can bring about.
Esau is on his way with about 400 men; Jacob lines up his family in shifts and then goes out to meet Esau and bows seven times—sign of respect. Jacob is afraid of Esau’s reaction, but Esau runs and hugs his brother—twenty years of resentment is gone. God has been working in both Esau’s heart and Jacob’s heart during this separation. Jacob introduces his large family to Esau and then continues on toward Shechem (central Canaan) where Jacob erects an altar and praises the one true God.
Esau could have held onto his bitterness, but he allowed God to soften his heart. Staying bitter against those who have hurt us only harms our souls. We must learn from Jacob and Esau and strive for peace in our relationships by turning our lives over to God.