Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Genesis 33:1-15

Today’s story tugs at my heart! I love witnessing reunions of long-lost family members - whether in the news or in a movie - they always make me cry! In Genesis 33, we finally witness the reunion of estranged brothers, Jacob and Esau :

Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two maidservants. He put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.

But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. (Gen 33:1-4)

After his encounter with God, Jacob is now ready for this next encounter with Esau. This time there is no mention of fear specifically, but when Jacob sees the 400 men, he is strategic. When we become Christians we don’t automatically lose all fear, but, the longer we know Him, the more we are able to move ahead in our walk with greater assurance that He knows what He is doing, and that He is with us. We give our fears to Him and allow Him to fight the battles for us. So, Jacob places himself at the front and then lines up his family on a priority basis, with his beloved Rachel and Joseph in the rear, where they were more likely protected. This doesn’t settle well with me, so I can only imagine how it may have hurt Leah, not to mention the other children and the maidservants! No matter how you slice it, polygamy leads to all kinds of issues between the wives and children. Jacob had lived this with his own father showing partiality to Esau, but he doe not see it in himself!

So Jacob limps ahead of his entourage, and then he sees Esau - RUNNING to meet him! That fourth verse gets to me every time I read it. Does it remind you of another reunion in the New Testament? I immediately thought of the father who runs to greet his prodigal son, also throwing his arms around his neck and kissing him (Luke 15:20). Reunions are wonderful, but especially so when there has been some estrangement and there seems to be a coming together again with forgiveness. Jacob was rightfully expecting revenge from Esau, but instead he received grace! I’d say that God surely changed Esau’s heart toward Jacob!

Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked.

 Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.”

Then the maidservants and their children approached and bowed down. Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down.

Esau asked, “What do you mean by all these droves I met?”

“To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said.

But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.”

“No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably. Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it. (vs. 5-11)

Notice that Jacob takes a subservient attitude with his brother - calling himself “your servant” and calling Esau “my lord.” Even Jacob’s family members bow before Esau. Esau is taken back by the droves of cattle and sheep that Jacob had sent ahead and asks Jacob what it’s all about. Jacob admits he was seeking Esau’s favor. Esau does not need Jacob’s gifts, but Jacob insists, so Esau relents. In my mind that is a good sign, because it indicates that he is able to let go of pride, and understands Jacob’s need to be generous. Note, too, that Jacob gives the glory to God for all of his blessings.

So, Esau’s ready to lead Jacob home, but Jacob begs off, because he doesn’t want to rush the children and animals. Beth Moore makes an interesting conjecture here. We aren’t told of any ulterior motives on Jacob’s part, and if we just read it as written, we take at face value that Jacob is being sincere (that’s my preference). However, Beth wonders if maybe Jacob is a little leery of his hot-headed brother, and if maybe Jacob figures it’s best not to linger with Esau. She writes, “Did you wonder if Jacob thought he and Esau had better stop while they were ahead? Their immediate encounter went well. Why push it? Sometimes a relationship has such a troubled history that short, sweet visits are preferable to longer ones. Volatile relationships are safer in small doses . . . if you know what I mean.” (The Partiarchs, P. 152)

I don’t know about you, but I’m shouting “Amen!” to that one! :)

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