Pax Hart

Genesis 33: Jacob Meets Esau

After a night of terror and planning to prepare for a confrontation with his brother Esau, Jacob is shocked with a heartwarming reunion.

This is actually a sad episode. After years of exile in Laban’s service, Jacob finally confronts the brother who he had betrayed. He is overcome with fear, knowing Esau vowed to kill him years ago. Jacob makes contingencies: splitting his caravan into two camps so that one can escape if the other comes under attack, sending lavish gifts for Esau ahead of him. He is prepared for the worst.

He has an experience the night before; a man he wrestles who reveals himself to be God, gives him the name “Israel”, and blesses him.

I think Jacob has been so moved and humbled by the experience with the stranger, the confrontation with Esau is the last thing on his mind. He is subservient and gracious with his brother when they finally meet, insisting Esau accept his gifts and declining his offer of escort.

It’s a sad exchange. It’s an emotional reunion for Esau, he’s clearly forgiven his brother and wants to embrace him into the family. Jacob politely declines every gesture of Esau’s. Jacob’s goal was to get past without a confrontation and he does so. The confrontation turned out to be Esau’s delight at seeing his brother, not a combat. But Jacob does not take the offer for reconciliation.

You feel sorry for Esau. He is rejected.