THE RECONCILIATION OF JACOB AND ESAU

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    [Genesis:33:1-20]; [Genesis:35:1-20].

    Lesson No.: 
    26
    Class: 
    Senior
    Memory Verse: 

    “When a man's ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Proverbs 16:7).

    Cross References: 

    I Jacob's Anxiety Over Esau's Approach
    1. Esau's immediate departure to meet Jacob after receipt of news of Jacob's returning, [Genesis:32:6].
    2. Jacob's fear, prior to meeting God at Peniel, [Genesis:32:7-8].
    3. Jacob's changed attitude the reason for the different family arrangement in the procession, [Genesis:33:1-2].

    II The Meeting of the Long separated Brothers
    1. Jacob's humility and penitence a striking contrast to his attitude prior to the separation, [Genesis:33:3-4]; [Genesis:27:35-36], [Genesis:27:41-45].
    2. Jacob's acknowledgment of God's blessings, [Genesis:33:5].
    3. Jacob's presentation of his family to Esau, [Genesis:33:6-7].
    3. Jacob's offering to Esau an indication of his thankfulness for their reconciliation and a test of their friendship, [Genesis:33:8-11].

    III Jacob's Homes in Canaan
    1. The resumption of the journey, [Genesis:33:12-15].
    2. The pause for rest at Succoth, [Genesis:33:16-17].
    3. The purchase of land at Shalem and erection of an altar, [Genesis:33:18-20].
    4. His return to Bethel and worship of God there, [Genesis:35:1-15].
    5. Rachel's death, [Genesis:35:16-20]; [Genesis:31:32].

    Notes: 

    As we have seen from our previous lessons, Jacob was instructed by God to return to the land of his father, from which he fled many years before because of his sin against his brother, Esau. God promised to be with Jacob on his homeward journey, reminding him that He was the Lord Jehovah Whom he had met at Bethel, when he repented of his sins and received salvation. God promised, at Bethel, that even though Jacob would journey afar He would bring him back to his father's country.

    When he neared Canaan, Jacob sent a party ahead of him and his family to meet Esau and to tell this brother that they were en route to Canaan. The messengers returned to Jacob and told him that after Esau had received the news he had immediately set out with 400 men to meet Jacob and his party. This caused Jacob to fear for the safety of his family and himself and he immediately went to prayer to remind God of His promise of protection. Jacob was sanctified at that time; and, reassured by God, he set out on the final leg of his journey. It was not long until he saw his brother's company approaching.

    When Jacob left Peniel he rearranged his family so they would meet Esau in a manner different from that he intended they would before he wrestled with God there. The servants and their children were put first, then Leah and her children and finally his favourite wife, Rachel, and her son. Having this arranged he passed over before them and met his brother first, himself.

    Jacob's attitude in greeting Esau shows a remarkable change in this once deceitful, grasping man. He bowed himself to the ground in the deepest humility and then ran to meet him, embracing him in the most affectionate manner. The years, and the many bitter experiences they had passed through, had changed the attitudes of these brothers. Time does that for most of us. But there was a change in Jacob and Esau that neither time nor life's experiences could ever make. Jacob had met God at Bethel, felt His chastening hand in the years following, and finally had met Him at Peniel, where he was sanctified and purged of his inbred sin and carnality. Jacob's attitude, after his sanctification, was one of deep humility and gratitude. Anyone in that attitude is sure of God's blessings.

    How intimate Esau may have been with God, we do not know. His conduct is not too commendable, but we do know that God had at least worked in him for Jacob's advantage, because of the promise that was made when Jacob set out to return to Canaan. This change was enough to make him forget his old grievances and rejoice in this reunion.

    Jacob had arranged to give Esau a present of his flocks and herds. This Esau at first declined, saying he had enough and did not need the wealth of his younger brother. But Jacob persisted and prevailed.

    It was the custom, in those desert and wilderness countries, for people to show a kind of hospitality toward one another that we do not know in our land. This was rendered necessary because of the great distances between cities or other places where water and food could be obtained. Travellers were protected by their host to the extent that he would give his life if that was necessary for their safety ([Genesis:19:4-8]).

    Because of this custom, Jacob could not be absolutely sure that he had found genuine favour in the eyes of his brother, unless a gift from him was accepted by Esau. A person would protect another in those countries, even though they were not friends, but a gift would never be given or received unless there was existing a bond of more than usual friendship. Thus Jacob, in tendering the gift, showed that so far as he was concerned, all past resentment was put away; and Esau, in accepting the gift, showed that he, too, had forgotten and forgiven the injuries that his brother had done to him. When a man's ways please God we find that even his enemies are at peace with him. This is the substance of a promise of God's, given to us in the Bible.

    The brothers did not continue on the journey together because the women, young people, and flocks could not keep up with the rigorous pace set by the men in Esau's group. Esau went on ahead and Jacob followed, setting up camp in different places to rest and gather strength for the remainder of the journey. When Jacob established a dwelling place he set up an altar. He did not forget the God of his youth, Whom he met at Bethel and Who had followed him through the difficult days that were now behind him. A devout man once said, "The first thing that pious men do, is to provide for the honour and worship of God." God wants the first place in our lives and affections and will bless everyone who honours Him in this way.

    When Jacob named one of these altars, he acknowledged the work God had done for him, not only at Bethel but also at Peniel, for he called the altar El elohe Israel, which means God, the God of Israel. Jacob's name was changed to Israel at Peniel where he was sanctified.

    The life of Jacob gives us many valuable lessons, some of which are enumerated below. If we apply these lessons to our lives we shall benefit greatly in the eyes of both God and man. We shall have God's blessing upon us.

    Deceit is a practice that will bring only trouble to the deceiver. A forgotten God is sure to bring the mercy of immediate judgment upon the prodigal son, that he may be reconciled to his heavenly Father before the door of mercy is closed upon him. A grasping, greedy spirit in a person does not benefit him in the long run. He may gain worldly advantage, by it, but a great many times he will see his wealth lying in ruins at his feet -- even though he holds those gains to the end -- when he comes to stand before God. That person will then realise, too late, the fallacy of living for one's self alone, leaving God out of his plans.

    Esau's example is also one from which we can profit. He did not value his privileged position in the family, but sold it for a mere trifle of this world's goods; and when he would have taken it back he could not.

    Isaac's family was broken up because of sin. Jacob never saw his mother again after he fled to Haran. He saw his father, in the last years of that old patriarch's life, but the once happy family circle was broken, each one going his own way in an existence that was not easy in those days of nomadic life. How God could and would have blessed them if they had left things in His hands instead of taking them into their own, and going on unmindful of the promised guidance and help from Him, their Heavenly Father!

    Questions: 

    1. How large a company did Esau have with him as he came to meet Jacob?
    2. What change did Jacob make in the arrangement of his family and servants after he met God at Peniel?
    3. How did Jacob personally approach Esau?
    4. To whom did Jacob give the credit for his wealth and prosperity?
    5. Why did Jacob give of his possessions to Esau?
    6. Why didn't Jacob's family return with Esau?
    7. Where did Jacob stop to rest on his journey after Esau left him?
    8. Where did Jacob purchase land for his dwelling place?
    9. What did he do there besides pitching his tent?
    10. What instructions did Jacob give to his family before he built the altar at Bethel?