Genesis 33:1-20 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL
Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Epilogue
What a relief. Jacob reunites with Esau without bloodshed. This story shows that bitterness and feelings of revenge are a choice, not a given. Forgiveness and reconciliation, integrity and generosity are also choices we can make.
“Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, “Who are these people with you?”
“These are the children God has graciously given to me, your servant,” Jacob replied.” Jacob is keen to say that it is God who has blessed him. Maybe he’s also making it clear, “Keep your hands off, Esau!” only in a more subtle way.
The whole family bows before Esau to show their respect. This isn’t saying, “Esau, we are all coming under your authority”, just simply acknowledging, “we are coming into your territory.”
- ENSURE THAT AN AGREEMENT IS REACHED
“And what were all the flocks and herds I met as I came?” Esau asked. Jacob replied, “They are a gift, my lord, to ensure your friendship” (Genesis 33:8 NLT).
Jacob makes it quite clear that he is not coming in any way as an act of aggression as he meets Esau. This time he’s not offering a pot of stew. These animals are a means of restitution for his deceit in the past. This is a tangible way to make amends. But there is something else implied that is another hint at what Jacob has been doing.
“My brother, I have plenty,” Esau answered. “Keep what you have for yourself” (Genesis 33:9 NLT). The fact that Esau has 400 men indicates that he has made a life for himself already, perhaps as a mercenary. He obviously has plenty. But Jacob needs some indication from Esau that he has abandoned his claim to his Father’s blessing.
It is important to Jacob that he shows a gesture of reconciliation, not merely mouth the words.
“But Jacob insisted, “No, if I have found favour with you, please accept this gift from me. And what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God!” (Genesis 33:10 NLT).
Strange thing to say.
Instead of struggling with Esau, Jacob struggled with God. The struggle with God meant a hip wrenched from its socket, but he did receive God’s blessing.
But why does he describe his meeting with Esau as seeing the face of God? Perhaps he sees it as a blessing. Perhaps the blessing God gave had a specific clause that Esau would not annihilate him and his family. His smile was the face of God in terms of answered prayer. His fight with God substituted for his expected fight with Esau. Perhaps this is the blessing God gave to Jacob.
But I like what the Life Essentials Study Bible says. It suggests that the animals that Jacob gave to Esau amounted to a 10th of all he had, thus being an offering to God and this is why he said: “seeing your face is like seeing the face of God.” “Though it cannot be proven from this text, it would not be surprising if Jacob’s herd totaled 5,500 animals and the 550 he gave Esau represented 10 percent of his total assets, fulfilling his vow (Genesis 28:22).”
I really like this thought. He’s not setting Esau up as God, but fulfilling his vow to God to give a tenth of all he had. He did this by giving this offering of restitution for the blessing stolen from Esau. Perhaps this was the reason he gave his promise back in Genesis 28. Perhaps he always intended his tenth to be given to God in this way.
“Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift” (Genesis 33:11 NLT).
Esau can see that God has blessed Jacob, so he accepts the gift.
Pastor Warren Wiersbe says “He was made a prince, but he was acting like a pauper” but this seems an unnecessary assumption. No pauper is able to offer such a generous gift. And if anything, God humbled Jacob, not exalted him, in his encounter. Jacob experienced a blessing with a limp, not a crown with a title.
In accepting the gift, the rift between Esau and Jacob is requited. Esau doesn’t say, “I demand my birthright and blessing back” but submits to Jacob’s favour as restitution for the deceptive manner of their taking, in kind.
Living as an alien to God’s promises for over 20 years, Jacob was abused for his labour but also enriched. And he enters the land God promises, injured and blessed.
There is nothing automatic about the blessing of God to Jacob. He didn’t simply inherit it from his father and he certainly didn’t achieve it through deceit. It could only enter his life through consent and grace. There is always a risk when You struggle with God. It is the greatest conflict you will ever face.
Years later, Jesus, descended from the line of Jacob and faced the greatest conflict ever faced by anyone, as He died on a Cross for our sin. The Cross is a crutch for those who realize that they walk with a limp. It is the reconciling plus sign for the human race. We need faith in Christ to take the journey God intends us to travel. It takes us into the promises of God for our lives.
God is not yet through with Jacob. This is a stepping stone to an ongoing journey in receiving all that God has promised, not just a happy ending to a feel-good movie. As we have seen in Jacob’s past, he has a tendency to make short-term choices which cause long-term pain, but through obedience he has arrived in the promised land. But he hasn’t completely arrived in terms of obedience, as he is yet to discover. (But that it for another time).