Saturday, February 5, 2011

Genesis 33:1-17 Esau Arrives

"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." (Genesis 33:1-3 NIV)

Esau was rapidly approaching, and Jacob arranged his family in a way that ensured that Rachel, his favorite, was the most protected.  I wonder how the other women felt about that arrangement, for I am sure that they noticed.  At least Jacob went out in front of the party to meet Esau.  By his bowing to the ground seven times he tried to convey his submission toward his brother.

However, Jacob's fears about meeting his brother were groundless.  "But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him.  And they wept." (Genesis 33:4 NIV)  Afterwards, Jacob's wives and children presented themselves before Esau. (v. 5-7)  Esau questioned the meaning of the groups of animals which had arrived before Jacob and his family.  Jacob insisted that Esau take these as a gift, although Esau let it be known that he already had plenty.  (v. 8-11)  Note that Jacob still calls Esau 'my lord', while Esau easily calls Jacob 'my brother'.  Jacob is still a bit fearful of Esau's intentions, I think, for he refuses to have Esau or some of his men accompany them to Seir. (v. 12-15) 

In fact, for a moment, Jacob seems to revert to his old deceptive ways, for he does not follow Esau to Seir, as he had proposed.  "So that day, Esau started on his way back to Seir.  Jacob, however, went to Succoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock.  That is why the place is called Succoth." (Genesis 33:16-17 NIV)  [Succoth means 'shelters']

It is clear that Jacob would rather have God's protection than trust in Esau's men.  Perhaps there is also a certain courtesy in not going all the way to Seir with his multitude of animals, whose need for grass and water could possibly strain the newly repaired relationship with his brother.  However, there is something rather disturbing about the fact that Jacob tells his brother that he will be following him to Seir, when he ultimately goes in the exact opposite direfction.  Even if Jacob intends to eventually make good on his visit to Esau, he is certainly straining the bonds of truthfulness to the breaking point.

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