Genesis 33

With A Limp

Jacob lifts his eyes and sees his brother Esau coming straight for him with four hundred men. It is possible that Esau had just completed an expedition or war with some of the people in the region or perhaps he was coming to bring a reckoning to his brother after all these years. Jacob does not appear to be in fight or flight mode. Instead, he is walking in faith with a limp. He had faced his most dangerous enemy, his own heart and God had rescued him and given him a new identity. He would face his brother and seek his favor trusting that God had brought him to this place and he would be faithful to his promise. Jacob prepares his family to meet his brother. He systematically divides his servants and families into groups. The concubines with their children went up front, followed by Leah with her children, and finally Rachel and Joseph.

The Reunion

As these brothers near one another, their minds and hearts must have been anxious. The last time they saw each other Jacob had deceived his father and his brother and Esau was so filled with anger that he intended to murder his brother. Is Esau just looking for an excuse? Will the first sign of arrogance or deception bring civil war? Is Jacob too afraid or ashamed to make eye contact? Is he rehearsing a speech for his brother? Is he planning his response if fighting should break out? Is he praying? Jacob approaches his brother with kindness and humility. He follows the custom of greeting in which one bows out of respect. Did this confuse Esau? Did this make him skeptical? Was he looking for the deceit? Esau would have none of this formality, he ran to his brother, embraced him, kissed him, and the two of them wept. Imagine the emotional burdens that have been carried for over two decades as they just fall to the ground. Esau sees Jacob's family and is eager to meet them. Jacob introduces each of his family members to his brother. Esau asks Jacob about all the gifts, and he tells him that he was seeking his favor. Esau tells him to keep the gifts because he has plenty, but here we see a new man characterized by generosity. He speaks words of grace over his brother and urges his brother to accept his present. Esau agrees to accept the gift and offers to lead the way for his brother. Jacob does not want to inconvenience his brother and tells him to go on ahead, and they will follow slowly because of the children and the livestock. Esau offers to leave some of his men to assist, but Jacob assures him that they will be fine. Jacob made his way slowly to Succoth and then to Shechem where he bought land and built an altar the God of Israel.

Things To Consider:

  • Why do you think Esau responded by running to his brother?
  • Where do you see the evidence of grace in this passage?
  • Can you tell the difference in Jacob by the way he speaks? How?
  • How does generosity reflect the character of God?
  • How does Jacob witness for God to his brother?
  • How much has changed since the two last saw each other?
  • How is Jacob's worship both private and public?