Today’s reading begins with Jacob fleeing from Laban and concludes with Jacob meeting his brother Esau.
Even though Jacob abided by the terms of the agreement that he made with Laban, Laban’s sons were growing tired of Jacob’s skill in providing for himself while giving their father the weakest and smallest of the flocks. Jacob senses that he is loosing favor with Laban and God speaks to Jacob and tells him to leave and return to his home land.
Laban realizes too late that Jacob has fled and attempts to pursue him. Shortly before Laban catches up with Jacob, in a dream, God tells Laban that he is not to speak anything good or bad to Jacob. Laban and Jacob both feel wronged by one another, but essentially agree to disagree and make a covenant to separate from each other and go there separate ways.
Shortly after Jacob separates from Laban he is informed that his brother Esau is coming to meet him and is traveling with a cohort of 400 men. Jacob is afraid of his brother because of how Jacob took both Esau’s birthright and his blessing from Isaac. Jacob plans to essentially bribe Esau with a generous gift and hopes that this gift will quell Esau’s anger.
The same night, Jacob sends his wives and children away from him to protect them, and in the night an unknown man wrestles with Jacob all night. Jacob is relentless in the fight and refuses to yield to the man. The man finally relents from the fight and touches Jacob’s hip socket and his hip is dislocated. Obviously this ability to dislocate another man’s hip isn’t typical of men, and Jacob knows this too and demands a blessing from the man. The man who is a incarnation of God, blesses Jacob and gives him a new name: Israel. God gives the name Israel to Jacob because He says that Jacob has “striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
When the sun rises, Jacob see that his brother Esau is upon him and sets himself between Esau and his family. In spite of the terrible history between Esau and Jacob, Esau runs to meet Jacob and hugs him.
It’s really not in the least bit understandable why Esau reacts with joy to seeing Jacob. The Bible really doesn’t ever speak to why Esau is so pleased to see his brother after all of the years of being apart. Jacob in concert with his mother truly acted in deceit to deprive Esau of the rightful blessing of his father and Jacob took advantage of Esau when he took his birthright in exchange for a simple meal. This had to have been God’s grace to Jacob, but it’s so unusual that not even the least inference of God’s hand in softening Esau’s heart is mentioned. Definitely something to ask God about when I get to heaven…