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The reconciliation of Jacob and Esau Genesis 32-33
The reconciliation of Jacob and Esau
Genesis 32-33

In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 it says; "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

For the resolution of conflict, a person has to decide to exercise love.

Sometimes conflict lasts a long time. I've noted before that in my family my grandfather and his brother did not talk to each other for 25 years because of something stupid that the one said to the other about their wife. In the end, they reconciled, brought together by the imminent death of the one by cancer. Such is not the model of reconciliation that the Bible teaches.

This morning we are going to look at a beautiful picture of reconciliation- That of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 32-33.

Last week we took a look at the call of Jacob.

-The account of Jacob stretches from Genesis 25-50.
-Jacob was the twin brother of Esau (though they looked and were totally different in every way)
-Before God called him into relationship with himself, Jacob was a bad guy (like we all are apart from Christ). In addition to cheating his brother out of his birthright- for a bowl of stew (remembering that the birthright entitled the eldest to a double share of the estate), Jacob (whose name means grasper and deceiver)- in cahoots with his mother- conspired to deceive his father into giving him a special blessing that was intended for Esau. Esau was so angry that his only comfort was the thought of killing Jacob after their father died.
-In order to protect Jacob from his brother, Jacob was sent by his father to his mother's homeland (almost 1000 km away)
-alone and afraid Jacob left his father's house and away he went with nothing but his staff and whatever he could carry. This is when God came to him. It was then that he committed himself to following God and his life began to turn around
-Upon arriving in his mother's homeland, Jacob found a wife and someone that was even more deceptive than him (his mother's brother, his father in law) Laban. By Laban's deception, Jacob ended up with 2 wives and 20 years tending his father in laws animals (with his wages being changed over and over again). Despite all the hardship, God prospered Jacob and then one day God told Jacob to go back home. JACOB OBEYED.
-Jacob, being Jacob, didn't have an easy journey home-- for instead of telling Laban, he just packed up all his family (2 wives, 2 concubines, 11 sons, daughters), At least 1000 animals, and possessions and ran away. There was good reason for this, for it seems that Laban-- being a bigger weasel than Jacob once was- probably would have sent Jacob away empty handed.
-After a 7 day chase (for Laban got his men together and chased Jacob and his family) and God intervening by means of a dream to Laban (essentially telling Laban that he was dead meat if he touched Jacob), Jacob was free of Laban and his tyranny.
This brings us to the door of the passages we are going to consider today - Genesis 32-33

-Immediately after Laban leaves and goes home, Jacob turns his attention to his next big challenge, meeting his brother Esau-- who he was worried would kill him once he found out that he was back in the land.

READ TEXT-- and as we read: Can you think of a person who you need to be reconciled with? Further: What lessons does this passage teach you as it regards how to be reconciled to another?


1. From the point of God's call, to his return to the Promised Land 20 years later, Jacob grew a lot spiritually

-Jacob's 20 hard years in Padan Aram had taught him and transformed him (such was God's work)
- What's amazing as you read through the text is how gentle and other's focused Jacob had become (he's concerned firstly for the safety of his family and children and animals and their young). It's not just about him anymore. Jacob is also, for the first time, actually concerned about his brother Esau-- Yes he was afraid- but he seems to have finally realized what a jerk he had been to his brother.

Over time we are supposed to grow and produce spiritual fruit-- Such is the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in our lives.

2. Jacob got a new and very fitting name

In the later part of Genesis 32 we are told of an interesting wrestling match that Jacob engaged in (with a angel -- Hosea 12:4) The end result is a new name for Jacob "Israel" which means "he struggles with God"

His name fit because Jacob did everything the hard way-- even as a follower of God. He struggled with God and man-- and yet-- as was seen in the wrestling match-- Jacob was tenacious. Jacob was not one who gave up.

Jacob's new name was quite a change from his old one-- "he who grasps/deceiver". Such reflects the transformation that God worked in his life. This also reminds me of Jesus' words to the believers in the church of Pergamum in Revelation 3:17 "To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it."

3. While Jacob was a transformed man, he still struggled with many of the same temptations and sins that preceded his conversion

Old habits and sins die hard.

Jacob's ongoing struggles

a. The temptation to rely on ones own resources and wits to get out of trouble

-Jacob did this, hatching up an elaborate plan with the messengers and wave after wave of gifts coming at Esau as Jacob drew near.

b. Trust God or fear man

An interesting verse I happened across this week from Proverbs 29:25 says; "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.". Similar verses include Hebrews 13:6 and Psalm 118:6

Jacob was absolutely terrified of Esau and what he might do to his family and him (For Esau was coming to him with 400 men). The irony is: God had told Jacob to go back. God had told Jacob that he would protect him. God had kept Laban from harming him. Right after Laban had left, God sent some angels to him to encourage him (32:1-2)

God is all powerful and holy, we are to fear and revere Him, not people.

c. Deceive or tell the truth

After the reconciliation of Jacob and Esau, Jacob, in essence, says to Esau (who wants Jacob to go with him to where he was living) "you go ahead I'll catch up to you and join you" Genesis 33:14. THE PROBLEM: Jacob had no intent on doing that. He lied. He deceived his brother (again)

Jacob's deception cost him big time- for the place where he went in the land was not good. (The end result was that one of his daughters was raped-- which led to his sons killing all the men of that town, which led to Jacob having to leave the area)

For our encouragement: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Corinthians 10:13


The Scriptures plainly teach us that holding grudges, not forgiving, and living in a state of conflict and unease with others is wrong. To the contrary, we are to walk together in love and unity. This is why in Romans 12:16 it says to; "Live in harmony with one another." In Philippians 4:2, Paul says; "I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord." Psalm 133:1 also says "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!"

Biblical tips for reconciling

1. Pray v.9-12

The most important thing that Jacob did was pray. At the height of his distress (after hearing that Esau was coming to him with 400 men-- which was bit of overkill for their meeting)

Jacob's prayer: Desperate. Dependent. Humble. Thankful. Simple. Mindful of God's promises (which he reminds God of)-- which is ironic since God had went out of his way to remind him of.

One of the imbedded points in the text is this: Instead of leaping into action, Jacob should have prayed first. In my reading, one commentator noted this: Jacob was absorbed with his meeting with Esau-- but his most important meeting was with God. He needed to make the connection that his meeting with God would prove the best preparation for his meeting with his brother.***

We are to pray in all things! (Philippians 4:6)

Are you having a difficult time with a person-- it could be a friend, enemy, co-worker, your child, your spouse, whoever-- take it to the Lord in prayer. Ask God for help, for wisdom, for peace, for the right words, for the right attitude in your heart and theirs.

2. Initiate the process

In Jacob's favour is his taking the initiative in reaching out to his brother (Genesis 32:3-5)

A number of times in Genesis 32-33 we are told that Jacob wanted to find "favor" in his brother's eyes.

In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus says; "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."

As the followers of Christ, the onus is on us to initiate peace and reconciliation (whether we be in the "right" or "wrong"

While Jacob was right to get the "ball rolling" with his brother-- his mistake was not to pray about it first. Such explains the failure of 32:1-7***

3. Do what you can and within reason to compensate/make restitution to the person you've wronged

This is a bit a tricky point. Some commentators are critical of Jacob sending wave after wave of animals ahead of him to Esau, thinking that Jacob is trying to buy Esau off.

While Jacob confesses that he sent his gifts to pacify his brother (32:30) I don't get the sense that he was trying to manipulate Esau. As I read the text I see a Jacob who is afraid and yet who is also trying to write a wrong that he committed against his brother.

Another text that supports this point: In Luke 19:8, as a sign of true repentance, "Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."

Such corresponds to other verses in the Bible: Exodus 22:1; Leviticus 6:5; Numbers 5:7, etc

4. Be humble

Getting right with others requires that we humble ourselves.

Consider all the times that Jacob bowed down before his brother and how he had every servant who met with Esau ahead of time refer to him as Esau's servant.

Being humble and not prideful is a key to be reconciled to others.

5. Don't rely on your ingenuity and plans, give it all to God and trust Him

In Psalm 20:7 it says; "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God."

If God was not with and for Jacob-- he could have sent a million animals to Esau and bowed down a 100 times before him- and Esau still might have decided to take revenge on Jacob.

It was not Jacob's plans that saved him. It was not Jacob's plans that led to Esau running to Jacob, embracing him, throwing his arms around him and kissing him. It was not because a long time had passed that they reconciled that day. It was a work of God.

We must learn to commit ourselves and all things to God. We must learn to trust God.


With the reconciling and sacrificial work of Christ in mind- is there someone you need to make peace with?

In Christ we have the forgiveness of sins-- as we have been forgiven, we are to forgive others their trespasses.

If you find this hard, give it to God in prayer and ask that he fill your heart with a desire to forgive and to love your enemy.