The Faith and Foolishness of Jacob 

GENESIS 33:1-17
Hiding Behind Women and Children
Genesis 33:1-3

     1 And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids.

Having wrestled with the Angel of the Lord, and lost, Jacob was ready to face his brother Esau, whom he was still terrified of after twenty years. The passage of time and distance does nothing to eliminate guilt and shame, which is why individuals need forgiveness.

Jacob knew he had not yet been forgiven by Esau, and so he put a buffer between himself and Esau. It was not one of his better moments in life, because Jacob put wave upon wave of livestock as gifts. Next, Jacob put women and children before him. Then, he waited in fear.

Many people are afraid to meet God in a moment of truth and judgment because of indiscretions committed in life. Some have tried to atone for their sins by good works, but in their hearts, they sense that is not enough. Some have heard that the Bible says that by the works of the Law no man can be justified in the sight of God, and they tremble.

When the crutch of self-righteousness is taken away, having been relied upon for the hope of heaven, it is a devastating moment. Every sinner knows that a buffer is needed between himself and God, who is holy, just, and good. A mediator is needed between the object of God’s wrath and Himself, for God is angry with the wicked every day.

That Mediator is Jesus Christ. The buffer between man and God is the cross. Those who hide themselves in the cross, those who are in Christ Jesus have nothing to fear for they are not depending upon something in themselves, their good works, or what a good person they think they are, they are depending upon the alien righteousness of another, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

     2 And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost.

     3 And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.

The great moment came. Esau arrived, and he was not alone. Befitting a man of great wealth, Esau arrived to met with Jacob accompanied by a large entourage of armed servants ready to do whatever their master commanded to be done.

As Esau approached, Jacob bowed down to the ground. Then he lifted his body partly upward, and bowed again, and again, and again. Seven times Jacob bowed before Esau. That number is significant. In Jewish custom, the number seven is a number of completion. By bowing seven times, Jacob was indicating his complete submission to his brother Esau.

By bowing seven times Jacob was symbolically indicating other unspoken words. He was saying by his actions, which sometimes speak louder than words, that he was sorry for what he had done twenty years earlier.

Jacob had bought the family birthright for a bowl of lentils. The legal transaction is recorded in Genesis 25:31-34.

“And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. 32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? 33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.”

A Surprisingly Positive Reception
Genesis 33:4

     4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.

The story of Jacob’s return home has a happy ending. Seeing Jacob prostrate before him, Esau ran to meet his brother. Esau embraced Jacob, fell on his neck, and together they wept, but for different reasons.

Jacob wept, no doubt, in gratitude, and relief that he was going to live, and at the joy of being forgiven.

Esau wept, because the passing of time had softened his heart, he had personally prospered and so could be magnanimous in spirit and forgiving. Many unbelievers are good people, they are just not spiritually minded.

Esau’s Amazement at Jacob’s Success
Genesis 33:5

     5 And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are those with thee? And he said, The children which God hath graciously given thy servant.

Respect Shown to Esau
Genesis 33:6-7

6 Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves.

7 And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves.

The Graciousness of Esau
Genesis 33:8-9

8 And he said, What meanest thou by all this drove which I met? And he said, These are to find grace in the sight of my lord.

9 And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.

Restitution and Personal Redemption
Genesis 33:10-11

10 And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me.

11 Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it.

Esau Invites Jacob to Abide with Him
Genesis 33:12

12 And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee.

Jacob’s Deep Distrust of Esau
Genesis 33:12

13 And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die.

14 Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir.

15 And Esau said, Let me now leave with thee some of the folk that are with me. And he said, What needeth it? Let me find grace in the sight of my lord.

Peace in the Family at Last
Genes 33:16-17

16 So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir.

17 And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.”

Consider a few Lessons to be Learned from this encounter in the closing verses, Genesis 33:5-17.

1. Christians should seek reconciliation and make restitution whenever possible.

2. Non-Christians can be virtuous and generous in their spirit. They can show compassion and forgive great injustices, if they choose to do so.

3. Christians should not always allow themselves to be taken advantage of. For twenty years Jacob was patient with Laban, but then, in the will of the Lord, separated himself from the ungodly.

4. Christians should amaze unbelievers as much as possible by having fortitude, wisdom, and wise investments.

5. Christians should be cautious when dealing with unbelievers. Jacob wisely kept a discredit respectful distance from Esau. Christians should be afraid of the Old Serpent, the Devil, and his children.

“On her way to work one morning
Down the path alongside the lake
A tender hearted woman saw a poor half frozen snake
His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew

“Oh well,” she cried, “I’ll take you in and I’ll take care of you”

“Take me in oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven’s sake
Take me in oh tender woman, “sighed the snake

She wrapped him up all cozy in a curvature of silk
And then laid him by the fireside with some honey and some milk

Now she hurried home from work that night as soon as she arrived
She found that pretty snake she’d taking in had been revived
“Take me in, oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven’s sake
Take me in oh tender woman, “sighed the snake

Now she clutched him to her bosom, “You’re so beautiful,” she cried
“But if I hadn’t brought you in by now you might have died”

Now she stroked his pretty skin and then she kissed and held him tight
But instead of saying thanks, that snake gave her a vicious bite

“Take me in, oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven’s sake
Take me in oh tender woman, “sighed the snake

“I saved you,” cried that woman
“And you’ve bit me even, why?

You know your bite is poisonous and now I’m going to die”

“Oh shut up, silly woman,” said the reptile with a grin
“You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in

“Take me in, oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven’s sake
Take me in oh tender woman, “sighed the snake

The Snake lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

6. As much as possible, live in peace with all men.

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