Children’s Study – Jacob, Part 12 – Jacob Meets Esau

Jacob – Part 12, Jacob meets Esau

Last time we saw Jacob preparing to meet Esau after twenty years of staying with Laban. The very reason Jacob went to Laban, his uncle, was to flee from his angry brother who was threatening to kill him.

We also saw God sending His angels to encourage Jacob before this meeting. Jacob is obviously nervous, even twice causing him to call his brother “lord” or “master”.

Gen 32:4 (ESV) instructing them, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have sojourned with Laban and stayed until now.
Gen 32:5 I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male servants, and female servants. I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.'”

It is very important to remember that it is God controlling what is happening to Jacob and to everyone around Jacob. It is God who caused Esau to bring four hundred men to drive Jacob to the brink of desperation and cause him to pray.

Gen 32:9 (ERV) Then Jacob said, “God of my father Abraham! God of my father Isaac! LORD, you told me to come back to my country and to my family. You said that you would do good to me.
Gen 32:10 You have been very kind to me. You did many good things for me. The first time I traveled across the Jordan River, I owned nothing–only my walking stick. But now I own enough things to have two full groups.
Gen 32:11 I ask you to please save me from my brother Esau. I am afraid that he will come and kill us all, even the mothers with the children.
Gen 32:12 Lord, you said to me, ‘I will be good to you. I will increase your family and make your children as many as the sands of the sea. There will be too many to count.'”

We pick up in the story after Jacob has done more preparations for his meeting with his brother.

Gen 32:22 (KJV) And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok.
Gen 32:23 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had.
Gen 32:24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
Gen 32:25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.

Jacob has sent his family and everything that he had across the Jabbok River that night. When he was left alone in the camp, we are told about this strange thing that happened to him. There was a man who came and wrestled with him all night! This man couldn’t beat him so he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh to dislocate it.

Gen 32:26 (KJV) And he [the man Jacob was wrestling with] said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
Gen 32:27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
Gen 32:28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

Now we know whom this man Jacob was wrestling with all night is. It is the Lord Himself who appeared to Jacob as a man. But why couldn’t the man beat Jacob if He was the Lord Himself? Well, He actually beat Jacob after He touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh, but that is not the point our Lord is trying to make.

The point of the Lord appearing in the form of a man is to teach us that He relates to us in our human condition.

Heb 2:16 (MKJV) For truly He did not take the nature of angels, but He took hold of the seed of Abraham.
Heb 2:17 (ERV) For this reason, Jesus had to be made like us, his brothers and sisters, in every way. He became like people so that he could be their merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Then he could bring forgiveness for the people’s sins.
Heb 2:18 And now he can help those who are tempted. He is able to help because he himself suffered and was tempted.

Our Lord knows all the sufferings and temptations that we go through as human beings because “He himself suffered and was tempted” as a man in sinful flesh and blood. That is the point the Lord was making when He appeared as a man to Jacob.

It is also during that night that the Lord changed Jacob’s name into Israel.

Gen 32:28 (KJV) And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

Let’s look back what the name Jacob meant when he and his twin brother Esau were born:

Gen 25:24 (ESV) When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb.
Gen 25:25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau.
Gen 25:26 Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

Jacob was named Jacob because he was holding Esau’s heel when he was born. Jacob means one that “supplants” or replaces someone. Jacob is a symbol of our new man who replaces our old man. The new man in each one of us will receive the blessings of God, but not the old man in each one of us.

We know Jacob received his father’s blessings only by cheating Esau with the help of their mother Rebekah. The Lord changed Jacob’s name to Israel only after He had humbled Jacob so much by making him suffer for twenty years under Laban’s household. The Lord blessed Jacob only after He had given Jacob the scare of his life by causing Esau to come with a small army of men.

Gen 32:29 (ESV) Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.
Gen 32:30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”
Gen 32:31 (LITV) And the sun rose on him as he passed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh.

The thigh is the symbol of our strength. The Lord dislocated Jacob’s thigh to teach us that we must not rely on our own strength as we fight the spiritual battles in this life.

Gen 32:32 (LITV) On account of this the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew [muscle] of the thigh that is on the hip socket until this day, because He touched on Jacob’s hip socket, on the sinew of the thigh.

The Jews have this practice of not eating a certain part of the thigh muscle of an animal because of what happened to their father Jacob (now called Israel). This practice is merely a symbol of God’s people not relying on their own strength but on the strength of God to deliver them from the evil of this world.

2Co 12:9 (KJV) And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2Co 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Let’s continue the story:

Gen 33:1 (ESV) And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two female servants.
Gen 33:2 And he put the servants with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all.
Gen 33:3 He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.

The Lord blessed Jacob with both boldness and humility as Jacob decides to face Esau with his family. But “he himself went on before them” as a good leader of his household.

Jacob displayed this humble attitude by bowing to the ground seven times as he walked towards his brother. The elect are the first to realize that they are also sinners like the rest of the world, and it is only by God’s grace that they are able to rise up from their sins.

Pro 24:16 (MKJV) for a just one falls seven times, and rises up again; but the wicked shall fall into evil.

1Ti 1:15 (MKJV) This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

Let’s continue the story:

Gen 33:4 (GNB) When Esau saw Jacob, he ran to meet him. He put his arms around Jacob, hugged his neck, and kissed him. Then they both cried.

So this humility toward his brother produced a good result for Jacob. Esau hugged and kissed him. He seemed to be very happy to see Jacob again. The way Esau is treating Jacob is also a fruit of how Jacob made peace with Laban even after Laban mistreated him for a long time.

Gen 33:5 (ERV) Esau looked up and saw the women and children. He said, “Who are all these people with you?” Jacob answered, “These are the children that God gave me. God has been good to me.”

Esau then met Jacob’s family who also displayed humility towards Esau, following the leadership of Jacob.

Gen 33:6 (ERV) Then the two maids and the children with them went to Esau. They bowed down before him.
Gen 33:7 Then Leah and the children with her went to Esau and bowed down. And then Rachel and Joseph went to him and bowed down.

Esau then asked about the herds of animals that Jacob sent before him as gifts to his brother.

Gen 33:8 Esau asked, (GNB) “What about that other group I met? What did that mean?” Jacob answered, “It was to gain your favor.”
Gen 33:9 But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have.”

It is in these words of Esau that we see a hint of pride. Esau was also blessed physically as was Jacob. But spiritually, it is only Jacob who was chosen by God to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

Gen 33:10 (GNB) Jacob said, “No, please, if I have found favor in your sight, then accept my present from my hand. For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me.
Gen 33:11 Please accept my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough.” Thus he urged him, and he took it.

Jacob acknowledged that everything he was offering Esau came from God, and we know that it was the Lord who moved Esau to accept Jacob’s gifts. It is also the Lord who moved Esau to offer Jacob some protection:

Gen 33:12 (GNB) Then Esau said, “Let us journey on our way, and I will go ahead of you.”

But Jacob didn’t allow this and respectfully declined Esau’s offer. This is to teach us that we must not allow our flesh to lead our actions. It is the words of Christ in the Bible that must be our guide in how to live this life.

Gen 33:13 (GNB) But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail, and that the nursing flocks and herds are a care to me. If they are driven hard for one day, all the flocks will die.
Gen 33:14 Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly, at the pace of the livestock that are ahead of me and at the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”

Jacob is also being considerate here of the weak among his family and his flock. This is a lesson for those who are mature to be patient and considerate to those who are just beginning to follow our Lord.

Gen 33:15 (GNB) Esau said, “Then let me leave some of my men with you.” But Jacob answered, “There is no need for that for I only want to gain your favor.”
Gen 33:16 So that day Esau started on his way back to Edom.
Gen 33:17 But Jacob went to Sukkoth, where he built a house for himself and shelters for his livestock. That is why the place was named Sukkoth.

As a symbol of Christ, Jacob continued to be a good leader of his household. Although he was patient with the weak, he had always been the one who gave the direction where to go. He also always built a place of shelter for his family and for his flock.

Let’s review the lessons we have learned today:

1. God is controlling everything that happens in our life, as He has controlled everything that happened to Jacob.
2. The Lord knows all the struggles that we go through as human beings because He also lived as a man, given the same sinful flesh that we have.
3. We must not rely on our own strength, but on the power of God to save us from the evil of this world.
4. We must not allow the flesh and its desires to dictate what we do. What we do in this life must be always based in the Bible.
5. A mature Christian should always display humility, acknowledging that everything that he has came from God.
6. A mature Christian is patient and considerate to those who are not yet mature in their understanding and faith.
7. A true leader always provide for the need of God’s household, the spiritual flock of God.

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