It’s been over 20 years since Jacob fled from his father’s home in Canaan because his brother Esau wanted to kill him for stealing his birthright and blessing. Jacob didn’t know what to expect. He was afraid. He was coming back with wealth, but he was also vulnerable. He was traveling with his 4 wives and his 12 kids — some very young. So, he gets the bright idea to send a parade of gifts to Esau. Can forgiveness be bought? Let’s dig in….
Genesis 32-33 – Jacob Goes Home
3 Then Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother, Esau, who was living in the region of Seir in the land of Edom. 4 He told them, “Give this message to my master Esau: ‘Humble greetings from your servant Jacob. Until now I have been living with Uncle Laban, 5 and now I own cattle, donkeys, flocks of sheep and goats, and many servants, both men and women. I have sent these messengers to inform my lord of my coming, hoping that you will be friendly to me.’”
6 After delivering the message, the messengers returned to Jacob and reported, “We met your brother, Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you—with an army of 400 men!” 7 Jacob was terrified at the news. He divided his household, along with the flocks and herds and camels, into two groups. 8 He thought, “If Esau meets one group and attacks it, perhaps the other group can escape.”
9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father, Isaac—O Lord, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’ 10 I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps! 11 O Lord, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children. 12 But you promised me, ‘I will surely treat you kindly, and I will multiply your descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore—too many to count.’”Genesis 32:3-12 NLt
Does God Need to be Reminded of His Promises?
Jacob prays God’s promises back to Him. Not that God would forget, but Jacob remembered and is trusting God. It’s more for his own assurance. Jacob remembers that God promised that his descendants would be “as numerous as the sands along the seashore.” If Esau comes with an army of 400 to kill him and his whole family, how can that happen?
However, Jacob still takes matters into his own hands. He tries to buy Esau’s love and forgiveness with a parade of gifts, hoping that the gifts would change Esau’s heart. As it turns out, he didn’t need to.
Jacob Wrestles with God
22 During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. 23 After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions.
24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 “What is your name?” the man asked.
He replied, “Jacob.”
28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”
29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.
“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.
30 Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip.Genesis 32:22-31 NLT
Did Jacob Wrestle with Jesus?
We have here yet another appearance of a god-like stranger powerful enough to cripple Jacob with one touch. Was this the pre-incarnate Jesus?
Jacob is renamed “Israel”, which means “He Strives with God” or “God Fights”. That’s a better name than “Jacob”, which means “deceiver”, which He was.
Jacob and Esau Make Peace
Then Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming with his 400 men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and his two servant wives. 2 He put the servant wives and their children at the front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. 3 Then Jacob went on ahead. As he approached his brother, he bowed to the ground seven times before him. 4 Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept.
5 Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, “Who are these people with you?”
“These are the children God has graciously given to me, your servant,” Jacob replied. 6 Then the servant wives came forward with their children and bowed before him. 7 Next came Leah with her children, and they bowed before him. Finally, Joseph and Rachel came forward and bowed before him.
8 “And what were all the flocks and herds I met as I came?” Esau asked.
Jacob replied, “They are a gift, my lord, to ensure your friendship.”
9 “My brother, I have plenty,” Esau answered. “Keep what you have for yourself.”
10 But Jacob insisted, “No, if I have found favor with you, please accept this gift from me. And what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God! 11 Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift.
12 “Well,” Esau said, “let’s be going. I will lead the way.”
13 But Jacob replied, “You can see, my lord, that some of the children are very young, and the flocks and herds have their young, too. If they are driven too hard, even for one day, all the animals could die. 14 Please, my lord, go ahead of your servant. We will follow slowly, at a pace that is comfortable for the livestock and the children. I will meet you at Seir.”
15 “All right,” Esau said, “but at least let me assign some of my men to guide and protect you.”
Jacob responded, “That’s not necessary. It’s enough that you’ve received me warmly, my lord!”
16 So Esau turned around and started back to Seir that same day. 17 Jacob, on the other hand, traveled on to Succoth. There he built himself a house and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place was named Succoth (Sukkot) (which means “shelters”).
18 Later, having traveled all the way from Paddan-aram, Jacob arrived safely at the town of Shechem, in the land of Canaan. There he set up camp outside the town. 19 Jacob bought the plot of land where he camped from the family of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for 100 pieces of silver. 20 And there he built an altar and named it El-Elohe-Israel. (God, the God of Israel.)Genesis 33:1-20 NLT
The Feast of Sukkot or Shelters is celebrated by Jews all over the world every year, in the fall, in remembrance of this event and in expectation of the Messiah coming to live among them. I explain this in the study on John 7 when Jesus goes to the Sukkot Festival in Jerusalem.
Can Forgiveness be Bought?
God answered Jacob’s prayer for protection by changing Esau’s heart. At any rate, Esau didn’t want or need the gifts. Furthermore, Jacob, his wives and children all bowed — humbled themselves — in front of Esau. Esau then offered them protection and a guide to their final destination.
God’s Forgiveness is FREE!
We don’t have to approach God with a parade of gifts, money or good deeds! His forgiveness is FREE! We just have to come to Him with a humble and repentant heart. When you admit that you’re a sinner — and we all are — and repent of your sins — that is, stop sinning — Jesus forgives your sins past, present AND future. That’s the salvation that can only come THROUGH Jesus and no one or nothing else. Not a church, not a priest, not Mary or anything that you do on your own.
Stop Wrestling with God!
Stop trying to make deals with Him. Surrender your life to Him and get the gift of Eternal Life.
If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, this is what you have to do…
Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.
- Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
- Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180 in your life and surrender your life to Him.
- Be Baptized — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
- Receive the Holy Spirit in your heart.
Friend of God
Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!
Top image by Sweet Publishing from FreeBibleImages.org, (CC BY-SA 3.0)