Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Jacob and Esau: A Lesson in Forgiveness

Last night I read one of my favorite Old Testament Bible stories. It is the story of Jacob and Esau's reunion during Jacob's journey back to Canaan.

Jacob and Esau were twin brothers, Esau being the eldest. Esau was favored by his father, the great Patriarch Isaac, son of Abraham. Jacob was favored by his mother, Rebekah, who was told by the Lord:
Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. -Genesis 25:23
In normal circumstances Esau would have received both the birthright and first blessing from his father, Isaac. However, Esau traded his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of pottage, and was tricked out of his blessing when Jacob impersonated him.

This angered Esau - so much that Jacob had to leave the land of Canann and dwell with his Uncle Laban for several years. After being tricked out of Isaac's first blessing Esau said in his heart, "The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob."

After several years with Laban, the Lord commanded Jacob to return to Canaan. By this time Jacob had four wives and eleven sons. He had also become wealthy and had many servants, cattle and sheep.

During his journey Jacob was told that Esau was approaching to meet him. This struck fear in Jacob:

9 And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:

10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.

11 Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. -Genesis 32:9-11

With good reason Jacob feard Esau because of what had transpired between these two brothers in the past.

To try and pacify Esau Jacob sent many sheep and cattle as a gift. As Esau approached Jacob went ahead of his women and children. What happened was unexpected and one of the greatest scenes of forgiveness and love in the Bible:

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

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.

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.

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. -Genesis 33:4-9

The first time I read this scripture I remember weeping as I felt Esau's spirit of forgiveness and love.

It is my desire that I can approach others that have wronged me with the same love and forgiveness as Esau. May we all strive for this, making the world a better place.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

I find this interesting that you posted this just days before President Faust gave his masterful sermon on Forgiveness. Thanks for your insights that are always rooted in scripture. It is nice to find a blogger who has this emphasis in his posts, as I hope to do the same as I share with friends and family via my blog.