Twenty years before the time of our text, Esau had sworn to kill Jacob. And Jacob had fled, ashamed about stealing Esau’s blessing. What changed? Why did the older, alienated brother, embrace his brother (33:4)? What changes people? How does softening and forgiveness arise in our minds?
Let’s set the stage with what is commonly known:
- Isaac, the father of Esau and Jacob, was a passive man. Pushed from one well to the next (26:19 & 20; 26:21); dominated by his extremely capable wife; mourning long after a reasonable period (24:66).
- Rebekah — the mother of Esau and Jacob — was superb in her responses to the unnamed servant (she responded to his personal request for water and volunteered to water his camels, and she ran to do it; 24:44). Willing to leave her home, never to return and commit to a man she had never met, Rebekah was up for spiritual adventure. She gets an A+ for her attitude in Genesis 24.
- Jacob stayed home (25:27). He may have been a mama’s boy. Isaac loved the tasty food Esau provide through his hunting skill; but Rebekah favored Jacob (25:28).
- Isaac liked Esau’s food too much. “Tasty food” is mentioned seven (7) times in chapter 27. Us guys have to be careful that food does not become an idol. Isaac knew the prophecy that the elder would serve the younger (25:22 & 23), but he was so enamored with Esau’s food (25:28) that he was ready to violate (Genesis 27:2) the prophecy, which we would regard as the authoritative Word of God. Possibly Isaac admired in Esau what he never was or no longer was – a warrior / hunter.
- Rebekah, not willing to see the blessing go to Esau, deceived Isaac with Jacob’s full participation. Indeed, Jacob could think on his feet. When Jacob put on a disguise and brought in the food Rebekah had made, Isaac – who could no longer see – said, “How did you get the meat so fast? Think-ing fast, Jacob said, “The Lord helped me” (27:20). Jacob was well named.
- In 27:25 and 31 food is way out of balance. The blessing was secondary. Old, blind and dependent Isaac wanted to eat before he would bless a son.
- When Esau’s anger got reported to Mama, she swung into action again. Knowing the dominance she held over Isaac, she knew a bit of exaggerated femininity – some fainting fits – would manipulate Isaac into sending Jacob away. Rebekah said to Isaac, “I am disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living” (27:46) (spare me the high drama Rebekah; my blood pressure can’t stand it!). Classic feminine manipulation! A few tears, some emotional words and voila!
- So Isaac caved to Rebekah, called Jacob and sent him off to relatives in the east. When Esau learned Isaac had sent him off, and why – to find a wife – since Isaac technically held the power in the family – he realized how he could inflict pain on his parents. He quickly married a Canaanite women (28:9).
- Jacob met Rachel and served Laban, his uncle for 20 years for her hand in marriage. He got tricked into marrying Leah also.