What is less well known is that Jacob was 77 years of age when he left home. It was about time for him to get out on his own. 

After serving his uncle for Leah and Rachel for twenty years, Jacob was 97 when God told him to return to his home country.  Sending messengers ahead to Esau, they hurried back to Jacob to tell him that Esau was coming east with 400 men (32:6).  This petrified Jacob (32:7).   

Jacob had Two Meetings Before He Met Esau   First, God sent angels to intercept Jacob. We are told nothing about what passed between them, but it must have been most re-assuring that God sent supernatural messengers to met him.   

Twice in his prayer 31:9-12), Jacob reminded God of what He said in 31:3 – that God would prosper him and make his descendants like the sand of the sea.  This assumes – but does not clearly say – Jacob will be alive to enjoy the fulfillment.

Second,  as Jacob wrestled with an angel, the question was asked, “What is your name” (32:27)?  Jacob stated his name, the significance of which was that he was being forced he acknowledge the accuracy of is name – Jacob means trickster or supplanter. In other words, his second meeting was with himself. He agreed that he was a schemer. He had tricked Esau twice and then Label tricked him by changing his wages ten times (31:41;  if Jacob was not exaggeration). 

Mutual Wrong    As Laban deceived Jacob, the Spirit of God had all the raw material to whisper in Jacob’s ear, “How does it feel to be deceived Jacob?  Instead of helping your brother when he was famished (25:29), you took advantage of his hunger to bargain for his birthright (32). It’s not so much fun now, is it Jacob?”1  While Jacob was wrong to take advantage of Esau’s hunger, Scripture says Esau “despised his birthright.”  Both men look pretty slimy, causing them to be soften toward each other, recognizing their own failure.  

Humbling Maturity  Life has a way of humbling us, forcing us toward depend-ence on the Lord. Jacob described his 20 years of shepherding saying, “. . . the heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes” (31:40).  The bump and grind of life matures us.  Normal stress and tensions change us.  Make us more sympathetic toward other people who are also navigating the blackberry patch. One does not get very old in life before losing in a test of wills.  Defeats come to all of us. God arranges this.  Humiliation matures us.   

Esau   Why did Esau take 400 men with him to meet Jacob? Maybe because Jacob had cheated him and he had Mom & Dad in his hip pocket. Esau seems to have adopted a “Let’s wait and see. I want to be prepared for anything.”  True, Esau arrived at wanting reconciliation, the years having drained the poison out of being cheated.  And Esau had done well for himself, having the allegiance of 400 men.   

Gifts are Powerful   Proverbs 21:14 says, “A gift given in secret soothes anger. . .”
Jacob sent three waves of animals to Esau as gifts (32:13-21).  Gifts are powerful. 

Five factors make Jacob’s attitude clear:  Each was instructed to call Esau (1) “Lord Esau” that the (2) animals were for him; a gift.  (3) That the herdsmen bow down to Esau (implied from him bowing down (33:3). (4) Jacob instructing the herdsmen to say, “He [Jacob] was coming behind us.” (5) Jacob was not presumptive: “. . . perhaps he will receive me” (32:20).  

Conclusion   “But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept (33:4). Esau embraced Jacob, put his fears to rest.  Blessed re-union.  

  1. Still not totally cured of his scheming tendency, 31:20 says, “Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. And 32:20 adds that Jacob hoped his droves would pacific Esau (32:20). On the other hand,  let’s give Jacob credit for being up front with Esau about coming behind the droves (32:18 and 20).