Summary: Jacob must rely on the promise of God to protect him and bring him safely home.
Esau vowed to kill Jacob so Jacob left the Promised Land for twenty years. God called him to go back but dislocated his hip just before meeting Esau. Now Jacob has a terrible limp and is unable to defend himself and it’s been reported that Esau gallops his way with four-hundred other men. Now, more than ever, Jacob must rely on the promise of God to protect him and bring him safely home. It’s similar to King Jehoshaphat’s situation when an unwinnable war broke out against Judah. He prayed, O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee (II Chron. 20:12).
And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids. 2And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost. 3And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
Jacob arranges the people by preference and he himself moves to the front; if the unthinkable happens at least those behind him (especially Rachel and Joseph) have a better chance of living.
4And Esau ran to meet him,
You can imagine what’s going through his mind now.
and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.
God has changed the heart of Esau towards his brother. They have an emotional reunion:
5And 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. 6Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves. 7And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves. 8And 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. 9And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.
Jacob gave presents to Esau because he wanted him to be pleased but Esau refused them because he was truly reconciled with his brother. When we remember that their falling out was mostly over possessions, this is a big turnaround for each.
10And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me. 11Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it.
This reveals how Jacob sees God: “I’ve been unworthy my whole life, and you have every reason and right to kill me, but your forgiveness is a reminder and confirmation that God is gracious. Right now I’m more aware than ever that God really is on my side and He will do what He said.”
12And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee. 13And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die. 14Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir.
Esau offers to lead Jacob and his clan back home, but Jacob refuses because they can’t keep up with his men. Even one hard day and many of them will die. Jacob wants Esau to go ahead and he will catch up.
15And Esau said, Let me now leave with thee some of the folk that are with me. And he said, What needeth it? let me find grace in the sight of my lord. 16So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir.
Esau then offers to leave some men behind; we don’t know the reason for it and apparently neither does Jacob: “What needeth it?” So, Esau sees that Jacob needs nothing and he’ll be a while in coming so he goes on before him.
17And Jacob journeyed to Succoth,
Here’s a map to show the rest of Jacob’s travels. The blue line shows a straight trip to Seir, but we’re only told he went to Succoth: