Summary: Jacob had left home and a very angry brother 20 years earlier. Now his brother, Esau, was coming to meet Jacob with 400 armed soldiers. Jacob was probably expecting a final (!) good bye but not the "hello!' Esau gave him!
Introduction: Jacob had left his home and family about 20 years before this event. Esau, his twin brother, was so upset at the time that he wanted to kill Jacob! Now that Jacob was returning to his home area, he sent messengers to Esau. The reply? “Esau is coming to meet you, and he’s bringing 400 men with him!”
Now what was Jacob going to do?
1 “Hello, brother”: Esau arrived with his men
Text: Genesis 33:1-3, KJV: 1 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. 2 And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost. 3 And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
Jacob and his household had left the land of Laban and were heading back to the land of Canaan. They had all crossed the Jabbok River and they were apparently settling there in Mahanaim for the time being (Genesis 32).
Then one night, Jacob had a unique experience: he found himself wrestling with God during most of the night! These two people, Jacob and the Guest, stayed at it until daybreak. Genesis 32:22-30 covers this briefly but I’m sure this was something Jacob never forgot.
Now Jacob has sent messengers to his twin brother, Esau, who was living many miles away. These two hadn’t seen each other in 20 years or so and when they left, they didn’t part as friends; no, not at all (Genesis 26 has that story). The messengers from Jacob returned with some news that made Jacob absolutely frightened:
We’re not sure how much time went by between the arrival of the messengers, and the arrival of Esau and his men. The arrival of 400 soldiers, probably armed to the teeth, would make an impression on anyone, especially someone who was afraid of this group to begin with.
Jacob had already arranged a massive gift for Esau, plenty of animals (over 500 of various kinds!) according to Gen. 32:13-21 in order to “appease” Esau so that, maybe, Esau would accept not only the gift but also Jacob himself.
And as if the gift of the animals wasn’t enough (Jacob probably hoped), Jacob brought his family in waves with Bilhah, Zilpah, and their four children first, then Leah and her children, with Rachel and Joseph at the rear. Jacob led the way before them and bowed seven times to the ground until he came near to Esau. This would have been difficult, perhaps, because he may have still been limping on one of his legs due to the damage he had suffered earlier.
Jacob had approached Esau, so now, what would Esau do?
2 “What’s all this, my brother?” Esau appraised Jacob’s presents
Text, Genesis 33:4-11, KJV: 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. 10 And 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. 11 Take, 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.
Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon on this text, and two of the points (I don’t remember all of them) centered on “a godly man who had enough” and “an ungodly man who had enough”, based on an outline in a book of his sermon notes. I read parts of that book many years ago but I don’t remember the title (it may have been “My Sermon Notes” or something along those lines). Most anything from Spurgeon is profitable for anyone to read or, even better, to use!
Jacob was probably not expecting a very warm welcome, given what had happened before, but he must have been amazed when he saw Esau RUN to him! Even better, Esau “embraced” Jacob (wanna bet that was a bear hug like few others?) and then “fell on Jacob’s neck and kissed him”! And imagine this—they both wept. Openly. How different from 20 years before!