Friday, January 08, 2010

Esau Reacts to the Gifts -- Genesis 33:10


And Jacob said, “No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then take my present from my hand, for I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably.”

It appears that Esau has appreciated Jacob’s intentions in giving him the gifts, but as he has plenty, he suggests that Jacob keep his possessions. Jacob, on the other hand, being a strong-willed and determined fellow, does not settle for that and he proceeds to try and convince Esau to keep the gifts. He does so with a very interesting question. He basically asks Esau, “Have I found favor in your sight or have I not?” The implication is “if I have (found favor) then you need to take my presents for nothing else makes sense”.

I think that’s a fair statement. If we indeed have reconciled with someone, there are certain behaviors and rules of etiquette that must be followed as they make sense. We cannot say one thing with our tongue and do another with our hands and feet.

Jacob even tells Esau “I know you have received me favorably.” And the reason for that is “I see your face as one sees the face of God.” What was that all about? Is it possible that just as God had spoke to Laban when he was chasing Jacob and said, "Don't touch him, don't do him harm, don't speak to him good or evil" that God also interfered and touched Esau in the same manner. So much so that the anger and the bitterness of what had happened many years before all dissipated. It was now time for a much needed and very beautiful reunion of two brothers. God has a wonderful way of doing that sometimes, even if it is just the angry feeling, “Oh, what’s the use of still being angry!”

Something else we should be mindful of with respect to the culture that Jacob and Esau lived in. One only accepts gifts from a friend and never from an enemy. Jacob could be feeling that if Esau did not accept the gifts he still really seeing him as an enemy and the whole reconciliation process was a big façade.

Whatever the thinking behind that phrase, we can assume that Jacob was indeed satisfied with his brother’s favor. I remember meeting friends of my dad’s after he had died that had desperately want to see him before his passing but could not. One of them said, “Seeing you is like seeing your dad. You have made us so happy in coming.” In a way, they were paying me a compliment implying that “Seeing you was as if we had seen your dad and you know how much we wanted to see him.” Jacob felt the same way. What Esau did by showing his younger brother favor, was, in Jacob’s mind, an act of kindness and love that could only be expressed by God. Jacob always yearned for God to be reconciled to both himself and to others in their lives. Reconciliation with Esau felt that good.

Finally, it is also possible that by saying, “I see your face as one sees the face of God” Jacob was acknowledging God’s part in what had just happened. And that really it was God’s favor to Jacob through Esau that was being recognized. This was God’s answer to Jacob’s prayers. It is always very important for us to remember the true source of all the favors we receive from men. We need to see them as evidence of our acceptance to God. And at the same time to rejoice whenever the favors of men include peace and affection, especially if there had been enmity in the past.

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