Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Esau Wants Jacob To Go On With Him -- Genesis 33:12-14

Then Esau said, “Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.” But he said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die. Please let my lord pass on before his servant; and I will proceed at my leisure, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord at Seir.”

For some reason, the story seems to take a most interesting turn at this point. Having been reconciled to Jacob and having accepted his gifts, Esau now suggests that they travel to Seir together, he going in front of Jacob’s family. That suggestion, one would think, would make a lot of sense now that the ‘family’ was reunited. Esau was offering himself to Jacob as a guide and companion, as well as providing any necessary help that may be needed along the way through his own men. Jacob, on the other hand, seems to have had other plans. Either he still had some fear in him as to any tricks that Esau might be up to or he truly had the best interests of his children and flocks in mind when he suggested what he did. A third possibility is that he himself never intended to go on to Seir with Esau. His responsibility had been met and his fear of being killed eliminated. He was satisfied with the reconciliation and now wanted to get on with his own life apart from his brother, Esau. Which of these possibilities is more likely to have been the case may be discovered later in the text.

So Jacob appeals to Esau’s understanding that the children in Jacob’s company were tired and perhaps somewhat ill from all the travel and that he was concerned about his animals that were nursing their young, fearing that if they were driven too hard, the young ones might die. Clearly, some of Jacob’s children were indeed still young and it was likely the time of the year when cattle had just had calves. So perhaps Jacob was just being a good husband, father, and shepherd. And there is much to be said for that. We need to be very conscious of the needs of those God has put under our care as we live our lives. They must become and remain our first priority, even at the expense of our wishes or preferences. I believe this is also implies that we cannot let our ministry involvement be such as to jeopardize the welfare and needs of those in our care. Many have done so and expected to be blessed.

Jacob asks Esau to comply with his request to go on ahead of Jacob and promises to meet him in Seir. He indicated that he and his company would follow at his leisure and in accordance with the pace that first the animals, and then his own children, could handle. One interesting thought here is the fact that Jacob did not ask Esau to slow his travels down to accommodate his own needs. We cannot have those expectations of others who are wishing to move on ahead whether it be in travel, in business, or in ministry. We must encourage them to move forward as God directs them and we will, at some point, as God directs us, catch up.

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