Jacob and Esau entered the world engaged in conflict with one another. Their conflict escalated to involve their favoring parents and came to a climax in a cockamamie plot in which the younger swindled the blessing from the other. These brothers were dysfunctional long before modern psychology popularized that term.
At heart, their battle was birthed in a fear of scarcity and a desperate need to secure the blessing. While that might seem strange to us, we must understand that in their culture, the blessing meant everything: promise, security, approval, significance, land, and authority. Primogeniture secured these to the oldest child, but Jacob and Rachel, informed by a promise of God, but mislead by their own impatience and imperfections, would have it be otherwise.
When we think of these brothers, the scenes that rush to mind are a hand grabbing a heal, a hairy mantle, a blind and befuddled father whose stomach took over, and someone pouting over soup; however, their tale did not end there. Genesis 33 gives us a snapshot of a powerful reconciliation and reunion between these two long-estranged brothers. We would do well to let their end overshadow their shady beginning.
Scarcity & Abundance for Them
Their estrangement began with Jacob wisely fleeing for his life; after all, his brother was a great hunter and an incredible shot. I cannot imagine all the imaginary dialogues that happened in Jacob and Esau’s heads over the decades that followed. The regret, the anger, the longing, and the questions posed.
Genesis 33 picks up with an aged and changed Jacob who has just had his epic and limp-inducing wrestle with the angel of the Lord. He is understandably anxious about meeting his brother for the first time since he fled as a young man many years before. He sends gifts and an entourage to prepare Esau for his coming and humbly prepares for the worst.
“He himself went on before them [his wives and children], bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept” (Genesis 33:3-4).
Two time- and experience-changed brothers weep and hug as they are reunited. They begin tear-filled introductions to previously unknown and unmet sisters-in-law and nieces and nephews. Then conversation picks back up with Esau asking why all the pomp and circumstance.
“Esau said, ‘What do you mean by all this company that I met?’ Jacob answered, ‘To find favor in the sight of my lord.’ But Esau answered, ‘I have enough, my brother.’ (Genesis 33:9).
Then the sweetest sibling squabble of seeking to outdo one another in honor ensues. What a juxtaposition from their early squabbles over what they perceived to be a scarcity of blessing.
“Jacob said…’Please accept my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough’.” (Genesis 33:11).
The brothers who had grown to hate one another out of fear of scarcity embrace, having finally recognized the abundance of their God.
That repeated phrase, “I have enough” stood out to me, especially considering the pair from which it was coming. As young brothers, they had fiercely fought over the blessing, thinking God was a God of scarcity. Yet, here, as older men, they are fighting to confer the blessing on one another, having seen and experienced the abundance of their God.
Scarcity & Abundance for Us
While we may consider ourselves and our society far advanced from fights over stealing birthrights, the same battle out of scarcity ravages our society and our souls.
Parents paying to secure a spot for their children in prestigious universities. Companies, politicians, and news stations fighting for airspace in which to continue their colonization of the minds of the public. Political parties grasping at each other’s heels, fighting for the seats of power.
The message is clear, sometimes even in the Church. There is not enough to go around. It is every man, woman, and child for him or herself. Grab and seize.
We have much to learn from the aged and experienced Jacob and Esau. After having spent their lives conniving and grasping, hoarding power and position, they realize they have enough. If they began to recognize the abundant, superfluous nature of the love of God then, how much more might we recognize it, standing on the other side of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
In Christ we have far more than enough. We have all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly realms (see Ephesians 1). We have been conferred with blessing upon blessing (see Psalm 103).
As we trudge forward in the political power war of scarcity in which we find ourselves, may we spend more time swimming in the abundance of Christ.