7 Feb. Jacob meets his brother Esau
“Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and with him were 400 men. So Jacob divided his children among Leah, Rachel and the two slave girls. Jacob put the slave girls with their children first, then Leah and her children behind them, and Rachel and Joseph last.”
“Jacob himself went out in front of them and bowed down flat on the ground seven times as he was walking towards his brother.”
“But Esau ran to meet Jacob and put his arms around him and hugged him. Then Esau kissed him, and they both cried.”
“When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he asked, ‘Who are these people with you?’ Jacob answered, ‘These are the children God has given me. God has been good to me, your servant.’"
“Then the two slave girls and their children came up to Esau and bowed down flat on the earth before him. Leah and her children also came up to Esau and also bowed down flat on the earth. Last of all, Joseph and Rachel came up to Esau, and they, too, bowed down flat before him.”
“Esau said, ‘I saw many herds as I was coming here. Why did you bring them?’ Jacob answered, ‘They were to please you, my master.’ But Esau said, ‘I already have enough, my brother. Keep what you have.’”
“Jacob said, ‘No! Please! If I have pleased you, then accept the gift I give you. I am very happy to see your face again. It is like seeing the face of God, because you have accepted me. So I beg you to accept the gift I give you. God has been very good to me, and I have more than I need.’”
“And because Jacob begged, Esau accepted the gift.”
Jacob made elaborate arrangements to meet his brother Esau near the River Jabbok. Jacob was very scared because, when he was younger, he’d cheated Esau out of both his birthright and his father’s blessing, and Esau had sworn to kill him in revenge (see Genesis 27:1-45).
So when Jacob saw Esau approaching with 400 of his men, he feared the worst, and split up his family to try and ensure that at least some of his children survived. He put the children born to his slave girls in the most vulnerable position at the front of his party, and put his favourite son Joseph, with his mother Rachel, in the safest place at the rear.
Jacob had already sent generous gifts of sheep and cattle on ahead of him, with instructions that they were to be presented to Esau in order to pacify him and seek reconciliation.
But Esau had long since forgiven Jacob and was overjoyed to see him again after so many years. He was delighted that God had blessed his younger brother, and declined the gifts offered by Jacob.
Jacob, conscious of how much he had cheated Esau in the past, begged his brother to accept his gifts of sheep and cattle, and eventually Esau was persuaded to accept Jacob’s gifts. Jacob was relieved that the worst danger had passed, and he began plotting how to return to Canaan before his brother changed his mind.
The photo (by Dr Meierhofer) shows a ford on the River Jabbok near the place where Jacob and Esau met.
You can read more about the background to their encounter @ The Bible Journey | Jacob returns to Canaan and meets Esau