Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. 2 He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. 4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. 5 Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked. Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.” 6 Then the female servants and their children approached and bowed down. 7 Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down.Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down. 8 Esau asked, “What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?” “To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said. 9 But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.” 10 “No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably. 11 Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.
4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.
Twenty years is a long time from Jacob’s point of view to wonder about the damage your behavior has done to your brother. He’s had plenty of time to imagine the possibilities of Esau’s anger and bitterness toward him. He’s not taking anything for granted in this reunion. He’s taken charge and is expecting to have to make substantial sacrifices in this effort to be reunited with his wronged brother, if he doesn’t get attacked first.
There are tears from both of them as they meet…of relief probably. The tension of these days of approach had to be intense. There is something intriguing about this reunion though. Both men had to do the same thing..but in very different ways. They had to submit.
Jacob is careful to humble himself repeatedly as he approaches Esau. He’s made it clear he’s willing to give his wealth, his possessions and possibly his life and family to Esau even though by “rights” he’s the one in authority. That could be what Jacob wants Esau to see; that he’s willing to submit his authority to Esau in the name of reconciliation.
Esau on the other hand is coming to meet Jacob with 400 men. It looks like an army! Hands-down he’s got the advantage of strength. I think Esau wants his brother to see he’s willing to submit that strength to him as he “runs” to meet Jacob and embraces him.
There’s no mention of the word forgiveness in this story as I would have expected. I sat here thinking about why that was so, when an old saying came to mind, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Wasn’t each brother imitating the other in their willingness to submit? God used that quirky thought to lead to this thought; maybe… “submission is the sincerest form of forgiveness.” Something new and intriguing to consider.