But Esau ran to meet him, threw his arms around his neck, kissed him, and they wept. — Genesis 33:4
Know anyone named Esau? I don’t. But there are a lot of Jacobs around.
This is totally unfair. One of the most dysfunctional families in the Bible is that of parents Isaac/Rebekah and sons Esau/Jacob. The younger son is the quintessential jerk who relentlessly schemes, lies, deceives, and steals. Esau is one of his brother’s chief victims, and has every right to get even with the creep who ruined his life.
But the reconciliation scene in Genesis 33 is stunning and unexpected. It reveals a deep, Christ-like character.
Jacob feared retributive violence, but Esau prepared for peace. No matter how he’d been mistreated, he was still able to remember that Jacob was his brother. Perhaps it was because time had softened his heart and the desire for payback melted. When the Bible says that in the reconciliation scene the two men wept, Jacob probably wept out of happiness that he hadn’t been killed. Esau, thought, cried because he was reunited with someone who shared blood and history together.
In short, Esau was one of the few people in the Old Testament who was able to forgive the past, reconcile, and move ahead with hope for the future. Jacob still treated him badly; he didn’t want a relationship, but simply safe passage so he could continue with his life and schemes. But Esau would have taken him back again if he returned; he would have forgiven him seven times seventy.
We seem to idolize the Jacobs of the world, don’t we? After all, he is one of the patriarchs of Israel, while Esau is barely mentioned outside this passage. Indeed, in the New Testament he’s criticized for being ungodly (Hebrews 12:16).
We should correct that injustice. Not by naming a child after him, but daring to live more like him.