His name means: “Hairy”
His work: An outdoorsman, Esau was an accomplished hunter.
His character: The desire for instant gratification was one of Esau’s greatest failures. It cost him his birthright.
His sorrow: When he realized that Jacob had secured his father’s blessing, Esau wept aloud.
His triumph: Years later Esau demonstrated the ability to forgive his conniving brother.
Key Scriptures: Genesis 27, 33
A Look at the Man
Esau was a “man’s man.” He was ruddy, strong, impulsive, competitive, impetuous—quite a lethal mix.
As a young man he was not accustomed to holding anything back. He may have lived on the edge of danger, self-indulgence, and immediate gratification. Having his father’s favor did nothing to inhibit this behavior. But Esau had a serious problem—his brother Jacob.
My twin brother has ruined my life, Esau must have fumed. And he will pay for it.
The most destructive dimension to this conflict was that Jacob fled to Haran without any conversation with Esau: no explanation, no confession, no resolution. So the battle between these grown siblings may have waged silently for twenty years. The discord gnawed at their hearts—Esau’s need for revenge and Jacob’s fear of his brother’s reprisal.
There is some levity in the account of Jacob going to such extremes to meet his brother after two decades. First he divided his servants, his family, and his possessions into two groups so that Esau could only capture half of what Jacob owned—one group could run away while the other was being attacked. Then Jacob prepared a gift to assuage his brother’s fury: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats; two hundred ewes and twenty rams; thirty female camels with their young; forty cows and ten bulls; and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. All in all, a very expensive transaction for Jacob! And completely unnecessary. Forgiveness was granted without charge. Esau’s words tell the whole story: “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.”
The image of these two grown men embracing and weeping is one of the most powerful in all of Scripture. It is, in fact, the echo of the prodigal standing guilty as his father runs to meet him. It is the image of our heavenly Father doing the same for us.
Esau’s forgiveness was not offered reluctantly. He was not arrogant nor did he require that Jacob verbally review his transgressions against him, groveling with words of repentance. In his eagerness to forgive, Esau ran, he embraced, and he wept. Twenty years of apprehension and fear were erased in that incredible moment.
Reflect On: Genesis 33:1-9
Praise God: For every earthly blessing.
Offer Thanks: For the basic ways God has cared for you, giving you food, water, and shelter.
Confess: Any tendency to pursue earthly pleasures at the expense of God’s blessings.
Ask God: To help you rightly value the promises he has made to you in Scripture.