Genesis 33:1-4 Then Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. He put the maids and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.
Jacob Meets Esau
Today’s post will focus mainly on these first four verses of Chapter 33. While it is just a few verses, there is a lot to be learned from here. Let’s start this post by looking at what the Lubavitcher Rebbe has to say about these four verses:
33:1 Jacob raised his eyes and saw Esau approaching, accompanied by 400 men, so he went to the second camp, which comprised his family members, and divided up the children among their respective mothers:Leah, Rachel, and the two handmaids.
2 He placed them in order of increasing importance: the handmaids and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and her son Joseph last.
3 He went ahead of them, stationing himself at the head of his camp in order to confront Esau first in case he would begin to fight, and prostrated himself seven times as he approached his brother.
4 Esau, seeing his brother prostrate himself, was deeply touched by this display of deference and abandoned his plans to attack Jacob. Instead, he ran towards him,embraced him wholeheartedly, and threw himself on his shoulders. Nevertheless, he was not entirely overcome by emotion: he kissed him, but not wholeheartedly. From another perspective, Esau did kiss him wholeheartedly, but this spontaneous display of emotion was only fleeting.27And they wept for joy28 as they embraced.
Jacob raised his eyes and saw Esau approaching him with 400 men. He looked up. In King James’ Version, he “lifted up”. From Strong’s concordance: lift up: 5375: to lift up,:- accept, advance, arise, (able to (armor), suffer to) bear, bring (forth), burn, carry (away), cast, contain, desire, ease, exact, exalt (self), extol, fetch, forgive, furnish, further, give, go on, help, high, hold up, honorable (+ man), lade, lay, lift (self) up, lofty, marry, magnify, x needs, obtain, pardon, raise up, receive, regard, respect, set (up), spare, stir up, +swear, take, (away, up), x utterly, wear, yield.
He lifted up: his eyes:5869: An eye (literally or figuratively); by analogy a fountain (as the eye of the landscape):- affliction, outward appearance, + before, + think best, color, conceit, + to be content, countenance, + displease, eye ((brow(, (-d), -sight), face, + favor, fountain, furrow, (from the margin), x him, + humble, knowledge, look, (+well), X me, open (-ly), + (not) please, presence, + regard, resemblance, sight, x thee, x them, + think, x us, well, x you (r, selves).
He lifted up: his eyes: and looked:7200: to see, advise self, appear, approve, behold, x certainly, consider, discern, (make to) enjoy, have experience, gaze, take heed, x indeed, x joyfully, lo, look (on, one another, one on another, one upon another, out, up, upon) mark, meet, x be near, perceive, present, provide, regard, (have) respect, (Fore-, cause to, let) see (-r, m, one another), shew (self), x sight of others, (e-) spy, stare, x think, view, visions.
Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked…figuratively, Jacob lifted up his afflictions, and discerned that Esau was coming towards him with 400 men. He had enough time before Esau arrived to divide the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. There is a distinction in the division of the children and wives. Each child with his (her) mother, and the maids and their children were first, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph were last. What does this order tell us? At first sight, it appears that Rachel and Joseph are last because she is the favored wife and he the favored son, so they were put last in hopes of preserving them in the event of an attack from Esau. However, if we look ahead in Scripture, we see this order repeated in things such as:
- The dedication of the altar
- The division of the land between the tribes.
This is in essence a foreshadowing of events to come in the future as mentioned above.
He Bowed Down Seven Times
Jacob, as the leader or head, of his family got in front of the women and children. He bowed down to the ground seven times until he came near to his brother. Let’s look now at the significance of bowing seven times.
The letter Zayin in the alephbet has a numerical value of seven. It means: sword, ornament or crown, to sustain. The sages teach that the verse, “A woman of valor is the crown of her husband” alludes to the form of the letter zayin. The previous letter, vav, portrays the “straight line” descending from God into the worlds. The zayin, whose form is similar to a vav, though with a crown on top, reflects the “straight line” of the vav as “returning light.” “Who is a good woman? She who does her husband’s will.” The sages explain that the word “does” also means “rectifies,” as said in the completion of the account of Creation (the seal of the seventh day, Shabbat): “that which God created to do”– “to do” in the sense of “to rectify” (thus implying that God has given us the task to consummate the rectification of His creation), A “vav” whose head extends in both directions and thus appears as a crown, scepter of a King, rulership manifested in the world; returning light spreading, at its peak, to the left – fear, and to the right – love…becoming a vessel for God’s blessing, sanctity.
This is characteristic of the Bible; most symbols are clearly defined in the text and used quite consistently from Genesis to Revelation. The Number Seven, the numerical symbol of Fullness,Completion, and Perfection, is a prime example of this consistency, as illustrated by this entry from the Tyndale Bible Dictionary (emphasis added):
In Scripture, seven symbolizes completeness or perfection. On the seventh day God rested from his labors and creation is finished (Gn 2:2). Pharaoh in his dream saw seven cattle coming from the Nile (41:2). Samson’s sacred Nazirite locks were braided in seven plaits (Jgs 16:13). Seven devils left Mary of Magdala, signifying the totality of her previous possession by Satan (Lk 8:2); “seven other devils” will enter the purified but vacant life of a person (Mt 12:45). However, on the positive side, there were the seven spirits of God (Rv 3:1). In the seventh year the Hebrew slave was to be freed (Ex 21:2), having completed his time of captivity and service. Every seventh year was a sabbatical year (Lv 25:4). Seven times seven reiterates the sense of completeness. In the Year of Jubilee (at the completion of 7 x 7 years = the 50th year), all land is freed and returns to the original owners (Lv 25:10). Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, is seven times seven days after Passover. “Seventy,” which is literally “sevens” in Hebrew, strengthens the concept of perfection. There are 70 elders (Ex 24:1) in Israel. Israel was exiled to Babylon for 70 years (Jer 25:12) to complete its punishment. “Seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22) reiterates this still further. The Lord was not giving Peter a mathematical number of times that he should forgive another person, but rather was insisting on limitless forgiveness for a brother’s sin.
When God introduced the Number Seven as a symbol of the completion of His Work of Creation, He also associated it with sanctification (holiness), declaring that He “blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it.” Thus God laid the foundation for its application throughout the rest of Scripture. It is a double symbol signifying both completion and sanctification. These ideas natural cohere because sanctification denotes the setting apart or separating of a person or thing as wholly devoted or completely given over to God, as when He separated the Levitical Priests saying “they are wholly given unto me” (Num 8:16), or again when Paul prayed that “the very God of peace sanctify you wholly” (1 Thes 5:23). This is the essence of the Fourth Commandment which mandates the complete cessation of all mundane work and the complete devotion to the things of God. The Christian fulfills this through faith in the finished work of Christ, our eternal Sabbath (Hebrews 4:10).
The Seven Feasts of the Lord exemplify God’s reiterative application of this number in the structure of His ceremonial circle of time. It begins with the Feast of Passover on the fourteenth day (2 x 7) of the first month followed immediately by seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Feast of Pentecost then comes fifty days (7 x 7 + 1) after the first sabbath following Passover, a pattern God repeated on a higher scale with the Year of Jubilee set for every fifty years (7 x 7 + 1). The whole cycle of Seven Feasts culminates with three connected “holy convocations” of the seventh month, beginning with the Feast of Trumpets followed by the great Day of Atonement which God integrated with the Year of Jubilee and the numerical pattern of “seven times seven” (Lev 25:8f):
And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the Day of Atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.
God designed the Seven Feasts to accomplish a variety of purposes. They exemplify the symbolic meaning of the Number Seven and indelibly imprint it on the mind of all who read the Bible. They also reveal a prophetic calendar that now stands as an eternal memorial of the great Work of Christ. Three of the primary events of the New Testament – the death of Christ onPassover (1 Cor 5:7), His resurrection on Firstfruits (1 Cor 15:20), and sealing of the newborn Church by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost – were anticipated by them. The Bible Wheel
Jacob bowing seven times while approaching Esau is significant in saying, “This is over. This is done. God is in control and my brother will accept me now.” Jacob is symbolically showing his trust in God to maintain control over this entire situation. He has already prepared for battle, prayed, and sent the gift (and messengers) ahead of himself to Esau. He is relying on God to fulfill His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and himself.
The Meeting has Started
Esau, seeing his brother prostrate himself, was deeply touched by this display of deference and abandoned his plans to attack Jacob. Instead, he ran towards him,embraced him wholeheartedly, and threw himself on his shoulders. Nevertheless, he was not entirely overcome by emotion: he kissed him, but not wholeheartedly. From another perspective, Esau did kiss him wholeheartedly, but this spontaneous display of emotion was only fleeting.27And they wept for joy28 as they embraced.~ The Lubavitcher Rebbe
The sages teach that Esau was moved by the fact that Jacob bowed down to the ground before him. He was so moved that he decided not to attack Jacob. He didn’t just walk up to Jacob, but he ran to him as if glad to see him. He embraced him (the Rabbi says wholeheartedly here) and threw himself on his shoulders. For just a moment his anger and hatred towards Jacob was gone. He was genuinely overcome with emotion, but by the time the kiss came around, Esau remembered his anger, and he did not wholeheartedly kiss Jacob. The sages (Rashi) explain the kiss like this:
“Kissing represents the study of Torah (instruction). When Esau kissed Jacob, and it wasn’t wholeheartedly, it was Esau’s way of telling Jacob to study Torah (instruction) only on the external level; don’t get involved in the deep stuff.” See, when we wholeheartedly study Torah (instruction) and we dig deep into the word, looking at the words and interpretations of the sages and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Word of God opens up to us. It deepens our relationship with God. It allows us to know Him in a more intimate way, and this spills over into our lives like a cup overflowing (Psalm 23). If we study only the external levels we leave room for arrogance. Arrogance gets in the way of God’s deeds. But when we desire to go deeper, and God allows us to go deeper, we will not only know God more, but we can serve Him with complete heart. As this more intimate relationship with God spills over in our lives, it also spills over into the lives of others. The notice a difference in us. We no longer act the same; there is a noticeable difference. Our acts of loving kindness come from the heart and this can be felt by the beneficiaries of that loving kindness.
“And they wept.” They wept in joy being reconciled, even if for a brief moment. For a moment, there was forgiveness; a release of the anger and hate and its darkness. Can’t you feel the splendor of the moment, the joy in the air? They have been separated for years, and now there is a brief moment where each can exhale and release: for Esau: hatred and for Jacob: fear; and now they can receive love.
Nuggets of Gold; Life Application
Whether you are Jew or Gentile, in a synagogue, church, or Bible study, we all face the same common problem: Divisiveness. Is your congregation not experiencing the physical and spiritual growth that you are seeking? Are you continuing to do the same thing but expect different results? Does your congregation have too many chiefs and not enough Indians? What am I saying?
Let me explain…In every congregation I have been a part of I have seen the same problem…and especially among the women…Everything is all sugar and spice when face to face in a meeting or group, but just as soon as that meeting is over they pair off in groups or get on the telephone and grumble and complain about one another. There is gossip taking place and a genuine albeit unintentional tearing down of one another! I am here to tell you that as the body of Christ, we have to act like the body! I need my fingers to type and hold things. They are just as important as my eyes, which I use to see. If I plucked out my eyes, they wouldn’t be very beneficial to my fingers. 1 Corinthians 12:14-18 “For the body is not one member but many. If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.”
As the body, we need to do as Jacob did, “lift up (our) eyes and look” not at our brothers and sisters to see their faults or what they do, but at ourselves, long and hard. We need to ask God to show us what is in us that we need to change. Then, we need to make those changes! Ladies and gentleman, it is not Satan working against the congregation to prevent growth…we are the problems! We get caught up in a judgment trap and spend our time judging other members of our body, and in our arrogance, would cut off that appendage if we could.
Jacob sent forth a gift and messengers to Esau. Do we bless our brothers and sisters? Do we build them up and edify them…or do we secretly tear them down? Just as God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, changing his identity from ensnarer to “3478 Yisra’el yis-raw-ale’ from 8280 and 410; he will rule as God; Jisrael, a symbolical name of Jacob; also (typically) of his posterity: –Israel,” He will change our congregation’s identity. We will no longer be known as a group who self-destructs but one who shows loving kindness to each other and our communities! Do not hinder the work God has for your congregations by tearing each other down! The time is now that we can speak to mountains and them move, but to see this power in work, we have got to love one another, stop judging one another, and lift each other up!
Just as Jacob bowed seven times while approaching Esau signifying the negative effects of the past were completed, the time of Jacob’s struggles had reached completion, and he was entering the time of spiritual leadership; our time of struggling with one another has come to an end! God is ready to move us to the next level both spiritually and physically, but we must humble ourselves as Jacob did!
We must wholeheartedly study ALL of God’s word, not just the external portions, but dig deep into its meanings and apply them to our lives so that his hands and feet can move and work in this lost and dying world! So, I ask you now…Are you ready to truly be the hands and feet with Jesus as our head? Are you ready to allow God to work in our congregations as He desires to do? Can we remove the stumbling blocks, and become untangled from the traps of judgment? I believe we can! Let us learn to love one another and build each other up so that when visitors come to our congregations they aren’t just welcomed in words but in the body. May they feel the love we have for one another and it not be a fleeting moment as it was with Esau and Jacob’s embrace! May we become a vessel for God’s blessing and sanctity!
Father, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; head of the trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God Holy Spirit), help us agree and bind ourselves together for worldwide intercession, for our congregations, and for the ones who do not have a relationship with You! Strengthen our confidence that our prayer will be heard and that our prayers are indispensable for the coming of Your kingdom here on earth. Help us understand that when we tear each other down, we also create stumbling blocks in the paths of others. May we ever be less judgmental and less critical of others, but see the God-spark in their soul, the ounce of goodness we are all created with. May we older women teach and guide the younger ones. May we be good leaders for them and prepare them to take over the positions that will be available as we age. May we not increase their struggles and the struggles of others, but bring to a completion their struggles and advance them in leadership. I thank you for each member of the body! I thank you that you have placed each member there to work together, to complement one another, and to show loving kindness throughout. I thank you for your guidance, your wisdom, and your knowledge. I thank you that you desire a deeper relationship with us! In Jesus name. Amen.