“Then he crossed over before them and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept” (Genesis 33:3-4).
When you have been hurt by someone, how long do you choose to hold onto that pain? Do you dwell upon the hurt or do you choose to let the pain go by forgiving them or desiring to forgive them?
As Jacob returns back to Canaan, having spent 20 years in Padan Aram (Genesis 28:6; 31:38, 41), there were many thoughts in his mind. One of the main thoughts on his mind was how was his brother Esau going to react to seeing him? When Jacob had left Canaan, he was fleeing for his life because Esau wanted to kill him for Jacob’s having hurt him by coercing him to sell his birthright and for deceiving his father Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob instead of him (Genesis 25:29-34; 27:1-29; 41). As he travels back to his homeland, Jacob becomes pained in his heart with worry because he hears reports of Esau coming to meet him with 400 of his men (Genesis 32:6). It is easy to understand why Jacob would assume that Esau had ill motives for doing this.
There must have been a lot of thoughts on Esau’s mind as well. Esau and Jacob had been twins. Since their time in the womb of their mother Rebekah they had been struggling against each other (cf. Genesis 25:21-23). Even as Rebekah gave birth, as Esau came out of the womb first, his brother Jacob was grabbing hold of his heel (Genesis 25:24-26). Growing up, Esau and Jacob experienced their parents showing favoritism towards each of them: Isaac loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob (Genesis 25:27-28). Not only had Esau experienced the pain of parental favoritism, but then Jacob added to his brother’s pain by refusing to let him have some food unless Esau sold him his birthright and, later, by robbing him of Isaac’s blessing through deception (Genesis 25:29-34; 27:1-29). These brothers, Esau and Jacob, had taken the idea of “sibling rivalry” to the extreme!
All the pain of Esau’s rivalry with Jacob culminated following Jacob’s robbing Esau of Isaac’s blessing: “So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, ‘The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob’ ” (Genesis 27:41). It is interesting that his mother Rebekah understood Esau “comforted” himself from the pain he felt at having been hurt by Jacob by having thoughts of revenge against and wanting to kill his brother (Genesis 27:42). Isaac and Rebekah send Jacob away to Rebekah’s brother Laban in Padan Aram. Their intent was to send him there for just a few days till Esau’s wrath subsided. What they thought would be a few days turned out to be 20 years (cf. Genesis 27:43-46; 31:38)!
As the opening verses above show, when Jacob and Esau meet again (Genesis 33:1-2), Esau forgives Jacob (Genesis 33:3-4). Esau is not typically depicted as an honorable character in the Bible. His descendants would be enemies of Jacob’s descendants for years to come. But in this instance, Esau demonstrates the forgiveness we should strive to practice towards those who hurt us.
May it not take me 20 years to let go of the pain others have caused me. Like Jacob, I have caused pain to others. I need to be forgiven. I have been blessed to experience God’s forgiveness of me. Today, I refuse to “comfort” myself by thoughts of revenge against those who have hurt me. Instead, I strive to “comfort” myself by letting go of the pain others have caused me by practicing forgiveness.
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).