Jacob and his brother Esau were twins and even while they grew inside their mama’s tummy they fought with each other. If they fought with each other before they’d even entered the world, do you think they fought when they got out?
Sadly, they did still fight. They didn’t grow up as close buddies that enjoyed doing the same things and just being together. Jacob actually did something very terrible to his brother. See, Esau had been born first and because he was the firstborn he was given a special blessing by his father, Isaac. Jacob wanted that special birth right that was for the oldest and one day Esau came home tired and hungry from a long day of work. Jacob had made a delicious smelling stew that made Esau’s belly rumble in hunger. When Esau asked for some of Jacob’s stew Jacob said he would trade a bowl of stew for the special birth right. Esau was so hungry all he could think of was eating so he agreed to the trade!
Then Jacob did something even more terrible. When his father Isaac was dying Jacob pretended to be Esau so that Jacob could have his brother’s blessing. It was not easy – Jacob was smooth skinned and Esau was hairy! Jacob disguised his skin and his voice and Jacob was given Esau’s blessing by the dying Isaac.
Can you imagine how angry Esau must have been? His very own brother had cheated him. Esau was furious, and Jacob got scared! He did not want to wait and see what Esau would do so he ran away – he ran, and he ran, and he ran; all the way to his Uncle Laban.
Now, Uncle Laban had a beautiful daughter named Rachel and Jacob wanted to marry her. Uncle Laban agreed, but only if Jacob would work for him for seven years. So for seven years Jacob worked hard for his bride – and at last! The special day arrived. This might sound silly to us, but the brides would cover their faces during their wedding and the groom would not see his bride’s face until their wedding night. Guess what tricky Uncle Laban did? He married his oldest daughter, Leah, to Jacob – not beloved Rachel that Jacob had dreamed about as he worked under the hot sun. Jacob was so upset, but he quickly agreed to work seven more years for his love. And this time he was able to marry his Rachel. Jacob continued working for Uncle Laban and he collected cattle, servants and wealth.
One day God spoke to Jacob and told him to go back home. Jacob packed up everything he owned, and with his large family and many servants, headed out for the long, dusty journey home. Each step brought him closer to the brother he had treated so badly.
Jacob sent a messenger to Esau, letting Esau know that he was coming home but would cause him no problems. The messenger came back and told Jacob that Esau was coming – and with four hundred men!
Jacob had always been creative, and when faced with this fearful news he split his large family and servants into two groups, thinking that if Esau attacked at least one group would be spared. And then in his moment of fear and despair Jacob cried out to God.
“God You asked me to leave Uncle Laban, You said You would make me prosper. I am so unworthy of Your kindness and faithfulness, but please save me and my wives and children from my brother Esau. You promised that I would have descendants that were like the sand of the sea!”
This Jacob, he knows people. Maybe it is because he has cheated and been cheated through his whole life, but he knows how to work people. He decides to send a magnificent gift to his brother – something remarkable that will show Esau how much Jacob thinks of him. Jacob decides to send Esau some animals. But not just one animal, or two, or three … or even ten, or twenty or one hundred. Jacob sends Esau five hundred and fifty animals! He sent him goats and sheep and camels and cows and donkeys – what a noisy, funny present to receive!
Jacob sent the servants ahead with the gift and then he spends the night by himself. Only, he wasn’t by himself. God met Jacob there and wrestled with him. Jacob held on and would not let go – he wanted to be blessed. It is the character of God to bless and Jacob clung to that. God did bless him, and He also changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Jacob continues on his journey homeward – and at the moment the brothers came into view of one another Esau ran towards Jacob and threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. They wept together as brothers reunited, no longer enemies.
And so Jacob settled his family into their new home, back in the land he had grown up in.