As Jacob begins his journey back to his home country it is not surprising that he is afraid of the inevitable meeting with his brother. Always the schemer, Jacob decides on a plan to win his brother’s forgiveness. The question is: would the gifts Jacob procures really be enough to earn the forgiveness of his brother? After all, Jacob stole Esau’s birthright and his blessing. The interchange that actually takes place in chapter 33 paints a vivid picture of the forgiveness that Christ offers to us: Esau runs to Jacob and embraces him. Esau didn’t care about Jacob’s peace offerings (certainly they weren’t large enough to cover the multitude of his sins anyway). Esau forgave Jacob not because Jacob deserved forgiveness but because the Lord prompted him to forgive. Shouldn’t that be the same with us? So often we withhold forgiveness from a person until he or she has earned the right to be forgiven. Certainly we didn’t earn the right to be forgiven by God. And the challenge we face is to forgive other people even when they’re not very forgivable. We don’t forgive because they deserve it; we forgive because Christ first forgave us.
On a side note, what happens in chapter 34 is one of those situations where a person asks himself: Is that seriously in the bible? Did Jacob’s sons seriously kill those men while they were recovering from their circumcisions? The answer: yes! That story is more violent than half the stories we see on television or in the movies!