The struggle between God’s purposes and individual rebellion makes further progress in the story of Jacob and Esau. It was customary in antiquity for the firstborn son to receive the father’s blessing (the birthright) before the death of the father. This included most of the family’s wealth; so, the eldest son became responsible for the family’s welfare.
Esau hated his brother Jacob after being tricked out of that great honor, and he planned to kill him after their father died (Gen. 27:41) . Rebekah sent Jacob away for safekeeping, thinking all would be well again after a few days (Gen. 27:43-44) . A few days turned out to be 20 years, and Rebekah never saw Jacob again.
Read Genesis 28:12-15. What great hope was found in Jacob’s dream?
By repeating the promises made to Abraham, God was assuring Jacob that plans were on track. Even though Jacob’s actions seemed to ignore God’s plan, God was still there for him. However, Jacob had to endure 20 years of being tricked by his father-in-law, first in his marriage, then in his wages (Gen. 29:20, Gen. 29:23, Gen. 29:25, Gen. 29:27; Gen. 31:7) . Yet, in a strange twist, all those years serving for his wife seemed like just a few days, the time Rebekah thought Jacob would be away from her (Gen. 29:20) .
When Jacob decided to go back home, first Laban pursued him (Gen. 31:25-26) , and then Esau set out with 400 men to meet him. Both of those situations were life threatening, and God had to step in twice to deliver him; first in a dream to Laban, to tell him not to harm Jacob (Gen. 31:24) ; then in person, to wrestle with Jacob and cripple him (Gen. 32:24-30) . The sight of Jacob hobbling with a walking stick could have impressed Esau that Jacob posed no threat. The gifts were sent on ahead and, together with the careful way Jacob spoke, it all seemed enough to heal the break between the two brothers. The last we see of them together is when they bury their father (Gen. 35:29) ; thus, any previous plan Esau had of killing Jacob after the funeral was now forgotten.
Look at all the pain and suffering these foolish choices brought to these people, both to the innocent and to the guilty. How can we learn to think, think, think before we act?