Genesis: Day 20

Jacob Meets Esau

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Today's Text: Genesis 33:1-20, Genesis 34:1-31, Hebrews 11:20-22

Text: Genesis 33:1-20, Genesis 34:1-31, Hebrews 11:20-22

You know when you’re walking down a city street and all of a sudden, through a crack in the pavement, you see a flower that has somehow managed to grow? Some may call these plants weeds, but I call them beautiful and resilient. I’m always amazed when a plant manages to thrive in the concrete desert—something lovely growing in the most unlikely of places.

It reminds me of the beautiful reconciliation scene we see in Genesis 33 between grudge-holding Esau and running-for-his-life Jacob. Esau swore to have revenge on his brother (Genesis 27:41). And really, who can really blame him? Jacob lied, cheated, and stole his brother’s birthright and inheritance. That’s shady business, especially between brothers.

But at some point, in their years apart, Esau’s heart had softened toward his brother. When he finally laid eyes on Jacob again, he “ran to meet him, hugged him, threw his arms around him, and kissed him. Then they wept” (Genesis 33:4). Jacob’s past sins make Esau’s forgiveness that much sweeter and their reunion that much more miraculous.

Only one chapter later, we find ourselves in the midst of a story with a very different tone.

Genesis 34 is one of more difficult passages I’ve read in Scripture. Its content is heavy and, because of this, we may be tempted to brush past it. But the Bible is a real book about real people and the real world they lived in—a world where tragedy and the darkest of sins was their reality as much as it is ours today.

I’m probably not alone in saying that, when I read about what’s done to Dinah, I want vengeance for her too. I want bad things to happen to Hamor’s son Shechem. I want him to get what he deserves. I think we can empathize with the way Dinah’s brothers reacted. We understand where they’re coming from. But the actions of Jacob’s sons against Hamor and his people were deceitful (v. 13). They defiled the covenant of circumcision (v. 14), they killed, and they plundered (vs. 25-27). Because of their retaliation, Jacob’s family was in danger of being attacked.

This pendulum swing—from brothers reconciling, forgiving, and showing mercy, to brothers taking vengeance into their own hands and doing what feels justifiable to the human heart—highlights our inability as humans to walk the road of forgiveness and reconciliation perfectly. That road, as many of you well know, is messy and difficult and would be entirely impossible without a Savior.

When Jesus came on the scene, He created a new path for justice, reconciliation, mercy, and forgiveness. He satisfied God’s wrath toward sin through His sacrifice. He took it all upon Himself and said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). And now, where forgiveness is least deserved, we have it as a free gift, forever.

Dinah’s story reminds us of the freeing truth that the burden of vengeance and rightful punishment is no longer ours to bear. Jacob and Esau’s embrace reminds us of the possibility of reconciliation where it’s least expected and deserved.

Underneath these accounts of brotherly reconciliation and conflict, of sin and tragedy, is the beautiful narrative of Jesus, His sacrifice, and our reconciliation with the Father. Though we are unlikely soil, Christ made us worthy, and because of Him, we now find ourselves embraced by our Father, just as Esau embraced Jacob: unexpectedly, undeservedly, and with deep, unfathomable love. It is a love that makes us, too, weep with joy and assurance.

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  • Kasey Summers

    Love the reminder that reconciliation is always possible! Jesus shows us that when he reconciles our relationship with God. Healing is always possible. Thankful to be reconciled to my Heavenly Father!!

  • Michelle

    When I found forgiveness and love in Christ and in my sisters in Jesus after admitting to having sex before marriage and alcohol abuse, I subconsciously thought they would judge me and that God would make me feel guilty. However, I was met with more grace and love than I had experienced in years. I wept with twenty five other women who comforted me, supported me, and even some who admitted to going through the same things as me. I believe God used this to show me how much He loves me and how forgiveness is still active and alive today. I am so thankful for God’s grace!

  • I am so thankful our God is not one of the Esau camp, one who holds grudges, one we must hide from out of fear, one we are certain will bring wrath down upon us, one we must wait to allow time to soften …. No, our God is a strong and patient God, one of genuine reconciliation. One who does seek us, who looks for us … but only so that He can embrace us. One whose wrath has already been dealt and not on us. A God is doesn’t sit by and sharpen His spear, writing our names upon it for a focal point of dreaded determination … No, He has written our names on the palm of His hand … the same hand that took the nails for us. This God, OUR God, He is amazing. He is One who chases after us when we run, One who, when we send all before us for diversion is pushing His way through our distractions to find us, to come to us, to lift us up and clinch US to Him. Yes, YES, He is a God of reconciliation!

  • Lizzieb85

    I’ve studied chapter 34 before, & it doesn’t get any easier. I think about what WOULD the proper response of Dinah’s family have been? Some of you are disappointed Jacob didn’t do anything. But the sons were way out of line in their response. It’s interesting because I am doing a scripture writing plan & today’s passage was Romans 12:17-21. Vengeance is the Lord’s: HE is the holy judge with the righteous judgement. I have to rest in this truth because there are so many many stories just like this (& worse) in the news today. I wonder how the situation had been different if they had sought God’s guidance.

    • Churchmouse

      Ah.. If only… Jacob had been the leader of his family in comforting Dinah and restraining his sons just as you suggest, leaving vengeance to the Lord. The lack of guidance and compassion is indeed disappointing.

    • Rachael

      So need to hear that this week! Thank you!

  • I came to this devotional today with my family in crisis. A time where trusted loved ones have shown me the sting of betrayal and I am still in shock. I opened today in prayer that God would speak to me. Oh did He! I am shaken by such clear words from my Father ♡ The burden of judgement is not on my shoulders! I am free to bask in the unfailing love of my true Father and not in the anger and shame that they have caused. So thankful for my Lord’s provision.

    • Churchmouse

      So sorry that your family is in crisis but grateful that the Lord is meeting you strongly in the midst of it. Praying for you all

  • Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. -Micah 7:18-19

  • Caroline

    So thankful He is a God of justice and reconciliation

  • As we read farther into Genesis, I am understanding so much more about the Lord’s forgiveness, faithfulness, and grace. Reading about the people years and years ago, with their real tragedy in their messy, sinful, world, reflects the world we live in today. Life is messy and struggles are ever present, but through it all, forgiveness is so freely given to all who choose to accept it. I can’t imagine doing life without Him. “And because of Him, we now find ourselves embraced by our Father, just as Esau embraced Jacob: unexpectedly, undeservedly, and with deep, unfathomable love.” Thank you, Lord, for sending your Son to save a sinner like me.

  • This reconciliation of brothers separated by such hurt is so dear to my heart. My sister in-law has brought so much pain to our family, and for years we separated ourselves from her. I always felt I could forgive her, but to love her and weep for joy at the sight of her- never. This story is so beautiful, and mirrors what eventually did happen between my sister in-law and I. Through God’s gentle mercy, over time, I was able to see her in her painful brokenness- to forgive her, and to truly and deeply love her {even when that love was not reciprocated}. I never expected that, but God’s love is so far beyond my understanding- so much deeper and more beautiful than I can grasp…I am so thankful for the dangerous unselfishness of His love that is able to flow through me when I lay down my own desires and faulty human heart.

    • Hope

      I pray for my own ability to forgive my in-laws. I want a clean heart that is not preoccupied on the hurts and wrongs. It is devastating my life to the point where my husbands inability to support me, makes me distant from him. God give me a clean heart that understands your desires for me and my family.

      • Annalee

        Praying for you, Hope! ♡ Though a woman wrote it above, I wanted to say it here, again: “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love” (Micah 7:18). We all struggle with holding on to grudges, especially when we think it is completely justified. I am praying that Jesus would draw you close to His love, and would give you (truly, give all of us!) hearts that delight in steadfast love, instead of those begrudging feelings of hurt. You are Loved, dear sister! By Christ and us! Run to and spend time in His arms of mercy ♡ Blessings! -Annalee

        • Hope

          Thank you so very much! Thank you for reminding me that I am loved and I too come from people and I too have sisters to praye through. Thank you.

  • MegESegraves

    While the outcome may have been regrettable, I agree with the brothers that Dinah was being treated as a prostitute- not just by the man who raped her but by her own father. You don’t allow the rapist to marry your daughter because he signs an oath and cuts off a bit of his own flesh (I’m not downplaying the symbol of circumcision here, but it didn’t match their hearts either). And Dinah was never consulted in the matter. Another lesson from this is that we cannot make our problems go away by whitewashing them with religion or spirituality. Our hearts must conform to God’s.

    • Rochelle

      Amen!!

    • ~ B ~

      This is where I think about Jacob. I wonder what he must have been thinking in this whole thing and it is hard to know because all the scripture says is that “he held his peace”. I would have had many things I would have wanted to say here but Jacob seems to be extending serious restraint, possibly to better determine an appropriate response. The sons intentionally sought circumcision because they knew this would make them physically weak and allow them to be overcome. Ultimately Jacob shouldn’t have settled where he did, which kept his family from where God wanted them to be, so he is somewhat responsible but the brothers spoke this plot into existence, the word doesn’t indicate Jacob’s leaning in it. They were thinking out of an “eye for an eye” mentality. It is such a good example of how quickly we are to react to things we encounter or go through. The whole thing is heartbreaking and it is beautiful that her brothers were so bent on defending her honor but gut wrenching the wrath they brought down.

    • Tamara B

      I also thought about the circumcision. The man of Sichem went to a great deal to get the people of Jacob to stay. I know the brothers of Dinah were only asking this to kill them at their weakest moment, but if they where genuin, it would not have been the right solution. Circumcising someone doesn’t make him a Believer..
      It makes me think of someone who told me, “you must think I’m a sinner, because I am not married with the man I live with”. No.. It’s not the outer signs that makes you a sinner, it is because you don’t accept Jesus’ sacrafice. So even if those men were circumcised, God still doesn’t want the women of His people to marry them. So.. After the brothers killed all the man, they sinned again, by taking all the women with them. Both Isaak and Jacob where sent to marry a women of Abram’s family, so they would not mingle with ‘non-believers’. But here they all get themself a Canaan women…

  • Churchmouse

    Interesting that Dinah is raped and Jacob does nothing. Was he remembering that he, in his past, had chosen to give away his wife (“She is my sister”) knowing that she could have the same fate? Did his guilty conscience immobilize him? It is his sons who react to their sister’s violation. Where is Jacob’s compassion for Dinah’s suffering? How like Jacob I can be – outraged yet do nothing because I know my own guilt and falsely believe it disqualifies me. Wrong! All sin is an outrage to God but praise God for all the do-overs! Praise God that through Jesus I am forgiven though I don’t deserve it. Praise God that through Jesus I am reconciled to Him forever. Praise God that my past, my present and my future is made clean and I can face each day with confidence. I am not disqualified from following Him. Indeed I am qualified because of what He has done and Who He is. Praise God!

    • Rochelle

      Great perspective. Guilt absolutely has that effect. Another lie of satan, that our past sins render us useless to God?,

    • ~ B ~

      “Praise God that my past, my present and my future is made clean…” Love this! I am so thankful for the work of Christ and what it means for my life. I do have a quick thought, though, wasn’t it Abraham that lied to the king that Sarah was his sister, not Jacob?

      • Marcie

        Abraham lied to the king that Sarah was his sister and Isaac lied and said Rebekah was his sister (Genesis 26), but I don’t think Jacob did.

  • I think I’ve always looked at this passage a little differently. When Jacob and Esau meet after all the deception and all the years away, they reconcile- that’s true. But then they go their separate ways. I think there is a lesson there as well. We are called to forgive and reconcile with those that have hurt us, but that doesn’t mean that we need to let them become a part of our daily lives again or live in close contact. I believe it’s ok to reconcile and forgive, but still keep some distance from certain people so hurts don’t happen again.

    • Bekki

      Yes! Reconciliation doesn’t always mean going back to how things were before, but that doesn’t make the forgiveness any less sincere or real!

    • Denise

      This is an excellent and important point. Thank you.

    • Rochelle

      Totally true! I have seen this is my own llifelifeForgiveness and

    • Rochelle

      Sorry, not sure what happened to y comment ;) but what I was going to say was that I have seen this in my own life. The forgiveness and reconciliation are true and wonderful and real. But we live in different states, and it is been very healthy for us.

    • Nicole

      Oh . Jess. I needed that as well .

  • Great devotion this morning. Love how you compare this story, and our life, to a pendulum swinging. So true — and a great way to think about it.

    • She Reads Truth

      Thanks for joining us today, Erin! Praying for you today!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  • Michelle of Los Angeles

    ” It is a love that makes us, too, weep with joy and assurance.” Amen Amen Thank you

  • Thanks, SRT, for continually reminding us and helping us see that the whole story points to Jesus and that His message of grace and redemption is present throughout. I grew up in a tradition where theology was very important, and I memorized a lot of scripture as a kid…but never really tied it together as a story. Now that I’m in my 30’s, I’ve started to see he Bible more as the story of God and His good news, and less as a bunch of passages that make good theology but have nothing to do with each other. I’ve glossed over the story of Dinah many times, or cheered on the brothers when they take revenge into their own hands, but forget that God says elsewhere “vengeance is mine; I will repay”.

  • Great devotion- and thank you for not glossing over the difficult bits!
    An interesting fact I found out is that apparently Genesis 34 is the only chapter in the whole Bible, apart from the book of Esther, where God is not mentioned. In this chapter no-one is consulting God or acting under his direction, and it shows just how messy things get when we leave God out of the equation.
    It reminds me of the importance of seeking God in everything, not just reacting to events by myself, but seeking what God wants so that my life can be more like the beauty of chapter 33 and less like the devastation of chapter 34!

    • Kelly S

      Thank you for pointing this out, Carly! I am prone to move forward with my plans without consulting the Lord. This is a reminder to seek His face in all matters.

    • Liz

      How true! Thank you for pointing that out!

    • Denise

      Ugh, so very true. What an important observation. Wonderful and thank you.

    • Kim

      I hadn’t noticed that … which would explain why I don’t notice it in my own life until I’m floundering around wondering what happened! I think I often think God only wants to deal in major things when actually I need Him in all things.
      Thanks for pointing that out today Carly!

    • heather (MNmomma)

      Thank you for pointing that out!!!!

    • Nicole

      Thank u for that , Carly .

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