Face of Esau as Face of God?
Given By: "Glenn D Blank" On Saturday, December 1, 2012

 

 

Today’s portion is full of delicious irony and profound insight about the human condition.

How Jacob wrestles with and reconciles with God and his brother Esau has something to say to the way each of us relates in our own important relationships.

We’ll consider three main themes: struggling (and prevailing), offerings (and honoring), and blessing.

Here’s what I read from the Torah parsha, from Beresheet (Genesis) 33:8–11,

Esau said, “What do you mean by this whole caravan I met?”  
He [Jacob] answered, “To find favor in your eyes, my lord.”

But Esau replied, “I have enough, my brother. What is yours is yours.”

But Jacob said, “No, please! If I have now found favor in your eyes, take this offering from my hand. For indeed, I have seen your face—it is like seeing the face of God—you have accepted me! Please accept my blessing-gift that was brought to you. For God has shown grace to me and I have all I need.” So Jacob urged him, and he accepted.

 

So finally, after 21 years away from home and dreading meeting the brother who threatened to call him, because he “stole” his brother’s blessing, Jacob finally meets Esau.

And he says something very curious: “your face—it’s like seeing the face of God!”

What could he ever have meant by that?

When Jacob finally meets Esau, whose face does he see?  Esau’s… or God’s… or his own?

 

Let’s step back a bit. What famous episode happened in this portion, the night before Jacob met Esau?

Yes, Jacob had wrestled all night with someone….
Beresheet (Genesis) 32:24 says, “Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.”

Who was this man who jumped Jacob? Tradition says he was an angel, and in fact, Hosea 12:4 does say, “Yes, he wrestled (or struggled) with the angel and prevailed.” But which angel? Just any angel?

When Jacob asks to know his name, the angel refuses. Who was that mysterious angel? 

As soon as that angel left (presumably he didn’t just walk away, but vanished), Jacob says, [s] in Beresheet (Genesis 32:31), “Ya‘akov called the place P’ni-el [meaning face of God], “Because I have seen God face to face, yet my life is spared [or more literally, my soul has been delivered].”

So it was, on the morning after, Jacob faces up to Esau and says, “It is like seeing the face of God—and you have accepted me!” Is anyone hearing an echo? Is anyone hearing some irony?

If we step back a bit further, we can see that this whole wrestling match was really all about Esau.

What was Jacob doing all alone by the Jabbok ford of the Jordan that night?

Genesis 32:3 says that Jacob had sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau.

Jacob knew that as soon as he crossed the Jordan River, to claim the land of his fathers that HaShem has promised him, he was going to have to face his brother Esau, who swore to kill him, over 21 years ago.

And then in Genesis 32:6, he learns from his messengers that Esau is coming to him 400 men! O boy!

Genesis 32:7 reports that Jacob was stressed out. [s]

So he prays to God, in Genesis 32:9-12, reminding God of the promises He made to him and his fathers, and also God’s command to Jacob to “Go back to your land and your family,” and appealing to God,
in Genesis 32:11, “Deliver me, please, from the hand of my brother Esau, from I am afraid of him.”

Jacob had been struggling with this fear of his brother his whole life.

When the man jumped him, Jacob might have thought at first, “It’s Esau!”

By the end of the wrestling match, somehow Jacob was ready to face his brother, because he had struggled with someone greater, and prevailed.

Well, sort of. The angel ended the match by touching Jacob’s hip, knocking out his hip socket and made him limp for the rest of his life. You may wonder, why did the angel of God bother wrestling all night? We’ll come back to that question in our breakout discussion.

And here’s another question to think about. Is there anyone that you’ve struggling with in your heart for a while, someone who threatened you, or hurt you, or abused you, or took advantage of you, or abandoned you? Do you need to come to the end of that struggle, so you nave shalom in your heart?

Maybe it’s a family member, or maybe it’s an authority figure, or maybe it’s God Himself?

If you’re not sure, you could ask God. He knows your heart better than you do yourself.

Ever since Jacob, Jews (and others) have had these struggles. I think of Joseph and his brothers,
or David and Saul, or Job and God?

[s] In Genesis 32:28, the angel gave him a new name, Israel, “for you have struggled with God

and with men and have prevailed.” Though Jacob didn’t technically win his wrestling match,

he did prevail, because he met God face to face.

Sometimes the way to find shalom is to struggle with God until you know that He has come down to struggled with you. Job asked God a lot of questions and God never answered them, but Job, like Jacob, got something better: he met God face to face.

Ultimately, a relationship with God is the answer to all our questions. V’eemru? (And let us say?)

 

The next morning, Jacob prepares Esau a caravan of offerings, but first offered himself, bowing.

The Hebrew word is minchah. Those who know Hebrew should recognize this word.
The most common use of this word in the Bible is an offering to God, in the Tabernacle or Temple.

In traditional Judaism, minchah is the name of the afternoon service, when Jews offer prayers in lieu of sacrifices of bulls, sheep and goats.

So Jacob made his offering of sheep and goats to his brother.

Jacob was wise to do so. For that’s what Yeshua commands his disciples to do.

Matthew 5:23–24, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”

There’s no point in offering anything to God if you have animosity toward your brother in your heart.

God wants ours shalom offering, an offering of an undivided heart. V’eemru?

For as 1 John 4:20 says, “If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”

If any of you are struggling with this proposition, than struggle with God until you have shalom!

For Jacob to offer minchah to his brother was to honor him.

Honoring is an excellent strategy for making peace with your brother.

It may seem hard to do, honoring the one who hates you, even giving your own stuff away.

Yet that is just what Yeshua bid us to do, in Matthew 5:44, “I say to you, love your enemies,

bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you.”

And it works. That’s just how Yeshua and his disciples have won the hearts of many people.
So Yeshua loved the Samaritan woman at the well.

That’s how Messianic Jews in Israel are making shalom with Arab believers.

And I can tell you it’s worked many times for me, too.

Back to Jacob and Esau. Following ancient Near Eastern custom, Esau at first declines Jacob’s offering.

But Jacob insists, saying, “Please accept my blessing-gift that was brought to you.”

Most translations say something like, “please accept my gift,” or “present.”
But in fact the Hebrew word here[s] is bracha, which comes from the same root as baruch or barchoo.

Most of you should recognize these words: barchoo is bless; baruch is blessed; [s] bracha is blessing.

By switching from minchah to bracha, Jacob is signaling that he truly wants to bless his brother.

Does anyone recognize the irony here? There’s so much irony in this story!

Over 21 years before, Jacob had connived to get the blessing that Isaac had intended to give Esau.

And now here is giving the blessing back to his brother.

In fact, Jacob had gotten no material blessing at all from his father: Isaac sent him off will nothing.

Everything Jacob had received since came from the sweat of his brow and the blessing of God.

Jacob was showing Esau that God had indeed blessed him, and now he is willing to give some away!

For as noted in Acts 20:35, “the Lord Yeshua said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

How many of discovered how true that is? If not, then you have some more wrestling with God to do!

That’s part of the secret of knowing God and receiving His blessing.

God so much wants to bless people, made in His image,

He is constantly giving to us, giving us His creation, giving us life, giving us His love, giving us Himself, dying for us on a tree, loving us when we didn’t love Him, didn’t even know Him.

God so much wants to bless you, by assuring you that He has a future and a hope for you.

And that’s what He wants us to do for one another. Bless others by honoring them, by telling them how much you appreciate them, by giving of yourself to them, by offering to pray for them, by offering to help them in their needs. When you do, you’ll be sharing the good news.

 

When Jacob and Esau parted company, they were finally reconciled with each other, in shalom.

The struggle of a lifetime was over, and they could each go home: Esau to Seir in Edom, Jacob to Hebron to see his father Isaac.

Well, it was worth all those sheep and goats, just to see the face of God in the face of Esau, and live!

As Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

If it means humbling yourself in order to honoring the one has trouble you, could you do it?
Or by blessing the one who cursed you, praying for the one who mistreated you, could you do it?

How about, with God’s help? Brothers and sisters, He will help you, just as He helped Jacob.

V’eemru?

 

 

Discussion Questions for Breakout Sessions

 

 

What Jacob finally saw Esau again, what did he say to him?

 

What could he mean by that?

 

When a man started wrestling with him, who might Jacob have thought it was at first?
 

Who did it turn out to be?

 

Why did the angel bother wrestling all night?

 

Is there anyone that you’ve struggling with in your heart for a while, someone who threatened you,
or hurt you, or abused you, or took advantage of you, or abandoned you? Share it with your neighbor.

 

Why is it that some questions cannot be answered with reasons, but only with relationship with God?

 

What is minchah? Why did Jacob offer minchah to Esau?

 

Why does Yeshua teach us to leave our minchah to God and first be reconciled with your brother?

 

Why is honoring the one you’re at odds with a good strategy for reconciliation? Illustrations?

What is a bracha?

 

Why is ironic that Jacob would give his brother the bracha?

 

Why is it wise to give a bracha to those who hate you?

 

Have you learned anything about how to live at peace with everyone? Will you do it?