But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.
Forgiveness is hard.
Forgiveness is harder when your own brother employs trickery and subterfuge to take the blessing your father planned to give you and then flees for years.
Even though Jacob is the focus of this section of Scripture, we should not overlook Esau. When Jacob left, Esau was prepared to kill him for taking his blessing (Genesis 27:41). Now, over 20 years later, the Esau who meets Jacob weeps for joy at seeing his brother again. What changed?
Of course, Jacob prayed for favor with Esau (Genesis 32:9-12) and wisely sent gifts to appease his brother. But it’s also possible that Esau, during the time of Jacob’s absence, came to understand a fundamental truth of human nature: Even if some people don’t ask for forgiveness for their actions, it can be to our benefit to forgive them. We can choose to obsess over past injustices, fuming with anger while waiting for an apology that might never come—or we can choose to forgive them and move on with our lives.
We know that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ gave His life before anyone asked for the forgiveness that His sacrifice provides. Should we, then, withhold forgiveness from others for what are, in comparison, much smaller offenses?
Unexpectedly, Esau set the example in this story. Sometime before meeting Jacob in Genesis 33, Esau forgave his brother. Jacob had not yet asked for forgiveness, but Esau gave it anyway. Esau made the choice to let go of a deep-seated grudge that would have otherwise consumed him.
To learn more about the important concept of forgiveness, read our article “How to Forgive.”
Tomorrow on the Daily Bible Verse Blog: “How God Viewed ‘the Dinah Incident.’”