The Difficulties of Forgiveness

Esau was furious and he vowed to kill Jacob as soon as their father Isaac died.  Rebekah intervenes to save her younger son Jacob from being murdered by his brother and she sends him to find a wife among her own people with her brother Laban and he actually ends up with four wives and returns 21 years later.  The story of Jacob and Esau is a telling illustration of the difficulty in believing in forgiveness, let alone accepting it.  Jacob had patently wronged his brother Esau by stealing Esau’s blessing and Jacob fled for his life with a guilty conscience.

Tradition stated that the first-born son would get the birthright, and although the twins were born within minutes or even seconds of each other, Esau was the older brother.  Obtaining the birthright was a very important and sacred thing, as this would allow you to legally receive a major portion of the inheritance.  Esau became the favorite of his father Isaac, while Jacob was loved more by his mother Rebekah.  This attitude of favoritism toward one son over the other by each of the parents provoked sibling rivalry, tension, and intrigue in the family.

Esau returned from a hunting trip when he saw Jacob was cooking lentils.  Esau asked Jacob, “Why are you preparing lentils?’  Jacob replied, “Because our grandfather Abraham passed away today and they shall be a sign of my love towards him.  Our father Isaac is stricken with grief and our mother Rebekah is busy trying to comfort him, so since you were not around, I took it on myself to make the soup.  This should have been your job, as you have the birthright and you will get the blessing.”  Esau said, “I don’t care about my birthright or any stupid blessing that I might receive some day.  I almost died today and now I just want something to eat, so give me a bowl of that soup and let me have some of that wine.”  Jacob realized that Esau was extremely vulnerable, so he decided to take advantage of the situation, because what he really wanted was the blessing that was issued to the first-born, so he said, “If you are not interested in your birthright, then sell it to me for the soup.”  Jacob knew that he was taking advantage of his brother, because having this birthright would also entitle him to a double share of the overall inheritance.

Rebekah knew about the deal that her two sons had made concerning the birthright and she supported Jacob in this matter, hoping that Esau would make good on his solemn promise.  One day when Isaac was old and feeble, he said to Esau, “My son, I am very old, and I do not know how much longer it will be before my death comes.  Before I die, I wish to give to you, as my eldest son, God’s blessing for you and your children, and all your future descendants.  Go out into the fields, and with your bow and arrows, and shoot an animal that you can cook for me, and after I have eaten it, I will give you the blessing.”  Esau did not tell his father that the blessing no longer belonged to him, because he had sold it to his brother Jacob, and he went out into the fields hunting, to find the kind of meat which his father liked the most.

Rebekah overheard everything that Isaac said to Esau and she thought that Esau might inherit the birthright that no longer belonged to him, so she told Jacob what Isaac had said to Esau.  Rebekah said, “Jacob my son, do what I tell you, and you will get the blessing instead of your brother.  Go to the flocks and bring to me two little kids from the goats, and I will cook them just like the meat which Esau cooks for your father.  You will bring it to your father, and he will think that you are Esau, and Isaac will give you the blessing, which rightfully belongs to you now.”  Jacob said, “Esau and I are not alike, his neck and arms are covered with hairs, while mine are smooth.  My father Isaac will lay his hands on me, and he will know that I am not Esau, and then instead of giving me a blessing, he might curse me.”  Rebekah answered, “Just do as I have told you, and if any harm comes, then I will take all the responsibility, so go and bring the meat.”  Jacob slaughtered a pair of little kids from the flocks, and Rebekah made a dish of food, so that it would taste just the way Isaac liked it.

Rebekah found some of Esau’s clothes, and dressed Jacob in them.  Rebekah then placed skins from the newly slaughtered kids on Jacob’s neck and hands, so he would feel rough and hairy to his father’s touch.  Jacob went into his father’s tent, bringing the dinner, and speaking as much like Esau as he could.  Jacob said, “I am Esau, your oldest son and I have made your dinner, as you requested and I hope to get your blessing that you promised me.”  Isaac said, “You really are a great hunter, I can’t believe that you were able to find your prey so quickly.”  Jacob answered, “The Lord your God showed me where to go and gave me good success.”

Isaac finished eating his food, but he did not feel certain that it was his son Esau, and he said, “Come closer my son and let me feel you, so that I may know that you are really Esau.  Come here, and give me a kiss if you really are my son Esau.”  Jacob approached his father and told him a lie saying, “I am”, then he leaned in towards Isaac’s bed and he kissed his father.  Isaac felt his hairy skin and he smelled his clothing and it smelled like the wild fields where Esau did his hunting, so Isaac gave his blessing to his youngest son Jacob, believing him to be Esau.  Isaac laid his hands on Jacob and said, “May God give you the dew of heaven, and the richness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine.  May all nations bow down to you and all its peoples become your servants.  May you be the master over your brother, and may your family and descendants that shall come from you, rule over your family and all of your descendants.  Blessed be those that bless you, and cursed be those that curse you.”

As soon as Jacob received the blessing, he rose up and hastened away.  He had scarcely gone out of Isaac’s tent, when Esau came in from hunting, with the dish of food that he had cooked.  Esau said, “Father sit up and eat the food that I have brought, and give me your blessing.”  Isaac said, “Who are you?”  Esau answered, “I am Esau, your first-born son.”  Isaac trembled, then he scratched his head and he felt bad for Esau, because his blessing had already been given away.  Isaac said, “Then who is the one that just came in and brought food to me?  I felt his hairy body and I ate his food and I blessed him, so he shall stay blessed.”  When Esau heard this, he knew that he had been cheated and he cried aloud, “My father, it was Jacob that took away my blessing, just as he took away my birthright!  Can you give me another blessing, too?  Has everything been given to my younger brother?”

Esau begged for another blessing, and Isaac said, “My son, it is too late, my only blessing for you could be that your dwelling shall be of the riches of the earth and of the dew of heaven.  You shall live by your sword and you and your descendants shall serve your younger brother and his descendants.  But in time to come they shall break loose and shall shake off the yoke of your brother’s rule and they shall be free.”  Esau started crying and he smashed the bowl of food on the ground and then he stormed out of his father’s tent.  He was very angry and he shouted, “Jacob took my birthright and my blessing and after my father dies, I will kill him.”

When Jacob left Haran with his wives and children and his flocks, he knew that he was a blessed man, but his uncle hated him, his wives couldn’t get along with each other, and he thought that his brother was going to kill him.  Jacob crossed the ford of the Jabbok at night, a stream in Eastern Palestine where a stranger steps out from the darkness thinking that Jacob wants his help.  Jacob wrestles with the stranger all night long, as neither one would yield to the other.   Just as the early morning light began to creep across the sky, the supernatural Being told Jacob to release Him, but Jacob said that he would not let go until he receives a blessing.  At this point, God struck Jacob on the hip and put it out of joint.  Jacob walked with a limp from that day on, which would always remind him of the night he wrestled with God.  After this God gave Jacob the name Israel.

Jacob’s uncle Laban double-crossed him, as the instant Jacob departed, from Haran, Laban sent his son Beor to Esau, in the hills of Seir, to inform him about the great wealth Jacob had amassed.  Jacob had plenty of reason to fear his brother, as his scouts told him that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men.  Jacob cowardly put the wives and children that he cared the least about in the most vulnerable positions, right up in the front, so that he would still be able to escape with his favored sons if need be.  Jacob bowed to the ground seven times as he saw his brother was approaching.  But Esau ran to meet him, threw his arms around his neck, kissed him, and they wept.  Esau looked up and saw the women and children and said, “Who are these with you?”

I guess it is true that time heals all wounds as Esau bore no resentment against his brother.  Jacob said, “The children that God generously gave your servant”, still sucking up to his brother.  The women servants and their children came forward and bowed down.  Then Leah and her servants also came forward and bowed, and afterward Joseph and Rachel came forward and bowed.  Esau had also become very successful, and he felt he was sufficiently blessed, so he initially refused his brother’s peace offerings, saying that he already has enough.  Jacob insists that Esau accept the gifts that he presents because he says that he saw the face of God in his brother.  Esau was deprived of his role as the patriarch of an entire nation, but he still sought reconciliation with his brother.  This moment of forgiveness between the siblings went a long way to start the necessary healing process.

Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Tale Weaver – #285 – Forgiveness hosted by Michael.

30 thoughts on “The Difficulties of Forgiveness

  1. I learned my Biblical history lesson today with your story. Nicely told, with an open-ended message. What is it that made Esau forgive Jacob? When Esau said he saw the face of God in Jacob, it must have scared him maybe. Jacob certainly wasn’t worthy of forgiveness, but forgiveness is not for the benefit of the wrongdoer.

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      1. Jim, I’ll be honest with you and say I like the chapters you post, but there is no way I have time to read a long book right now. If things change, I’ll let you know.

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      2. Holy Moly (no disrespect intended) that’s a big book. I think you should make it a 17-volume collection. Much easier to handle and could be purchased one by one as well. Who is the one person who has read it?

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      3. My ex girlfriend read it and when she was finished she told me that she had to break up with me because she wanted to devote the rest of her life to God. I never expected that as this book originally started out to be a comedy.

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      4. Change your format to 17 small volumes in a collection and try Zondervan and McGee publishers. It might take a little work to shift the format, but don’t you think it’s worth it if it means they agree to publish? Also, have you considered self-publishing?

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      5. Christian books publisher I mean. I know that Zondervan is a huge one in Grand Rapids. Also, McGee Publishing, which publishes not only Christian books but workbooks to go with them. There’s no telling where it could all lead to.

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      6. I guess it could be considered to be a Christian book, but I don’t think of it that way. To me it is more of an adventure story book and it does have a sex scene in it which may disqualify it as being a Christian book.

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      7. The book has a simple premise as Eli is a step cousin of Jesus and he returns to Jerusalem after working in Rome and discovers that his cousin is dead. Eli gets married and goes on a honeymoon in Rome and there the Romans want to hear stories about the Jews and the Jews want to hear the Roman stories, so all the characters tell different stories.

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