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Peace With Esau
When they had last seen each other over twenty years before, Esau had been planning to murder his brother Jacob (see Why Did Esau Lose The Blessing?):
"27:41 And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him [see Blessing The Favorites]: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob [see Cain and Esau]. 27:42 And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee. 27:43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran; 27:44 And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother's fury turn away; 27:45 Until thy brother's anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?" (Genesis 27:41-45 KJV)
Rebekah's message for Jacob to return after "a few days" ("Until thy brother's anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence") apparently never came during the two decades that Jacob remained away. Jacob may well have been right to assume that Esau was still intending to kill him.
"Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept"
During Jacob's journey home, he sent word to Esau that he was coming - and that he wanted to make peace with his brother. Esau's response was to head out into the wilderness to meet Jacob - with four hundred men.
"32:3 And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 32:4 And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now: 32:5 And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.
Jacob became panic-stricken, doing little more to defend his family than to line them up for a slaughter, if Esau chose not to have mercy upon them.
"32:7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands; 32:8 And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape." (Genesis 32:7-8 KJV)
Amidst his terror, Jacob prayed to the LORD for help - help that was already there. That night, the LORD renamed Jacob as "Israel" (see The Origin Of 'Israel').
"32:28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. 32:29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. 32:30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." (Genesis 32:28-30 KJV)
The next morning, Jacob prepared to meet his brother. Esau's response was not what Jacob expected.
"33:1 And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids. 33:2 And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost. 33:3 And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
Although obviously relieved, Jacob still did not trust Esau's intentions. Rather than go to Seir / Edom to visit with Esau, as he said that he would do, Jacob headed in the other direction, into the land that would be named after his new name, Israel. Although he had made peace with him, Jacob's ruse probably made Esau think that Jacob was still the deceiver that he had been twenty years earlier. Esau had changed; Jacob hadn't.
"33:16 So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir. 33:17 And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.
Fact Finder: Jacob and Esau met at least one more time afterward. When and where?