Jacob was afraid to meet his brother Esau after all that had happened between them before he left home. He sent ahead of him an incredible amount of tribute, seeking to win his favor. He also helped his family cross over the river while he waited behind and wrestled with God. After wrestling he had a more humble walk (a dislocated hip-socket will do that to you) and he had kept good on his vow to make the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, His God.
Jacob raised his eyes and saw Esau
Because I believe Jacob was wrestling with God during Rosh Hashanah — possibly the whole time of the Days of Awe through Yom Kippur — it is important to note that these are Judgment days and on these days God determines the fate for individuals and the Jewish Nation. If he had not kept his vow, I believe Jacob would have met with a very different temperament from Esau.
As it was, he still feared him. When he saw his brother and his 400 men coming he divided the children with their mothers and sent them ahead of him in shifts. The handmaids and their children were sent out first, then Leah and her children, and finally Rachel and Joseph last. He went ahead of them and bowed to the ground before his brother seven times as he was approaching Esau.
Esau ran toward him and embraced him. He hugged him deeply, kissed him and wept.
Jacob had not considered that during his own travels his brother would have grown up as well.
Esau looked up and saw all of the women and children and asked who they were. Jacob responded, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.”
Everyone was introduced to Esau and then Esau asked why Jacob had sent ahead all of the tribute. Jacob answered, “To gain favor in my lord’s eyes.”
Esau informed Jacob that he had plenty and insisted that Jacob keep his tribute, as would be customary in an honor society. Jacob then insisted that if he had found favor in Esau’s eyes Esau should keep the tribute and Jacob would consider it a blessing that they were reunited and reconciled. Jacob insists that because God has been gracious and generous to him he wants to be generous toward Esau. Esau did not object again.
Let us travel on together
Esau encouraged Jacob to travel on together with Jacob’s family and men side by side.
Jacob objected and insisted that his children needed to rest and the nursing cattle needed tending. He did not want harm to come to them from being driven too hard. Jacob encouraged Esau to return ahead of him and assure him he would catch up. Jacob was going to let the herds and the children set the pace for his travels.
Esau suggested leaving some of his men to help them.
Jacob argued that he did not need Esau to go to that rouble and asked for favor in his brother’s eyes.
Despite the tearful reunion there is clearly distrust between the brothers. As it was, Jacob had no intention of taking his family to Seir. The Sages point out the conflict between his obvious plan and the lengths he had gone to in his life to not tell a blatant lie and suggest he may have been referring to the End of Days when Obadiah (Obadiah 1:21) declares that Jacob’s descendants will come to Mount Seir to render judgment against Esau’s descendants.
Esau started back that day on his way to Seir
If Jacob was referring prophetically to the time referred to by Obadiah, this could be an allusion to the fact that Esau has not changed completely and even though they are reconciled he is still the same person he was in character and intention before Jacob left.
Esau started back to Seir.
Jacob, instead, journeyed to Succoth (another spelling for Sukkot). He built himself a house and many shelters and called the place Succoth.
His Journey Ends
He then arrived with his whole family and all of his possessions at the City of Shechem, in the Land of Canaan. He camped outside the city and eventually bought a parcel of land, from the children of Hamor (Shechem’s father), where he pitched his tent. He bought the land for 100 kesitahs.
Jacob set up an altar on the land and it was there he proclaimed, “God, the God of Israel.”