the words of tim walker

jacob and esau

sometimes all it takes is one word to bring clarity.
as an editor, if i’m on my game—with the perfect blend of coffee, a good night’s sleep, a good playlist and some good snacks—i notice when a word is omitted. i read through a sentence and think, “what?” as i stumble around, picking myself off the page.

then i go back, read it again, and play “mindreader,” trying to figure out what word the original author meant to say. i try to decipher what word got left stranded as the author become so swept up in the words that were coming next that he or she left one behind.

lately, when i read the Bible, i seem to be more impacted by single sentences and words than i do whole chapters and stories. perhaps it’s because the stories have become so familiar that it’s the overlooked word or words that seem to bring something new to a narrative that i thought i knew so well.

the other day, one word resolved an issue i’ve had with Scripture for years.

ever since i was a kid, the story of jacob and esau has brought some baggage. (if you don’t know it, read genesis 25:19–26:35 for insight into this dramatic, dysfunctional family.)
i just can’t seem to get past the point that jacob, with the help of his mom, conspired to take away esau’s birthright, his blessing.
it was a blessing esau freely gave up to satisfy his hunger.
but birthrights were a huge deal in those times, and it just always seemed so odd to me that even though jacob took what wasn’t his, God somehow used it.

esau always felt like a victim to me. granted not a completely innocent victim (the guy made a lot of less than stellar decisions), but definitely one who got shortchanged for a single decision.

and i always felt a little bad for the big, hairy oaf. that is until i read Genesis 33.

the passage depicts jacob and esau meeting face to face years later. jacob is very anxious about the meeting. he has a lot to lose, and he’s very hesitant to face the brother who he took something important away from years ago.

but esau surprised him. he was actually happy to see jacob. here’s what the Bible says:

Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.
Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked.
Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.”
Then the maidservants and their children approached and bowed down.
Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down.
Esau asked, “What do you mean by all these droves I met?”
“To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said.
But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself,” (Genesis 33:4-9 NLT).

esau tells the brother who stole everything from him that he had plenty.
esau wasn’t left desolate.
he wasn’t abandoned by God while God poured out blessing after blessing on Jacob.
no, God took care of esau too.


while esau may not have been a prominent character in the big story of the Bible, he was far from forgotten.
he had plenty.

and at the time of this story in genesis 33, the thing that he wanted the most was simply reconciliation with the brother who had wronged him.
not because he needed something.

but simply because God had taken care of him, and in the big picture, the only thing he lost was his brother.


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image courtesy of flickr.com/creative commons/by tomylees

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