The last time Jacob had seen his brother, Esau had been determined to kill him. Jacob is not much of a warrior. He is a bit of a worrier and he is concerned as to how his brother will greet him – especially when he hears Esau is on his way with an army of 400 men.
Jacob, as it turns out, over-thinks the situation. He divides his family and possessions so as to avoid putting them all in danger at the same time – but he needn’t have worried. Esau’s forgiveness is compelling.
Compare these two verses, the first one from Genesis 33:4 – “Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.”
Now look at this one relating the greeting of the father to his wayward son in Jesus’ Prodigal Son story (Luke 15:20) – “So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
If you think, because of the similarity of the verses, Jesus had the Jacob-Esau reunion in mind when he told about the prodigal son, you can understand how warmly the brothers felt for each other. God has in mind that we all get along. He doesn’t allow for grudges. ‘Settle your differences immediately’ Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount. “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger” Paul will write in Ephesians. David writes: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).
Jacob is determined to make peace, but he has lived under someone else’s umbrella long enough. He is determined to be on his own. He tells his brother he will meet him in Seir – but he doesn’t and with that lie, he unwittingly rekindles the old feud once again.