I found another treasure by using 'Ancient Methods'. I decided to read through Genesis again. When I got to Gen 33:4, “Then Esau ran to meet him (Jacob) and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.”, I remembered that the same three verbs, 'ran', 'embraced', and 'kissed', in this verse were also used by Yeshua in the parable of the prodigal son. “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion (for him) and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20. ) It seems I am always drawn to investigate biblical phrases and word groups.
This repetition is a signal that there is a mystery to uncover. The story of Jacob is somehow linked to the parable of prodigal son. Dr. Anne Davis included this parable of the prodigal son in her excellent work, Uncovering Mysteries of the Parables with Haggadic Midrash. I have a copy of the book, so I reread that chapter. Dr. Davis also saw the connection between Jacob's story and the prodigal son, but through a different phrase, “I am not worthy”. (It is an excellent study; I recommend it.) However, I wanted to know how my three words connected the two stories.
At blueletterbible.org I found one more occurrence, it is the first of three. “So when Laban heard the news of Jacob his sister's son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house.” (Gen29:13a). Three occurrences of this word group is a great clue. Three is the number of resurrection and new life.
Let's look at the context of these three stories. The first is about Jacob. He was a scoundrel. His behavior finally forced him to flee his home and go to Padan-Aram. (If you do not know why I describe Jacob as a scoundrel, please read Gen 25:26-28:20.) Jacob's father, Isaac, was not permitted to go to Padan-Aram, but Jacob was forced to go. Isaac did not need to learn the lessons that Jacob badly needed to learn. Jacob, the scoundrel, had to find out what it was like to be cheated and mistreated by a scoundrel; he needed a taste of his own medicine. (“If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him”, Lev. 24:19). When he first arrived at his Uncle Laban's house in Padan-Aram, Uncle Laban “ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him”. His uncle's welcome seemed warm and sincere. However, Laban's true character soon showed up. Jacob spent twenty years working for and being cheated by his uncle, developing the godly character that God desired until He finally told Jacob to return to his homeland.
It was during Jacob's return trip that we see the second use of 'ran-embraced-kissed'. Even after twenty years of separation, Jacob was afraid that Esau still wanted to kill him. When he heard that Esau was coming to meet him along with a force of 400 men, Jacob was very afraid. He prepared as best he could strategically, and then, when he was completely alone, he wrestled all night with a 'man'. What a beautiful picture of each of us when we wrestle alone to submit to God's sovereignty. Jacob lost, but he also won. We know this because God changed his name to Israel. The next morning, “Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” (Gen 33:4) Esau's hatred had melted away and he received him back with affection– a miracle! Thus Jacob could say, “ I see your face like the face of God”. Jacob arrived back into the Promised Land repentant and humble.
The third and final occurrence of this word group is in the story of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15:11-32. There are many parallels between Jacob's story and the prodigal son.
They both had 'inheritance' issues with their fathers
Both were disrespectful, rebellious, selfish, ambitious
Both left on bad terms
Both went to a distant land
Both were treated badly in the distant land
Both had bad relationships with their brothers
Both return home repentant, humble
By linking these two stories with the 'ran-embraced-kissed' word group, the Author is providing us with a picture of just how much 'training in righteousness' Jacob needed. The character of the prodigal son is a good description of Jacob when he first left home. However, through hard times and God's faithfulness, both Jacob and the prodigal were led to repentance. God's discipline is not from anger or hatred, but from love with the goal of restoration. God knew exactly what kind of discipline the prodigal needed in order to break his rebellion. When it finally came, “he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion (for him), and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
Try to put yourself into these three stories. Which character are you? Our Father feels compassion for each of us and is watching and waiting. Remember, three is the number of resurrection and new life.
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