“12 Then Esau said, ‘Let us be on our way; I’ll accompany you.’13 But Jacob said to him, ‘My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. 14 So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.’15 Esau said, ‘Then let me leave some of my men with you.’‘But why do that?’ Jacob asked. ‘Just let me find favour in the eyes of my lord.’16 So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. 17 Jacob, however, went to Sukkoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place is called Sukkoth.18 After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. 19 For a hundred pieces of silver, he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. 20 There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.”NIV
‘’So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. Jacob, however, went to Succoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock’’ (16,17a).
What was that again? ‘Faith is living without scheming.’ But here is Jacob, the man of faith, acting once more like someone without it. He had seen God’s goodness; prayer had been answered; his brother had welcomed him. Yet still he was afraid and suspicious, and here he reverted to type.
My thoughts this morning run along these lines: what did he miss out on by distancing himself from his brother? Indeed, what did he cause his family to miss also? In what ways was he robbing his brother?
However, Jacob had been told by God to return to Canaan. So he had no intention of going with his brother to Seir. But he should have been straightforward and honest about his intentions, not returning to his old deceptive ways. Why didn’t he just say so? Couldn’t they still have had a relationship?
Some patterns are deeply ingrained in the human psyche. They are stubborn and do not die easily. I cannot point the finger. If I do, I know I will have three pointing back at me. But that is not to excuse Jacob’s conduct. As we read this story we should heed the warning embedded in it, and with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit endeavour to walk the high road in our relationships. At the same time, remember: ‘Like Jacob, none of us becomes perfect in this life; we all have a tendency to slip back into our old nature from time to time.’ Tom Hale: ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.180.