If you're familiar with what the Bible records about Esau, son of Isaac, you might be scratching your head about now, wondering about the lesson title. "The wisdom of Esau--is that a typo, Stephen?"
No, it's not a mistake, but before I explain, let's first consider some things the Bible explicitly reveals about Esau:
- He was red and very hairy--even from birth (Gen. 25:25; 27:11),
- He was a cunning hunter and man of the field (Gen. 25:27),
- He was loved by Isaac because of what he fed him from his hunting (Gen. 25:28),
- He sold his birthright to his twin brother Jacob for a pot of stew (Gen. 25:29-32),
- He was a polygamist (Gen. 26:34),
- He hated Jacob and planned to kill him because he pretended to be Esau and deceived their father into blessing him (Gen. 27:41), and
- He did not please his father with his marital choices (Gen. 28:8).
So far, the portrayal of Esau is not good. Hebrews 12:14-17 is also worthy of our consideration:
"Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears."
Well Stephen, you're mentioning all the things I know about Esau, but where did he ever show wisdom? Genesis 33 contains the answer. This chapter records the reconciliation between Esau and Jacob, twenty years after the blessing had been stolen.
As Jacob approached Esau, he manifested a great deal of respect. He "bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept" (Gen. 33:3,4). After some introductions, Esau asked about the many gifts Jacob had sent to him just prior to their meeting. Jacob replied - "'These are to find favor in the sight of my lord.' But Esau said, 'I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself'" (33:8,9).
Do you see the wisdom of Esau now? Esau demonstrated wisdom in several ways in this context:
- Esau was wise to forgive the past wrongs his brother had done him. This could have been his moment of revenge, but he has matured some (and so has Jacob). Both Esau and Jacob made some poor choices, but they are now pursuing peace.
- Esau was wise to acknowledge that he had enough earthly goods and did not need these gifts from his brother. How many today are truly content? How many today are able to say: "I have enough"? Tragically, many chase wealth, fame, and glory, but these endeavors are vanity and striving after the wind (cf. Eccl. 1:14)! May God give us the wisdom to know the difference between our needs and wants, and to learn the blessedness of contentment in whatever state we find ourselves (cf. Phil. 4:11-13).
- Finally, after Jacob expresses his firm desire for Esau to receive his gifts (because he too has enough), Esau accepts such at Jacob's urging. I also see this as a wise action on Esau's part. He did not deny his brother the blessed opportunity to give to him! There is a lesson here for us, friends. If someone wants to bless you with a gift, accept it graciously from their hand, if at all possible. Even if you do not need the gift, do not deny them the blessing of being able to give because of your pride (cf. Acts 20:35).
Admittedly, the wisdom Esau shows here is seemingly overshadowed by his various poor choices, but still it serves as a reminder that there is much we can learn from that which has been written before--even in unlikely characters (cf. Rom. 15:4).