Monday, 1 July 2013
Reading the Bible 26: Genesis 33 The Prodigal Brother - A Fatted Calf of Another Kind
On this reading of the reunion of Jacob and Esau I found it striking how I was reminded of the reunion of the Prodigal Son with his father. The return of the outcast family member is greeted by the injured party without hesitation and with literal open arms. As with the father, Esau does not stand on ceremony and custom and rushes to meet Jacob. The careful preparation by both son and brother are moot as the true outpouring of affection and emotion overrules all.
Despite these very similar reunions the two stories take markedly different turns. The difference appears to turn on the lack of a fatted calf. Jacob has prepared a gift of reconciliation for Esau. While the Prodigal Son had nothing material to offer to his father, Jacob plans to offer Esau a portion of what God has blessed him with. This seems to be on the surface a gift from the heart. However, there is an undertone that Jacob has not met Esau with an open heart. He is still using his wiles to ensure his safety. He is depending on himself rather than God who he says has been gracious to him.
This position of Jacob’s is confirmed when he again uses his wiles to separate from Esau again. He uses the fragile state of his children and flock as an excuse not to journey with Esau saying he will follow at a slower pace. He then follows a different path which may have believed he must follow. Regardless he is still not able to put his trust in Esau or perhaps God. When faced with a challenge he still falls back on his trickster nature and depends on his wiles to save him.
We can perhaps have one of the most difficult things for people to do is to accept that we cannot control everything in our lives. As the success of 12 step programs show we need to acknowledge that there is a greater power than ourselves before we are able to move forward from a place where the illusion that we can do it alone is no longer enough.