Why was Jacob afraid of his brother Esau?
As Jacob returned from his mother’s native land where he served his uncle Laban for 21 years, he knew he had a big problem on his hands. He didn’t leave the land of Canaan on good terms with his brother Esau.
He wrestled with an angel, before which he divided his party into two groups. He put his precious possessions with Rachel in the second group. If Leah’s group was captured by Esau, he would still have the other group.
As Jacob did all his life, he continued to be deceptive and schemed to get ahead. When he met the angel of the Lord, the fight lasted all night long. He refused to let the angel go until he blessed him.
In an attempt to gain control over the angel, Jacob asked him what his name was. Instead of answering, the angel asked what his name was. Jacob’s name means, “Heel grabber, deceiver.” He finally told the angel his name, and the angel changed it to Israel, “He contends with God.”
From then on, Jacob led a life fairly free of deception. Not only his name, but his character had been changed in the fight. But he was still worried about his brother. He ran away from his brother in fear many years earlier.
In two feats of deception, he stole both his brother’s birthright as the older brother, and his blessing. Once when Esau, a man of the field, was out hunting, he came back very tired. Jacob made him some soup but withheld it from him until he gave his birthright.
At another time, Jacob, with the help of his mother Rebecca, deceived Isaac his father by putting on goat skins and trying to smell like his brother Esau. Isaac became blind in his old age. The deception worked, and Isaac blessed Jacob while Esau was hunting for game to make his father his favorite dish.
Jacob got out of Dodge as fast as he could. His parents instructed him to take a wife in the same land Isaac received Rebecca from. He was gone, Esau apparently didn’t care about this pleasing his parents. He picked a wife from the Canaanites.
Because Jacob stole the birthright and blessing from the firstborn son Esau, he suspected his brother would take all of his possessions and kill him. And when he finally met up with Esau, he found a forgiving brother who had prospered in his own right. Esau’s ability to forgive Jacob for all his deceptions, and Jacob’s character and name change mended a broken brother relationship.