Thanks to Coty Pinckney for his insights into Genesis 35-36. He has a wonderful reminder that we need to consider the eternal perspective and do not look at the results of obedience in our own lifetimes.
Esau has been a central figure in Genesis since his birth in chapter 25. His actions and threats have had a major influence on Jacob’s life. The name “Esau” is mentioned 68 times in chapters 25-36. But he will not be mentioned again in the remainder of Genesis.
This chapter elaborates on what we have already seen: Esau went to the land of Seir (which became known as the land of Edom, named after him) and founded a kingdom. His descendants became wealthy and powerful. This nation was stronger than the descendants of Israel for many centuries. Indeed, as verse 31 tells us:
These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the Israelites.
God has promised that kings will come from the offspring of Jacob – but Esau produces kings much more quickly. Indeed, at this point it sure looks like Esau is more successful than Jacob. Both have large flocks, both have many children, but Esau has established his presence in a land with strong natural defenses. In just a few years his descendants become kings, ruling over a powerful kingdom. At the same time Jacob’s descendants flee a drought and end up as slaves in Egypt.
So for several hundred years, the descendants of the son who rejected his birthright are more powerful, have more wealth, and have more influence than the descendants of the son chosen by God. The brother who never gives a thought to God establishes a kingdom, while the brother who repents and turns to God, and obeys him, doesn’t.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Does obedience “pay”?
It sure doesn’t seem to pay in the life of Jacob, particularly when compared to Esau.
But the Bible gives two answers to this question.
First: God’s perspective is not limited to only a few hundred years. God’s perspective is of all time.
So about 800 years after these events, the descendants of Jacob, led by David, will conquer the descendants of Esau. And about 200 years after that, the kingdom of Edom will be completely destroyed, as prophesied by Obadiah. God sees that. He knows that. And He ensures that it will come about.
Friends, we must not look at the results of obedience in our own lifetimes. Indeed, our perspective must be an eternal one. All wrongs will NOT be righted in this world. But God promises that in the end, every sin will be paid for. Those who reject God will indeed suffer eternal punishment, while those who seek His face and lean not on their own obedience but on the blood of Jesus to cover their sins will spend eternity with Him, delighting in Him and coming to know more and more of His infinite goodness day by day by day, without end.