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Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 33

Simeon's Horae HomileticaeHorae Homileticae

Verse 4


Genesis 33:4. And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.

SUCH are the dispositions of men in general, that they cannot pass any considerable time without feeling in themselves, and exciting in others, some malignant tempers. The more nearly men come in contact with each other, the more do they disagree. Nations are most inveterate against those who are most in their vicinity. Societies are for the most part distracted by opposing interests. Families are rarely to be found, where the demon of Discord has not raised his throne: yea, even the dearest friends and relatives are too often filled with animosity against each other. Happy would it be, if disagreements were found only among the ungodly: but they not unfrequently enter into the very church of God, and kindle even in good men a most unhallowed fire. Paul and Barnabas were a lamentable instance of human weakness in this respect. But on the present occasion we are called to consider, not a quarrel, but a reconciliation. The quarrel indeed had been rancorous in the extreme; but the reconciliation, as described in the text, was most cordial and most affecting.
We would call your attention to a few observations arising from the circumstances before us—


The resentments of brethren are usually exceeding deep—

[If a stranger injure us in any respect, the irritation produced by the offence is, for the most part, of very short duration. But if a brother, or a friend, and more especially a person with whom we have been united in the bonds of the Spirit, provoke us to anger, the wound is more severe, and the impression more lasting. In many cases the difficulty of effecting a reconciliation is so great, as almost to preclude a hope of restoring the former amity. One who was thoroughly conversant with human nature, has told us, that “a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city.” We should be ready to imagine that in proportion as the previous union was close and affectionate, the restoration of that union would be easy; and that the spirits which had suffered a momentary separation, would, like the flesh which has been lacerated, join together again readily, and, as it were, of their own accord. But the reverse of this is true: nor is it difficult to be accounted for. The disappointment of the two parties is greater. From strangers we expect nothing: and if we find rudeness or selfishness or any other evil quality, though we may be offended at it, we are not disappointed. But from friends, and especially religious friends, we expect all that is kind and amiable; and therefore we are the more keenly affected when any thing of a contrary aspect occurs. Moreover the aggravating circumstances are more numerous. Between friends there are a thousand little circumstances taken into the account, which could find no place among strangers, and which. in fact, often operate more forcibly on the mind than the more immediate subject in dispute. Above all, the foundations of their regard are overthrown. Each thinks himself in the right. Each thought highly of the honour, the integrity, the friendship, or perhaps the piety of the other: and behold, each imagines that the other’s conduct towards him has violated all these principles, and given him reason to fear, that he was deceived in his judgment of the other; or at least, that he was not deserving of that high opinion which he had entertained of him.

From some such considerations as these, the alienation of the parties from each other, if not more fierce and violent, is usually more fixed and settled, in proportion to their previous intimacy and connexion.]


However deep the resentment of any one may be, we may hope by proper means to overcome it—

We cannot have a better pattern in this respect than that which Jacob set before us. The means we should use, are,


Prayer to God—

[God has access to the hearts of men, and “can turn them whithersoever he will.” The instances wherein he has exerted his influence upon them, to induce them either to relieve his friends, or to punish his enemies, are innumerable. By prayer his aid is obtained. It was by prayer that Jacob prevailed. He had experienced the seasonable and effectual interposition of the Deity when Laban pursued him with such wrath and bitterness: he therefore again applied to the same almighty Friend, and again found him “ready to save.” Prayer, if fervent and believing, shall be as effectual as ever: there is nothing for the obtaining of which it shall not prevail. To this then we should have recourse in the first instance. Nothing should be undertaken without this. We should not neglect other means; but our chief dependence should be placed on this; because nothing but the blessing of God can give success to any means we use.]


A conciliatory conduct to man—

[Nothing could be more conciliatory, nothing more ingenious, than the device of Jacob, in sending so many presents to his brother, in so many distinct and separate parts, and with the same information so humbly and so continually repeated in his ears. Vehement as Esau’s anger was, it could not withstand all this kindness, humility, and gentleness. The submission of his brother perfectly disarmed him: and “the gift in his bosom pacified his strong wrath [Note: Proverbs 21:14.].”

Thus we may hope to “overcome evil with good [Note: Romans 12:21.].” As stones are melted by being subjected to the action of intense heat, so are the hardest of men melted by love: it “heaps coals of fire upon their head [Note: Romans 12:20.],” and turns their rancorous hostilities into self-condemning accusations [Note: 1 Samuel 24:16-17.]. We say not indeed that the victory shall be certain and uniform in all cases; for even the Saviour’s meekness did not prevail to assuage the malice of his enemies: but, as a means, we may reasonably expect it to conduce to that end. As a proud, distant, and vindictive carriage serves to confirm the hatred of an adversary, so, on the other hand, a kind, gentle, and submissive deportment has a direct tendency to effect a reconciliation with him.]

Not that a short and transient care will suffice: on the contrary,


When once a reconciliation is effected, extreme caution is necessary to preserve and maintain it—

A wound that has been lately closed, may easily be rent open again: and friendship that has been dissolved by any means, does not speedily regain its former stability. To cement affection, much attention is required. We must aim at it,


By mutual kindnesses and endearments—

[Exceeding tender was the interview between the brothers, after their long absence, and alienation from each other. Nor should we deem it beneath us to yield thus to the emotions of love, or to express our regards by salutations and tears. These may possibly be counterfeited by a consummate hypocrite: but, in general, they are the involuntary effusions of a loving heart. And as denoting cordiality, they have the strongest tendency to unite discordant minds, and to efface from the memory all painful recollections.]


By abstaining from all mention of past grievances—

[The revival of things which have been matters in dispute, generally revive the feelings which the dispute occasioned. And, as few are ever found to acknowledge that the fault or error has been wholly on their own side, recriminations will arise from accusations, and the breach perhaps be made wider than ever. To bury matters in oblivion is the readiest way to the maintenance of peace. In this respect the reconciled brothers acted wisely: explanations would only have led to evil consequences; and therefore they avoided them altogether. And we in similar circumstances shall do well to follow their example.]


By guarding against that kind or degree of intercourse that may rekindle animosities—

[There are some whose dispositions are so opposite, that they cannot long move in harmony with each other: “not being agreed, they cannot walk comfortably together.” It is thus particularly with those whose spiritual views are different: for, “what communion hath light with darkness, or Christ with Belial?” It was prudent in Jacob to decline the proffered civilities of Esau, when he saw the mutual sacrifices that would be necessary in order to carry them into effect: it was prudent that Esau with his four hundred armed men should prosecute their journey without needless incumbrances and delays; and that Jacob should be left at liberty to consult the comfort of his children, and the benefit of his flocks. Had the two endeavoured to make concessions, and to accommodate themselves to each other, neither would have been happy; and their renewed amity would have been endangered. Thus, where the dispositions and habits are so dissimilar as to bid defiance, as it were, to mutual concessions, the best way to preserve peace is to interfere with each other as little as possible.]


[Are there any who are involved in disputes and quarrels? Follow after peace: and be forbearing and forgiving to others, if ever you would that God should be so to you [Note: Mat 18:35]. Are there any who desire reconciliation with an offended friend? Be willing rather to make, than to exact, submission: and let generosity and kindness be exercised to the uttermost, to soften the resentments which have been harboured against you. And lastly, are there any who have an opportunity of promoting peace? Embrace it gladly, and exert yourselves with impartiality. And instead of widening a breach. by carrying tales, endeavour to heal it by all possible offices of love. Let the quarrels of brethren be regarded as a fire, which it is every one’s duty and desire to extinguish. Thus shall you yourselves have the blessing promised to peace-makers, and be numbered among the children of God [Note: Matthew 5:9.].]

Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Genesis 33". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/genesis-33.html. 1832.
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