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B'resheet/Genesis 33:9 And Esav said, "I have much, my brother; let what is yours be yours."
What could Esav mean by this response to Ya'akov? Was he rejecting Ya'akov's attempts at reconciliation as well as his gifts? TheSforno translates the first phrase of the reply as "I have plenty" and adds as comment "... and need naught." This is saying that Esav already had many flocks and herds of his own, so is in no need of the gift that Ya'akov is trying to give him. To the second phrase, Sforno adds, "Since you are my brother, you need not honour me with this gift," as if Esav is saying that the relationship between them should make such a gift unnecessary. Ya'akov, on the other hand (see verses 10 and 11) presses him to accept it, for Esav's acceptance of the gift is the sign of accepting Ya'akov - at least in some measure - and reconciliation. It would be much more difficult for Esav to attack Ya'akov later after accepting such an extravagant gift.
Rashi, by contrast, sees a different idea behind Esav's words. Rather than seeing a negotiation over the current gifts, Rashi suggests that Esav continues with his spurning of the birthright: "Here Esav conceded to Ya'akov with regard to the blessings." Esav is content with the material blessings that he has and does not want to take up the family responsibilities, so he accedes to Ya'akov's request to accept the gift before him and once again symbolically gives up the right of the first-born. By this action, Esav accepts that he is being "bought out" by Ya'akov - a compensation payment, "in full and final settlement", reflecting the reality that Ya'akov is the head of the family and will take G-d's promise on to the next generation.
The question of rightful authority over material things was used by Yeshua's enemies to try and trick Him into making a public statement that could be used against Him. Knowing that the people opposed paying taxes to the Roman authorities at least partly on the basis that it was improper to give any of the (holy) produce or money of the Land to the (pagan, unholy) Roman emperor, they asked Him whether Torah permitted them to pay taxes to Rome. Neatly detecting their subterfuge, Yeshua replies, "Give the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor. And give to G-d what belongs to G-d!" (Luke 20:25, CJB). That is, Yeshua acknowledges that although all things belong to G-d at an absolute level, it is necessary - and appropriate before G-d - to submit to the authorities that G-d Himself has placed around us, in the areas for which they have responsibility.
Like Ya'akov, we often have a choice what we do with out stuff. We can attempt to brazen it out and protect what we see as our rights, or we can choose to "buy" peace and an undisputed claim to what remains by acknowledging the rightful authority of others. This is clearly the case in the matter of taxation: there are very few countries that allow believers not to pay tax on the grounds that they and the money they earn belong to G-d and so are not subject to income tax! But it is also true in other areas such as family relationships, where we acknowledge the rightful claims of spouses, parents and children to a proportion of our time and financial resources.
Further Study: Romans 13:6-8; 1 Timothy 5:8
Application: Do you find it difficult allocating your time and resources, perhaps even resenting the way that others seem to press for more of a limited supply? Perhaps an attitude adjustment is called for, to seek balance and recognition of the needs and position of others around us.
© Jonathan Allen, 2006
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