Now Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and there, Esau was coming, and with him were four hundred men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two maidservants. And he put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children behind, and Rachel and Joseph last. (Genesis 33:1-2)
As Jacob went out to meet Esau, it is obvious that his family’s welfare was weighing on his mind. Moreover, when you consider how he arranged his family, it is obvious who he favored. He placed the maidservants and their children at the front of the column, with Rachel — the woman he loved — and her son, Joseph at the “last. As a result, Joseph was the last of Jacob’s son to encounter Israel’s chief nemesis, Esau.
The word translated as “last” is derived from the word אחרון acharon, which means “the latter” or “at the end.” So Rachel and Joseph were at the end of the line when it came to how they made their way toward Esau and his small army. Yet this same word is often used to denote things that occur in the last days, hinting that there might be something prophetic about this encounter as well. An example of acharon being used for the “end of days” is found in Psalm 102:
“When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory. He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer. This shall be written for the generation to come [acharon] and the people which shall be created shall praise the LORD.” (Psalm 102:16-18)
In other words, this is a prophecy written for the last day generation — a people who were not yet born when this Psalm was written. So if the word acharon is intended to speak of something that occurs at the end of days in Psalm 102, then the possibility exists that its use in Genesis 33 is prophetic as well. If so, it is interesting that Joseph was at the end of the column because Joseph personifies those of God’s people who live outside the Land of Israel. He represents those people who look and function as “Egyptians” or, better, the nations. In other words, Joseph is a picture of those who know that, in Messiah, we are the seed of Abraham even if we don’t look and act as those who live in Israel. Consequently, we too will have to encounter the greatest of Israel’s adversaries, Esau.
According to the Bible, in the last days, those who embrace Esau’s mindset and attitude will seek to destroy God’s people. In spite of that, God will see to it that we will prevail over our enemies. Still, we must face them, not with bitterness and animosity, but with the attitude expressed by Jacob — as a servant. As servants of the Most High, we must, at times, serve those we don’t care for. We must be willing to honor Him by denying ourselves. A tall order, indeed, but one that this last day generation has been called to.
Blessings and Shalom,