In Genesis 33:4 (NKJV): "But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept."

In Luke 15:20 (NKJV): "But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him."

Did Jesus intend to reference the Esau/Jacob reunion story, and if so why?

@Tammy noted in a comment in an answer this question Is "wept on his neck" a Hebrew idiom? that the phrase "fell on his neck" appears in Jesus' parable

  • Esau was not Jacob's Father, so why would the parable of the Prodigal Son reference the relationship of Jacob & Esau? - Do you see Esau referenced as the older son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son? - Jacob returned with more wealth after leaving Isaac to give Esau. * Jacob was not the Prodigal Son. * Esau said, "I have plenty, my brother; let what you have remain yours." - This shows Esau was not an envious older brother like the person referenced in the later Prodigal Son parable. – חִידָה Jan 13 at 14:52
  • The parallel is not between Esau and Jacob but the southern kingdom of Judah (eldest brother) and the northern kingdom of Israel, Efraim (youngest brother). Jesus being the father in the story. Efraim was alienated from his inheritance, and contaminated himself with the Gentiles but later would return to God in the new covenant (new robes, shoes, ring, a feast) while Judah was still working for his father but refused to join in and welcome his lost brother back home. Even insulted his father for embarrassing himself in front of the world (death on a cross). – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 13 at 15:44
  • I've been googling around & it seems like Kenneth Bailey / NT Wright think there are even more links between the (broader) story of Jacob and Jesus' parable. I'll try to read their stuff. In the meantime, would love to hear what people in this community think. amazon.com/Jacob-Prodigal-Jesus-Retold-Israels/dp/0830827277 – whiskey92 Jan 14 at 11:10

Did Jesus intend to reference the Esau/Jacob reunion story, and if so why?

Jesus did not intend to reference the Esau / Jacob reunion story in His parable.
Every similarity is not a reference.

The Prodigal Son is better titled "The Love of the Father" because the whole point of the story is that the father (God) looks for and offers forgiveness beyond what the son (sinners) deserve.

The Esau / Jacob story is a reunion between brothers who are estranged. The point of this story is that God answered Jacobs prayer for protection (see passage below), God kept His promise to Abraham and God furthered His salvation plan through Jacob.

Genesis 32
9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”

The stories are similar in that there is a warm welcome where it was not expected.
The situations are different and the intent of the stories is different.
It is best to infer connections or references only when the Bible specifically makes the connection.


The father in Luke 15:20 represents the heavenly Father. Esau does not represent the heavenly Father. On the contrary, Esau and his descendants are punished in Malachi 1:3

but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals."

  • The father doesn’t represent God the Father, it either represents the whole Godhead or it represent Jesus, God the Son. – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 13 at 17:43

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