Esau is racing to meet the limping Jacob who has fearfully anticipated this moment for 20 years. The injured, or crippled, Jacob will not be able to out maneuver the running Esau, so Jacob has to wait to be overtaken by him.
The encounter that has been building for two decades is described with a pile-up of five verbs in verse 33:4:
Jesus seems to draw on this verse when he tells the story of the prodigal son, whose reunion with his father is reminiscent of this encounter between Esau and Jacob:
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
This is also Joseph’s response when he revealed himself to his brothers:
“Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them.” - Genesis 45:14-15
And, then again in Genesis 46:29, when Joseph sees his father Jacob for the first time in twenty-two years:
"Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel (or, Jacob). As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.” – Genesis 46:29
In each of these cases the person doing the running to initiate the embrace was the person who had been wronged in the relationship:
The kiss may be a sign of forgiveness as appears to be the case with David kissing his son Absalom when he was restored to him in 2 Samuel 15:1.
- Esau (after 20 years)
- the father of the prodigal son
- Joseph (after 22 years)