Genesis 33: Jacob Meets Esau

1 And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two female servants. 2 And he put the servants with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. 3 He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.

-Well this is it, the big reunion. Jacob assumes Esau will attack and kill him and his family and has taken every precaution he can, even throwing himself before God in prayer. The only thing he can do is show Esau the greatest amount of honor he can and bow repeatedly. We see the number seven again, God’s number. It doesn’t say specifically but it can be reasonable assumed when the children were divided they were probably each given to their own mother. This way if something happened to Jacob, the mother can get away with her own children and they will have to go on with life alone. Jacob is very clever and we see that he truly has made every precaution he can. He could simply have gone somewhere else and settled but he is choosing to obey God and face his fear of meeting his brother.

4 But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. 5 And when Esau lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” 6 Then the servants drew near, they and their children, and bowed down. 7 Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down. And last Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. 8 Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “To find favor in the sight of my lord.” 9 But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” 10 Jacob said, “No, please, if I have found favor in your sight, then accept my present from my hand. For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me. 11 Please accept my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough.” Thus he urged him, and he took it.

-Not only was Jacob mistaken that Esau wanted to kill him but he even ran up and kissed him. He seemed very sorry and probably lived with regret for many years after (one would assume) he learned the real reason Jacob had left. God is with Jacob and Jacob should have realized, as his grandfather Abraham also forgot, that God has made a promise to him and so Jacob could not have been killed in this way. Even if Esau did attack, Jacob’s camp would have utterly destroyed his camp no matter what the numbers were. God promised Jacob blessings and fruitfulness. It is true that he already had all the children except Benjamin by now and may have feared his part was done, but had he known God he would have known that God having made a promise like that would not end his life in this regard. Father’s often do die tragically. But the difference here is God has spoken to him directly where these fathers who have died never had a direct promise of God of a life of blessing nor their families. Jacob has been given a gift of foresight to know that he will live a long, fulfilling life. Knowing the future is a tremendous gift and even though Jacob showed faith to humble himself before God, his faith stopped when he feared losing his own life.

12 Then Esau said, “Let us journey on our way, and I will go ahead of you.” 13 But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail, and that the nursing flocks and herds are a care to me. If they are driven hard for one day, all the flocks will die. 14 Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly, at the pace of the livestock that are ahead of me and at the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.” 15 So Esau said, “Let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.”

-We don’t know whether Jacob was being truthful but this does make sense if he was going as fast as he could fleeing from Laban. They would not have had much rest in many days. Jacob is still a person who sees everything out of his own eyes and fears the world is out to get him

16 So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. 17 But Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built himself a house and made booths for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.

-Despite the obvious show of peace Esau gave him, Jacob still doesn’t trust him. Jacob has gotten used to dealing with Laban’s type who will smile while holding a knife behind his back. He is very self-focused seeing the world out of his own eyes and so sees everyone else as being out to get him. He does not trust that God is blessing him in this and will prevent harm coming from him. So Esau goes to Seir which is n the southwest edge of Israel bordering the Sinai Peninsula here: but Jacob goes north the complete opposite direction to Succoth here: . He settles temporarily to build booths for his livestock and the word “succoth” means “booth.

18 And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. 19 And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. 20 There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.

-Jacob eventually goes west and settles in Shechem which was the first place Abraham built an alter when he left Haran . Who Hamor and the person named Shechem is will be relevant next chapter. The name of the alter in Hebrew means “mighty God of Israel”.


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