(Gen 33:1 NASB) Then Jacob lifted 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 maids.
Gen 33:1: Jacob had earlier arranged for his entourage to go to Esau in groups in order to affect an escape strategy. But since he has wrestled with Elohim the previous night, he knew he had nothing to fear.
He is arranging his family and servants according to mothers and children.
(Gen 33:2 NASB) And he put the maids and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last.
(Gen 33:3 NASB) But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
Gen 33:3: He arranged the groups according to mothers and he went first. He bowed himself to the ground seven times.
Jacob was not being the master over his brothers that were told him previously (Gen. 27:29). Instead, Jacob humbled himself greatly to his brother whom he had cheated years earlier.
(Gen 33:4 NASB) Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.
Gen 33:4: The way the text is translated, it would appear that Esau is genuinely moved. The text is translated to say that He embraced him and kissed him. However, the Hebrew word used for “he kissed him” is written very strangely in the Masoretic text. It is shows up with apparently 14 vowel points and its precise meaning is not known. It has been thought by ancient sages to mean that Esau was at least disingenuous with his kiss. Some ancient sages have said it means that Esau wanted to “bite him on the neck until he was dead.” With that being the case, the tears would have been tears of relief for Jacob and tears of frustration for Esau who was not able to kill the man that he hated so much.
Even recently, when the nation of Israel would sign a peace agreement with a man as evil as Yassir Arafat, the Jewish people would refer to the handshake with Arafat as “Esau’s Kiss.”
(Gen 33:5 NASB) And he lifted his eyes and saw the women and the children, and said, “Who are these with you?” So he said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.”
(Gen 33:6 NASB) Then the maids came near with their children, and they bowed down.
(Gen 33:7 NASB) And Leah likewise came near with her children, and they bowed down; and afterward Joseph came near with Rachel, and they bowed down.
Gen 33:7: Esau was witness to the familial blessings that Yahweh has given Jacob. Just as Esau witnessed an entourage of livestock blessings, he now sees the parade of Jacob’s family.
(Gen 33:8 NASB) And he said, “What do you mean by all this company which I have met?” And he said, “To find favor in the sight of my lord.”
Gen 33:8: “All this company..” Esau is referring to the livestock gifts that came in waves in the previous chapter.
(Gen 33:9 NASB) But Esau said, “I have plenty, my brother; let what you have be your own.”
(Gen 33:10 NASB) And Jacob said, “No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then take my present from my hand, for I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably.
(Gen 33:11 NASB) “Please take my gift which has been brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have plenty.” Thus he urged him and he took it.
Gen 33:11: It is probably wise to not get all teary-eyed over Esau’s acceptance of the gifts. One Jewish commentary (JPS) states that the etiquette of the east requires Esau to make a show of refusing the gifts and for Jacob to press it on him. It appears the Esau is accepting the gifts reluctantly, but that is not necessarily the case.
Jacob’s mention of seeing Esau like this is like seeing “the face of Elohim” is a reference to Jacob’s ordeal in wrestling with Elohim as described in the previous chapter.
Notice at the end of verse 11, Jacob urged Esau to take the gifts, and he did. Esau did not reciprocate. He thought the gifts were at least appropriate despite his appearance of reluctance.
(Gen 33:12 NASB) Then Esau said, “Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.”
(Gen 33:13 NASB) But he said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die.
(Gen 33:14 NASB) “Please let my lord pass on before his servant; and I will proceed at my leisure, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord at Seir.”
Gen 33:14: Esau assumes that Jacob made this long trip in order to visit him. So he recommends that they travel together.
Jacob declines. He states he needs to travel slower for the sake of the children and for the nursing livestock.
It would appear that Jacob has a measure of distrust for his brother. This further reinforces the fact that the kissing and weeping the two brothers shared was not exactly as perceived in most Bible translations.
(Gen 33:15 NASB) And Esau said, “Please 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.”
(Gen 33:16 NASB) So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir.
Gen 33:16: Esau offers to leave some of his men with Jacob. But Jacob declines. He says there is no need. It appears that Jacob just wants a peaceable relationship with his brother, but not a close one. That is probably wise. The servants of Esau probably had wicked plans for Jacob.
Esau now fades off into the sunset. He does not show up again in Scripture until Isaac’s funeral. His genealogy is given in Genesis 36.
(Gen 33:17 NASB) And Jacob journeyed to Succoth; and built for himself a house, and made booths for his livestock, therefore the place is named Succoth.
Gen 33:17: Succoth means “booths.” It is the same name used for the Feast of Booths. It is possible that Jacob was celebrating a form of that feast. But he does not do so temporarily. He attempts to set up a semi-permanent residence there. Perhaps he is stopping to replenish his livestock for a period before he moves to his destination. Tradition states he dwelt there 18 months.
(Gen 33:18 NASB) Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city.
(Gen 33:19 NASB) And he bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money.
(Gen 33:20 NASB) Then he erected there an altar, and called it El-Elohe-Israel.
Gen 33:20: Jacob bought a parcel of land in Canaan just as his grandfather Abraham had done. He bought it with money, not livestock.
Patrick McGuireCopyright 2014 Patrick McGuire and Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly All rights reserved, no portion of this Lesson may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews. Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly Fort Smith, Arkansas