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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Genesis 33

Verses 1-17


Meeting with Esau (33:1-17)

Jacob may have had a dramatic spiritual experience with God, but he still had to face Esau the next day. He took precautions to protect his family against any possible hostility, then went ahead to meet Esau personally (33:1-3). Esau showed a generous spirit of forgiveness, with the result that the dreaded meeting proved to be a happy reunion. Jacob had gained Esau’s birthright and blessing by cunning and deceit, but he was not allowed to enjoy them fully till he humbled himself before Esau, and Esau acknowledged that he had no claim against Jacob. Esau did this by accepting Jacob’s gift (4-11).
Esau asked Jacob to follow him to Edom, but Jacob thought it better not to go immediately. He had a large family and large flocks and herds, and decided to settle for the time being at the town of Succoth nearby (12-17).


Verses 18-20

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Back in Canaan (33:18-35:15)

From Succoth Jacob later moved with his household across the Jordan River into Canaan itself and settled in Shechem. By buying a piece of land, he gained permanent possession of part of the land God had promised to him and his descendants (18-20; cf. 23:1-20; 28:1-5).
When the son of a local headman raped Jacob’s daughter Dinah, the headman suggested to Jacob that his son marry Dinah, and that Jacob’s sons marry the local Canaanite women (34:1-12). Jacob’s sons agreed to the intermarriage provided the men of Shechem were first circumcised (13-17). The Shechemites agreed, for they saw the opportunity for economic profit through intermarriage with Jacob’s household (18-24).
But Jacob’s sons deceived the Shechemites. As soon as the Shechemite men were circumcised and not physically in a condition to defend themselves, Jacob’s sons attacked the town, killing the men and plundering their households (25-29). By going too far in taking revenge for the rape of their sister, Jacob’s sons opened the way for further violence (30-31).
God then told Jacob to go to Bethel, where God had appeared to him at the time of his departure from Canaan many years earlier (35:1; cf. 28:11-22; 31:13). First, however, all those with Jacob were to get rid of any idols they had brought with them from Mesopotamia (2-4). In view of the hostility against Jacob and his household after the massacre at Shechem, God gave them his special protection as they travelled (5-8).
At Bethel God renewed his covenant promises to Jacob. The significance of God’s reassurance at this time was that Jacob was now back in the land God had given him, and he had with him the family through whom God’s promises would be fulfilled (9-15; cf. 13:14-16; 17:2).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Genesis 33". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/genesis-33.html. 2005.