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Sunday, July 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 33

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 3


‘He came near to his brother.’

Genesis 33:3

Here is one of the affecting scenes in which Scripture abounds, the stalwart hunter rushing into his brother’s arms, and kissing him, and both weeping at such a meeting after a separation of twenty years. Cf. the demonstrations of affection between Joseph and Benjamin, David and Jonathan, the prodigal and his father.

I. Jacob’s piety is manifested in his recognition of God’s goodness.—The name of God does not once, in the whole Scripture record, issue from Esau’s lips, whereas Jacob distinctly avers here again that God has been the source of his prosperity, ‘ because God hath dealt graciously with me’ (ver. 11). This is the clue to the difference in the characters of the brothers, and to the different blessings and Scriptural eminence accorded them. Speak of the propriety of acknowledging God’s hand in all events.

II. In the reconcilement of his brother Jacob sees a fulfilment of the Angel’s promise.—Esau’s face reflects the ‘ face of God,’ by whose interposition and favour such amicable relations were reestablished. Conquering in the determination to secure God’s blessing, Jacob conquered in the trial that succeeded. This seems the meaning of verse 10. Compare it with verses 28 and 30 of chapter 32. ‘A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city,’ but Jacob, the Divinely-benisoned man, stormed with success the heart’s citadel.

III. The acceptance of the present was a pledge of complete reconciliation.—An act of hostility would then be a gross breach of Oriental etiquette. ‘A gift is as a precious stone (stone of grace) in the eyes of him that hath it.’ ‘A gift in secret pacifieth anger.’ To return thanks ‘unto God for His unspeakable gift,’ is to be reconciled unto Him thereby, and to have in Jesus Christ a ‘propitiation for sin.’

IV. But Jacob was too rash in promising.—‘Pass on ahead,’ said he, ‘and let me be, and I will come unto my Lord at Seir’ (ver. 14). Well, we read that Jacob came by and bye to Succoth, and afterwards he came in peace to Shechem, and there he pitched his tent and built his altar; but unto Mount Seir, with its jagged rocks and cliffs, and its stunted bushes and its straggling trees, there is no trace that Jacob ever came. No doubt he fully intended to go there; the promise was uttered in genuine good faith, but like many another promise, given in a glowing hour, the days passed by and it was not redeemed. Note the truthfulness of Scripture in never ignoring the failures of its heroes. The Bible would long since have been a forgotten book, if it had portrayed its leading actors as immaculate. There are few things so morally important as the habit of always living within our word. Jacob did not do that, but Jesus did. The performance of Jesus always excelled the promise. And while we thank God for all that He wrought through Jacob, and are the wiser and better for being in his company, we thank Him still more that it is another Prince in whose footsteps we are called to follow.


(1) ‘There are many things in life worse in the anticipation than in the reality. We cannot expect deliverances to happen unless we are right with God. There must have been the meeting with God by the Jabbok ford in the evening if there shall be the affectionate embrace between the brothers on the coming day. Our ways must please the Lord before we can expect Him to make even our enemies to be at peace with us. We must have power with God before we can have power with man and prevail. Too often we allow our peace to be broken by taking up weapons in our own defence. We run hither and thither in agitation and alarm. But there is a more excellent way—that of leaving the entire burden of dealing with our assailants in the hands of God. He is best able to vindicate us. Commit yourselves to Him that judgeth righteously. Fret not to do evil; and you will find that He who guides the course of streams and rivers can so affect the thought and heart that He will make “Esau” whom you dread one who will be willing to defend and succour you.’

(2) ‘Why do I not fear to meet my brother men? Have I not wronged them? In what I have failed to do, if not in what I have done. Let me not blame Jacob. Let me rather pray for a conscience as sensitive as his, and as righteous a fear of retribution! And, O God, let me be to-day a true brother to men!’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Genesis 33". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/genesis-33.html. 1876.
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