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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 33

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-20

Chapter 33

And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and the two handmaidens ( Genesis 33:1 ).

In other words, each of the mothers with their children that they had born.

And he put the handmaids and their children in the front, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph were behind. And he passed over before them, and he bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother ( Genesis 33:2-3 ).

Now according to the Tel Amarna Tablets, it is proper when greeting a king to bow to the earth seven times in approaching him. So Jacob was approaching his brother Esau and greeting Esau as a king, which indeed Esau was. He had become the ruler and the king, so to speak, over the area of Mount Seir, the area known as Edom. And so he is giving honor to his brother's position, bowing before him seven times, a custom in those days.

And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept ( Genesis 33:4 ).

So that prayer of Jacob's was answered. His brother's anger was assuaged. And the meeting, rather than being tense, rather than being bitter, rather than with great recriminations and anger, it's a sign of acceptance, a sign of forgiveness, a sign of love as they embraced each other. They kissed each other. They wept together. The work of God's spirit had been wrought.

It is my opinion that Esau, when he was coming, was intending to fulfill his threat of killing Jacob. And even as Laban when he was pursuing Jacob intending to by force take back everything that Jacob had and to do Jacob harm; and even as God spoke to Laban and said, "Don't touch him, don't do him harm, don't speak to him good or evil" and God protected Jacob. I believe that God changed the heart of Esau so that by the time they met, all of the anger and the bitterness of the years gone by flowed out and there was that beautiful reunion of the two brothers.

And he lifted up his eyes, he saw the women and the children; and he said, Whose are these that are with you? And Jacob said, The children which God has graciously given thy servant. And the handmaidens came near, and their children, and they bowed themselves [to their uncle actually]. And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves: and after that came Joseph with Rachel, and they bowed themselves. And he said, What is the meaning of all of these droves of animals that I met when I was coming towards you? And he said, These are to find grace in thy sight. And Esau said, Hey, I have enough, brother; keep that to yourself. And Jacob said, No, I pray you, if I have found grace in your sight, receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me. Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, [he insisted,] so that Esau took it. And he said, Esau said, Let us take our journey, let's go, we'll go before you. And Jacob said to him, My lord knows how that the children are tender, [they're young actually, thirteen and under], and the flocks and the herds with the young are with me: and if the men should overdrive them even one day, the flock will die. So let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will come on softly or slowly, according as the cattle that go before me and the children are able to endure, until I come to my lord unto Seir. So Esau said, Let me now leave with you some of my men that they might be with you. And he said, I don't need it. Let me find grace in the sight of my lord. So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir. And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and there built a house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Booths or Succoth ( Genesis 33:5-17 ).

Now the fact that he built booths and all indicates his intention to just sort of stay there awhile which he no doubt did. Now one of the things of the book of Genesis does not really keep us up with and that is the time lapses between. Jacob did not go directly to Mount Seir to where Esau was. He stopped first at Succoth for a period of time. Built booths there, stayed there for a while and then he moved on to Shechem, the area of Shechem where he no doubt stayed for maybe eight to ten years.

The Bible doesn't give up these time passages except that we note the ages and the events and we know that many years had to transpire. So probably eight or more years transpired between the time that he saw Esau and before he ever started journeying down toward Hebron. He stayed up in the area of Shechem for many, many years.

So Jacob came [verse eighteen] to Shalem, a city of Shechem ( Genesis 33:18 ),

The word "Shalem" is actually the Hebrew word Shalom and it probably would be better translated that Jacob came in peace to the city of Shechem. There is no record of any city called Shalom in that area and the translation could easily read, "And Jacob came in peace onto Shechem".

which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and he pitched his tent before the city. And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for a hundred pieces of money. And he erected an altar there, and called it Elelohe-Israel ( Genesis 33:18-20 ).

Or God, the God of Israel. So he here adopts his new name. A name that God had given to him. And in building the altar he builds it unto the God not of Jacob but to the God, the God of Israel. And so he purchased now this field, planning to remain in this area indicated by the fact that he purchased the field; and did remain here for many years. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Genesis 33". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/genesis-33.html. 2014.
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