Attention!
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Genesis 33

Verses 1-4

GENESIS - CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

Verses 1-4:

Jacob crossed the Jabbok after his nocturnal encounter with the Angel of Jehovah. He has full, rich assurance, that as he had prevailed with God, so now he must prevail with man. Still, he took precautions to assure safety to at least a part of his family if Esau should come in hostility. He divided his family into three groups: Bilhah and Zilpah and their children comprised the front group, the one first to encounter Esau. Leah and her children formed the second group. Rachel and Joseph were last in line. This grouping was intended to allow part of his family to escape should the need arise.

Jacob saw Esau and his soldiers approaching. He went ahead of the three groups of his family to meet his brother. He bowed "to the ground," not completely prostrating himself but bending the upper part of his body until it was parallel to the ground. This was an expression of great reverence and respect, still evident in Oriental lands today. Jacob continued to bow, "seven times," not in servile hypocrisy but in genuine politeness and an attempt to conciliate his brother.

Esau accepted Jacob’s expression of good will, and graciously extended his pardon. It may be inferred that Jehovah had moved in Esau’s heart to melt the bitterness he harbored against his brother. A conciliatory attitude, a genuine spirit of kindness, an expression of grace - these often produce a like response in one who has been offended, see Pr 15:1; 21:1; 16:7.

The meeting of Jacob and Esau is filled with drama and beauty. It is typically Oriental. And it is indicative of Jehovah’s keeping His promise to go before Jacob to protect and bless him in his return to the Land of Promise.

Verses 5-11

Verses 5-11:

After the initial greeting to Jacob, Esau looked in surprise at the large contingent of women and children which made up Jacob’s family. Jacob presented the family members as gifts from Elohim, and introduced the Esau.

Esau then inquired about the droves of livestock he had encountered the preceding day. Jacob explained their purpose, and urged Esau to accept them in token that he had indeed forgiven him, and that all was right between them. At first, Esau declined, assuring Jacob that he had no need for the livestock. But Jacob insisted, and Esau finally accepted. The entire transaction is typical of the Orient: one offers a gift, the recipient declines; the giver insists, and finally the recipient accepts. Also, in the custom of the day, the acceptance of a gift was equivalent to making a pact of friendship. If the superior receives one’s gift, the giver may be assured of his friendship. If he rejects the gift, the giver may truly fear for his life. Thus it was vital to Jacob that Esau accept his gifts. When Esau accepted, it gave Jacob assurance of his full forgiveness.

Verses 12-15

Verses 12-15:

The language implies that Esau invited Jacob to accompany him to Mount Seir. He offered to escort Jacob and his household through the land with which he had become familiar. This would afford guidance to Jacob, but also it would give protection against any roving band of marauders who might look on Jacob’s caravan as a prize ripe for taking.

Jacob politely declined Esau’s offer of protection. He explained that his children were small and would be unable to keep pace with Esau’s band of warriors. Also, some of the animals were with young, and if they tried to keep pace with Esau and his men, many would die. Jacob would go on "softly," or at a slow pace, as a pace which would be safe.

Esau offered to assign some of his soldiers to serve as an escort to Jacob’s caravan. Jacob wisely declined this offer, also. He was assured of Esau’s kindess, and that was sufficient for him. In fact, Jacob was depending upon the protection of Jehovah for his safety.

Verses 16-17

Verse 16, 17:

Esau complied with Jacob’s requests, and returned to Mount Seir. The Scriptures do not reveal if Jacob ever visited him there, nor if he ever visited in the place where he settled.

Jacob resumed his journey and came to a place which later became known as Succoth, meaning "booths." This site was in the territory later assigned to Gad, in the Jordan valley on the east of the river and south of the Jabbok. Some identify the location as the Wadi-el-Fariah. Here he built for himself a house. This implies he intended to stay at that location for a considerable time. Here he. also built "booths" for his cattle. These booths were shelters, usually made of tree-branches or reeds, covered with grass or tents, and were intended for temporary use.

Jacob’s faith was not yet mature. He stopped before he arrived in the Land that God had instructed him to dwell. This was to cost him dearly. Partial obedience is costly.

Verses 18-20

Verses 18-20:

For some undisclosed reason, Jacob left his house in Succoth, crossed the Jordan into Canaan, and set up camp in a field near a city of Shechem. Shalem signifies peace and safety. This is how Jacob felt when he was delivered from Esau and when the inhabitants of the land offered no opposition to his presence. Jacob purchased a portion of the field where he had set up camp, and later dug a well there (Joh 4:6). The amount of money in today’s currency is uncertain.

At the site of his camp, Jacob erected an altar as his grandfather had done before him (Ge 12:7). He named the altar "El-Elohe-Israel," meaning "God, the God of Israel."

Jacob’s obedience was still incomplete. He had promised to return to Bethel. God had affirmed this vow. But he delayed in keeping this vow, though the opportunity was at hand to do so. His delay brought tragedy to his home and family. So it is in every age: incomplete obedience entails a high price.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Genesis 33". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/genesis-33.html. 1985.