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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 33

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

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 unto the two handmaids.

Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked. Jacob having crossed the ford, and ranged his wives and children in order-the dearest last, that they might be the least exposed to danger-awaited the expected interview. HIS faith was strengthened and his fears gone (Psalms 27:3). Having had power to prevail with God, he was confident of the same power with man, according to the promise (cf. Genesis 32:28).

Behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. An Arab chief in the present day would, in similar circumstances, appear attended by a large retinue, armed with matchlocks, spears, and other weapons. Esau, undoubtedly, on the unexpected revival of his brother's name, had entertained a vindictive purpose. And the circumstance of his being able to command the immediate services of so many men may be accounted for, as Delitzsch suggests, by his 'having to subjugate the Horite population in Seir, for which purpose he might easily have formed such an army, partly from the Canaanite and Ishmaelite relations of his wives, and partly from his own servants.'

Verse 2

And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 3

And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.

He ... bowed himself ... seven times. The manner of doing this is by looking toward a superior and bowing with the upper part of the body brought parallel to the ground, then advancing a few steps and bowing again, and repeating this obeisance until, at the seventh time, the suppliant stands in the immediate presence of his superior.

Verse 4

And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.

Esau ran ... fell on his neck, and kissed him. What a sudden and surprising change! Whether the sight of the princely present and the profound homage of Jacob had produced this effect, or it proceeded from the impulsive character of Esau, the cherished hostility of 20 years in a moment disappeared; the weapons of war were laid aside, and the warmest tokens of mutual affection reciprocated between the brothers. But doubtless the efficient cause was the secret, subduing influence of grace (Proverbs 21:1) which converted Esau from an enemy into a friend. This is an exact description of a meeting between relations in the East, especially to a member of the family who has returned home after a long absence. They place their hands on his neck, kiss each cheek, and then lean their heads for some seconds, during their fond embrace, on each other's shoulders. It is their customary mode of testifying affection, and though it might not have been expected from Esau to Jacob, his receiving his brother with such a cordial greeting was in accordance with the natural kindness and generosity of his character.

Verse 5

And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are those with thee? And he said, The children which God hath graciously given thy servant.

Who are those with thee? It might have been enough to say, They are my children; but Jacob was a pious man, and he could not give even a common answer but in the language of piety (Psalms 127:3; Psalms 113:9; Psalms 107:41).

Which God hath graciously given - 'Elohiym (H430), God; to avoid reminding Esau of the Blessing of Yahweh, which had occasioned his absence (Delitzsch).

Thy servant. The practice observed by individuals of respectable station in life, when speaking of themselves to other personages of superior rank, to use the phrase "thy servant," instead of the personal pronoun I and me, is an Oriental peculiarity.

Verses 6-7

Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves.

Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, ... All Jacob's children without reserve had left their litters or vehicles, and were on foot, as appearing before their superior. This was a token of profound respect, and, though very marked, it would appear natural; because Esau being the older brother, was, according to the custom of the East, entitled to respectful treatment from his younger brother. His attendants would be struck by it, and, according to Eastern habits, would magnify it in the hearing of their master.

Verse 8

And he said, What meanest thou by all this drove which I met? And he said, These are to find grace in the sight of my lord.

What meanest thou by all this drove? - literally, Who, or what to thee are all these bands? The Hebrew [ miy (H4310)], who, is used here in the sense of what (cf. 1 Samuel 18:18; Micah 1:5). But even in such passages as this, there is more or less reference to the idea of a person implied in the expression.

These are to find grace in the sight of my lord, [Hebrew, 'ªdoniy (H113), my lord] - (see the note at Genesis 31:35.) [The Septuagint has: hina heuree ho pais sou charin enantion sou, in order that thy servant may find grace before thee.]

Verse 9

And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 10

And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me.

For therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God. This seems the expression of servile adulation. But if Jacob's pious mind discerned the secret influence of God in effecting a sudden change in the heart of Esau, as we may presume he did, he was warranted in saying that the face of Esau reflected divine kindness.

Verse 11

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, and he took it.

He urged him, and he took it. In the East the acceptance of a present by a superior is a proof of friendship, and by an enemy, of reconciliation. It was on both accounts Jacob was so anxious that his brother should receive the cattle; and in Esau's acceptance he had the strongest proofs of a good feeling being established that Eastern notions admit of.

Verse 12

And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee.

Let us take our journey. Esau proposed to accompany Jacob and his family through the country, both as a mark of friendship and as an escort to guard them. But the proposal was prudently declined. Jacob did not need any worldly state or equipage. Notwithstanding the present cordiality, the brothers were so different in spirit, character, and habits-the one so much a man of the world, and the other a man of God, that there was great risk of something occurring to disturb the harmony. Jacob having alleged a very reasonable excuse for the tardiness of his movements, the brothers parted in peace.

Verse 13

And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die.

The children are tender. From a comparison of Genesis 30:41 with Genesis 39:20-23, it appears that Reuben was about twelve years of age, Simeon eleven, Levi ten, Joseph was only six, and Dinah only a little older.

Flocks and herds with young - literally, flocks and herds that are milking, suckling (cf. Isaiah 40:11).

Verse 14

Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir.

I will lead on - [Hebrew, lª'iTiy (H328), gently, gradually, at a slow pace; lªregel (H7272), according to I will lead on - [Hebrew, lª'iTiy (H328), gently, gradually, at a slow pace; lªregel (H7272), according to the foot; hamªlaa'kaah (H4399) of the property - i:e., the cattle and all his goods.]

Until I come unto my lord. It seems to have been Jacob's intention, after being established in Canaan, to visit his brother in Seir; but whether the intention was carried out then or at a future period has not been recorded.

Verse 15

And Esau said, Let me now leave with thee some of the folk that are with me. And he said, What needeth it? let me find grace in the sight of my lord.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 16

So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir.

So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir. For the last time Esau retires to make room for Jacob; he leaves to him the land of his inheritance, and disappears on his way to the wild mountains of Seir [ See`iyraah (H8165), Seir = hairy - i:e., woody]. 'There is still the es-Sherah, or downs, slightly tufted and possibly contrasted with the bald mountains of Petra itself' (Stanley).

Verse 17

And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.

Jacob journeyed to Succoth - [Hebrew, cukot (H5521), booths, formed of green boughs and branches interwoven, as a shelter from the heat (Isaiah 4:6; John 4:5).] Jacob, who was still on his journey, erected at this stage his [ bayit (H1004)] (moveable) house or tent (Gesenius) for his family, while the booths were for his cattle. The flocks in the East being generally allowed to remain in the open fields by night and day during winter and summer, and seldom put under covert, the erection of booths by Jacob is recorded as an unusual circumstance; and perhaps the almost tropical climate of the Jordan valley may have rendered some shelter circumstance; and perhaps the almost tropical climate of the Jordan valley may have rendered some shelter necessary.

Succoth, which is mentioned here by a prolepsis, was the name given to the first station at which Jacob halted on his arrival in Canaan. His posterity, when dwelling in houses of stone, built a city there and called it Succoth, to commemorate the fact of their ancestor having made it a halting-place. 'It is identified with the ruins of Sakut, in a contracted 'Emek, called "the valley of Succoth" (Psalms 60:8; Psalms 108:8), which forms part of El-Ghor, the valley of the Jordan. And the town itself stood, if its position is rightly marked on the maps, south of the Jabbok, in the angle formed by this stream and the Jordan, almost equidistant from both, afterward allotted to the tribe of Gad.

Verse 18

And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan-aram; and pitched his tent before the city.

Shalem - i:e., peace; and the meaning may be that Jacob came into Canaan, arriving 'safe, prosperous, unharmed' (Gesenius), in fulfillment of the promise (Genesis 28:15; Genesis 28:2 l), at the city Shechem. But most writers, following the Septuagint, take Shalom as a proper name-a city of (prince) Shechem (cf. Genesis 34:1-31; Judges 9:28), and the site to be marked by one of the little villages about two miles to the northeast, in the rich fertile plain or wady of El Mukhna (vale of encampment), 'which,' says Porter ('Handbook for Syria and Palestine'), 'sends out a broad green arm among the dark hills on the east, just opposite the vale of Shechem Nabulus. The arm is called Salim, and takes its name from a little village that is made conspicuous by a group of olive trees, on the rocky acclivity to the north, doubtless occupying the site and retaining the name of Shalem.' (See also Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' chapter 3:, page 102.)

And pitched his tent before the city - literally, in front of; i:e., to the east of the city. The population of Canaan, it would appear, had risen greatly in numbers, as in the social scale, from the time that Abraham fed his flocks on the free, unoccupied pasture land, or "place of Sichem" (Genesis 12:6). In Jacob's day a city had been built upon the spot, and the adjoining ground was private property, a portion of which he had to purchase for the site of his encampment.

Verse 19

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 an hundred pieces of money.

He bought a parcel of a field, ... [ chelqat (H2513) hasaadeh (H7704)] - a portion of the field; i:e., cultivable ground (cf. Genesis 37:7-15; John 4:35), it being a desirable acquisition to one who combined agricultural with pastoral pursuits. It probably comprised a considerable part of Wady Sahl, which is "before" or east of Shechem (cf. John 4:12), and was kept by him under tillage, while his numerous flocks found pasturage on the adjoining hills, the right to which would naturally follow his possession of the valley. Jacob thus became the first of the patriarchs who held an estate in Canaan.

At the hand of the children of Hamor. [The Septuagint has simply: para Emmoor-from Hamor.]

For an hundred pieces of money, [ qªsiyTaah (H7192)] - a coin stamped with the figure of a lamb, and it has been supposed, from Genesis 23:15-16, that the kesitah was equivalent to four shekels. It is, however, uncertain whether this was its actual value in Canaan in the time of Jacob. But the circulation of coined money is an additional proof of the progress of the Canaanites in social advancement. 'There is no more reason for rendering kesitah by a piece of money, than for rendering shekel in the same way. It is a well-established law of translation, that the original names of coins, and of weights by which their value is determined, should be retained, (Campbell, 'Dissert.,' 8:) There is a strong reason for adhering to this rule in the present instance, because pieces of money are never designated by the name of kesitah subsequently to the patriarchal age, the statement in Josh. 33:19 being only a verbal repetition of this passage (cf. Job 45:11 ).

Verse 20

And he erected there an altar, and called it El-Elohe-Israel.

Erected ... an altar. Abraham had, on his landing on the same spot in Canaan, erected an altar; and now Jacob, on his arrival from Padan-aram, imitates the example of his grandfather from special reasons of his own (cf. Genesis 27:21, last clause, with Gen. 22:28-29 ). Whether, on its erection, it was dedicated with the formal bestowment of a name which, according to patriarchal usage, would perpetuate the purpose of the monument, or it was furnished with an inscription, we are not informed. The Septuagint omits the name. But it was a beautiful proof of his personal piety, a most suitable conclusion to his journey, and a lasting memorial of a distinguished favour, to raise an altar to "God, the God of Israel." Wherever we pitch a tent, God should have an altar.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Genesis 33". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/genesis-33.html. 1871-8.
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