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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 33

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-20



Filled with wonders is this lesson! The appearance of the angels, the divine wrestling, the transformation of Esau how much we need the Holy Spirit to understand the meaning of these things!

Be sure to identify these places: Galeed or Mizpah of the preceding chapter, and Mahanaim, Peniel and the river Jabbok named in this, are all on the east of the Jordan, not far from what was known later as Ramoth- Gilead.

How condescending of God to send His angels to encourage such a man as Jacob at this crisis! Mahanaim means “two heaps” or “two camps,” with perhaps the angels as one camp and the household of Jacob as the other.


Where was Esau dwelling at this time (Genesis 32:3 )? What shows Jacob’s fear of him (Genesis 32:4-8 )? What reason had he for the increase of this fear (Genesis 32:6 )? To whom did he appeal, and how (Genesis 32:9-12 )?

Study this prayer, the first of its kind in the Bible (Abraham’s was intercessory and of the nature of a dialogue, but this is a personal supplication). Its elements are adoration, confession, thanksgiving, petition and pleading. Discover these divisions for yourself and locate them in the verses.

How does Jacob plan to propitiate Esau (Genesis 32:13 )? What kind of present does he prepare for him (Genesis 32:14-15 )? How many droves in all do you think there were (Genesis 32:16-20 )? Can you picture these five droves separated and appearing before Esau’s astonished eyes at intervals? Was not the plan well adapted from a human point of view to have the desired effect?

But the incident following shows that something must be done in Jacob’s soul and then the propitiation of his brother will be brought about in another way. In this incident we have another theophany such as we have seen before, but in some respects more remarkable still. To think that Jehovah should not only appear in human form but wrestle as a man with a man! What is the meaning of it all?

For one thing it shows Jacob’s dogged determination to have his own way a kind of symbolic action illustrative of his whole career. What a schemer and planner he was from the time he defrauded Esau of his birthright until now! While wrestling with God he was in spirit wrestling with Esau probably, seeking in his own strength and by his own schemes to make peace with him, but he is to learn that his strength is made perfect in weakness. In God’s plan and purpose he cannot prevail with men until he first prevails with God, and with God he cannot prevail until he ceases his own efforts and simply clings to Him for support and blessing. But this he will not do until God afflicts and makes it impossible for him to do otherwise. What a lesson for us! May God help us to translate it into our experience!


The action of Esau, especially Genesis 33:4 , seems to indicate a supernatural work on him, changing his mind toward Jacob. It is not the result of Jacob’s plan so much as God’s grace, whether Jacob realizes it as yet or not.

His caution (Genesis 33:12-15 ) still shows a certain fear of Esau, shown further by the fact that he does not follow him to Seir (Genesis 33:14 ), but turns sharply to the east, locating in Succoth, and then in Schechem. Notice the altar he erects and the recognition of his own new name “God, the God of Israel.”


1. Identify the localities.

2. Analyze Jacob’s prayer.

3. Picture in your mind his plan of propitiation of Esau.

4. Compare yourself with Jacob as a planner.

5. Have you learned Jacob’s secret of prevailing with God?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Genesis 33". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/genesis-33.html. 1897-1910.
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