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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 33

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-20

Genesis 33:3. Bowed himself to the ground. He then rose and walked a little farther, and bowed again; so he did seven times until he approached his brother. Homage of this kind was first paid to the great patriarchs; and very extravagant homage is still paid to great men in all the oriental nations. Poor Jacob was now an Assyrian ready to perish, but God was his defence. Deuteronomy 26:5.

Genesis 33:4. Fell on his neck and kissed him. We have here the answer of Jacob’s prayers and Jacob’s tears. Grace is stronger than nature; love casts out fear. How different was this conduct of Esau from that of Joab, who kissed Abner, and stabbed him under the fifth rib. Assuredly in the friendship and covenant of this interview, we see something more than the emotions of nature; something which discovers a heart touched with the power of the Spirit of God. For we are here bound, from the fears and alarms of Jacob at the silence of Esau, to believe, as did the elder rabbins, that Esau set out with a view to do his brother harm.

Genesis 33:10. As the face of God. Many versions read it, as the face of an angel. There is no need however to deviate from the common version, and read angel; as the word often signifies prince, ruler, or judge. To which we may add, the irradiated countenance of Esau, on seeing the prosperity of his brother.

Genesis 33:17. Succoth. The place of booths, on the east of the Jordan. Jacob stayed here till his cattle brought forth their young.

Genesis 33:18. Shalem. That is, safety, in which state he reached Sichem: so Dr. Wells. But most commentators think that it was the place which was afterwards called Sychar, John 4:5; for that village had been distinguished by patriarchal devotions.

Genesis 33:19. Hundred pieces of money. Hebrews lambs. It is thought that a lamb was stamped on the money; as an angel was once ridiculously stamped on an English coin, which occasioned it to be called an angel. The French call a gold coin of 20 s. after the name of their sovereign, a Louis d’or, a Napoleon.

Genesis 33:20 . El-elohe-Israel. Poole, out of Menochius, renders this name, or inscription, the altar of the Mighty God of Israel.


We now see Jacob safely arrived in the promised land, God having heard his prayer, restrained the rage of Laban, and removed the long lurking malice from Esau’s heart. What shall a man render to God for all his benefits! In particular we learn from this history, that the presence of God is the best support of the soul in the time of danger and affliction. Jacob had stayed behind for prayer; but after the covenant tokens of God’s favour had been renewed to him, with an increase of blessings, though halt, he hasted to the head of his company, and was the first to meet Esau. Let us ever pray that the divine presence may accompany us through life, and we shall either be safe from danger, or danger will be turned to our advantage.

This afflicted man, we farther see, divided his family and his cattle into companies. He placed his beloved Rachel with Joseph on a camel behind; but Leah with Judah, from whom the Messiah descended, was the first exposed to danger. How vain and insufficient is man’s care, unless God also care! No man is able to guide his affairs with discretion, without the counsel of that eye which sees futurity without a veil. And as the smallest incidents of life may be pregnant with the greatest events, let us in every thing seek the guidance and blessing of Israel’s God.

How efficacious is prayer, when accompanied with prudence and good fruits, for the conversion of sinners. Did the Lord in a moment change the hard heart of Esau; and so much so, that instead of killing his brother he wept, and fell on his neck and kissed him: instead of looking on him with hateful eyes, his countenance was as the face of God? Let us then hope for Esau, on whom the secondary blessing of Isaac came; let us hope that Jacob’s submission and piety, now very much revived, had a good and lasting effect on his brother’s mind; and let us hope also for the conversion of all our relatives, even of those who seem the farthest from the good way. And God forbid that we should ever set their hearts against religion by studied acts of falsehood, covetousness, and crime.

Did Jacob, on arriving near Shechem, purchase a field; and following the custom of the family, did he erect an altar to the Lord, and pay there his vows to the Most High, firmly purposing to build another at Bethel as soon as providence permitted? (Genesis 28:20; Genesis 28:22.) Did the Lord also confirm to him every blessing of the covenant? Then let all families learn of him to raise an altar unto God in their houses, and join in public worship. And if providence should call young people, or whole families to wander in their pilgrimage, seeking their bread, let it be their first concern to adore God in their new abode, and to form connections with his people.

Did Jacob according to his vow, spare no cost which was needful for God’s service? Let all christians learn to support God’s ministers with food and raiment, that they may give up their minds freely to his work; and let them so assist the poor, that the blessing of heaven may rest on all his people. Thus the good man scattereth, and yet maketh rich.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 33". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/genesis-33.html. 1835.
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