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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Genesis 33

Verses 1-3

Preparation for the Meeting


Is Jacob, after his meeting with the LORD and the lesson he has learned, now so far that he renounces his own ingenuity? It turns out he is not that far yet. When he hears that Esau is coming, he divides the people in a way that Rachel and Joseph could escape during a possible revenge action of Esau.

The way Jacob approaches his brother does not bear witness to a quiet conscience either. Here he resembles “a righteous man who gives way before the wicked” (Pro 25:26).

Verses 4-11

Jacob Meets Esau


Jacob is still afraid of Esau. He calls himself “your servant” (Gen 33:5) and Esau he calls “my lord” (Gen 33:8). There is no question of any sense of dignity given to him by God. He did not behave accordingly. Because of his earlier sneaky behavior, he is now without strength.

Yet in what he says there is a hint that he counts with God. Thus he speaks of his children as given to him by “God in His grace” (cf. Psa 127:3). That is a different language than we hear today, when people talk about ‘taking’ a child.

The cordiality of Esau (Gen 33:4) is an example, but let us not forget that it is the cordiality of the world. Esau never asked about God, and Scripture calls him “a godless person” (Heb 12:16). Esau says he has “plenty” (Gen 33:9). Jacob says that by the grace of God he has “all” (Gen 33:11), although he had to work hard for it. He testifies that the truth of the word that Moses later speaks to Israel lives for him: “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth” (Deu 8:18a). Jacob speaks here the language of faith, which says that he who has God has all.

This language of faith we do not hear in Gen 33:10, when he compares the face of Esau to the face of God. And he has just seen, at the Jabbok, the face of God (Penuel). By saying this to Esau, he gives, as it were, God’s honor to a man and still a godless man. As if Esau had turned everything around for the better. However, it is also possible that Jacob, in the way Esau greets him, recognizes the good hand of God and gives Him the honor for this change in Esau’s mind.

Verses 12-16

Jacob Wants to Continue Alone


Jacob floats back and forth between faith in God and fear of people. He does not want the protection of Esau that he offers him. Instead of telling him straightforwardly that he trusts God for his protection, he told Esau that he would travel at his own pace and that they would meet in Seir. When Esau suggests that at least a few people from his company will travel with him, Jacob appeals to Esau’s affection, that he just leaves him.

Verses 17-20

Jacob Goes to Live in Sukkoth near Shechem


When they separate, Jacob invents another trick to escape a new meeting with Esau. He goes to Sukkoth, near Shechem, to live in a house. This is not what the LORD said to him, it is not Bethel. And who said to him that he should buy a property? And did God not tell him to build an altar in Bethel?

The altar he builds here, near Shechem, says more of Jacob than of God. He is not yet interested in God alone, but in God as “the God of Israel”. Jacob calls himself here with his new name, while his actions show that he is Jacob, the cheater or the heels holder.

We also can well camouflage our wrong way and actions with the use of pious language. We say we do something in the Name of the Lord, but it is only to pursue our own will.

The consequences of Jacob’s way will be made public in the next chapter.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Genesis 33". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/genesis-33.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.