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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Genesis 33

CHAP. XXXIII.

The friendly meeting of Jacob and Esau. Esau at first refuses, but, being urged, accepts his brother's present. Esau returns to Seir. Jacob goes to Succoth, and purchases a field of the sons of Hamor.

Verse 1

Genesis 33:1. And Jacob lifted up, &c.— It is not said how long time after the event recorded at the end of the former chapter it was that this interview happened: Esau's behaviour is extremely affecting and tender; and the tears of love which flowed from both the brothers' eyes do credit to their feelings. Esau's refusal of the present shewed his freedom from covetousness; I have enough, said he, Genesis 33:9. I have enough, answered Jacob, Gen 33:11 all things needful for me, Happy they whose desires are thus limited, who can say, I have enough!

Verse 4

Genesis 33:4. Embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him They who are more intimately acquainted, or of equal age or dignity, among the Easterns, mutually kiss the hand, the head, or shoulder of each other. Dr. Shaw, in his learned Observations on Scripture, p. 237, has not applied this observation to any passage in the Bible; but it cannot be amiss to remark that such passages as, like the present, speak of falling on the neck and kissing a person, seem to have a reference to the eastern way of kissing the shoulder in an embrace; although in the present case it is evident there was much more than bare ceremony. See ch. Genesis 45:14.Acts 20:37; Acts 20:37. Luke 15:20.

Verse 10

Genesis 33:10. Nay, I pray thee, &c.— Houbigant translates this verse, "Not so, I pray thee. If I am in any favour with thee, thou wilt receive this present at my hand, (for I have seen thy face, as if I had seen the face of God,) and thou wilt accept me;" i.e.. thou wilt receive my present as a token of my love, as a proof of reconciliation and friendship; for I am happy in the assurance of it, having met thee propitious to me, and well inclined, as God himself is to those who address him; and I have such pleasure in this meeting, as a sincere soul finds in obtaining from God himself tokens of his love and favour. Thus Esther says to king Ahasuerus, "I saw thee, my lord, as an angel of God, and my heart was troubled for fear of thy majesty; for wonderful art thou, O Lord, and thy countenance is full of grace." Apoc. Esther 5:12-13. But I fear there is a degree of flattery in all this which is unworthy the saints of the Most High; though some allowance perhaps must be made for the eastern manner of speaking.

REFLECTIONS.—At last the danger approaches, and now he finds indeed that God will take care of him in his perilous situation. Note; Those who have confidence in God, may cheerfully wait the issue of every trial. Observe,

1. Jacob's order of march. If flight should be needful, the most beloved were hindmost and likeliest to escape.
2. His approach to Esau, full of deep respect to him as his superior. He mentions nothing of the birth-right, but pays the duty he owed to him as an elder brother. Note; (1.) It is wise to keep out of view whatever would open old sores. (2.) A submissive conduct, which notwithstanding should be within the bounds of reason, mollifies offended pride.

The unexpected reception he met with. Note; God hath the hearts of all men in his hands. How often, through God's blessing, do we find the issue of our trials much better than our fears suggested? Instead of fierce wrath, kisses of kindness; and for drops of blood in anger, tears of joy mingle on their cheeks! Happy meeting! May every difference among brethren be thus accommodated!

Nothing but friendship now breathed in Esau's discourse. His inquiries are as kind, as Jacob's answers are respectful. He inquires,
1. Regarding his children. They are, says Jacob, the children which God hath graciously given thy servant. Note; A good man, when he speaks of ordinary things, may be known by the constant remembrance he hath of God.

2. Regarding the droves of cattle. They are a present for his lord Esau. Esau pleads his abundance; he has enough. Jacob presses his acceptance, as a thankful acknowledgment of his favourable countenance towards him, which he esteems the greatest blessing next to the Divine regard. Esau acquiesces; and thus their friendship is cemented. Note; (1.) When a man has enough of his own, he ought civilly to refuse needless obligations. (2.) A Christian's heart, like Jacob's, is ever open and generous. (3.) Whatever we gain in the world, we should always remember that it is the blessing of the Lord which maketh rich. (4.) We are to take care that the pride of not being obliged, does not make us slight the favours of our friends.

Verse 14

Genesis 33:14. Until I come unto my lord, &c.— Jacob declines the offer of Esau's or his servants' attendance, as his large train could move but slow, especially the cattle and younger children, and promises a visit to Esau in convenient time; but as the Scripture mentions not this visit, some have supposed that Jacob never made or designed to make it, treating his brother in this insincere manner, in order to get rid of him. But there are no reasonable grounds for this ungenerous supposition: the Scripture relates not all the actions of the persons whose main history it gives; and Jacob might have visited Esau, and most probably did, though it be not related, any more than his visit to his father, which we can never doubt but that he made as soon as he had an opportunity. Some have imagined that Jacob, fixing his family at Succoth, Gen 33:17 went thence himself to Esau at Seir, as well as to his father Isaac at Gerar, it not being probable that he would drive all his cattle, and take all his family with him.

Verse 17

Genesis 33:17. Journeyed to Succoth, &c.— From the booths or tents which Jacob pitched here the place was called Succoth. It lay on the east of the river Jordan, and was not far from it.

Verse 18

Genesis 33:18. Came to Shalem, &c.— Onkelos and the Arabic version render this, He came in peace and safety to the city Shalem, &c. Mr. Chais has it, sain et sauf; and this, perhaps, is the best translation; informing us, that after Jacob had left Padan-aram, he arrived in health and peace, and without accidents through his journey, at the city of Shalem, &c. The sacred writer does not inform us when he arrived there, or whither he went during the time his family stayed at Succoth; he mentions the present fact only to introduce what follows in the next chapter, which properly should have been connected with this.

Verse 19

Genesis 33:19. An hundred pieces of money Or, lambs. There was a coin in those days, which was afterwards used among the Jews, called by the name of its print, which was a lamb.

Verse 20

Genesis 33:20. He erected there an altar At the same place where Abraham had built his first altar, ch. Genesis 12:7. Abraham dedicated his, To Jehovah appearing to him; Jacob his, To God, the God of Israel, which was the new name that God had given him. The place was at or near Shechem; so that the woman of Samaria might well say, as she did to our Saviour, that their Fathers worshipped God IN THAT mount. Shechem seems to have been one of the oldest cities in all Canaan. This must be the place which Jacob gave to his son Joseph, and where Joseph's bones were buried.

REFLECTIONS.—Esau now is become a friend to Jacob, nearer than a brother, and offers his house to entertain and his servants to guard him. Jacob modestly excuses himself, and expresses his full satisfaction in the grace he had found in his sight. He pleads,

1. The weakness of the children and the flocks with young: they could not keep pace with Esau without danger.
2. His intention to visit him shortly. Note; We should never be behind in acts of civility.

3. That he needed not his servants, and therefore would not trouble him. He had experienced enough of the divine protection to rest upon it in perfect safety.
4. His favour was the greater obligation he could confer upon him; of this he begs the continuance. Note; If we have found grace in God's sight, what more can we need?

Esau being returned, Jacob gives some rest to his fatigued family in booths at Succoth, and thence goes on to Shalem. His dangers are past, and he is now safe arrived in Canaan. Note; Perils of journies escaped, and safe arrival home, deserve a thankful mention. What joy will it give, when, after escaping the dangers of this world, we come to our rest in the heavenly Canaan! Two things he doth:

1. He buys a field. Though the land be his by promise, it is not yet in his possession.
2. He builds an altar, that God may be remembered wherever he sojourns, and his house be taught the good ways of the Lord. Note; Wherever we have a house God must have an altar. It is a heathen family in which God's worship is neglected. He calls the altar, God the God of Israel. He was called Israel, a prince with God; but his highest honour is to have God for his God and King. Note; Whatever honours a true Israelite enjoys, this is the greatest, Israel's God is Israel's Glory.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 33". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/genesis-33.html. 1801-1803.