Genesis Chapter Thirty-Three


Read Genesis 33:1-15 – Jacob and Esau Meet


v.1-2And 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. 2And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost.”


            Jacob already knew that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 warriors with him (Genesis 32:6).  He does not know the heart and mind of his brother.  He does know that 20 years before Esau had plotted to kill him:


And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.” Genesis 27:41


So he arranges his family and flocks in an order to protect those that he loves most with the handmaiden’s in front, Leah and her family next and last and most protected, Rachel and Joseph.


v.3  And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.”


            Jacob places himself at the forefront of his group and approaches his brother showing the same respect and homage that would be expected to be paid to a ruler, the same as Abraham paid to the messengers of God.


Genesis 18:22And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,”


v.4And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.”


            The meeting of Jacob and Esau is nothing like what Jacob had feared.  Isn’t this what happens to us most often when we take counsel of our fears?  The wisdom of God is that:


The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” Proverbs 29:25


Jacob had been assured that indeed God was with him:


Genesis 32:28And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”


v.5And 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.”


            Esau looks at this troop of women and children behind Jacob and asks the same question that any adoring uncle would ask.  Jacob responds that these are gifts that God has given him and children are indeed gifts from God:




v.6-76Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves. 7And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves.”


            As is appropriate in this circumstance the wives and children of Jacob come forward, meet Esau and pay their respects to him.


v.8And 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.”


            As we should remember from our prior study, Jacob had sent Esau a gift from his flocks:


Genesis 32:18Then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob’s; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he is behind us.”


So Esau wants to know what this means, why Jacob did that and Jacob tells him simply that it was so that he might find favor in the eyes of Esau.


v.9-109And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself. 10And 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.”


            Esau modestly tries to refuse the gift that Jacob has sent.  Jacob sent the gift in fear, looking to influence Esau to look upon him with grace or favor.  Now because that Jacob has learned that he has no need to fear Esau, that he indeed has been reconciled to his brother just as he has been reconciled to God, he continues to urge Esau to accept his gift.  Jacob’s gift is now no longer given in fear but is now given in love for a brother.


v.11Take, 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.”


            Jacob refuses to be denied the opportunity to do something for this brother whom he has found again and with whom he now has peace.  He insists that Esau accept the gift, tells Esau that God has blessed him greatly, he too has enough.  So Esau ends the discussion by accepting.


v.12-13And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee. 13And 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.”


            Esau now wants to move on, immediately.  We’re not told but perhaps he even wants to take Jacob to his father, Isaac.  He is still living as we don’t read of his death until chapter 35.  Isaac’s blessing that he gave Esau was that he would be a warrior, a leader of men, living by the sword (Genesis 27:40).  In my own mind, I see Esau as a hard charging Bedouin sheik, 400 other warriors with him, all mounted on horses or camels.  Consequently he and his men can travel much faster than a troop with children and flocks and herds with young animals.


v.14Let 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.”


            Jacob asks Esau to go ahead of him and he will follow at the speed that his children and flocks can sustain safely.

            Seir is that region of the Sinai Peninsula southeast of the Dead Sea between it and what is the Gulf of Aqaba today.  It was captured from the Horites by Esau and his descendants and was given to him by God for their dwelling place.


Deuteronomy 2:4-5And command thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir; and they shall be afraid of you: take ye good heed unto yourselves therefore: 5Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession.”


v.15And 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.”


            Esau then offers to leave some of his men with Jacob to guide him, help him and protect him from others that lived in that area but Jacob refuses.  He understands that he has been and will continue to be protected by God from all adversaries, he has found favor in the eyes of God; therefore he doesn’t need Esau’s army.  In addition, Jacob is traveling into an area inhabited by tribes of Canaanites.  An army, even of only 200 men, might create a confrontation that Jacob doesn’t need or want.


Read Genesis 33:16-20 – Jacob Settles at Shechem


v.16-17So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir. 17And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.”


            Having no further need to be away; Esau returns to his home and Jacob moves a bit further south to the area called Succoth.  Succoth is a city east of the Jordan, today identified with Tell Deir ‘Alla located about a mile north of the Jabbok River not far from where it enters the Jordan.  This is the region directly south of Gilead where Laban caught up with Jacob.  Jacob didn’t move very far before he settled long enough to make shelters for his flocks.  Succoth means booths in Hebrew and is also the name sometimes used to describe the Feast of Tabernacles in later writings.


v.18  And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city.”


            Jacob moves directly west from Succoth across the Jordan and it’s tributary in the valley of Fara to an area that was in Samaria during the time of Jesus.  It was at Jacob’s well where Jesus met the Samaritan woman:


John 4:5-6Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.”


            Shechem is known by a variety of names in the Old Testament history and the New Testament as well.  It is called Sychem in Acts 7:16 and it is in that scripture that we see that it was also the location where Abraham purchased the field and cave from the sons of Heth as a burial place (Genesis 23:16).  It is also where Joshua held his final meeting with the tribes of Israel (Joshua 24:1).


v.19-20And 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. 20And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel.”


            Just as Abraham purchased land from the inhabitants of this area for a burial ground, Jacob also purchases land on which to build an altar to worship God.  The people who lived in this region at this time are also called Hittites or Hivites.  These are a people that the enemies of God and His Word insisted did not exist until in recent years when archeological work confirmed the Scripture.