- Locate the passage
After his night alone wrestling with God, Jacob awoke to the same reality—Esau was coming. Only now, he faced his brother no longer constrained by his own strategies. Moreover, even as Jacob’s heart was changed, so also was Esau’s. So, when they finally meet, Jacob’s fears subsided as he advanced before his family and Esau (the brother who formally hated him) ran to meet him.
The passage is narrative. It records the final conversation between Jacob and Esau recorded in Scripture (Cf. 36:6-7 presupposes, but does not include a conversation between them).
- Determine the structure of the passage
33:1-11 – Twins Separated in youth reconcile
33:1-3 – Jacob’s updated plan for his encounter with Esau
33:4-8a – Who are all these and what do you mean by all of this?
33:8b-11 – Please take my blessing
33:12-17 – Let’s take our journey
33:12 – Esau offers to travel with Jacob
33:13-14 – Jacob responds that those with him will need to travel more slowly
33:15a – Esau offers to leave some men with Jacob for protection
33:15b-17- Jacob responds that Esau’s offer is unnecessary and pleads for favor
33:18-20 – Jacob came to Shechem
- Exegete the passage
33:1 – Jacob “lifted his eyes”
- This is a common phrase in Genesis
- (Gen. 13:10; 18:2; 22:4, 13; 24:63; 33:1; 33:5; 43:29)
- “Esau was coming”
- Since Esau had 400 men with him – they could probably be seen from a distance coming
- Jacob, again, divides his family in preparation for Esau’s arrival.
- The division here is more specific than the two companies in Gen. 32:10.
- Here, the family is divided according to their mothers: Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah.
- The order of the groups are: Bilhah and Zilpah, Leah, Rachel
- Certainly, the order represents that Jacob still have a favorite among his wives.
33:3 – Jacob crossed over in front of his family
- Previously, the plan was for the family to meet Esau first (32:16-21) and appease him with gifts before Jacob arrived last. The hope was that the gifts would soften the heart of Esau.
- Now, Jacob passes in front of his family and bows down to his brother
- The bowing was an act of humility
- Isaac’s blessing of Jacob (Gen. 27:29) indicated that Jacob’s brothers would bow down to him. Here, he bows before his brother.
- In addition, Jacob refers to Esau as “my lord [Adonai]” (Gen. 32:4; 33:13) and to himself as Esau’s “servant” (Gen. 32:18, 20; 33:5)
- These acts of humility do not undo the blessing of Isaac upon Jacob, but demonstrate a changed heart in him.
- Bowing seven times suggests that Jacob began bowing while Esau was some distance away and the repeated bowing demonstrated his sincerity.
- Jacob bowed “until” Esau arrived
- The bowing was an act of humility
33:4 – Esau ran to meet Jacob
- The five imperfect verbs occur in staccato fashion heightening the emotion of the encounter
- Esau is the subject of all but the last of the verbs and the initiator of the embrace
- Esau ran; he embraced him; he fell on his neck; he kissed him; they wept
33:5 – Esau’s first question to Jacob
- Who are all of these with you?
- Esau was unaware of the proliferation of Jacob’s family over the past 20 years.
- Jacob had amassed a large family as Esau had amassed a large army
- Jacob responds by giving God credit for his family
33:6-7 – The wives and children came and bowed down before Esau as had Jacob
- The order of their arrival matches the order Jacob established for them in 33:2
33:8 – Esau’s second question to Jacob
- What do you mean by all of this company?
- Esau’s response indicates that Jacob’s excessive response was unnecessary.
- There is no reason in the text to read any negative response on the part of Esau (i.e. “I don’t want any part of your blessing”) as some have suggested.
- Instead, his response seems genuinely gracious
- Esau refers to Jacob as “brother;” even while Jacob refers to himself as a servant
33:10 – I have seen your face
- Jacob’s response to Esau’s refusal of his gift indicates that upon seeing Esau’s face (See 32:20 above), compares to having seen the face of God
- That is more significant than Esau probably knew, since Jacob professed to have seen the face of God just last night!
33:11 – Take my “blessing”
- In a poignant and unveiled reference to his own stealing of Esau’s blessing, Jacob offers a conciliatory return of the blessing.
- What was previously described as a “gift” is here described as a “blessing.”
- I have enough
- The previous efforts to selfishly garner things for himself is met by Jacob’s assertion that the blessings of God to him are enough.
- Upon Jacob’s urging, Esau accepted the gift.
33:12 – Esau is still the initiator of the conversation
- Esau offers to accompany Jacob and his family
- I will go before you likely to provide protection along the way.
33:13 – Jacob refuses his brothers offer on the basis that his family with the children and flocks must move slowly
- The idea is that Jacob did not want to delay Esau
- Until I come to my lord at Seir
- Jacob expects to end up at the same destination
33:15 – Esau’s second proposal is to leave some of his men with Jacob for protection
- Jacob politely refuses suggesting that they are not needed.
33:16-17 – Esau went to Seir; Jacob went to Succoth
- This does not need to suggest that Jacob changed his itinerary from 33:14 to avoid meeting Esau.
- It is likely that Seir was a stop Jacob made on his way to Succoth (33:17) and eventually Shechem (33:18).
- Undoubtedly, a significant length of time is summarized in 33:17-18
- Jacob journeyed with his family; built a house in Succoth; and bought land in Shechem.
33:18 – “Which is in the land of Canaan”
- The impact of this phrase is significant! The narrator is reminding us that God has fulfilled His promise to Jacob. This is not just any city. It is a city in the land God promised to Abraham and his people.
33:19 – Jacob bought the parcel of land
- The action is significant and represents the first “ownership” of land in Canaan since Abraham purchased the burial plot for Sarah.
- The buying of land denotes that Jacob is “buying into” God promise to him and to his family
- See John 4:5-12. When Jesus passed through Samaria, He stopped in Sychar (Shechem) and sat down by a well. Shortly, a Samaritan woman approached the well and Jesus asked her for water. Their conversation soon turned to spiritual matters and Jesus told her that He could give her water so that she would never again thirst. The woman replied, “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are you, who dug this well …?”
- Although Scripture does not specifically state that Jacob dug a well in Shechem. He did purchase land there and dwelt in the area. So, it is reasonable to assume (and supported by tradition as well as John 4) that he would have dug a well in that location. Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 204.
33:20 – Jacob built an altar
- Jacob remembered the One who blessed his journey
- He worshipped the Lord and changed the name of the place
- “El Elohe Israel” means, “God, the God of Israel”
- Jacob has claimed (accepted) and now worships God as the God of his people.
- That He is the God of Israel implies that Jacob now not only embraces his new name, Israel, but also sees that as a name for what will become a nation.
- Let the structure of the text drive the sermon
- Celebrating brotherly restoration
- 133 – “How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.”
- Believers may need to take steps to initiate restoration with a brother or sister in the Lord?
- Matt. 5:23-24
- Rejecting selfish manipulation
- Jacob has now come to realize that what he needed was God’s blessings and not any blessings he could manipulate on his own.
- Honoring God’s provision
- Believers need to recognize God’s blessings and honor Him as the giver of every good gift
- Buying into God’s promise
- Buying land in the promised land was a sign of Jacob’s acceptance of God’s plan
- Jacob’s response of worship indicates his acceptance of God’s plan for his life.
|↑1||Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 204.|