1 “And 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. 2 And he put the handmaids and their children
foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost.”
And Jacob, having the day before dispatched his conciliatory gift to Esau, turned his
back upon the Jabbok, having crossed to the south bank, if the previous night had
been spent upon its north side, passed over the rising ground of Peniel (see
with the heavenly blessing he had won in his mysterious conflict with Elohim,
and to all appearance free from those paralyzing fears which, previous to the
midnight struggle, the prospect of meeting Esau had inspired. Having already
prevailed with God, he had an inward assurance, begotten by the words of his
celestial antagonist, that he would likewise prevail with man, and so he lifted
up his eyes (see on ch. 13:10), and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with
him four hundred men (se ch. 32:6). And he (i.e. Jacob) divided the children
unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids, Bilhah and Zilpah,
thus omitting no wise precaution to insure safety for at least a portion of his
household, in case Esau should be still incensed and resolved on a hostile attack.
And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her
children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost, as being most beloved
(Kalisch, Murphy, Lange, and others).
3 “And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times,
until he came near to his brother. 4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced
him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.” And he (the introduction
of the pronoun giving emphasis to the statement) passed over before them (i.e. passed
on in front of them, thus chivalrously putting himself in the place of danger), and
bowed himself to the ground - not completely prostrating the body, as Abraham
did in ch. 19:1, but bending forward till the upper part of it became parallel with
the ground, a mode of expressing deep reverence and respect, which may be
seen to life in Oriental countries at the present day (Roberts, 'Oriental Illustrations,'
p. 41) - seven times (not in immediate succession, but bowing and advancing),
until he came near to his brother. The conduct of Jacob was dictated neither
by artful hypocrisy nor by unmanly timidity; but by true politeness and a
sincere desire to conciliate. And as such it was accepted by Esau, who
ran to meet him, and, his better feelings kindling at the sight of his long-absent
brother, embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him - as Joseph afterwards
did to Benjamin (ch. 45:14-15), though the puncta extraordinaria of the Masorites
over the word "kissed" seem to indicate either that in their judgment Esau was
incapable of such fraternal affection (Delitzsch, Kalisch), or that the word was
suspicious, Origen appearing not to have found it in his codices (Rosenmüller,
Keil), unless indeed the conjecture be correct that the word was marked to
draw attention to the power of God's grace in changing Esau's heart (Ainsworth).
And they wept - the Septuagint adding both. "All this is beautiful, natural,
Oriental" ('Land and Book,' p. 372).
5 “And 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.” And he (i.e. Esau) lifted up his eyes, - corresponding to the act
of Jacob (v. 1), and expressive of surprise - and saw the women and the children;
and said, Who art those with thee? (literally, to thee, i.e. whom thou hast). And he
(Jacob) said, The children which God (Elohim; see below on v. 10) hath graciously
given - the verb חָנַן being construed with a double accusative, as in Judges 21:22;
Psalm 19:29 - thy servant.
6 “Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed
themselves. 7 And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves:
and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves.”
Then (literally, and) the handmaidens came near, they and their children (since
they occupied the front rank in the procession which followed Jacob), and they
bowed themselves (after his example). And Leah also with her children came
near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and
they bowed themselves. The remark of Lange, that the six-year old lad who
comes before his mother seems to break through all the cumbrous ceremonial,
and to rush confidently into the arms of his uncle, is as fanciful and far-fetched
as that of Jarchi, that Joseph took precedence of his mother because he feared
lest Esau, who was a homo profanus, should be fascinated by his mother's beauty,
and seek to do her wrong; in which case he would try to hinder him.
8 “And 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.” And he said, What meanest
thou by all this drove - literally, What to thee all this camp (Mahaneh) - which
I met? - i.e. yesterday, referring to the droves which had been sent on by Jacob
as a present to my lord Esau (ch. 32:16). And he said, These are to find grace
in the sight of my lord (see ch. 32:5).
9 “And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.”
And Esau said, I have enough (literally, Here is to me abundance), my brother
(it is impossible not to admire the generous and affectionate disposition of Esau);
keep that thou hast unto thyself (literally, let be to thee what is to thee, i.e.
what belongs to thee).
10 “And 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.
11 Take, 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. And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found
grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore - פִיעַלּ־כֵּן,
because (Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Quarry), or, for this purpose (Keil, Kalisch,
as though I had seen the face of God, - literally, as a vision of the face of Elohim,
in which language Jacob neither uses adulation towards his brother (Tostatius),
nor calls him a god in the sense in which heathen potentates are styled deities
(Vatablus, Arabic, Chaldee), nor simply uses a superlative expression to indicate
the majesty (Menochius) or benevolence (Ainsworth) of Esau's countenance,
nor signifies that he had recognized the person of Esau in the angel who
contended with him at the Jabbok (Bush); but either that he had received
from Esau the same friendly welcome that one coming into God's presence
would receive from Him (Rosenmüller, Keil, Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary'),
or that he had come into Esau's presence with the same feelings of penitence as
if he had been coming before God (Kalisch), or that, as he had already seen the
face of God and his life was preserved, so now he had seen the face of Esau, and
the anticipated destruction had not been inflicted on him (Quarry), either of
which accords with the words that follow - and thou wast pleased with me –
literally, thou hast graciously received me, the unexpressed thought being,
as already I have been favorably accepted by Elohim. Hence Jacob with greater
urgency renews his entreaty that Esau would not decline his proffered gift, saying,
Take, I pray thee, my blessing (i.e. my present, the word signifying, as in
will) that is brought to thee; - or, which has been caused to come to thee,
adding, as a special reason to induce him to accept - because God hath dealt
graciously with me, - Elohim, it has been thought, is used here and in v. 5
by Jacob instead of Jehovah, either "to avoid reminding Esau of the blessing
of Jehovah which had occasioned his absence" (Delitzsch, Keil), or, " because
Jehovah was exalted far above the level of Esau's superficial religion"
Hengstenberg); but it is just possible that by its employment Jacob only
wished to acknowledge the Divine hand in the remark- able prosperity
which had attended him in
there is to me all, i.e. everything I can wish (Murphy), all things as the heir
of the promise (Keil). The expression is stronger than that used by Esau
(v. 9), and is regarded by some (Ainsworth) as indicating a more contented
spirit than that evinced by Esau. And he urged him. In Eastern countries the
acceptance of a gift is equivalent to the striking of a covenant of friendship.
If your present be received by your superior yon may rely on his friendship;
if it be declined you have everything to fear. It was on this ground that Jacob
was so urgent in pressing Esau to accept his present. And he took it, and so
gave Jacob an assurance of his complete reconciliation.
12 “And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee.”
And he (i.e. Esau) said (in further token of his amity), Let us take our journey,
and let us go, - but whether he intended to accompany Jacob on his way (Keil,
Kalisch, et alii) or
invited Jacob to go with him to
is uncertain. On the first hypothesis it is difficult to explain how Esau came to be
traveling in the same direction as his brother, while the adoption of the second
will serve in some measure to elucidate Jacob's language in v. 2. But whichever
way the words of Esau are understood, they amounted to an offer to be an escort
to Jacob through the desert regions with which his excursions had made him
familiar, since he added, and I will go before thee - i.e. to lead the way.
Worldly Companionship (v. 12)
“And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before
thee.” The offer was probably made with kindly intention. No sign of bitterness
is in Esau’s feelings; but ignorance of the necessities of Jacob’s march. Jacob
knew it was not possible with safety (compare Psalm 137:4; I Peter 4:4).
It reminds us of the attitude of many worldly persons towards Christians.
“The carnal mind is enmity against God.” (Romans 8:7) Yet worldly men may
have sincere regard for Christian men who bear unconscious testimony to excellence
of Christianity. And here is a danger to Christians. Let us journey together.
I like you; you are unselfish, trustworthy. And why not? Because in
journeying with Esau he must be leader, or he would cease to be Esau. The
world’s good-will does not mean a changed heart. Without any
pronounced dislike to higher aims, it shares them not, and knows not
anything more real than earth. There is a journey we all take in company: in
the thousand ways in which men are dependent on each other; in the
courtesies and good offices of life; in what belongs to our position as
citizens or family men. But in what constitutes the road of life — its stamp
and direction, its motives and aims — there is to be no union. We have another
Leader (Hebrews 12:2). The pillar of fire led Israelites not according to human
FROM HUMAN INTERESTS. We are called to be the salt of the earth.
It is an error to shrink from contact with the world as dangerous to us. This
of old led to monasticism. But there may be a spiritual solitude even when
living in the throng of a city. In secular matters refusing to take an interest
in what occupies others (compare Luke 6:31), as if God had nothing to do
with these; or in spiritual things avoiding Christian intercourse with those
who do not in all points agree with us; or being engrossed with our own
spiritual welfare, and turning away from ALL concern for the welfare of
others (compare I Corinthians 9:20-22).
REDEEMED, SET FREE AND BOUGHT WITH A PRICE;
OF HAVING A DEFINITE WORK TO DO FOR GOD, WITH
WHICH NOTHING MUST INTERFERE; a real way to walk in, from
which nothing must make us turn aside. And in order to this, watchfulness
over self, that in seeking to help others we ourselves are not ensnared.
Ø By the plea, there is no harm in this or that. We must not think that all
actions can be brought to an absolute standard of right and wrong. This
is the spirit of legality, the spirit of bondage, and leads to partial service
instead of entire dedication (compare Luke 15:29). Loyalty to Christ
must direct the Christian’s life; desire not merely to avoid direct
disobedience, but to use our time and powers for HIM WHO LOVED
US AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR US!
Ø By the display of good feelings as the equivalent of Christian graces.
Esau’s kindliness and frankness are very attractive. Yet he was a
“profane person;” not because of his anger or any sinful act, but
because he thought little of GOD’S BLESSING!
Ø By making Christians familiar with worldly aims and maxims, and thus
insensibly blunting their spiritual aspirations. The way of safety is
through prayer for the Holy Spirit’s help, to maintain the consciousness
of Christ’s presence!
13 “And 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.” And he (Jacob, politely
declining Esau's society and protection, though apparently accepting his
invitation to go to
children are tender (Joseph at this time being little over six years of age),
and the flocks and herds with young (literally, giving milk; עַלות, from עוּל,
to give suck) are with me, - literally, upon me, i.e. are an object of my special
care, because of their condition (Rosenmüller, Keil) - and if men should over-
drive them literally, and they (the shepherds) will over-drive them, i.e. in order
to keep pace with Esau's armed followers they must do so, and in that case,
if they were to do so for only - one day, all the flock (literally, and all the flock)
will die. Thomson says that Oriental shepherds gently lead along the mothers
when in the condition spoken of by Jacob, knowing well that even one day's
over-driving would be fatal to them, and, from the fact that Jacob's ewes were
giving milk, infers that it was winter time, since then alone the flocks are in that
condition - an inference which he further confirms by observing that at Succoth
Jacob constructed booths for their protection ('Land and Book,' p. 205).
14 “Let 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.”
Let my lord, I pray thee, - it is perhaps too much to explain Jacob's obsequious
and deferential address to his brother (my lord) as the sign of a guilty conscience
(Kalisch, Alford), when possibly politeness and humility will suffice - pass over –
not cross the
pass on, as in v. 3 - before his servant: and I will lead on softly (literally, I will go
on at my slow pace), according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children
be able to endure, - literally, according to the foot, i.e. the pace, of the property
(here, cattle), and according to the foot of the children; i.e. as fast as flocks and
children can be made with safety to travel - until I come unto my lord unto Seir.
It is apparent that Jacob at first intended to accept Esau's invitation to visit him
at Seir, either immediately (Clericus, Kalisch), or, as is more probable, afterwards
(Keil, Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary'), though, if afterwards, the historian has
preserved no record of any such journey, while, if presently such was his intention,
he must have been providentially led, from some cause not mentioned, to alter his
determination (Bush, Inglis, Clarke), unless we either think that he really went to
Seir, though it is not here stated (Patrick), or entertain the, in the circumstances,
almost incredible hypothesis that Jacob practiced a deception on his generous
brother in order to get rid of him, by promising what he never meant to fulfill,
viz., to visit him at
old Jacob or the new
15 “And 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.”
And Esau said, Let me now leave (literally, set, or place) with thee (as an escort
or guard) some of the folk - i.e. armed followers (see v. 1) - that are with me.
But of even this proposal Jacob appears to have been apprehensive. And he said,
What needeth it! (literally, For what, or wherefore, this?) let me find grace in
the sight of my lord - meaning either, I am satisfied, since thou art gracious
to me (Vatablus), - ἱκανὸν ὅτι εϋρον χάριν ἐναντίον σου κύριε - hikanon hoti
euron charin enantion sou kurie – let me find favor in the sight of my lord
(Septuagint); hoc uno tantum indigeo, ut inveniam gratiam in conspectu tuo
(Vulgate), - or, be gracious to me in this also, and leave none of thy followers
(Ainsworth, Patrick), though the two clauses might perhaps be connected thus:
"Wherefore do I thus find grace in the eyes of my lord?" (Kalisch).
16 “So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir. 17 And Jacob journeyed to
Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the
name of the place is called Succoth.” So (literally, and, complying with his
brother's request) Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir - from which he
had come to meet Jacob (see ch. 32:3). And Jacob journeyed to Succoth. Succoth,
so called here by anticipation, and afterwards belonging to the tribe of Gad, was
situated in the valley of the
on the western side of the
opposite the Wady Yabis (Robinson, vol. 3. p. 175; Thomson, 'Land and Book,' p.
456); but is to be sought for at the ford opposite the Wady-el-Fariah, "down which
the little stream from Shechem drains into the
p. 144; Porter in Kitto's 'Cyclop.,' art. Succoth; cf. Keil and Kalisch in loco).
And built him an house. This was an indication that Jacob purposed some
considerable stay at Succoth; and, indeed, if a period of repose was not now
demanded by the state of Jacob s health after his long servitude with Laban,
his exhausting conflict with the angel, and his exciting interview with Esau
(Lange), an interval of some years appears to be imperatively required by the
exigencies of the ensuing narrative concerning Dinah, who could not at this
time have been much over six years of age (Murphy, Afford, Gosman, et alii).
And made booths for his cattle. Porter states that he has frequently seen such
booths (Succoth, from saccac, to
entwine) occupied by the Bedouin of the
valley, and describes them as rude huts of reeds, sometimes covered with long grass,
and sometimes with a piece of tent (vide Kitto's 'Cyclop.,' ut supra). Therefore the
name of the place is called (literally, he called the name of the place) Succoth –
18 “And Jacob came to Shalem,
a city of
And Jacob (leaving Succoth) came to Shalem - the word שָׁלֵם, rendered by some
expositors as here (Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, Luther, Calvin, Peele, Wordsworth),
is better taken as an adverb signifying in peace or in safety (Onkelos, Saadias, Rashi,
Dathius, Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Keil, Kalisch, et alii), meaning that Jacob was now
sound in his limb (Jarehi) and safe in his person, being no more endangered by Esau
(Gerundensis in Drusius), or that he had hitherto met with no misfortune, though
soon to encounter one in the instance of Dinah (Patrick), or that the expectations
of Jacob expressed in ch. 28:21 (to which there is an obvious allusion) were now
- a city of
probably Shechem is the name of the person referred to in ch. 34:2, viz., the son
of Hamor the Hivite (Drusius, Peele); but if Shalem mean incolumis, then the
present clause must be rendered
"to the city of
built and named - which is in the
originally contemplated entering
Dead Sea, probably with a view to reach
with Esau, he suddenly altered his
route, and entered
of Abraham (see ch. 12:6), which may perhaps lend additional interest to, if they
do not explain, the words that follow - when he came from Padan-aram (as
Abraham previously had done); and (he) pitched his tent before the city - because
he did not wish to come in contact with the inhabitants (Lyre), or because his flocks
and herds could not find accommodation within the city walls (Murphy), or perhaps
simply for convenience of pasturage (Patrick).
19 “And 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.”
And he bought a parcel of a field, - literally, the portion (from a root signifying to
divide) of the field - where he had spread his tent, - and in which he afterwards
sank a well (compare John 4:6) - at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's
father (after whom the town was named), for an hundred pieces of money - or
kesitahs, the etymology of which is uncertain (Kalisch), though connected by
some philologists (Gesenius, Furst) with kasat, to weigh; translated lambs
(Onkelos, LXX., Vulgate), but believed to have been a certain weight now
unknown (Michaelis, 'Suppl.,' p. 2207), or a piece of money of a definite value,
perhaps the price of a lamb (Murphy), which, like the shekel, was used for
purposes of commercial exchange by the patriarchs (Gesenius) - probably a coin
stamped with the figure of a lamb (Bochart, Munter); but coined money does not
appear to have been of so great antiquity (Rosenmüller, Wordsworth, Alford).
20 “And he erected there an altar, and called it EleloheIsrael.”
And he erected there an altar, - as Abram his ancestor had done (ch. 12:7) –
and called it - not invoked upon it, invocavit super illud (Vulgate), ἐτεκαλήσατο –
etekalaesato – called it (Septuagint), but named it (Dathe, Rosenmüller, Keil, &c.) –
- i.e. God, the God of
the God of Israel (Rosenmüller), or, reading el as a preposition, "To the God of Israel"
(Quarry, p. 508).
Jacob and Esau, or The Brothers Reconciled. (vs. 1-20)
Ø The approach of Esau.
o Conscious of his greatness, being attended by 400 armed followers;
o thirsting for revenge, remembering the wrongs he had endured at
o longing to see his brother, from whom he had been parted now for
upwards of twenty years. It is probable that all three emotions:
§ anger, and
swelled within the breast of Esau, struggling to obtain the mastery.
Which of them should conquer another moment would decide.
Ø The advance of Jacob.
o With commendable caution, dividing his company into three several
groups — first the handmaids and their boys, next Leah and her
children, and last Rachel and Joseph;
o with rare chivalry, placing himself in front of the foremost, which may
be placed to his account as a set-off against his supposed partiality to
Rachel and Joseph;
o with profound respect, bowing and advancing seven times, with true
Oriental politeness, until he came to Esau.
Ø The reconciliation of both. The conflict of emotions within the breast of
Esau was brought to a decision by the sight of Jacob, which at once cast
the balance on the side of fraternal affection. Old memories of boyhood
and home revived in the bosom of the stalwart hunter as he looked on his
twin-brother, and, under the impulse of generous and noble feeling, he ran
and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him. Nor was the heart
of Jacob less susceptible of such tender emotion. Reciprocating his manly
brother’s embrace, he too yielded to a rush of kindly sentiment, and they
both wept. What a study for a painter! Compare Jonathan and David
(I Samuel 20:41), and the prodigal and his father (Luke 15:20).
Ø Esau s inquiries and Jacob s answers.
o Esau asks about the women and the children in Jacob s train; and
Jacob, piously acknowledging the Divine hand that had surrounded
him with so many precious objects of affection, instructs them to do
obeisance to their kinsman, which with beautiful politeness, following
his own courteous example, they do. It bespeaks a devout heart when
domestic as well as other blessings are traced to the all-bountiful
Giver, a well-ordered home when its inmates imitate the good conduct
of its head, and a fine sensibility when the claims of relatives to
courtesy and kindness are recognized and honored.
o Esau requests to be informed about the droves which he had met, and
Jacob explains that he had sent them as a present to conciliate his
favor. At first declining with a praiseworthy magnanimity to deprive
his brother of any of his hard-earned wealth, Esau is afterwards
constrained to accept the proffered gift, on learning that Jacob would
not otherwise be sure of his forgiveness and friendship. It is beautiful
when brothers emulate each other in noble acts.
Ø Esau’s invitations and, Jacob s promise. It appears most satisfactory to
understand Esau as soliciting his brother to accompany him to Seir,
where for the time he was residing, and Jacob as engaging to drive
on slowly after the roving chieftain, according as the tender age of
his children and the condition of his flocks and herds would admit,
with the view of ultimately paying him a visit in his mountain home;
but whether he fulfilled that promise now or afterwards, or at all,
cannot be ascertained. If he did not, we may rest satisfied that he
had good reasons for breaking his word, which, alas, promise-breakers
Ø Esau’s offer and Jacob’s decline. Esau anxiously desires to leave a
convoy of his troopers to assist his brother in the further prosecution
of his journey; but Jacob with respectful firmness refused to accept of
his kindness — perhaps because, being a man of peace, he did not care
for the society of soldiers, but chiefly, we apprehend, because, having
Jehovah as a guide, he did not need the help of roving buccaneers
(compare Ezra 8:22).
Ø Esau returned unto Mount Seir.
o Immediately, that day; but
not as yet finally,
since his ultimate withdrawal from the
Ø Jacob journeyed to Succoth, where he built himself a house, constructed
booths for his cattle, and remained a considerable time, afterwards
moving up to Shechem, where he:
o pitched his tent outside the city, for convenience or for safety;
o purchased a field from the chief man of the place, honestly paying
for his purchase, as became a just man; and
o erected an altar, which he named El-elohe-Israel.
Ø See here:
o The strength of fraternal affection.
o The beauty of forgiveness and reconciliation.
o The possibility of combining politeness and piety.
o The power of kindness in disarming enmity and opposition.
o The advantage of conference for promoting good understanding
and exciting kindly feeling.
o The tender care which the strong should exercise towards the
The sad partings which
o The propriety of taking God with us on all our journeys.
o The duty of affectionately remembering God’s mercies.
The Fruits of Prayer (vs. 1-20)
The “prince” who has been lifted by the grace of God out of the
humiliation of his fear and shame to the height of his favor at the throne of
the Most High now reveals his princely power. He takes captive Esau’s
heart; he blesses him in the name of God, he bestows his gifts upon him.
Notice the fruits of Divine discipline in the patriarch.
puts the handmaids first, Leah next, Rachel and Joseph hindermost. He
placed them in the order of his own affection; but it represented also the
Divine order, for it was in Joseph that the
especially manifested. “I have seen thy face,” he said to Esau, “as though I
had seen the face of God.” He saw the favor of God going on before him,
and like the sunshine it rested on the face of the enemy, and cast out the
darkness and turned it into light.
believer in the covenant. This is seen in his refusal to mingle his family and
people with those of Esau.
better than “Seir;” and it is on the way to “Shalom”, peace. There it is that
the patriarch finds rest, and builds an altar, calling it “El-elohe-Israel.”
Not merely an altar to God, but to Him who had revealed Himself as the
faithful God, the
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