Genesis 33:14
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.
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(14) According as the cattle . . . —Rather, according to the pace—Heb., footof the cattle that is before me, and according to the pace of the children. Joseph was only six or seven years old; and Leah’s two younger sons, and probably Zilpah’s, were too tender to endure much fatigue.

Unto Seir.—This implies a purpose of visiting Esau in his new acquisition, not carried out probably because Esau did not as yet settle there, but returned to Hebron to his father.

Genesis 33:14. Until I come unto my lord, to mount Seir — As no mention is made of it, many writers think, that, for some reasons, Jacob never went to mount Seir to see Esau. Certainly it is very doubtful whether he ever did. It cannot be supposed however, that he would delay so long as the time mentioned in the twenty-fifth chapter before he went to see his father.

33:1-16 Jacob, having by prayer committed his case to God, went on his way. Come what will, nothing can come amiss to him whose heart is fixed, trusting in God. Jacob bowed to Esau. A humble, submissive behaviour goes far towards turning away wrath. Esau embraced Jacob. God has the hearts of all men in his hands, and can turn them when and how he pleases. It is not in vain to trust in God, and to call upon him in the day of trouble. And when a man's ways please the Lord he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him. Esau receives Jacob as a brother, and much tenderness passes between them. Esau asks, Who are those with thee? To this common question, Jacob spoke like himself, like a man whose eyes are ever directed towards the Lord. Jacob urged Esau, though his fear was over, and he took his present. It is well when men's religion makes them generous, free-hearted, and open-handed. But Jacob declined Esau's offer to accompany him. It is not desirable to be too intimate with superior ungodly relations, who will expect us to join in their vanities, or at least to wink at them, though they blame, and perhaps mock at, our religion. Such will either be a snare to us, or offended with us. We shall venture the loss of all things, rather than endanger our souls, if we know their value; rather than renounce Christ, if we truly love him. And let Jacob's care and tender attention to his family and flocks remind us of the good Shepherd of our souls, who gathers the lambs with his arm, and carries them in his bosom, and gently leads those that are with young, Isa 40:11. As parents, teachers or pastors, we should all follow his example.They now part for the present. "I will qo with thee;" as an escort or vanguard. Jacob explains that this would be inconvenient for both parties, as his tender children and suckling cattle could not keep pace with Esau's men, who were used to the road. "At the pace of the cattle;" as fast as the business (מלאכה melā'kâh) of traveling with cattle will permit. Unto Selr. Jacob is travelling to the land of Kenaan, and to the residence of his father. But, on arriving there, it will be his first duty to return the fraternal visit of Esau. The very circumstance that he sent messengers to apprise his brother of his arrival, implies that he was prepared to cultivate friendly relations with him. Jacob also declines the offer of some of the men that Esau had with him. He had, doubtless, enough of hands to manage his remaining flock, and he now relied more than ever on the protection of that God who had ever proved himself a faithful and effectual guardian.14. until I come unto my lord—It seems to have been Jacob's intention, passing round the Dead Sea, to visit his brother in Seir, and thus, without crossing the Jordan, go to Beer-sheba to Isaac; but he changed his plan, and whether the intention was carried out then or at a future period has not been recorded. We do not read that Jacob did according to this promise or insinuation go to Seir; either therefore he changed his first intentions for some weighty reasons, or upon warning from God; or he used this only as a pretence, which we should not too easily believe of so good a man, especially after such dangers and deliverances; or rather he did perform this promise, though the Scripture be silent of it, as it is of many other historical passages, and as it is here concerning Jacob’s visiting of his father Isaac, which is not mentioned till ten years after this time; and yet it is utterly incredible that Jacob should be so near to his dear and worthy father for so long a time together, and not once give him a visit.

Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant,.... He desired in a very respectable manner that he would not keep his pace in complaisance to him, but proceed on in his journey, and go on with his men, and he with his family and flocks would follow after as fast as he could, and their circumstances would admit of:

and I will lead on softly; slowly, gently, easily, step by step:

according as the cattle that goeth before me, and the children be able to endure; or "according to the foot" (s) of them; of the cattle, whom he calls the "work" (t), because his business lay in the care of them, and these were the chief of his substance; and of the children, as the feet of each of them were able to travel; or because of them, for the sake of them, as Aben Ezra, consulting their strength, he proposed to move on gently, like both a wise, careful, and tender father of his family, and shepherd of his flock:

until I come unto my lord unto Seir; whither, no doubt, he intended to come when he parted with Esau; but for reasons which after appeared to him he declined it: or more probably he did go thither then, or quickly after; though the Scripture makes no mention of it, he might go with some of his servants directly, and send his family, flocks, and herds, under the care of other servants, forward on their journey, and quickly come up to them again; for that he should tell a lie is not likely, nor does he seem to be under any temptation to it: and besides, it would have been dangerous to have disobliged his brother when on his borders, who could easily have come upon him again with four hundred men, and picked a quarrel with him for breach of promise, and destroyed him and his at once.

(s) "ad pedem", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius, Cartwright. (t) "operis", Montanus, Munster, Fagius, Drusius, Cartwright, Schmidt.

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 {f} I come unto my lord unto Seir.

(f) He promised that which (as it would seem) he did not plan to do.

14. softly] Lit. “according to my gentleness,” i.e. at a quiet and leisurely rate.

according to the pace of the cattle] Lit. “of the property” in herds and flocks (m’lâ’cah, as in Exodus 22:7; Exodus 22:10; 1 Samuel 15:9).

unto Seir] Jacob here implies that he was intending to visit his brother in Seir. He has no intention of settling there, and at the most he expresses a courteous hope of a temporary sojourn.

Verse 14. - 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 Jordan (Afford), since Esau was not journeying to Canaan; but simply pass on, as in ver. 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 Mount Seir (Calvin), or leave it doubtful whether it is the old Jacob or the new Israel who speaks (Lange). Genesis 33:14Lastly, Esau proposed to accompany Jacob on his journey. But Jacob politely declined not only his own company, but also the escort, which Esau afterwards offered him, of a portion of his attendants; the latter as being unnecessary, the former as likely to be injurious to his flocks. This did not spring from any feeling of distrust; and the ground assigned was no mere pretext. He needed no military guard, "for he knew that he was defended by the hosts of God;" and the reason given was a very good one: "My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds that are milking (עלות from עוּל, giving milk or suckling) are upon me" (עלי): i.e., because they are giving milk they are an object of especial anxiety to me; "and if one should overdrive them a single day, all the sheep would die." A caravan, with delicate children and cattle that required care, could not possibly keep pace with Esau and his horsemen, without taking harm. And Jacob could not expect his brother to accommodate himself to the rate at which he was travelling. For this reason he wished Esau to go on first; and he would drive gently behind, "according to the foot of the cattle (מלאכה possessions equals cattle), and according to the foot of the children," i.e., "according to the pace at which the cattle and the children could go" (Luther). "Till I come to my lord to Seir:" these words are not to be understood as meaning that he intended to go direct to Seir; consequently they were not a wilful deception for the purpose of getting rid of Esau. Jacob's destination was Canaan, and in Canaan probably Hebron, where his father Isaac still lived. From thence he may have thought of paying a visit to Esau in Seir. Whether he carried out this intention or not, we cannot tell; for we have not a record of all that Jacob did, but only of the principal events of his life. We afterwards find them both meeting together as friends at their father's funeral (Genesis 35:29). Again, the attitude of inferiority which Jacob assumed in his conversation with Esau, addressing him as lord, and speaking of himself as servant, was simply an act of courtesy suited to the circumstances, in which he paid to Esau the respect due to the head of a powerful band; since he could not conscientiously have maintained the attitude of a brother, when inwardly and spiritually, in spite of Esau's friendly meeting, they were so completely separated the one from the other.
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