Genesis 33
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
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.

I. THE THEOCRATIC FEELING IS ALIVE IN JACOB'S HEART. He 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 kingdom of God was about to be 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.

II. Jacob's entire STEADFASTNESS AS A SERVANT OF GOD and believer in the covenant. Seen in his refusal to mingle his family and people with those of Esau.

III. SPECIAL GRACE MEETS THE TRUE SERVANT. " Succoth is 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 God of Israel, the God of his people. - R.

And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee. The offer probably made with kindly intention. No sign of bitterness in Esau's feelings; but ignorance of the necessities of Jacob's march. Jacob knew it was not possible with safety (cf. Psalm 137:4; 1 Peter 4:4). Reminds us of the attitude of many worldly persons towards Christians. "The carnal mind is enmity against God." Yet worldly men may have sincere regard for Christian men; bear unconscious testimony to excellence of Christianity. And here 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 - no union. We have another Leader (Hebrews 12:2). The pillar of fire led Israelites not according to Roman judgment.

I. THIS DOES NOT IMPLY KEEPING ALOOF FROM MEN, OR 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 (cf. 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 (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:20-22).

II. IT DOES IMPLY A REAL CONSCIOUSNESS OF BEING REDEEMED, set free, bought with a price; OF HAYING 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.


1. 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 fight and wrong. This is the spirit of legality, the spirit of bondage, and leads to partial service instead of entire dedication (cf. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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. - M.

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