Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
Ge 33:1-11. Kindness of Jacob and Esau.
1. behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men—Jacob having crossed the ford and ranged his wives and children in order—the dearest last, that they might be the least exposed to danger—awaited the expected interview. His faith was strengthened and his fears gone (Ps 27:3). Having had power to prevail with God, he was confident of the same power with man, according to the promise (compare Ge 32:28).
And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost.
And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
3. he bowed himself … seven times—The manner of doing this is by looking towards a superior and bowing with the upper part of the body brought parallel to the ground, then advancing a few steps and bowing again, and repeating his obeisance till, at the seventh time, the suppliant stands in the immediate presence of his superior. The members of his family did the same. This was a token of profound respect, and, though very marked, it would appear natural; for Esau being the elder brother, was, according to the custom of the East, entitled to respectful treatment from his younger brother. His attendants would be struck by it, and according to Eastern habits, would magnify it in the hearing of their master.
And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.
4. Esau ran to meet him—What a sudden and surprising change! Whether the sight of the princely present and the profound homage of Jacob had produced this effect, or it proceeded from the impulsive character of Esau, the cherished enmity of twenty years in a moment disappeared; the weapons of war were laid aside, and the warmest tokens of mutual affection reciprocated between the brothers. But doubtless, the efficient cause was the secret, subduing influence of grace (Pr 21:1), which converted Esau from an enemy into a friend.
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.
5. Who are those with thee?—It might have been enough to say, They are my children; but Jacob was a pious man, and he could not give even a common answer but in the language of piety (Ps 127:3; 113:9; 107:41).
Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves.
And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves.
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 Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.
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.
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.
11. He urged him and he took it—In the East the acceptance by a superior is a proof of friendship, and by an enemy, of reconciliation. It was on both accounts Jacob was so anxious that his brother should receive the cattle; and in Esau's acceptance he had the strongest proofs of a good feeling being established that Eastern notions admit of.
And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee.
Ge 33:12-20. The Parting.
12. And he said, Let us take our journey—Esau proposed to accompany Jacob and his family through the country, both as a mark of friendship and as an escort to guard them. But the proposal was prudently declined. Jacob did not need any worldly state or equipage. Notwithstanding the present cordiality, the brothers were so different in spirit, character, and habits—the one so much a man of the world, and the other a man of God, that there was great risk of something occurring to disturb the harmony. Jacob having alleged a very reasonable excuse for the tardiness of his movements, the brothers parted in peace.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir.
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.
17. Jacob journeyed to Succoth—that is, "booths," that being the first station at which Jacob halted on his arrival in Canaan. His posterity, when dwelling in houses of stone, built a city there and called it Succoth, to commemorate the fact that their ancestor, "a Syrian ready to perish" [De 26:5], was glad to dwell in booths.
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.
18. Shalem—that is, "peace"; and the meaning may be that Jacob came into Canaan, arriving safe and sound at the city Shechem—a tribute to Him who had promised such a return (compare Ge 28:15). But most writers take Shalem as a proper name—a city of Shechem, and the site is marked by one of the little villages about two miles to the northeast. A little farther in the valley below Shechem "he bought a parcel of a field," thus being the first of the patriarchs who became a proprietor of land in Canaan.
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.
19. an hundred pieces of money—literally, "lambs"; probably a coin with the figure of a lamb on it.
And he erected there an altar, and called it EleloheIsrael.
20. and he erected … an altar—A beautiful proof of his personal piety, a most suitable conclusion to his journey, and a lasting memorial of a distinguished favor in the name "God, the God of Israel." Wherever we pitch a tent, God shall have an altar.