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Genesis 33


Jacob Meets Esau Jacob and Esau Meet Jacob's Reconciliation with Esau (32:1-33:20) Jacob Meets Esau Meeting with Esau
33:1-3 33:1-3 33:1-3 33:1-5a 33:1-7
33:4-11 33:4-11 33:4-11    
      33:8a 33:8-11
      33:10-11 Jacob Parts Company with Esau
33:12-14 33:12-14 33:12-14 33:12 33:12-17
33:15-17 33:15-17 33:15-17 33:15a  
Jacob Settles in Shechem Jacob Comes to Canaan   33:15b-17 Jacob Arrives at Shechem
33:18-20 33:18-20 33:18-20 33:18-20 33:18-20



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. This chapter includes mostly dialogue (note TEV translation). The term "say" (BDB 55, KB 65) is used ten times.

This dialogue format has several commands/requests.

1. "let what you have be your own," v. 9, BDB 224, KB 243, Qal jussive

2. "please take my gifts," v. 11 BDB 542, KB 534, Qal imperative

3. "let us take our journey," v. 12, BDB 652, KB 704, Qal cohortative

4-5. "go" (twice), v. 12, BDB 229, KB 246, Qal cohortative

6. "please let my lord pass on before me," v. 14, BDB 716, KB 778, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

7. "I will proceed at my leisure," v. 14, BDB 624, KB 675, Hithpael cohortative

8. "please let me leave with you some of my people," v. 15, BDb 426, KB 427, Hiphil cohortative

9. "let me find favor in the sight of my lord," v. 15, BDB 592, KB 619, Qal imperfect used in a cohortative sense


B. Jacob has faced his fears.

1. Laban

2. the angelic wrestler

3. Esau


C. Jacob is back in the Promised Land (Canaan). The divine promises of Bethel have been fulfilled. The covenant promises to Abraham and his seed continue (i.e., the eternal redemptive plan is on track).



1Then Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. 2He put the maids and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. 3But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.

33:2 Notice the distinction in the family. The lesser wives and children go first, his favorites go last (i.e., Rachel and Joseph). Things have changed in Jacob's heart, however, and he goes before them all (cf. v. 3). If they are to be killed, he will be killed first. He still strategizes, but he trusts in YHWH's presence and promised protection.

33:3 "bowed down" This verb (BDB 1005, KB 295, Hishtaphel imperfect) is repeated four times.

1. Jacob bows before Esau, v. 3

2. the maids and their children bow before Esau, v. 6

3. Leah and her children bow before Esau, v. 7

4. Rachel and her child bow before Esau, v. 7


▣ "seven times" This was a gesture of submission (i.e., El Amarna Letters, 14th century b.c.).

4Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. 5He lifted his eyes and saw the women and the children, and said, "Who are these with you?" So he said, "The children whom God has graciously given your servant." 6Then the maids came near with their children, and they bowed down. 7Leah likewise came near with her children, and they bowed down; and afterward Joseph came near with Rachel, and they bowed down. 8And he said, "What do you mean by all this company which I have met?" And he said, "To find favor in the sight of my lord." 9But Esau said, "I have plenty, my brother; let what you have be your own." 10Jacob said, "No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then take my present from my hand, for I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably. 11Please take my gift which has been brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me and because I have plenty." Thus he urged him and he took it.

33:4 "Esau ran. . .embraced. . .fell on his neck. . .kissed. . .wept" These are all signs of warm greetings.

1. "ran," BDB 930, KB 1207, Qal imperfect

2. "embraced," BDB 287, KB 287, Piel imperfect

3. "fell on his neck," BDB 656, KB 709, Qal imperfect, cf. 45:14; 46:29

4. "kissed," BDB 676, KB 730, Qal imperfect (this is missing in the LXX and marked in the MT as an addition), cf. 45:15; 48:10; 50:1

5. "they wept," BDB 13, KB 129, Qal imperfect (the LXX and TEV, REB have "they both wept," but possibly, "he wept," cf. NJB, AB, p. 258)


33:5 Esau asks about the groups of women and their children who were all accompanying Jacob. It must have been unusual for a man to have two wives and two concubines and children with each or Esau would not have asked. Esau's reaction to this is not recorded.

33:8 Esau asks about all the presents (i.e., animals) that Jacob has sent before his family (cf. 32:13-21).

33:9 "my brother" The NASB Study Bible (p. 51) makes a good point in mentioning that Esau calls Jacob "my brother," but Jacob calls Esau "my lord." Jacob is either (1) being tactful or (2) fearful.

Gifts were common at special occasions. To refuse a gift in this culture implied a strained relationship (i.e., James M. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 41). Esau's refusal would have supported Jacob's worst fears! Esau did not need these gifts, but accepted them as a sign of accepting his brother.

33:10 Jacob urges Esau to accept his gifts because Esau's acceptance of him (cf. v. 14) would parallel God's graciousness ("as one sees the face of God") toward him. This may be a veiled allusion to 25:23.

33:11 Jacob acknowledges the source of his physical wealth as the covenant God (i.e., "graciously," BDB 335, KB 334, Qal perfect, cf. v. 5; 43:29).

▣ "gift" This (BDB 139) is literally "blessing." It is the very term used to describe what Jacob cheated Esau of in chapter 27. It is not by accident that Jacob wants to bless his brother by giving a gift (lit. blessing). In a sense he was trying to make up for his earlier manipulations.

12Then Esau said, "Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you." 13But he said to him, "My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die. 14Please let my lord pass on before his servant, and I will proceed at my leisure, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord at Seir."

33:13 One wonders if this was another way for Jacob to make Esau feel superior, as well as an excuse for not traveling with him back to Seir immediately. His children were not "weak" and the flocks had already traveled a long way. Is Jacob still a manipulative liar?

15Esau said, "Please let me leave with you some of the people who are with me." But he said, "What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord." 16So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. 17Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built for himself a house and made booths for his livestock; therefore the place is named Succoth.

33:15 "people" This is the term goi (BDB 766 I), which usually has a negative connotation referring to Gentiles, but here it is used of Esau's men and in Exod. 33:13 it refers to the people of God. Context, context, context determines word meaning, not lexicons! Words have meaning only in sentences; sentences have meaning only in paragraphs/strophe or stanzas; and these have meaning only in larger literary units. Be careful of "set" or "technical" definitions!

33:17 "Succoth" This term (BDB 697) means "booths." Jacob built a shelter for himself, but this is called a "house" (BDB 108), but note v. 19. He also built "booths" (BDB 697, i.e., a shelter made from branches) for his animals.

It is uncertain if there was a village in this area before Jacob camped there. It will later become the name of a city (cf. Jdgs. 8:5).

This is not the same as the Succoth located in the Egyptian delta (cf. Exod. 12:7; Num. 33:5). This is a city on the east side of the Jordan (i.e., The MacMillan Bible Atlas, p. 22).

One more point, Jacob does not seem to follow Esau to Mt. Seir, but travels to Succoth, which is not on the way to Seir/Edom. He even builds a house! It is uncertain if the text is telling us that (1) this was purposeful or (2) simply omits Jacob's visit to Seir. I prefer option #2. I want to believe Jacob has truly changed, that he is no longer the trickster, manipulator, liar.

18Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city. 19He bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem's father, for one hundred pieces of money. 20Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.

33:18 "Shechem" The name can refer to

1. a person's name, vv. 18,19; 34:2; Num. 26:31; Josh. 17:2; 24:32; Jdgs. 9:28

2. a topological region between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerazim. The same root (BDB 1014 I) means "shoulder" or "shoulder-blade."

3. a city, Josh. 20:7; 21:21; 24:1; Jdgs. 8:31

It is first mentioned in Gen. 12:6 in connection with Abram and now with Jacob (cf. 37:14).

There is no apparent connection between v. 17 and v. 18. How long Jacob stayed at Succoth is not recorded. They seem to be two separate events and times recorded with no clear connection. From building a house to buying land may imply temporary to permanent residence. The only problem is that v. 18 seems to imply soon after Jacob arrived from Paddan-aram (area around Haran) he bought the land.

He was told to return to Bethel, but he stopped short and remained. Why is not stated in the text!

33:19 "And he bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent" The act of buying a field implied residency or at least shows legal residency.

▣ "Hamor" This name means "ass" (BDB 331 II). In the ancient world donkeys were considered sacred animals. We know this, not only from the Mari Tablets, but also from the fact that (1) the wealthy rode donkeys (cf. Jdgs. 5:10) and (2) Israel's kings rode on a special donkey for their royal mount (i.e., I Kgs. 1:33).

▣ "for one hundred pieces of money" This is a rare Hebrew term, הטיק, qesitah (BDB 903). It is an unknown weight of metal (cf. Josh. 24:32; Job 42:11), possibly (1) the price of a lamb (LXX) or (2) a weight (mina) of metal in the shape (or imprint) of a lamb.

33:20 "he erected there an altar" This designated a place, time, and manner of worshiping. It allowed prayer and sacrifice to be offered to YHWH (cf. 8:20; 12:7-8; 13:18; 22:9; 26:25). This is a fulfillment of YHWH's promise of 28:15!

▣ "El-Elohe-Israel" This construct is made up of

1. El, BDB 42, cf. Exod. 34:6; see Special Topic at 12:1

2. Elohe, BDB 43, cf. Deut. 32:15,17; Ps. 18:32

3. Israel, see Special Topic at 32:28

The Septuagint translates it as "the God of Israel." The Jewish Study Bible, using the JPSOA translation in its textual footnote, has "El, God of Israel" (p. 69).


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