Genesis 33


Esau, with four hundred men, meets Jacob, 1.

He places his children under their respective mothers,

passes over before them, and bows himself to his brother, 2, 3.

Esau receives him with great affection, 4.

Receives the homage of the handmaids, Leah, Rachel, and

their children, 5-7.

Jacob offers him the present of cattle, which he at first

refuses, but after much entreaty accepts, 8-11.

Invites Jacob to accompany him to Mount Seir, 12.

Jacob excuses himself because of his flocks and his children,

but promises to follow him, 13, 14.

Esau offers to leave him some of his attendants, which Jacob

declines, 15.

Esau returns to Seir, 16,

and Jacob journeys to Succoth, 17,

and to Shalem, in the land of Canaan, 18.

Buys a parcel of ground from the children of Hamor, 19,

and erects an altar which he calls El-elohe-Israel, 20.


Verse 1. Behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men.] It

has been generally supposed that Esau came with an intention to

destroy his brother, and for that purpose brought with him four

hundred armed men. But, 1. There is no kind of evidence of this

pretended hostility. 2. There is no proof that the four hundred

men that Esau brought with him were at all armed. 3. But there is

every proof that he acted towards his brother Jacob with all

openness and candour, and with such a forgetfulness of past

injuries as none but a great mind could have been capable of. Why

then should the character of this man be perpetually vilified?

Here is the secret. With some people, on the most ungrounded

assumption, Esau is a reprobate, and the type and figure of all

reprobates, and therefore he must be everything that is bad. This

serves a system; but, whether true or false in itself, it has

neither countenance nor support from the character or conduct of


Verse 2. He put the handmaids and their children foremost] There

is something so artificial in this arrangement of Jacob's family,

that it must have had some peculiar design. Was Jacob still

apprehensive of danger, and put those foremost whom he least

esteemed, that if the foremost met with any evil, those who were

behind might escape on their swift beasts? Ge 32:7,8. Or did he

intend to keep his choicest treasure to the last, and exhibit his

beautiful Rachel and favourite Joseph after Esau had seen all the

rest, in order to make the deeper impression on his mind?

Verse 4. Esau ran to meet him] How sincere and genuine is this

conduct of Esau, and at the same time how magnanimous! He had

buried all his resentment, and forgotten all his injuries; and

receives his brother with the strongest demonstrations, not only

of forgiveness, but of fraternal affection.

And kissed him] valyishshakehu. In the Masoretic

Bibles each letter of this word is noted with a point over it to

make it emphatic. And by this kind of notation the rabbins wished

to draw the attention of the reader to the change that had taken

place in Esau, and the sincerity with which he received his

brother Jacob. A Hindoo when he meets a friend after absence

throws his arms round him, and his head across his shoulders,

twice over the right shoulder and once over the left, with other

ceremonies according to the rank of the parties.

Verse 10. Receive my present at my hand] Jacob could not be

certain that he had found favour with Esau, unless the present had

been received; for in accepting it Esau necessarily became his

friend, according to the custom of those times, and in that

country. In the eastern countries, if your present be received by

your superior, you may rely on his friendship; if it be not

received, you have every thing to fear. It is on this ground that

Jacob was so urgent with Esau to receive his present, because he

knew that after this he must treat him as a friend.

Verse 14. Until I come unto my lord unto Seir.] It is very

likely that Jacob was perfectly sincere in his expressed purpose

of visiting Esau at Seir, but it is as likely that circumstances

afterwards occurred that rendered it either improper or

impracticable; and we find that Esau afterwards removed to Canaan,

and he and Jacob dwelt there together for several years. See

Ge 36:6.

Verse 17. Journeyed to Succoth] So called from succoth,

the booths or tents which Jacob erected there for the resting and

convenience of his family, who in all probability continued there

for some considerable time.

Verse 18. And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem] The word

shalem, in the Samaritan shalom, should be

translated here in peace, or in safety. After resting some time

at Succoth, which was necessary for the safety of his flocks and

the comfort of his family, he got safely to a city of Shechem, in

health of body, without any loss of his cattle or servants, his

wives and children being also in safety. Coverdale and Matthews

translate this word as above, and with them agree the Chaldee and

the Arabic: it is not likely to have been the name of a city, as

it is nowhere else to be found. Shechem is called in Ac 7:16,

Sychem, and in Joh 4:5,

Sychar; in the Arabic it is called Nablous, and to the present

day Neapolis. It was near to Samaria; and the place where the

wretched remains of the sect of the Samaritans were lately found,

from whom Dr. Huntington received a perfect copy of the Samaritan


Verse 19. For a hundred pieces of money.] The original,

bemeah kesitah, has been a matter of long and learned

discussion among critics. As kesitah signifies a lamb, it may

imply that Jacob gave the Hamorites one hundred lambs for the

field; but if it be the same transaction that St. Stephen refers

to in Ac 7:16, it was

money, τιμηςαργυριον, a sum or price of silver, which was

given on the occasion. It has been conjectured that the money had

the figure of a lamb stamped on it, because it was on an average

the value of a lamb; and hence it might be called a kesitah or

lamb from the impression it bore. It is certain that in many

countries the coin has had its name from the image it bore; so

among our ancestors a coin was called an angel because it bore the

image of an angel; hence also a Jacobus, a Carolus, a Lewis,

(Louis d' Or,) a Joe, because certain coins in England, Spain,

France, and Portugal, bore on one side the image of the kings of

those countries, James, Charles, Lewis, Joseph, or Johannes. The

Athenians had a coin called bouv, an ox, because it was stamped

with the figure of an ox. Hence the saying in AEschylus:��


βεβηκεν AGAM. v. 36.

"I must be silent concerning other matters, a great ox has come

upon my tongue;" to signify a person who had received a bribe for

secrecy, i.e., a sum of money, on each piece of which an ox was

stamped, and hence called βουσ, an ox. The word opes, riches, is a

corruption of the word oves, sheep, because these animals in

ancient times constituted the principal riches of their owners;

but when other cattle were added, the word pecunia, (from pecus,

cattle,) which we translate money, and from which we still have

our English term pecuniary, appears to have been substituted for

oves, because pecus, pecoris, and pecus, pecudis, were used

to signify all kinds of cattle large and small. Among our

British and Saxon ancestors we find coins stamped with the

figure of an ox, horse, hog, goat, &c., and this custom arose in

all probability, both among them and other nations, from this

circumstance, that in primitive times the coin was the ordinary

value of the animal whose image it bore. It is, all circumstances

weighed, most likely that a piece of money is here intended, and

possibly marked with the image of a lamb; but as the original

word kesitah occurs only here, and in Jos 24:32, and

Job 42:11, this is not sufficiently evident, the word itself

being of very doubtful signification. Mr. Parkhurst is of opinion

that the kesitah bore the image of a lamb; and that these lamb

coins of the ancient Hebrews typified the Lamb of God, who in the

Divine purpose was considered as slain from the foundation of the

world, and who purchased us unto God with his own blood. The

conjecture is at least pious, and should lead to useful

reflections. Those who wish to see more on this subject may

consult the writers in the Critici Sacri, and Calmet.

Verse 20. And he erected there an altar] It appears that Jacob

had a very correct notion of the providence and mercy of God;

hence he says, Ge 33:5:

The children which God hath GRACIOUSLY given thy servant; and in

Ge 33:11 he attributes all his

substance to the bounty of his Maker: Take, I pray thee, my

blessing-because God hath dealt GRACIOUSLY with me, and because I

have enough. Hence he viewed God as the God of all grace, and to

him he erects an altar, dedicating it to God, the God of Israel,

referring particularly to the change of his own name, and the

mercies which he then received; and hence perhaps it would be

best to translate the words, The strong God (is) the God of

Israel; as by the power of his grace and goodness he had

rescued, defended, blessed, and supported him from his youth up

until now. The erecting altars with particular names appears in

other places; so, Ex 17:15, Moses calls his altar

Jehovah-nissi, "the Lord is my banner."

1. WHEN a man's way's please God, he maketh even his enemies to

be at peace with him. When Jacob had got reconciled to God, God

reconciled his brother to him. The hearts of all men are in the

hands of God, and he turns them howsoever he will.

2. Since the time in which Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the

covenant. We see in him much dependence on God, accompanied with

a spirit of deep humility and gratitude. God's grace alone can

change the heart of man, and it is by that grace only that we get

a sense of our obligations; this lays us in the dust, and the more

we receive the lower we shall lie.

3. "The first thing," says good Bishop Wilson, "that pious men

do, is to provide for the honour and worship of God." Jacob buys

a piece of ground, and erects an altar on it in the land of a

heathen, that he might acknowledge God among his enemies, and turn

them to the true faith; and there is every reason to believe that

this expedient would have been successful, had it not been for the

base conduct of his sons. How true is the saying, One sinner

spoileth much good! Reader, beware, lest thy conduct should

become a stumbling block to any.

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