Bible Commentary: Genesis 33

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Bible Commentary

Genesis 33

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Reconciliation

In the morning, Jacob departed, and after a short journey he caught sight of Esau advancing with 400 men. Jacob had ordered his family, dividing the children among their mothers, placing the concubines first, followed by Leah, with Rachel trailing the caravan. This was done to provide maximum protection for Rachel (possibly pregnant with Benjamin) and Joseph. For if Esau attacked, perhaps he would have had enough of slaughter by the time he reached Rachel. Jacob positioned himself at the head of the caravan, alternately walking and prostrating himself as he approached Esau, thereby showing the highest regard and deepest humility.

The meeting with Esau, however, was anything but hostile. Esau was genuinely glad to see Jacob. Twenty years had significantly moderated his feelings and, given the size of the fighting force accompanying him, it appears that Esau had achieved a good deal of personal success—enough, at least, for him to feel sufficiently blessed. Jacob presented gifts and introduced his family, but wisely begged-off accompanying Esau back to Seir, perhaps anticipating that Esau’s mercurial nature would once again change and he would revert to his former embitterment over the evil Jacob had done to him.

After departing from his encounter with Esau, Jacob came to Shechem (verses 18-19). Here he bought a parcel of land and dug a well. This is apparently the same well at which, long afterward, Jesus Christ met and talked with a Samaritan woman—the place at this much later time being known as Sychar (John 4:5-6 John 4:5-6 [5] Then comes he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. [6] Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.
American King James Version×
), near today’s city of Nablus in the West Bank. Jacob, renamed Israel, also built an altar to God here, which he named El Elohe Israel, meaning “God, the God of Israel” (Genesis 33:20 Genesis 33:20And he erected there an altar, and called it EleloheIsrael.
American King James Version×
). Jacob’s “conversion process” is well underway at this point. No longer does he look upon God as simply the God of His fathers. Rather, he sees God as his God—seeming to indicate that he has developed a personal relationship with Him.