Genesis 33:1-3 Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants.2 He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.
Jacob is now humble and has placed his confidence in God. He groups everyone, keeping Rachel and his youngest child in the back and then he goes forward to be first.
Bowing 7 times was a customary homage given to kings of that day. Jacob, by his changed attitude of meekness, humility and willingness to give Esau the respect and honor due him, paves the way for Esau to forgive him and to accept him again as his brother.
Genesis 33:4-7 4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. 5 Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked. Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.” 6 Then the female servants and their children approached and bowed down.7 Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down.
And everything is fine!! God answered Jacob’s prayer beyond what he hoped. They were never this close the whole time they were growing up! 20 years ago Esau would never have run to Jacob and hugged him!
And Jacob proudly introduces his family, giving honor to God for His grace and blessing.
Genesis 33:9-11 8 Esau asked, “What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?”
“To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said.
9 But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.”
10 “No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably. 11 Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.
Remember Jacob had sent the animals earlier as a gift. And Esau can’t bring himself to accept so generous a gift. It’s clear that Esau is quite rich himself and doesn’t need the gift. But Jacob pleads with him and Esau may have heard the undercurrent of contrition in Jacob and realized it was a form of an apology – so he accepted it.
Genesis 33:12-17 Then Esau said, “Let us be on our way; I’ll accompany you.”
13 But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. 14 So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”
15 Esau said, “Then let me leave some of my men with you.”
“But why do that?” Jacob asked. “Just let me find favor in the eyes of my lord.”
16 So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. 17 Jacob, however, went to Sukkoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place is called Sukkoth.
Sukkoth means shelters.
He was in a good place now. On good terms with his brother. Back in his own land. And on his way to see Isaac again. He could rest a bit.
You might expect that Jacob has all good things happen to him from now on. No! Just like when we become Christians we still have some sin and weakness and problems, he does too. In the next few chapters though it’s members of Jacob’s family that sin. One commentator suggests he’s beginning to reap the lack of discipline due to the presence of several wives.
Genesis 34 is rather a sordid tale. But it shows us two things. One is the Bible tells it like it happened. When people say such in such is in the Bible so it must be ok. Well, no. It isn’t saying the sins and many of the life styles and actions are ok. They are just the history. The second thing is lots of time they show you what happens when godly people live to closely with pagans.
And we’ll see that social interaction and intermarriage was leading to the rapid degeneration of Jacob’s family to the amoral and spiritual level of the heathen around them. It’s bad in Genesis 38 also. And both events will reveal the necessity for Jacob’s family to be separated for a time from the surrounding people until they are sufficiently grounded in God’s revelation of Himself to preserve their national and religious independence and most importantly later on to preserve the Old Testament which was committed to them on behalf of the world. And we’ll see they end up in Egypt later to do just that.
In fact Egypt was the perfect place for forced separation because Egyptians would have NOTHING to do with shepherds. They wouldn’t eat with them or even be around them.
Genesis 33:18-20 After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. 19 For a hundred pieces of silver, he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. 20 There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.
So after their period of rest they prepared to settle in nearby Shechem in central Canaan, about 50 miles from Hebron. He actually bought property. Only the second piece of land in the Promised Land purchased by one of the Patriarchs. And Jacob dug his well here. Nearly two thousand years later Jesus sat on this same well when he promised the gift of living water to the Samaritan woman.