Genesis 33 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Genesis 33)

Verse 3

[3] And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.

He bowed — Though he feared Esau as an enemy, yet he did obeisance to him as an elder brother.

Verse 4

[4] And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.

And Esau ran to meet him — Not in passion but in love.

Embraced him, fell on his neck and kissed him — God hath the hearts of all men in his hands, and can turn them when and how he pleases. He can of a sudden convert enemies into friends, as he did two Sauls, one by restraining grace, 1 Samuel 26:21,25, the other by renewing grace, Acts 9:21.

And they wept — Jacob wept for joy to be thus kindly received; Esau perhaps wept for grief and shame to think of the ill design he had conceived against his brother.

Verse 5

[5] 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.

Eleven or twelve little ones followed Jacob, the eldest of them not fourteen years old: Who are these? saith Esau. Jacob had sent him an account of the increase of his estate, but made no mention of his children, perhaps because he would not expose them to his rage, if he should meet him as an enemy. Esau therefore had reason to ask who are those with thee? To which Jacob returns a serious answer; they are the children which God hath graciously given thy servant. Jacob speaks of his children, 1. As God's gifts; they are a heritage of the Lord. 2. As choice gifts; he hath graciously given them. Though they were many, and but slenderly provided for, yet he accounts them great blessings.

Verse 10

[10] 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.

I have seen thy face as though I had seen the face of God — That is, I have seen thee reconciled to me, and at peace with me, as I desire to see God reconciled.

Verse 12

[12] And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee.

Esau offers himself to be his guide and companion, in token of sincere reconciliation. We never find that Jacob and Esau were so loving with one another as they were now. God made Esau not only not an enemy, but a friend. Esau is become fond of Jacob's company, courts him to mount Seir: let us never despair of any, nor distrust God, in whose hands all hearts are. Yet Jacob saw cause modestly to refute this offer, wherein he shews a tender concern for his own family and flocks, like a good shepherd and a good father. He must consider the children, and the flocks with young, and not lead the one or drive the other too fast. Jacob intimates to him, that it was his design to come to him to mount Seir; and we may presume he did so, after he had settled his concerns elsewhere, though that visit be not recorded.

Verse 15

[15] 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.

Esau offers some of his men to be his guard and convoy; but Jacob humbly refuseth his offer, only desiring he would not take it amiss that he did not accept it. What needs it? He is under the Divine protection. Those are sufficiently guarded that have God for their guard, and are under a convoy of his hosts, as Jacob was. Jacob adds, only let me find grace in the sight of my lord - Having thy favour I have all I need, all I desire from thee.

Verse 16

[16] So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir.

And Jacob journeyed to Succoth — Having in a friendly manner parted with Esau, who was gone to his own country, he comes to a place, where he rested, set up booths for his cattle, and other conveniences for himself and family. The place was afterwards known by the name of Succoth, a city in the tribe of Gad, on the other side Jordan; it signifies booths: that when his posterity afterwards dwelt in houses of stone, they might remember that the Syrian ready to perish was their father, who was glad of booths, Deuteronomy 26:5.

Verse 18

[18] 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.

And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem — Or rather he came safe, or in peace, to the city of Shechem. After a perilous journey, in which he had met with many difficulties, he came safe at last, into Canaan.

Verse 20

[20] And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel.

He erected an altar — 1. In thankfulness to God for the good hand of his providence over him. 2. That he might keep up religion, and the worship of God in his family. He dedicated this altar to the honour of El-elohe-israel, God-the God of Israel: to the honour of God in general, the only living and true God, the Best of beings, the First of causes: and to the honour of the God of Israel, as a God in covenant with him. God had lately called him by the name of Israel; and now he calls God the God of Israel; though he be called a prince with God, God shall still be a prince with him, his Lord and his God.