Genesis 33:1-3 Jacob divides his camp into three. What he deemed least important, the servants and their children up front, then Leah and her children, and then Rachel and Joseph last. Jacob went ahead of all of them to face his brother Esau bowing seven times in humility before his brother.
Notes: This favoritism he shows with Joseph will later drive Joseph’s brothers to jealousy. Jacob’s special treatment of Joseph becomes an important theme later in Genesis.
Genesis 33:4-7 Instead of attacking, Esau welcomed his brother. All that was with Jacob bowed down to Esau.
Genesis 33:8-9 The Lord blessed Esau with wealth. Not only did he not need Jacob’s gifts to appease him, but the wealth must have softened his heart against Jacob over time and his reasons for wanting to kill him were abated.
Genesis 33:10-11 Jacob insisted that Esau took the gifts and Esau consented.
Notes: Jacob said seeing Esau’s face was like seeing the face of God. Jacob draws a remarkable parallel between his earlier encounter with God and his meeting with Esau. Like God, Esau shows unmerited favor to Jacob.
Genesis 33:12-14 Esau volunteered to lead Jacob and all that he had back home. Jacob made excuses that they would not be able to keep up, for his intent was not to settle near his brother. Again, instead of telling Esau the truth, he deceives his brother to take off ahead of him and that he would arrive in Sier as soon as possible.
Genesis 33:15-17 Esau wanted to leave some of his men with Jacob to help protect him, but Jacob didn’t want any witnesses to his true intention, which was changing his course and settling instead in Succoth.
Notes: From the point where Esau and Jacob met, the shortest route to the northern border of Seir was approximately 100 miles to the south, while Succoth was only 4 miles to the west.
Genesis 33:18-20 Jacob later arrived with his family in Shechem and camped outside the city. He bought a piece of land from the sons of Hamar, one of the sons whose name was Shechem. There, Jacob pitched his tent, erected an altar (his first recorded altar) and called it El-Elohe-Israel, which means, “God, the God of Israel”. Jacob identifies the God worshiped at this altar as the One whom he had encountered at Peniel and who had changed his name.
Notes: Succoth is in the Jordan Valley near where the Jabbok River joins the Jordan River. Shechem (about 20 miles west of Succoth, was the first place named in connection with Abraham’s arrival in Canaan.