by Don R. Richards
Back to 1998
Genesis Chapter 33
As Jacob returned home with his large family we have learned that he feared his confrontation with Esau. When Jacob had left several years ago he had done so under the threat of death by Esau because Jacob had deceived the brothersí father, Isaac into giving the family blessing to Jacob instead of to the traditional first-born son, Esau.
Now Jacob was married with two wives and presently had 11 children with those two wives and two handmaidens. Joseph had already been born to Rachel, but Benjamin would not be born until later. It is these twelve children who would be the basis of the biblical "12 tribes of Israel."
Jacob was attempting to please Esau and had sent out several messengers to meet with Esau and also sent out gifts of camels, and herds of stock.
The eventual confrontation is described in Chapter 33 of Genesis. We are told that Jacob looked up and saw Esau with four hundred men. He feared for his life and that of his family. He divided up the children according to their mothers and grouped them together.
Upon meeting Esau, Jacob lowered himself and humbled himself to his elder brother. He bowed seven times, apparently with treatment usually reserved in those times for acknowledgment of kings.
Esau had apparently mellowed from his long ago anger at Jacob. Esau ran to meet his brother and embraced him, kissed him and they wept together. Esau asked Jacob who were the people with him, and asked about the herds of gifts which he had encountered coming to meet Jacob.
Jacob introduced his entire family to his brother, and each member of the family bowed in homage to Esau. Jacob explained all the gifts he had sent ahead of him to Esau in hopes of finding favor with his brother. Esau at first declined the gifts, but Jacob prevailed upon Esau to take them because the Lord had blessed him with sufficiently and graciously.
After that the brothers departed with Jacob encouraging Esau to leave first in order that Jacobís livestock could have sufficient grazing, food and water. Jacob would remain in the general area and move slower with the small children and young herds to allow follow up grazing. Esau then returned south to near the city of Seir, east of the southernmost part of the Jordan River, near the Dead Sea.
Jacob moves north a short distance and located at Succoth, located east of the Jordan River and just north of Jabbok where the Jabbok River and Jordan River meet about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. There Jacob built shelter for his herds and so named the place (Succoth, meaning "booths" for his cattle).
Some Bible students suggest Jacob stayed at Succoth approximately 10 years and then moved to Shechem, west of the Jordan River. It is there he purchased a parcel of land and erected a place of some significance in the New Testament.
(Later in the New Testament gospel at John 4:5-6, Jesus stops at the well dug by Jacob at Shechem, later named Sychar. It is at this well that Jesus asked the young Samarian woman for a drink of water and gave the lesson of the "living water" and described God as "a Spirit, teaching the worship of God must be "in spirit and in truth.").
Jacob there dug a well and built an altar to God and called it "El-olehe-Israel". The phrase shows Jacob acknowledges his new name of "Israel" given him by the angel he wrestled with as described in the 32nd chapter of Genesis. The phrase mean "A Mighty God is the God of Israel" in apparent appreciation for his life being preserved from the feared wrath of Esau.
Next: Jacobís sons revenge the defilement of Jacobís daughter Dinah.
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