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Genesis: Chapter 33

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1Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. 2He put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. 3He himself went on ahead of them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother.

4But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. 5When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” 6Then the maids drew near, they and their children, and bowed down; 7Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down; and finally Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. 8Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “To find favor with my lord.” 9But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” 10Jacob said, “No, please; if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God—since you have received me with such favor. 11Please accept my gift that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have everything I want.” So he urged him, and he took it.

12Then Esau said, “Let us journey on our way, and I will go alongside you.” 13But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds, which are nursing, are a care to me; and if they are overdriven for one day, all the flocks will die. 14Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”

15So Esau said, “Let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “Why should my lord be so kind to me?” 16So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. 17But Jacob journeyed to Succoth, b That is Booths and built himself a house, and made booths for his cattle; therefore the place is called Succoth.

18Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan‐aram; and he camped before the city. 19And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem's father, he bought for one hundred pieces of money c Heb one hundred qesitah the plot of land on which he had pitched his tent. 20There he erected an altar and called it El‐Elohe‐Israel. a That is God, the God of Israel


b That is Booths

c Heb one hundred qesitah

a That is God, the God of Israel

Text Commentary view alone

33.1–17 : Partial reunion with Esau.

10 :

Like seeing the face of God, who at Penuel (or Peniel) also proved to be gracious ( 32.30–31 ).

12–17 :

Esau proposes to stay with Jacob, but Jacob sends him ahead, promising to join with him (v. 14 ). Jacob does not join him, however (v. 17 ), perhaps noting that Esau had always planned to wait to kill him until their father died ( 27.41; cf. 35.29 ).

17 :

Succoth means “booths.” Its precise location is uncertain.

33.18–35.5 : The stay in Shechem and the rape of Dinah.

33.18 :

Shechem, see 12.6–8n.

19 :

Here and in the following chapter Shechem is a personal name. As elsewhere in Genesis, the story portrays, in the guise of individuals, relations between Israel and non‐Israelite groups.

20 :

The name of the altar (“El is the God of Israel”) may be another reflection of the worship of El in early Israel (see 28.16–17n.; 32.28,31–32n. ).

34.1–31 :

See 49.1–28n.

2 :

See 33.19n. Lay with her by force, raped her.

7 :

Committed an outrage in Israel is an old expression for ultimate offenses, such as violations of the sexual honor of the tribal group (here), the ban on booty in holy war (Josh 7.15 ), and the sanctity of hospitality (Judg 19.23–24; 20.6,10 ).

8–12 :

Israelite law stipulates that a man who has sex with an unbetrothed woman must retroactively marry her by paying her father a high marriage price (Ex 22.16–17; Deut 22.28–29 ). This narrative seems to assume that this law does not apply outside the people of Israel.

13–17 :

Jacob's sons now are the tricksters (see 27.1–45n. ). On circumcision see 17.9–14n.

21–23 :

In contrast to Hamor's proposal to the Israelites of intermarriage and acquisition of land (vv. 8–10 ), his speech to his countrymen here betrays an interest in impoverishing the Israelites through assimilating them. On concern about intermarriage, see 24.3n.

25–26 :

Simeon and Levi lead the killing and recapture of Dinah because, as older full brothers of Dinah ( 29.33–34; 30.21 ), they were responsible for avenging the violation of the family's honor through her.

27–29 :

In a reversal of what the Shechemites had planned for them (vv. 21–23 ), the Israelites take all the Shechemites’ possessions.

30–31 :

Jacob is depicted here as less concerned about family honor than about good relations with the Canaanites (see 35.5 ). His sons’ question is left unanswered at the end of the story (cf. Jon 4.11 ), but is ultimately addressed in 49.5–7 .

35.1–4 :

The present narrative reflects a negative judgment on non‐Yahwistic cult objects that developed later in Israel. It and its parallels (Josh 24.23; Judg 10.16; 1 Sam 7.3 ) may presuppose, however, a more ancient practice of burial of divine images in sacred places, i.e., by a sacred tree (see 12.6–8n. ).

5 :

Jacob's fears (see 34.30 ) prove to be unfounded.

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