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Sunday, March 15, 2020

GENESIS – An Expositional Overview of the Beginning of God’s Revelation: Chapter THIRTY THREE

Contributing commentaries by pastors Sonny Islas, Albert Lopez and James Fire

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary - Genesis 33

GENESIS 33 – by James Fire; for the Facebook video, go here

Introduction: Jacob has left his Uncle Laban’s house and any potential threat his Uncle might have posed, with the vision and promise of GOD Himself that he would be returned to his own land, that the LORD will bless and keep him in the land promised to him, to Isaac and to Abraham, and that his descendants will be as the sands of the Earth (GEN 28:13-16). And as he draws near to his father’s land, ever nearer to his elder brother who wanted his revenge, he is experiencing dread.

In his distress he met an angel, actually a Theophany – an Old Testament appearance of the LORD Jesus Christ. They wrestle all night long and when the LORD asks to be let go, Jacob refuses and insists to be blessed.

The LORD asks him his name and he tells Him: Jacob (“heel catcher, supplanter, deceiver”) and the LORD declares that this will no longer be his name, but Israel (“prince of GOD”) because he prevailed [in prayer]. When we wrestle with the LORD, it’s not to overcome a foe, but to receive from Someone something we could not receive by ourselves. Wrestling is a struggle, and for those whose hearts are not in it, it’s a struggle that will end in defeat. The LORD longs to ‘lose to us’ in the sense that though He bears long with us (LUKE 18:7), He intends to see us win this wrestling match and receive His holy will, His holy blessing, His holy answers.


Jacob received GOD’s will, His blessing, His answer by becoming a cripple: this was GOD’s doing, to make this man physically lame, that he might become spiritually strong. As the apostle Paul stated:

2 CORINTHIANS 12:9-10
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

This wouldn’t seem like a blessing to our understanding, because he is facing his brother Esau soon, and it would be nice if things went south, that he could make a run for it; but now he can’t. He can’t rely on his own strength or abilities. He is told however by his messengers he sent on ahead to see what lies before him, that “Esau is coming - - and he has four hundred men with him” (GEN 32:6)!

So, what does Jacob do? He prepares wave after wave of livestock as gifts to his “lord Esau” – perhaps this is a little buttering up in hopes that his elder brother will show him and his family at least a bit of mercy.

Remember, GOD told Jacob that He would protect and bless him; had his faith been mature enough, then he would have realized he didn’t have to run from his problems, nor try to take matters into his own hands to try to make his situation better – had his faith been mature enough, he would have been able to rest in the promises of GOD and see the LORD work on his behalf, which we shall now see as we get into this chapter.

GENESIS 33:1-2
And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids. 2 And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost.

If Esau intended harm, Jacob placed first those who would suffer his wrath, and this would give the others a chance to flee. Notice that he put the handmaids first, rather than his wives, and of his two wives, he put Leah first, and Rachel last.
We see his priorities, those who he esteems the most he keeps close to himself and farthest away from threat. Of all of those things that belonged to Jacob, he kept Rachel and Joseph closest.

He gets close enough then to see Esau’s face, and so far his handmaids, their children and a third of his gifts of livestock suffered no hurt. While it looked promising, Jacob might have suspected that Esau could have understood what he was doing and didn’t fall for it; that he would wait until he was within arm’s reach of his younger brother before he attacked.

He bows himself before Esau as he limped along not once or three or even five times, but seven times – seven being the number of perfection or completion, this is a sign of complete submission before his elder brother – such demonstration no doubt had hopes that his brother would spare his life.

Then comes the moment of truth…

GENESIS 33:3-4
3 And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. 4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.

Jacob had erected altars before the LORD; this crippled man offered himself up to the LORD, declaring his faith and allegiance to the Almighty. His ways, while not complete, were pleasing to the LORD.
PROVERBS 16:7When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.
All of Jacob’s anxiety, his worry and fretting, his struggling, his plotting, planning and flattery were all unnecessary. GOD had already done a work in Esau’s heart, having softened it where his younger brother was concerned. He embraced and kissed his brother and they wept together.

How often through the years I found myself in worry, my stomach in knots, thinking that the worst is going to happen, and with a kind of breathless desperation praying that if it’s possible, that GOD would work this problem out for me.
In the Gospel of Mark there was a father of this demoniac son who asked the LORD Jesus in MARK 9, “If you can do anything, please help us!” and the LORD in response said, “If you can believe, all things are possible to those who believe.”

And we aren’t believing in some general sense; there are specific things that the WORD of GOD tells us, that if we believe them, we shall witness GOD’s faithfulness, for He is faithful to His Word, as well as faithful to His children!
ROMANS 8:28, 3128 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
PHIL 4:1919 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
ISAIAH 41:10 10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
DEUT 31:8 8 And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he 
will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.
GOD has proved faithful to Jacob, and this has proved to be a valuable lesson for this man of GOD. A lesson of blessed truth of GOD’s sovereignty and grace, His protection and His blessing, upon those who will trust Him.

GENESIS 33:5-7
5 And he [Esau] 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. 6 Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves. 7 And Leah also with her children came near and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves.

Now if Esau intended any harm on his brother, this would have been the time; he and his four hundred men were well within reach of all that was most dear to Jacob (Rachel and Joseph); but all of them took Jacob’s leadership to heart and bowed before Esau just as they saw him bow. Even though GOD intended Jacob to be the authority and not Esau, we still see Jacob bow, referring to himself as “thy servant” – and that is true leadership, true authority, truly the place of exaltation in the kingdom of GOD: servanthood.

And we follow the LORD Jesus’ example – just as He bowed to His disciples… what?! When did the LORD Jesus bow before His disciples?? When He washed their feet. So do we bow one to another as the servants of the LORD, esteeming others more than ourselves (PHIL 2:3). 

And did not our LORD bow His thorn-pierced head with absolute submission to the Father, and died on the cross for our sin? How can we do anything else but follow our LORD’s example and bow to the needs of our brother and sister saints, dying to our own desires and priorities so that others may find blessing?

GENESIS 33:8-9
8 And he said, What meanest thou by all this drove which I met? And he said, These are to find grace in the sight of my lord. 9 And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.

Such ‘gifts’ as we see here that Jacob intended to bless Esau with, as perhaps a sort of truce offering, to smooth things over, were not necessary. Esau doesn’t want or need them because he “[has] enough”. Again, Jacob didn’t need to take things into his own hands and try to manage the situation as he was always accustomed to doing. He could have simply prayed and trusted GOD, and he would have had peace instead of turmoil.
PHILLIPIANS 4:6-76 Be [anxious] for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
GENESIS 33:10-11
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. 11 Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it.

I think the motive of Jacob was changed at this point; he saw that Esau wasn’t made peaceable because of these gifts, but that GOD truly did a work in his older brother’s heart towards himself. Seeing the face of Esau, the brotherly affection in his expression, his embrace and his tears, he also saw the face of GOD, inasmuch that GOD did this work for him, rather than doing such a work for himself – the difference being GOD’s work would never fail, and Jacob’s would never have truly succeeded! He implores Esau to take the gift, now I believe out of a motive of love for the LORD “GOD has dealt graciously with me and he [also] has enough” and he desires to be generous with his elder brother.
Jacob also understood the spiritual principle at this point,
MATTHEW 5:44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
GENESIS 33:12-14
12 And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee. 13 And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die. 14 Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir.

Esau seems excited to be reunited with his brother, and encourages him to journey on with haste, but Jacob isn’t willing because of his little ones and the young of his flock.
We who are spiritually mature can make great headway in this race that we are in; however those who are given charge over the spiritually young, have to consider them and their needs. 

With patience, tenderness, compassion and a willingness to put their needs first are all marks of a true shepherd, a true father and rightly reflects our Father’s heart, Who is everlastingly patient and tender-hearted and compassionate to us, His children who take such teeny-weeny steps compared to the Almighty strides that He is capable of!
Esau is willing to yield to Jacob, and even offers to leave some of his men with him, bodyguards as it were:

GENESIS 33:15-16
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. 16 So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir.

Esau’s offer to leave some men behind to accompany Jacob is gently turned away; so, his elder brother returns to Mt. Seir, and the miracle of this reconciliation is completed!

GENESIS 33:17-18
17 And Jacob journeyed to Succoth [an ancient city east of the Jordan river], and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth. 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.

Jacob is a dweller of tents, like his father, and his father before him; all of the promises that GOD made to these three men have yet to be realized regarding inheriting the land and having a people that rivals the number of stars in the heavens. But Jacob, like Isaac, and Abraham is holding fast to the Word of the LORD!

GENESIS 33:19-20
19 And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money. 20 And he erected there an altar and called it EleloheIsrael (“the mighty GOD of Israel”).

Jacob is learning to walk before the LORD in faith, and this is transforming Jacob, “a deceiver, a heel catcher, a trickster” into Israel, a “prince of GOD”. Just as the Spirit of the LORD was able to change his heart, He is able to transform us, as we walk before the LORD in faith.

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