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Genesis 32-34 Listen
Jacob prepares himself for death row (Genesis 32:1-21)
1 And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
2 And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.
3 And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.
4 And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now:
5 And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.
6 And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him.
7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands;
8 And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.
9 And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:
10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.
11 Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.
12 And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.
13 And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother;
14 Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams,
15 Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals.
16 And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said unto his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt drove and drove.
17 And he commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying, Whose art thou? and whither goest thou? and whose are these before thee?
18 Then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob’s; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he is behind us.
19 And so commanded he the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, saying, On this manner shall ye speak unto Esau, when ye find him.
20 And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me.
21 So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company.
The last time Jacob saw his brother Esau was 20 years ago under some pretty strained circumstances. As a matter of fact, the eldest-son blessings had been given to Jacob instead of Esau under some pretty interesting circumstances (Genesis 27, see notes).
Why had Jacob left home? There's your answer in Genesis 27:41-44:
And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob. And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran; And tarry with him a few days, until thy brothers fury turn away;
Rebekah had anticipated that Jacob's stay up in Haran would last "a few days." That turned out to be 20 years instead. So, here's the question: Has Esau softened his attitude toward Jacob in the last 20 years? Or...has Esau just stewed for 20 years over what Jacob did and now angrier than ever? Since communicating back home has been a near impossibility for the last 20 years, Jacob prepares for the worst-case scenario as he returns home.
Jacob's first tactic is to send messengers on ahead to meet with Esau and tell him of Jacob's return. Upon the return of these messengers, however, they can only report that Esau knows he's coming home and is ready to meet him...with 400 men in tow. Is that good or bad? It doesn't sound like a positive development to Jacob. Jacob breaks out in prayer to God in verses 9-12 asking for protection. He reminds God in his prayer of the promise given to him by God in that latter vision 20 years before found in Genesis 28:10-22 (see notes) when he declares in verse 12, "And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude." Jacob hangs onto the promise that his "seed" cannot prosper if Esau kills him.
Gifts...lots and lots of gifts - that ought to do it. God had spoken to Jacob and told him to go back...so, here goes. He sends a big entourage of servants with cattle and gifts on ahead to meet Esau while he stays back to give them an ample head start. If Esau is more intent on killing than receiving, Jacob figures he'll still have time to flee after he is warned of Esau's intentions. After all, it is better to receive than to kill. Very specific wording (and very humble sounding) had been given the servants on behalf of Jacob when the servants come face to face with Esau (verse 20).
22 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok.
23 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had.
24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.
30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
31 And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.
32 Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank.
The night before the big meetin' finds Jacob all alone contemplating his reunion with Esau. Verse 24 says, "And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day." Who was this "man?" We see from verse 30 that Jacob is convinced it is God himself, "for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." This manifestation of God must be like that of Melchizedek in Genesis 14:17-24 (see notes) and the appearance of God's human-like form before Abraham referred to as "the LORD" in Genesis 18 (see notes). I'm convinced that any incarnation of God in human flesh is our Savior, Jesus Christ. John 1:1 (see notes) says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:14 (see notes) goes on to say, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." I view these verses as a description of how God always manifests himself in human form.
So, what's the point of the wrestling match? And...can't Jesus beat Jacob 10 times out of 10 in a wrestling match? This wrestling match seems to be for the purpose of strengthening Jacob's resolve to follow God. The match is a draw, with Jacob asking for a blessing from God. He gets his blessing from God...along with a name change to "Israel."
At the conclusion of this wrestling match, a curious bit of information is passed on to us in verse 32, "Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacobs thigh in the sinew that shrank." While this has no mention elsewhere in Jewish dietary law, we are told by Jewish sources that this "sinew which shrank" is a reference to the "nervus ischiadicus," the nerve extending through the thigh and leg to the ankle.
The moment of reckoning...the big meetin' (Genesis 33:1-17)
1 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
17 And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.
The next day, here comes Esau with 400 men under his charge. How unsettling must that have been to Jacob - the appearance of a large band of men coming under the command of one who had vowed to kill you. Even though directed by God, Jacob is a little tentative in facing Esau. It's time for backup plan #2. Plan #1 was to send the servants and gifts a day ahead. Look at plan #2 in Gen. 33:2, "And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost." If you wonder who Jacob loved the most, this ought to clear it up for you. Jacob himself heads for the front line to face Esau. An incredibly hospitable Esau shows up happy to see Jacob; he even offers to escort Jacob back home. Jacob prevails upon Esau to receive his gifts, even though Esau at first declines. It's a great day for everyone. Esau heads on back while Jacob determines to travel at his own pace.
Hmmmm...why do you suppose Esau showed up with 400 men? Was he anticipating trouble from Jacob? Or...perhaps he thought that the least he could do was give ol' Jacob a bit of a scare. You will also notice that Esau, in verse 16, returned to Seir after their meeting. That's a mountain range east of the Jordan River that later became Edom, the home of Esau's descendants.
Jacob settles down in Canaan (Genesis 33:18-20)
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.
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 Elelohe-israel.
Jacob buys a piece of property near Shechem where he settles down. Ahhhhh! Back in the land; my brother no longer wants me dead; property owner - what can possibly go wrong now? The altar that was constructed was given a unique name...so unique that virtually all English translations simply give us the transliterated Hebrew - "el elohe Israel." The word "el" is the shortened from for "God." Of course "elohe" is a variation of "elohim," the word for "God." So, we seem to have redundant usage of the word for "God" in the naming of this altar. The Septuagint translators (2nd century B.C. guys who translated the Hebrew into Greek) rendered it simply "to the God of Israel" - the English equivalent of their translation. It probably was intended to be stronger than that...something like "God, the God of Israel." Interestingly enough, the Canaanite name of their deity during that era (before Baal) was simply "el." So, the name of this altar could be declaring that from this time forward, the god of this land (el) will be the God of Israel.
1 And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.
2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her.
3 And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel.
4 And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife.
5 And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter: now his sons were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace until they were come.
6 And Hamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him.
7 And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob’s daughter; which thing ought not to be done.
8 And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife.
9 And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you.
10 And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein.
11 And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give.
12 Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife.
13 And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister:
14 And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us:
15 But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised;
16 Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people.
17 But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone.
18 And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor’s son.
19 And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob’s daughter: and he was more honourable than all the house of his father.
20 And Hamor and Shechem his son came unto the gate of their city, and communed with the men of their city, saying,
21 These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for the land, behold, it is large enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters.
22 Only herein will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised.
23 Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of theirs be ours? only let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us.
24 And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city.
25 And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males.
26 And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went out.
27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister.
28 They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field,
29 And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.
30 And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.
31 And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?
We only have record of Jacob having one daughter, Dinah. A terrible thing happens to her when she goes out to hang with the girls in her new home town. Look at verse 2, "And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her." Oooooo...now we have a problem, a big problem! Shechem now wants her for a wife and sends Dad out to meet Jacob and make the deal. He offers Jacob a peace pact, a trade pact and every other kind of pact if Jacob will consent to allowing his people to marry Hamor's people...beginning with Shechem and Dinah. Jacob's twelve sons are fumed at what has happened to their sister Dinah. "We won't allow our sister or any of our women to marry uncircumcised men," they replied. "If all of you will be circumcised, we'll make the deal," they conclude.
Incidentally, we don't know how long after moving to Shechem this incident happened. It must have been a few years; Dinah would have been something less than 8 years old when they moved there - probably nearer 7 years old; she was about the same age as Joseph (Genesis 30:21-24, see notes). This incident happened before they moved away from Shechem. Joseph was 17 years old after the move (Genesis 37:2, see notes). So Dinah could not have been more than 17 years old when this incident took place. If Dinah was as old as 17 at this time, that would make Simeon and Levi about 23 and 22. That's based upon the fact that Dinah was the seventh child born to Leah in a seven-year period which began after Jacob's initial seven-year period of labor for Laban to earn his first wife; Simeon and Levi were numbers 2 and 3.
Hamor and son, Shechem accept the deal, but they must sell it to the rest of the men of their city. I just can't imagine the rest of the men being enthusiastic about being circumcised, but they do agree - the free-trade agreement of verse 23 may have made the deal palatable to them. I'm not certain how many of the sons of Jacob were in on the deception, but after the circumcision...on the third day...when the circumcised men of Shechem are good and sore from this unfamiliar (to them) surgical procedure, Simeon and Levi go into the city and kill all the men; it's just hard to fight when you're all doubled over in pain. Moreover, who knows what performance challenging pain remedy they may have employed? It could have been generous portions of pain-deadening alcoholic beverages. Basically, they were in no condition to defend themselves. Simeon and Levi not only take Dinah back, but they also seize all their assets including women and children. Apparently Dinah had not been permitted to go back home pending the consummation of the deal between the men of Shechem and Jacob's family.
Jacob is grieved; he's afraid that the rest of the Canaanites will think he's not a good neighbor when he says in verse 30, "...Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land..." As a matter of fact, he incorporates this incident into his dying blessings to his sons at his death (Genesis 49:5-7, see notes). It is true that neighbors are a little less friendly when they think you might kill them. He is fearful that this action is the prelude to war. We see, however, that the boys do not relent after that comment when they reply in verse 31...indicating that they still felt their actions were well justified.