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Jacob Meets Esau

33 Jacob looked up[a] and saw that Esau was coming[b] along with 400 men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two female servants. He put the servants and their children in front, with Leah and her children behind them, and Rachel and Joseph behind them.[c] But Jacob[d] himself went on ahead of them, and he bowed toward the ground seven times as he approached[e] his brother. But Esau ran to meet him, embraced him, hugged his neck, and kissed him. Then they both wept. When Esau[f] looked up[g] and saw the women and the children, he asked, “Who are these people with you?” Jacob[h] replied, “The children whom God has graciously given[i] your servant.” The female servants came forward with their children and bowed down.[j] Then Leah came forward with her children and they bowed down. Finally Joseph and Rachel came forward and bowed down.

Esau[k] then asked, “What did you intend[l] by sending all these herds to meet me?”[m] Jacob[n] replied, “To find favor in your sight, my lord.” But Esau said, “I have plenty, my brother. Keep what belongs to you.” 10 “No, please take them,” Jacob said.[o] “If I have found favor in your sight, accept[p] my gift from my hand. Now that I have seen your face and you have accepted me,[q] it is as if I have seen the face of God.[r] 11 Please take my present[s] that was brought to you, for God has been generous[t] to me and I have all I need.”[u] When Jacob urged him, he took it.[v]

12 Then Esau[w] said, “Let’s be on our way![x] I will go in front of you.” 13 But Jacob[y] said to him, “My lord knows that the children are young,[z] and that I have to look after the sheep and cattle that are nursing their young.[aa] If they are driven too hard for even a single day, all the animals will die. 14 Let my lord go on ahead of his servant. I will travel more slowly, at the pace of the herds and the children,[ab] until I come to my lord at Seir.”

15 So Esau said, “Let me leave some of my men with you.”[ac] “Why do that?” Jacob replied.[ad] “My lord has already been kind enough to me.”[ae]

16 So that same day Esau made his way back[af] to Seir. 17 But[ag] Jacob traveled to Sukkoth[ah] where he built himself a house and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place was called[ai] Sukkoth.[aj]

18 After he left Paddan Aram, Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem in the land of Canaan, and he camped near[ak] the city. 19 Then he purchased the portion of the field where he had pitched his tent; he bought it[al] from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for 100 pieces of money.[am] 20 There he set up an altar and called it “The God of Israel is God.”[an]


  1. Genesis 33:1 tn Heb “and Jacob lifted up his eyes.”
  2. Genesis 33:1 tn Or “and look, Esau was coming.” By the use of the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”), the narrator invites the reader to view the scene through Jacob’s eyes.
  3. Genesis 33:2 sn This kind of ranking according to favoritism no doubt fed the jealousy over Joseph that later becomes an important element in the narrative. It must have been painful to the family to see that they were expendable.
  4. Genesis 33:3 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  5. Genesis 33:3 tn Heb “until his drawing near unto his brother.” The construction uses the preposition with the infinitive construct to express a temporal clause.
  6. Genesis 33:5 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Esau) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  7. Genesis 33:5 tn Heb “lifted up his eyes.”
  8. Genesis 33:5 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  9. Genesis 33:5 tn The Hebrew verb means “to be gracious; to show favor”; here it carries the nuance “to give graciously.”
  10. Genesis 33:6 tn Heb “and the female servants drew near, they and their children and they bowed down.”
  11. Genesis 33:8 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Esau) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  12. Genesis 33:8 tn Heb “Who to you?”
  13. Genesis 33:8 tn Heb “all this camp which I met.”
  14. Genesis 33:8 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  15. Genesis 33:10 tn Heb “and Jacob said, ‘No, please.’” The words “take them” have been supplied in the translation for clarity, and the order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse rearranged for stylistic reasons.
  16. Genesis 33:10 tn The form is the perfect tense with a vav (ו) consecutive, expressing a contingent future nuance in the “then” section of the conditional sentence.
  17. Genesis 33:10 tn The verbal form is the preterite with a vav (ו) consecutive, indicating result here.
  18. Genesis 33:10 tn Heb “for therefore I have seen your face like seeing the face of God and you have accepted me.”sn This is an allusion to the preceding episode (32:22-31) in which Jacob saw the face of God and realized his prayer was answered.
  19. Genesis 33:11 tn Heb “blessing.” It is as if Jacob is trying to repay what he stole from his brother twenty years earlier.
  20. Genesis 33:11 tn Or “gracious,” but in the specific sense of prosperity.
  21. Genesis 33:11 tn Heb “all.”
  22. Genesis 33:11 tn Heb “and he urged him and he took.” The referent of the first pronoun in the sequence (“he”) has been specified as “Jacob” in the translation for clarity.
  23. Genesis 33:12 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Esau) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  24. Genesis 33:12 tn Heb “let us travel and let us go.” The two cohortatives are used in combination with the sense, “let’s travel along, get going, be on our way.”
  25. Genesis 33:13 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  26. Genesis 33:13 tn Heb “weak.”
  27. Genesis 33:13 tn Heb “and the sheep and the cattle nursing [are] upon me.”
  28. Genesis 33:14 tn Heb “and I, I will move along according to my leisure at the foot of the property which is before me and at the foot of the children.”
  29. Genesis 33:15 tn The cohortative verbal form here indicates a polite offer of help.
  30. Genesis 33:15 tn Heb “and he said, ‘Why this?’” The referent of the pronoun “he” (Jacob) has been specified for clarity, and the order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  31. Genesis 33:15 tn Heb “I am finding favor in the eyes of my lord.”
  32. Genesis 33:16 tn Heb “returned on his way.”
  33. Genesis 33:17 tn The disjunctive clause contrasts Jacob’s action with Esau’s.
  34. Genesis 33:17 sn But Jacob traveled to Sukkoth. There are several reasons why Jacob chose not to go to Mt. Seir after Esau. First, as he said, his herds and children probably could not keep up with the warriors. Second, he probably did not fully trust his brother. The current friendliness could change, and he could lose everything. And third, God did tell him to return to his land, not Seir. But Jacob is still not able to deal truthfully, probably because of fear of Esau.
  35. Genesis 33:17 tn Heb “why he called.” One could understand “Jacob” as the subject of the verb, but it is more likely that the subject is indefinite, in which case the verb is better translated as passive.
  36. Genesis 33:17 sn The name Sukkoth means “shelters,” an appropriate name in light of the shelters Jacob built there for his livestock.
  37. Genesis 33:18 tn Heb “in front of.”
  38. Genesis 33:19 tn The words “he bought it” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. In the Hebrew text v. 19 is one long sentence.
  39. Genesis 33:19 tn The Hebrew word קְשִׂיטָה (qesitah) is generally understood to refer to a unit of money, but the value is unknown. (However, cf. REB, which renders the term as “sheep”).
  40. Genesis 33:20 tn Heb “God, the God of Israel.” Rather than translating the name, a number of modern translations merely transliterate it from the Hebrew as “El Elohe Israel” (cf. NIV, NRSV, REB). It is not entirely clear how the name should be interpreted grammatically. One option is to supply an equative verb, as in the translation: “The God of Israel [is] God.” Another interpretive option is “the God of Israel [is] strong [or “mighty”].” Buying the land and settling down for a while was a momentous step for the patriarch, so the commemorative naming of the altar is significant.