Genesis 33


“The Gospel According to Torah” 

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How do you visualize this strategic procession south to meet Esau?  First come many livestock and gifts.  Is the movie between your ears similar to mine? What about the party of 400 armed men coming north? 

Yaakov goes first, to risk the wrath of his brother Esau, however mollified by the gifts sent on ahead, behind him he risks first the maids and their children, then Leah and hers, and last but anything but least, Rachel and Joseph.   

Esau invites, or at least offers to permit Yaakov to join him in the south, but Yaakov settles first in the north, with etiological references to Succoth, and Shechem. We laughed out loud at the dissonance between the dialogue and the reality of this big reunion.   

This is a negotiation, as Yaakov pays off Esau to let the old grudges go. Esau tries to keep military escort or custody for the newcomers all the way south to Seir.  Yaakove pleads the weakness of his kids and says he’ll come along later.  Or not. 

 There is a claim that Yaakov buys turf from the sons of Hamor at Shechem, more land claims, and that he builds an altar from this antiquity.  If the sons of Hamor had seen what was coming, would the price have changed? 

What would you risk in facing the unknown ahead?  What would you claim when you arrive?  

We do prefer the older conventional reading, of Esau forgiving his long-lost brother for old frauds.  However, when we actually read the text, it seems less innocent and benign between the brothers. 

Genesis 33


Now 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. 

4 But 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 favour with my lord.’ 9But Esau said, ‘I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.’10Jacob said, ‘No, please; if I find favour 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 favour. 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. 

12 Then 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.’ 

15 So 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,and built himself a house, and made booths for his cattle; therefore the place is called Succoth. 

18 Jacob 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 the plot of land on which he had pitched his tent. 

 20There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.