Genesis 33


Genesis 33:  A New Name – a New Walk?  

Jacob has a new name- Israel- he has also acquired a pronounced  limp. A reminder of his encounter with the Living God.  He is , as we continue to see, a flawed man who has a tendency to fall into old patterns of behavior.  

Verse 1: Jacob looks up and there was Esau coming with his 400 men. What is Jacob’s reaction?  He divided his family among his wives- placing the maidservants and children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 

He could not have been more obvious in his favoritism and where each member stood in their importance to Jacob. Jacob cannot seem to refrain from leaning to his own understanding. His old nature – a schemer, a manipulator is still at work. Jacob has been broken and he has been blessed. He has a new name and a new walk- but the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.  Jacob’s dependence upon the Lord does not seem to be complete, he is cautious in his approach to Esau. He is fearful and suspicious of Esau’s intention, thus he puts Rachel and Joseph his favorites in the rear. Like Peter when he stepped out of the boat, showed great faith- but a rising wind and waves, caused Peter a fisherman to become fearful and he begin to sink. Jacob’s new found faith, name and new walk were halting at best, when the winds of adversity blew- Jacob’s faith seemed to falter. He had to learn to trust the Lord with all his heart. To trust in the Lord with all your heart is a difficult lesson to learn.  

When God teaches us a new truth about Himself or about ourselves or both- we can then expect an opportunity to apply the new truth in obedience. Let’s give Jacob/Israel credit- he did put himself first. Are we not slow learners like Jacob?  

I imagine, Peter’s steps out of the boat were cautious ones, don’t you? He was cautious but courageous. Walking by faith is sometimes a scary proposition. Jacob’s walk of faith had taken a new turn- but his steps were cautious- yet courageous.  

Verse 3, does tells us Jacob puts himself in the front ahead of all of his family. A true shepherd always goes in front. The Lord Jesus, Our Good Shepherd, went ahead and told us to follow him. Jacob also bows down seven times in his approach to Esau.  

Verse 4- a reunion and a relief.  Esau upon seeing his brother runs to meet him. Can you see the picture- Jacob, now Israel is limping and bowing- Esau is running full speed. Do you get it?  Jacob, the chosen of God is limping- in pain. His limp is as noticeable as our walk with the Lord should also be. It is made even more evident by Esau’s running. Esau’s last 20 years have been good to him, as we hear of his family and wealth later on- while Jacob’s last 20 years have been seemingly one struggle after another. We see the two brothers embrace-Esau threw his arms around him and they embraced and they wept. I like to believe for  several minutes they did nothing but hold each other and weep. Tears of joy perhaps mixed with laughter as they looked at each other and how they had changed. Ever have one of those types of reunion?   For a few minutes words are not necessary. Then the words tumble out in a torrent of questions and answers.  

Several scriptures and  observations come to mind.

First: Proverbs 16:7- “ When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies at peace with him.” God had prepared the heart of Esau to welcome his brother and forgive him. You will see in a minute how this reunion and Esau’s forgiveness remind Jacob of his encounter with God.  

Second:  As far as the struggles and adversity and painful limp of Jacob, we are reminded of what the Apostle Paul told us: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” ( 2 Cor. 4:17)  

When I think of the Esau’s of this world running, while God’s chosen saints are limping it brings to mind the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:Listen to what Abraham says to the rich man who has found himself in Hades:   “But Abraham replied , “ Son remember in this life you received your good things and Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.”   Want to trade places with this rich man who in this world  had it made? If I interpret this parable told by the Lord Jesus literally- the lost in Hades have memory of the past. Can you imagine that? Want to exchange your future for the future that awaits the Esau’s of this world?  

Sometimes God chooses to wound us, His own children in order to make us walk differently while the unbeliever seems to run with confidence and enjoy the successes of this world. But what does it profit a man if he gain the world- but loses his soul?  

Keep these scriptures in mind as you deal with life’s seeming inequities and realize that in the end God will balance the scales and will reward accordingly and punish with sure justice.  

“ We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting  away,yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary,but what is unseen is eternal.” ( 2 Corinthians 4)   In other words, things are not what they seem. (Keep in mind- those who are serving the Lord in ministries that are impacting the world and walking by faith are more vulnerable to attack- and the attacks can be devastating.) We are told in the early days of the church: “ the apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name of Jesus. ( Acts 5) 

I love the words of this song we often sing: “ No guilt in life, no fear in death. That’s the power of Christ in me.” Oh, that our walk with the Lord could give us this as the song of our heart. A walk that keeps us in the light, as He is in the light that keeps us continually and immediately confessing our sins- so there is no guilt in life and no fear in death for  that is the power of Christ in us.  

Was Jacob afraid?  Yes, of course he was. And even though the ways of his old nature would still cause him to act according to the flesh sometimes- there he is, Jacob, the limping liar who is learning how to walk by faith- out in front facing his problem and his past. 

We have all experienced fear and will experience it again. That is why the one of the most often repeated commandments of the Lord Jesus is  “ Fear Not.”  Many times our fear comes from a lack of  confidence, or being called to leave our comfort zone. Apparently this was the situation the Apostle Paul was addressing in his young protégé, Timothy’s life.  

In 2 Timothy 1:7, we read: “ For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” I love this verse for it reminds me I serve a Triune God who has given me three weapons to overcome the spirit of fear.

  1. God has enabled us with His Power- the Holy Spirit.
  2. God has enriched us with His Love. ( How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we shall be called children of God. I John 3:1)
  3. God has enlightened our minds  with His Truth. (If you continue in my words you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. John 8)


Judge Jacob at your own risk…I, for one, will not make judgment. The Lord Jesus said: “ Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Jesus goes on to say we are hypocrites who need to take the plank out of our own eyes first then we can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.  

Verse 5: After several moments of what has to be one of the most tender moments in the book of Genesis, Esau looks up and saw the women and children. “ Who are these with you?” he asked.  

Jacob replies they are the children God has graciously given your servant. Then each maid servant and children approach, then Leah and her children and finally Rachel and Joseph. I am sure Jacob must have introduced each one and  said something about them. Esau is looking for the first time at nephews and a niece he has never seen. You can imagine Esau- hugging and laughing at this brood. What a reunion- what a relief as the tension went away like the air out of a balloon.  

Vs. 8: Then Esau asked Jacob what he meant by sending all those flocks as a gift.

Jacob replies – to find favor in your eyes.  

In verse 9-11; I want us to look carefully at what each person says and to do that means we must understand the meaning of the original Hebrew words.  

There are two different words used in the original Hebrew that reflect the difference. The KJV says Esau responded to Jacob’s gift by saying “ I have enough.” The original Hebrew word is more closely interpreted as plenty ( NIV) or much.   

In Jacob’s response, the KJV again uses the word enough  “ I have enough” But the Hebrew word used originally is closer to the meaning provided in the NIV- “ I have all I need.”   

Jacob also mentioned God’s graciousness as the source of his supply.

Esau says I have much…Jacob says I have all I need. Do you see the difference? Jacob realizes he has a supply that cannot be exhausted because God is the source. God is the supplier of all his needs. Esau has accumulated much- but he does not state that he has all he needs.  In his pride, Esau wants to let his little brother know he doesn’t need anything from Jacob. Esau is proud of his accomplishments- he is a self-made man- who is saying to Jacob- look what I have become.  

Jacob insists Esau accept this gift if he has found favor in Esau’s eyes. Then Jacob makes a statement in verse 10:  “For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.”  

Remember after wrestling with the Lord all night at Jabbok, Jacob named the place Peniel, which means I have seen the face of God.  

How is it that Jacob could see in the face of this profane pagan, Esau, the face of God? When Jacob looked at the tear-stained smiling face of his twin it triggered his spiritual memory. He remembered his experience at Bethel, God’s protection from Laban, angels sent both coming and going, and the answer to his specific prayer for God to save him from his brother was standing right there in front of him. As physical an answer to a prayer as ever one could hope to see.  Esau’s forgiveness  was to Jacob a reminder of God’s forgiveness and favor.  

Jacob has humbled himself before his brother  and made amends. We must note to NOT humble ourselves and make amends to those we have offended can keep us from our promised lands and from the greater works Jesus said we would do. Remember “ that he who loveth God loveth his brother also.” (I John 4:21)  

Following this Esau says to Jacob come on with me and my men- I will accompany you. Jacob says you go ahead, we are a slow moving group- I will see you in Seir.  

Esau, being a gracious host, says let me leave some of my men with you. Jacob says don’t do that – we are fine. Esau gets the message and leaves.  

VS. 17:  Next we see Jacob going to Succoth where he would stay for some years. Now you have to have knowledge of  the geography of that day and if you look on a map, you will see Jacob and his family did not enter Canaan, but stayed for some years on the other side of the Jordan River. In other words, Jacob stopped  short of entering the Promised Land, which God had told him to return to. He also builds a house. That he will be there for some years is evident for Dinah, the baby sister will grow up to be a young woman.  

After spending those years in Succoth, Jacob crosses over the Jordan River to an area near the city of Shechem. The Word of God tells us he camped within sight of the city. Remind you of anyone?  Lot pitched his tents toward Sodom.  Jacob buys land from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This tells us the city is named for Hamor’s son. Hamor is like the ruler of that area and his son, Shechem would be like a prince, and heir to his father’s rule.

Now we will soon discover that Jacob’s children are an unruly, undisciplined group. This will soon become evident in the events in chapter 34.  

VS.20: Notice as this chapter ends, we find mention for the first time of Jacob building an altar. When did this occur?  AFTER his business dealings  with Hamor’s sons. Did Jacob sense that something was amiss?  Or was this the old Jacob trying to get God’s approval after the fact rather than before?   

Have you ever made an important decision without consulting the Lord?  Have you then, like Jacob, asked God to bless it after you had done it?  Did you see what Jacob named the altar?  El-Elohe-Israel.  The God of Israel- the new name God gave him at Jabbok.  

Ever try living as close to the world as possible without actually living in the world? It is a dangerous place to live. And what about Jacob’s children? Children watch what their parents do- more than what they say, especially when there is a difference between the two.  

Forbidden fruit is always tempting, isn’t it?  Did you ever stop to think, that Eve was standing next to the tree of good and evil when she was tempted by the serpent, the old devil himself?  Young people especially- like the forbidden fruit.  Sin appeals to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Sin is pleasurable for a season- but that is its deception. 

Jacob has led his family into a dangerous place.

He has chosen a land and a place to live without consulting the Lord.

Like Lot, he has appeared to have chosen for himself.

There was obviously good pasture land.

There was a city nearby- so there was commerce and trade.

The principle of drifting is we not only drift from something- we drift toward something.  

There was an old radio show called  “ The Shadow”. It started out with this statement:  “ Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of man?”  God knows and God will reveal the evil in our hearts if we ask Him to search our hearts..  

But we must learn as the Apostle Paul tells us—good and evil travel on a parallel path. The path of evil is broad- the gate is wide and many enter through it. But small is the gate and  narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it. Have you found the Way?

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and no man comes to the Father except by Him.  

No Guilt in life;

No Fear in death-

That’s the power of Christ in me.  

Do you ever wake up afraid?

Is there something in your life that is a stronghold- that is producing guilt?

Ask the Lord to open the eyes of your heart- the eyes of faith, so that you might see the unseen.

Ask the Lord to enlighten your heart that you might see the hope to which you are called, the glorious inheritance of the saints and the exceedingly great power in us who believe.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14