Jacob and Esau Meet and Go their Separate Ways
I. The Meeting with Esau, vss. 1-15
A. The Parties Who Meet.
1. Who was Esau?
a. What had become of Esau while Jacob was with Laban?
b. What had been the last manifestation of Esau prior to Jacob’s departure for Padan-Aram? cf. 27:41, ff.
c. Had Esau changed fundamentally during this time?
2. Who is the Jacob who now goes to meet Esau?
a. May we assume that it is only “Israel” who now meets Esau?
b. Was the old Jacob drowned, so to speak, in the Jabbok, so that only Israel appeared on the other side? Or is Jacob’s “halting upon his thigh” perhaps also a sign that his conversion from his great life-sin was no perfection?
1) Was Jacob’s old nature overcome completely?
2) Or was it subdued principally, crippled for life, but still with him?
3) Did that old nature still “limp along” with Jacob, often impeding his journey and causing him to reveal himself in his old appearance of Jacob?
B. The Meeting
1. What is Jacob’s attitude toward Esau at this time?
a. Does he demean himself before Esau and act the part of a coward?
b. Does he attempt in all this to flatter Esau and to appease him?
c. Is Jacob’s obeisance to Esau wrong on his part?
d. Is Jacob’s attitude one of humility of the younger before the elder, mixed with the consciousness, perhaps, of the fact that formerly he had sinned against his brother?
2. On the other hand, what was Esau’s attitude?
a. Is it correct to say that Esau and his four hundred men had at first come with other intentions?
b. Does Esau evince a real change of attitude from that which he had assumed in chapter 27? Has his hatred toward Jacob left him? Was there genuine reconciliation between Esau and Jacob?
c. Is Esau’s action one of genuine love, or is he at the moment overcome by natural feelings of brotherly affection?
3. In connection with the above, explain the following details:
a. Why does Jacob present his family in the order described? vss. 1, 2, 6, 7
b. Why does Jacob bow to his brother seven times? vs. 3
c. Why does Esau embrace and kiss Jacob? vs. 4
d. Why does Esau show such an interest in Jacob’s family?
e. Why does Jacob offer the present to Esau? vs. 8
f. Why does Jacob express himself as in vs. 10 and what does this mean? Was it right for Jacob to say this?
g. Why does Esau first decline and then after all accept Jacob’s proffered gift?
h. Is there an evil motive on Esau’s part in his offer to “go before” Jacob in their proposed combined travel?
i. Is there distrust and alibi on Jacob’s part in his desire to travel separately?
4. How must this meeting be viewed from the point of view of God’s attitude toward Jacob (and Esau)?
a. Do we read of any direct intervention of the Lord in connection with this event?
b. Does the explanation of Jacob’s evidently successful meeting of Esau lie strictly on the level of the human and is it probably to be attributed to Jacob’s clever diplomacy?
c. Or is it to be explained from the fact that the Lord Who appeared to Jacob at Peniel blessed and cared for Jacob in this crisis, providentially directing events in Jacob’s favor?
II. Esau and Jacob go their separate ways. 33:16-20
1. Where does Esau go?
a. Where was Seir?
b. Was Esau already settled there at this time?
c. Compare this brief statement with that in 36:6-8.
1) What is the meaning of “went into the country from the face of his brother Jacob”? vs. 6
2) Does this imply that Esau departed for Seir only after Jacob had actually settled in Canaan? Or is this to be understood in the light of the fact that Jacob was heir of the blessing?
2. What became of Esau?
a. Apart from his meeting Jacob at the time of Isaac’s death, do we ever hear of Esau personally again?
b. What is the significance of the generations of Esau in chapter 36?
1) Note: rather than make a separate and detailed study of chapter 36, I suggest that it be studied in connection with 33:16.
2) Try to study the following matters in this connection:
a) Compare the record of Esau’s marriages as given in chapter 36 with the earlier record.
b) Who are these “dukes”?
c) Who are the “sons of Seir the Horite”? Why are they mentioned here? vs. 20
d) When did these kings reign in Edom? vss. 31, ff
e) Why are the dukes mentioned once more at the end of the chapter?
f) Compare this record with that in I Chronicles 1:35, ff. Are there differences? How are these differences to be explained?
g. What is the significance of the fact that kings reigned over Edom long before Israel was established as a nation?
h) When, after the death of Esau, do the descendants of Jacob next come into contact with Esau’s descendants?
i) Why is the history of Esau’s generations briefly traced here and then dropped?
1. Where did Jacob first go after the departure of Esau?
a. Where was Succoth? Was it in the land of Canaan?
b. Why did Jacob stop here?
c. What is the meaning of Succoth? Does this indicate anything about the length of Jacob’s stay? About his attitude at this time?
2. What is the significance of Jacob’s arrival at Shechem?
a. Note: It would be better to translate vs. 18: “And Jacob came in safety (or: in peace) to the city of Shechem.”
b. Where was Shechem located?
c. Of what should this coming “in peace” to Shechem have reminded Jacob? Do you think it did remind him of this? In that case, what should Jacob have done at this time? cf. 28:20.
d. What is the meaning of the name of Jacob’s altar at Shechem?
1) Do you think it was a proper altar?
2) Does the Lord “appear” unto Jacob in connection with this altar? Why not? Was Jacob in the right way with relation to his covenant God at this time?