Genesis 33 Peace With Esau, And The Land Claimed For The LORD.
Despite wrestling with the God-Man, Jacob still continued with his plan of meeting Esau in stages, the last to go from him being Rachel and Joseph. The most precious to him were the last to go. Perhaps in being the last to move forward Jacob was thinking in an official capacity, looking upon himself as an office holder, whose office, like that of a president or prime minister, needed to be preserved (vv. 1-2). By bowing seven times, seven signifying perfection, he was showing to Esau absolute deference (v. 3). It must have been a shock to him to find the response of Esau to be what it was, a happy reunion (v. 4). Surely he must have reflected on the fact that the LORD had fulfilled his promise here, in making his way to prosper. When Esau asked about the way of Jacob’s approach, he then learned that Jacob was as earnest in being reconciled as Esau seemed to be (vv. 5-9). Jacob also, in this blessing, preached the gospel, for he made clear that all these blessings were due solely to grace of God (vv. 5b; 11a).
It is significant that Jacob describes what he was offering as a gift to Esau as a sharing of the blessings which he had received from the LORD. The people were not the gifts, they simply followed Jacob’s example in bowing before Esau, showing deference, and that they came in peace. It is not clear that Esau knew at this point that Jacob had seen God face to face, as he said, perhaps this is what he was also saying when he stated here that he was blessed in also seeing Esau’s face in peace and blessing (vv. 10-11). Esau thought to himself that he and his brother would now be able to walk together as one (v. 12). However, Jacob appealed to the weariness of their travels, to suggest that he and his company would instead follow Esau and his company, taking the time to rest which they needed (vv. 13-14). Jacob also did not want Esau to leave any of his people behind (vv. 15-16). Clearly Jacob did not, in any way, want to be unequally yoked with those he regarded as covenant breakers – peace yes, union no.
He also did not continue to follow Esau, because his plan was to plant himself in the land of their sojourn. Jacob built himself a house, and booths for his livestock, as did no doubt those who were with him, and the place was therefore called ‘Succoth’ meaning ‘shelters’ or ‘booths’ (NGSB 65 v. 17). They then went on to Shechem, in the land of Canaan, and Jacob pitched his tent before the city (v. 18), buying the parcel of land “from the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father”(v. 19). Jacob was staking a claim, not for himself first of all, but for the LORD, and for this reason he erects an altar, “and called it El Elohe Israel” (v. 20), meaning “God, the God of Israel” (Ibid. 65). It was no coincidence that Jacob “built his altar at Shechem where Abraham built his altar in the Promised Land” (Ibid. 65). Jacob now refers to himself in the third person as ‘Israel’, laying claim to the promise made specifically to him when he wrestled with the God-Man. Here was expressing covenant continuity in renewal.