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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids.
Jacob, upon seeing Esau approach with his four hundred men, advances with circumspection and lowly obeisance. He divided his family, arranged them according to their preciousness in his eyes, and walks himself in front. In drawing near, he bows seven times, in token of complete submission to his older brother. Esau, the wild hunter, is completely softened, and manifests the warmest affection, which is reciprocated by Jacob. The puncta extraordinaria over וישׁקהוּ vayı̂shēqēhû, "and kissed him," seemingly intimating a doubt of the reading or of the sincerity of Esau, are wholly unwarranted. Esau then observes the women and children, and inquires who they are. Jacob replies that God had granted, graciously bestowed on him, these children. They approach in succession, and do obeisance. Esau now inquires of the caravan or horde he had already met. He had heard the announcement of the servants; but he awaited the confirmation of the master. "To find grace in the eyes of my lord." Jacob values highly the good-will of his brother. The acceptance of this present is the security for that good-will, and for all the safety and protection which it involved. Esau at first declines the gift, but on being urged by Jacob accepts it, and thereby relieves Jacob of all his anxiety. His brother is now his friend indeed. "Therefore, have I seen thy face," that I might give thee this token of my affection. "As if I had seen the face of God." The unexpected kindness with which his brother had received him was a type and proof of the kindness of the All-provident, by whom it had been added to all his other mercies. My blessing; my gift which embodies my good wishes. I have all; not only enough, but all that I can wish.
2And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost.
3And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
4And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.
5And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are those with thee? And he said, The children which God hath graciously given thy servant.
6Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves.
7And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves.
8And he said, What meanest thou by all this drove which I met? And he said, These are to find grace in the sight of my lord.
9And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.
10And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me.
11Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it.
12And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee.
They now part for the present. "I will qo with thee;" as an escort or vanguard. Jacob explains that this would be inconvenient for both parties, as his tender children and suckling cattle could not keep pace with Esau's men, who were used to the road. "At the pace of the cattle;" as fast as the business (מלאכה melā'kâh) of traveling with cattle will permit. Unto Selr. Jacob is travelling to the land of Kenaan, and to the residence of his father. But, on arriving there, it will be his first duty to return the fraternal visit of Esau. The very circumstance that he sent messengers to apprise his brother of his arrival, implies that he was prepared to cultivate friendly relations with him. Jacob also declines the offer of some of the men that Esau had with him. He had, doubtless, enough of hands to manage his remaining flock, and he now relied more than ever on the protection of that God who had ever proved himself a faithful and effectual guardian.
13And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die.
14Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir.
15And Esau said, Let me now leave with thee some of the folk that are with me. And he said, What needeth it? let me find grace in the sight of my lord.
16So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir.
17And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.
"Sukkoth" was south of the Jabbok, and east of the Jordan, as we learn from Judges 8:4-9. From the same passage it appears to have been nearer the Jordan than Penuel, which was at the ford of Jahbok. Sukkoth cannot therefore, be identified with Sakut, which Robinson finds on the other side of the Jordan, about ten miles north of the mouth of the Jabbok. "And built him a house." This indicates a permanent residence. Booths, or folds, composed of upright stakes wattled together, and sheltered with leafy branches. The closed space in the text is properly introduced here, to indicate the pause in the narrative, while Jacob sojourned in this place. Dinah, who is not noticed on the journey, was now not more than six years of age. Six or seven years more, therefore, must have elapsed before the melancholy events of the next chapter took place. In the interval, Jacob may have visited his father, and even returned the visit of Esau.
18And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city.
Jacob at length crosses the Jordan, and enters again the land of Kenaan. "In peace." The original word (שׁלם shālēm "safe, in peace") is rendered Shalem, the name of the town at which Jacob arrived, by the Septuagint. The rendering safe, or in peace, is here adopted, because (1) the word is to be taken as a common noun or adjective, unless there be a clear necessity for a proper name; (2) "the place" was called Shekem in the time of Abraham Genesis 12:6, and the "town" is so designated in the thirty-fifth chapter Genesis 35:4; and (3) the statement that Jacob arrived in safety accounts for the additional clauses, "which is in the land of Kenaan," and "when he went from Padan-aram," and is in accordance with the promise Genesis 28:21 that he would return in peace. If, however, the Salim found by Robinson to the west of Nablous be the present town, it must be called the city of Shekem, because it belonged to the Shekem mentioned in the following verse and chapter. "Pitched before the city."
Jacob did not enter into the city, because his flocks and herds could not find accommodation there, and he did not want to come into close contact with the inhabitants. "He bought a parcel of the field." He is anxious to have a place he may call his own, where he may have a permanent resting-place. "For a hundred kesitahs." The kesitah may have been a piece of silver or gold, of a certain weight, equal in value to a lamb (see Gesenius). "El-Elohe-Israel." Jacob consecrates his ground by the erection of an altar. He calls it the altar of the Mighty One, the God of Israel, in which he signalizes the omnipotence of him who had brought him in safety to the land of promise through many perils, the new name by which he himself had been lately designated, and the blessed communion which now existed between the Almighty and himself. This was the very spot where Abraham, about one hundred and eighty-five years ago, built the first altar he erected in the promised land Genesis 12:6-7. It is now consecrated anew to the God of promise.
- Dinah's Dishonor
This chapter records the rape of Dinah and the revenge of her brothers.
19And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money.
20And he erected there an altar, and called it EleloheIsrael.