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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Genesis 33

 

 

Verses 1-16

Genesis 33:1-16

And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him

The reconciliation of Jacob and Esau

I.
IT ILLUSTRATES THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CHARACTERS OF THE TWO BROTHERS.

1. Esau was generous and forgiving.

2. In Jacob there are traces of his old subtlety.

II. IT ILLUSTRATES THE POWER OF HUMAN FORGIVENESS.

III. IT ILLUSTRATES THE TYRANNY OF OLD SINS. All was forgiven, but there was no longer any confidence. So the effects of past sin remain.

IV. IT ILLUSTRATES THE POWER OF GODLINESS. Jacob’s humility before his brother was but a sign of his humility before God. His satisfaction to Esau is a sign also of his reconciliation with God. (T. H. Leale.)

The brothers reconciled

I. A RECONCILIATION AFTER A LONG SEPARATION,

II. A MOST DESIRABLE RECONCILIATION.

1. Because of the happiness of their aged parents.

2. On account of their own families.

3. On account of their own spiritual well-being.

III. A RECONCILIATION WHICH BROUGHT TO SIGHT THE BEST TRAITS OF THEIR CHARACTER.

1. Prayerfulness.

2. Humility.

3. Disinterestedness. (Homilist.)

Forgiveness of injuries

1. The most obvious motive to forgive is the pleasure of forgiving and the pain of resenting. Therefore, as the apostle says, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, we may say, Forgive, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Forgive while forgiveness is worth having; forgive while there remains enough of life for the renewal of kindness; forgive while you have something else to bestow on repentance than lingering looks and faltering words. And what does this solemn Christian injunction of forgiving do but eradicate from the mind the most painful and most unquiet of all passions? What wretchedness to clamour out for ever, “I will pursue, I will overtake; my right hand shall dash in pieces mine enemy”; to sacrifice all the quiet happiness of life, to sicken on the bosom of joy, still, after the lapse of years, to feel, to see, and to suffer with the freshness of yesterday; and in the midst of blessings to exclaim, All this availeth me nothing while Mordecai, the Jew, sitteth at the king’s gate.

2. Are we sure, too, that the cause of our resentment is just? Have we collected the most ample evidence? Have we examined it with the closest attention? Have we subjected it to impartial revision? Have we suspected our passions? Have we questioned our self-love?

3. Men are so far, generally, from being ashamed of not forgiving injuries, that they often glory in revenge; they believe it to be united with courage and with watchful, dignified pride. Yet, after all, what talents or what virtue can an unforgiving disposition possibly imply? Who is most likely longest to retain the sense of injured dignity? He who has given no pledge to his fellow-creatures that he is good and amiable? who does not feel that he is invulnerable? who is least fortified by a long tenor of just intentions and wise actions? What man who had ever trodden one step in the paths of religion would vex the sunshine of his existence with all the inquietudes of resentment? would ingraft upon his life the labour of hating, and hovel year after year over expiring injuries? Who is there that bears about him a heart of flesh that would put away a brother or a friend who knelt to him for mercy?

4. Other men, who have no desire to be thought magnanimous because they revenge, are still apprehensive of being considered as timid if they forgive and resent to maintain a character for spirit; but it is certainly extremely possible to combine temperate resistance to present injustice with a tendency to forgive what is past; to be firm in the maintenance of just rights while we abstain from any greater injury to our enemies than is necessary to maintain them, and hold ourselves ready for forgiveness when they are maintained. (Sydney Smith, M. A.)

Needless fears

Now think, brethren, what a revulsion of feeling there would be in Jacob’s heart. He would think, “Have I been all these years vexing myself for this!” Here was the thing, so happy and pleasant and kindly when it came, that had many a time broken his night’s rest at Haran just to think of it; that had been a dull gnawing at his heart, making him uneasy and restless in cheerful company; that had been the drop of gall in every cup he tasted--all these years! And one thing we may be almost sure of: that in all his picturing out of this dreaded meeting, thinking of it as coming in twenty sad ways, if there was one thing he never pictured out, it would be just the meeting as it actually came! The thing you expect is, in this world, the last thing that is likely to befall you.

1. How needless are our fears! In how many cases we conjure up things to vex and alarm us! For one-and-twenty years Jacob had kept himself unhappy through the fear of a meeting which, when it came, proved one of the happiest things that ever befell him in all his life. Now, have not you many a time looked forward with great anxiety to something that was coming, and then, when it came, found that all your anxiety had been perfectly needless? We all have it in our power to make ourselves miserable if we look far into the years before us and calculate their probabilities of evil, and steadily anticipate the worst. It is not expedient to calculate too far ahead. Oh that we had all more faith, Christian friends, in God’s sure promise made to every true Christian, that as the day, so shall the strength be! We have all known the anticipated ills of life--the danger that looked so big, the duty that looked so arduous, the entanglement that we could not see our way through prove to have been nothing more than spectres on the horizon; and when at length we reached them, all their difficulty had vanished into air, leaving us to think how foolish we had been for having so needlessly set up phantoms to disturb our quiet. I remember well how a good and able man, who died not long ago, told me many times of his fears as to what he would do in a certain contingency which both he and I thought was quite sure to come sooner or later. I know that the anticipation of it cost him some of the most anxious hours of a very anxious, though useful, life. But his fears proved just as vain as Jacob’s in the prospect of meeting Esau. He was taken from this world before what he dreaded had cast its most distant shadow. God, in His own way, delivered that man from the event he had feared. Some people are of an anxious, despondent temperament, ready rather to anticipate evil than to look for good. But all of us, brethren, need more faith in God. How comprehensive a prayer that is, asking so much for time and for eternity, “Lord, increase our faith!” We bear a far heavier burden than we need bear. If we had the faith which we ought to have, and which the Holy Spirit is ready to work in us, we should cast all our care on God, who careth for us.

2. In those seasons of anxiety and foreboding which, through our weak faith and our remaining sinfulness, will come to us all, we should remember what Jacob did, and where Jacob found relief. He turned to God in prayer. He went and told God all his fear, and asked deliverance from God. And not once, but many times; through a long night of terrible alarm and apprehension he wrestled in urgent prayer. And see what he got by it. He got relief of heart, certainly: of that we are sure. Perhaps he got more. We cannot say how far those prayers went to turn Esau’s heart, and to make him meet Jacob in that kindly spirit. When we are overwhelmed, fearful, perplexed, anxious, let us go to God, and humbly and earnestly tell Him all we are thinking and fearing, and ask Him to deliver us and comfort us. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me.” If ever there were words confirmed by the experience of Christian people, you have them here. Perhaps our prayer may cause the trouble we bear or we dread to go away. Perhaps the stroke that seemed sure to fall may be withheld; perhaps the hope that seemed sure to be blighted may be fulfilled after all: perhaps the blessing that seemed sure to be taken away from us may be spared us yet. Perhaps, through our prayer, it may be with us as it was with Jacob: when we come up to the time, the trial, the duty, we feared, we may find that there is nothing about it to be afraid of. But our prayer may be answered in a way that is better and happier still. It may please God to allow all that we feared to befall us. It may please Him to disappoint the hope, to frustrate the work, to continue the long disease, to bring the beloved one down to the grave; but with all that to resign our heart, to make us humble and content, to sanctify the trial to work in us a patience, a faith, a humility, a charity, a sympathy, that are worth, a thousand times over, all worldly happiness and success. Oh what an attainment it is, which Christians sometimes reach, to feel, if only for a little while, that our whole heart’s wish is that our blessed Saviour’s will be done and His glory be advanced; and that, as for us, we are content to go where He leads us, and to do and bear what He sends, sure that the way by which He leads us is the right way, and that it will bring us to our home at last! And prayer will bring us to this, if anything will. Do not, with the gnawing anxiety at your heart, sit sullenly and try to bear your burden alone. Go with a lowly heart and roll your burden on the strong arm of God Almighty! Oh how it will lighten your heart to tell Him, simply, all your fears! You will come back, like Jacob, from your Saviour’s footstool, calmed and cheered. And even if the stroke should fall, even if we come out of our trial somewhat stricken and subdued, not quite the people we were--as Jacob came lamed from that long night of prevailing prayer--we shall be thankful and content if the stroke be sanctified to us: as he (we may be sure) would never murmur as he halted on through life. One word to prevent misapprehension. All this peace and hope is spoken only to Christian people. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked,” or to any who have no part in Christ. We can speak no comfort to such in their fears. There is too good reason for that dull foreboding of evil they bear through life. Their fears are not needless. (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)

The brothers reconciled

I. THE APPROACH OF THE BROTHERS.

1. Of Esau. At the head of four hundred armed men. Probably at the first meditating revenge, or to make a great display of his power. But Jacob was a man of prayer. Had often asked God to guard and keep him. Had the night before this meeting so mightily prevailed in prayer that his name had been altered. In answer to the prayers of Jacob, the revengeful feelings of Esau depart. As he draws nigh, Esau feels his heart drawn out in love towards his brother.

2. Of Jacob. Full of hope and confidence. Lame, and yet strong. He is now the prevailer. The sun shining upon him, and, better still, God lifts upon him the light of His countenance. He had sent forward the present, and now places himself in advance of all the rest. He--the prevailer--does not fear to meet the first storm of his brother’s rage.

II. RECONCILIATION OF THE BROTHERS. Esau, the offended and injured, instead of taking vengeance on Jacob, having his heart softened by the grace of God, runs towards Jacob. Does not proudly wait for Jacob to approach, and then upbraid him for his past conduct. Ran towards him. Then spoke not a single word. Could not. Too full of joy at once more meeting his long-lost brother. They throw themselves in one another’s arms. The kiss of reconciliation. Tears of joy, gratitude. Tears too, it may be, of penitence on both sides. Each needed to be forgiven by the other. Each had done wrong. Jacob, in that he had deprived his brother of the birthright and the blessing; and Esau, in that he had left his father’s house, and harboured wrong feelings against his brother, and been the cause of his long exile. Persons offended with each other have often much need of each other’s forgiveness. The pardon should be on both sides. He who forgives should also seek forgiveness.

III. THE CONDUCT OF THE BROTHERS.

1. Of Jacob. He entreats Esau to accept his present. Will take no denial. Thus shows the sincerity of his affection. Is unwilling that Esau should at all go out of his way to guard him. Has sufficient trust in God alone.

2. Of Esau. At length, to please his brother, accepts the present he makes. It is often as kind to accept as to make a present. He kindly received the wives and children of Jacob. Goes on the way before Jacob to make the way clear. Acts as his brother’s guide and vanguard. Shows his forgiveness by deeds as well as by words. Without practical kindness words are “sounding brass,” &c.

Learn:

1. In all angry partings, remember that a future meeting will come.

2. God can still the raging of the fiercest storm of passion and revenge.

3. The reconciliation of brethren, a fit and beautiful sight.

4. We have all sinned against God, and need His forgiveness.

5. By causing Esau to forgive his brother, God shows how ready He is to forgive us.

6. Our elder Brother, Jesus, has obtained a full pardon for us. (J. C. Gray.)

The contrast

Reposing, therefore, with confidence on the promised protection of his God, Jacob crossed the brook at sunrise, and, rejoining his family, went calmly on his way. A short time appears to have brought on the crisis of his trial: “Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men.” It is not difficult to conceive the rush of contending feelings that would agitate his breast when the hostile party came in sight; nor to imagine to what a height the tumult of his thoughts would increase as the two bands approached each other. Grace does not make us stoics. It controls and regulates the natural affections by subordinating them to higher principles; but men of the warmest piety, while they are preserved from an exuberant and inordinate indulgence of the affections, are generally possessed of the most tender and benevolent spirit. Excessive natural affection is a common, and in no respects a sublimated, feeling. But the leading point on which I wish at this time to fix your attention is the manifest superiority of character discoverable in Jacob when compared with his elder brother--a superiority evidently not arising from superior intellect or other natural advantages, but originating in his religious principles and habits. A fair and unprejudiced examination of the case before us will show that the godly man, the faithful servant of God through Jesus Christ, has a superiority of character to other men, both in principle and in practice.

1. He possesses a superiority of principle. To examine this more closely--

2. The superiority of the religious man’s conduct as originating in this principle. A principle so powerful could not be in action without producing very manifest results. Nor is it; for the man who truly believes the redemption of the gospel “lives no longer to himself, but unto Him who died for him.” We do not say that there is no virtue among men without the influence of revealed religion. All the virtues of the natural character are of a much lower origin. They are spurious and defective in the motive and principle from which they spring. They are frequently constitutional. Taken, however, at their highest point, such manifestations of virtuous principle are fleeting and uncertain. Let us notice, by way of illustration, the two instances of moral virtue which arise out of the present event of Jacob’s life--those of content and liberality.

Let us now endeavour to draw some plain practical instructions from the whole.

1. In the first place, it will be evident where we must look for the spring of superior virtue; not in the spontaneous emotions of a man’s own heart, not in the strong stimulus of occasional circumstances, not in the influence of human opinion, not in the rewarded efforts of heroic resolution, but in the right appreciation of a dying Saviour’s love. All other principles will fail in their own time and way.

2. Observe, this contrast of the character of Esau and Jacob will enable men of excellent moral habits to discriminate between the virtue of habit and the virtue of principle.

3. This subject speaks with peculiar force to the covetous man. True Christianity imparts, in a high degree, the graces of content and liberality. A greedy pursuit of gain is utterly inconsistent with the self-denying spirit of the gospel. This alone ought to be felt as a cutting rebuke for the love of money. (E. Craig.)

The reconciliation

I. THE FRIENDLY MEETING.

II. THE PRUDENT SEPARATION. Perhaps Jacob was still a little afraid of the impetuosity of his brother. But the deepest reason why Jacob politely declined Esau’s offer of help and companionship was, we may well believe, a religious one. He saw that the aims which Esau would have in view and the habits of Esau’s life would not suit what he (Jacob) wished to keep in mind and do. Besides, he felt that God intended him to keep apart from his brother, and to train his family in the special knowledge of the covenant with Abraham, and of all the promises which God had given. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”

III. THE MEMORIAL OF GRATITUDE. Implying--

1. Thankfulness. God had enriched, guided, defended, comforted him.

2. Faith. Jacob would trust and worship God.

3. Hope. God, who had blessed him hitherto, would help him now and in his further career. (W. S. Smith, B. D.)

Needlessness of anxiety

The present was quite unnecessary; the plan useless. God “appeased” Esau, as He had already appeased Laban. Thus it is He ever delights to rebuke our poor, coward, unbelieving hearts, and put to flight all our fears, Instead of the dreaded sword of Esau, Jacob meets his embrace and kiss; instead of strife and conflict, they mingle their tears. Such are God’s ways. Who would not trust Him? Who would not honour Him with the heart’s fullest confidence? Why is it that, notwithstanding all the sweet evidence of His faithfulness to those who put their trust in Him, we are so ready, on every fresh occasion, to doubt and hesitate? The answer is simple, we are not sufficiently acquainted with God. “Acquaint now thyself with Him and be at peace” (Job 22:21). This is true, whether in reference to the unconverted sinner or to the child of God. The true knowledge of God, real acquaintance with Him, is life and peace. (C. H. M.)

Lessons

1. God’s promise falls not short in making men yield to His saints.

2. Where God moveth, even wicked men will make speed and run to show kindness to His servants.

3. The hardest hearts melt in affection when God toucheth them.

4. When men please God, enemies are made friends to them (Proverbs 16:7).

5. Where greatest danger is feared, God turns it to greatest love.

6. It is natural for brethren, good and bad, to melt in tears upon providential turns and meetings (Genesis 33:4). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Lessons

1. Brotherly respect unto brethren will work kind inquisition after their relations.

2. Love makes queries to know such relations as are to be beloved.

3. Truth, piety, and humility become all the answers to be made unto queries of love by God’s servants.

4. Children are to be acknowledged the fruit of God’s mercy and goodness to His (Psalms 127:3).

5. The anger of enraged men is turned into love and tenderness best by self-denying submission. The reed overcomes the wind by yielding; the oaks fall by resisting (Genesis 33:5).

6. It becometh family relations to keep order designed by their head.

7. Orderly approach and submission is the way to gain acceptance with great men.

8. Providence works by motions of creatures to turn hearts from fury to love (Genesis 33:6-7). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

The reconciliation of Esau and Jacob

1. Brotherly love is a precious thing; let it be guarded well. Be just, and true, and kind to one another; and let a spirit of forbearance and forgiveness prevail.

2. We see here a striking example of prayer. Wrong as Jacob had been before, he was right in this.

3. Jacob sets us an example also of wisdom and prudence. He prayed; yet he used all the means in his power.

4. The very word reconciliation cannot but remind us of the great reconciliation--that between the sinner and God. If God, in answer to prayer, disposed Esau to be reconciled to his brother, surely He Himself will not refuse pardon, reconciliation, and acceptance to one who has offended Him.

5. God will give His Holy Spirit to those that ask Him; and in this office, among others, as the spirit of peace. He will help those of one family to live together in peace, to bear and forbear, to love as brethren. Nay, more: He can, by the same mighty influence, create a new heart in those who have as yet been far from Him. (F. Bourdillon.)


Verse 9

Genesis 33:9; Genesis 33:11

I have enough

Contentment from two points of view

I.
HERE IS AN UNGODLY MAN WHO HAS ENOUGH (Genesis 33:9). Esau. Unconverted men are sometimes contented with their lot in this life.

1. It is not always or often so: they are mostly a dissatisfied company.

2. It is sometimes so: as in the case of Esau. This may arise from--

3. It has some good points about it.

4. Yet it has its evil side.

II. HERE IS A GODLY MAN WHO HAS ENOUGH (Genesis 33:11). Jacob.

1. It is a pity that this is not true of every Christian man.

2. It is delightful to have enough. Contentment surpasses riches.

3. It is pleasant to have somewhat to spare for the poor (Ephesians 4:28).

4. It is blessed to have all this through our God. Jacob said, “God hath dealt graciously with me, and I have enough.”

5. It is best of all to have all things. In the margin we read that Jacob said, “I have all things.” “All things are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:22).

Thus he has enough of strength and grace. Enough in Christ, in the Word, and in the Spirit. Enough in God’s love, power and faithfulness, and an immeasurable supply in God Himself, whose name is “God All-sufficient.” The child of God should be ashamed of discontent, since even a common sinner may be free from it. He should be heartily satisfied; for he has all things, and what more can he desire? “ O rest in the Lord” (Psalms 37:7). (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Lessons

1. Natural affection will urge to inquire of the outward state of brethren as well as of relations.

2. Modesty in nature will expostulate about brethren’s offers of love rather then covetously take them.

3. Providential occurrences of good pretended may occasion natural men to inquire about them.

4. Humble souls as under providence they do seek favour with men by presents, so they profess it (Genesis 33:8).

5. It is possible for natural men to have a kind of sufficiency and content in their possessions.

6. Nature may desire others to keep their own, as it is contented with its portion.

7. Nature is apt to think earthly possessions enough without God (Genesis 33:9).

8. Ingenuity and grace is not only liberal, but urgent to have fruits of love accepted.

9. Acceptance of loving presents is a token of acceptance of persons.

10. It is just cause of importunity in pressing pacifying presents when God’s face is seen in reconciled adversaries.

11. Unexpected love from displeased ones engageth to press kindness on them (Genesis 33:10).

12. Presents of gracious souls from God to men are blessings.

13. Grace is importunate with man as well as with God to win Him.

14. God’s gracious respects to saints causeth them so to respect their brethren.

15. God’s Jacobs, gracious souls, they have not only enough, but all in the grace of God.

16. The all-sufficiency which God giveth His saints makes them so pressing kindness to others.

17. Nature is overcome by the importunity of grace to accept an outward blessing.

18. Brotherly conference is the way of winning upon men of bad spirits. All this between Jacob and Esau is by loving parley. (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Christian contentment

A poor Christian woman, who was breaking her fast upon a crust and a cup of water, exclaimed, “What! all this and Christ too!(C. H. Spurgeon.)

A Puritan preacher asking a blessing on a herring and potatoes, said, “Lord, we thank Thee that Thou hast ransacked sea and land to find food for Thy children.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Angelic content

The great cry with everybody is, “Get on! get on!” just as if the world were travelling post. How astonished these people will be, if they arrive in heaven, to find the angels, who are much wiser than they, laying no schemes to be made archangels! (Maxims for Meditation.)

Content from a quiet mind

Is not the bee as well contented with feeding on the dew, or sucking from a flower, as the ox that grazeth on the mountains? Contentment lies within a man, in the heart; and the way to be comfortable is not by having our barrels filled, but our minds quieted. The contented man (saith Seneca)is the happy man . . . Discontent robs a man of the power to enjoy what he possesses. A drop or two of vinegar will sour a whole glass of wine. (T. Watson.)

Contentment of the unregenerate

As a typical instance of the contentment of some unregenerate persons, note the following: “A captain of a whale-ship told one of the wretched natives of Greenland that he sincerely pitied the miserable life to which he was condemned. ‘Miserable!’ exclaimed the savage. ‘I have always had a fish-bone through my nose, and plenty of train-oil to drink: what more could I desire?’” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

I have enough

1. The first man who ever said so.

2. What even non-spiritual men may say. Should not Christians say more?

3. Property should be a heart-store.

4. “Enough” can never be true of spiritual blessings.

5. The evils of avaricious grasping.

6. We must not be avaricious, even on the plea that it is for others,

7. Christianity should be proved by contentment. Examples of

Christ and Paul. (J. Parker, D. D.)


Verse 11

Genesis 33:9; Genesis 33:11

I have enough

Contentment from two points of view

I.
HERE IS AN UNGODLY MAN WHO HAS ENOUGH (Genesis 33:9). Esau. Unconverted men are sometimes contented with their lot in this life.

1. It is not always or often so: they are mostly a dissatisfied company.

2. It is sometimes so: as in the case of Esau. This may arise from--

3. It has some good points about it.

4. Yet it has its evil side.

II. HERE IS A GODLY MAN WHO HAS ENOUGH (Genesis 33:11). Jacob.

1. It is a pity that this is not true of every Christian man.

2. It is delightful to have enough. Contentment surpasses riches.

3. It is pleasant to have somewhat to spare for the poor (Ephesians 4:28).

4. It is blessed to have all this through our God. Jacob said, “God hath dealt graciously with me, and I have enough.”

5. It is best of all to have all things. In the margin we read that Jacob said, “I have all things.” “All things are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:22).

Thus he has enough of strength and grace. Enough in Christ, in the Word, and in the Spirit. Enough in God’s love, power and faithfulness, and an immeasurable supply in God Himself, whose name is “God All-sufficient.” The child of God should be ashamed of discontent, since even a common sinner may be free from it. He should be heartily satisfied; for he has all things, and what more can he desire? “ O rest in the Lord” (Psalms 37:7). (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Lessons

1. Natural affection will urge to inquire of the outward state of brethren as well as of relations.

2. Modesty in nature will expostulate about brethren’s offers of love rather then covetously take them.

3. Providential occurrences of good pretended may occasion natural men to inquire about them.

4. Humble souls as under providence they do seek favour with men by presents, so they profess it (Genesis 33:8).

5. It is possible for natural men to have a kind of sufficiency and content in their possessions.

6. Nature may desire others to keep their own, as it is contented with its portion.

7. Nature is apt to think earthly possessions enough without God (Genesis 33:9).

8. Ingenuity and grace is not only liberal, but urgent to have fruits of love accepted.

9. Acceptance of loving presents is a token of acceptance of persons.

10. It is just cause of importunity in pressing pacifying presents when God’s face is seen in reconciled adversaries.

11. Unexpected love from displeased ones engageth to press kindness on them (Genesis 33:10).

12. Presents of gracious souls from God to men are blessings.

13. Grace is importunate with man as well as with God to win Him.

14. God’s gracious respects to saints causeth them so to respect their brethren.

15. God’s Jacobs, gracious souls, they have not only enough, but all in the grace of God.

16. The all-sufficiency which God giveth His saints makes them so pressing kindness to others.

17. Nature is overcome by the importunity of grace to accept an outward blessing.

18. Brotherly conference is the way of winning upon men of bad spirits. All this between Jacob and Esau is by loving parley. (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Christian contentment

A poor Christian woman, who was breaking her fast upon a crust and a cup of water, exclaimed, “What! all this and Christ too!(C. H. Spurgeon.)

A Puritan preacher asking a blessing on a herring and potatoes, said, “Lord, we thank Thee that Thou hast ransacked sea and land to find food for Thy children.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Angelic content

The great cry with everybody is, “Get on! get on!” just as if the world were travelling post. How astonished these people will be, if they arrive in heaven, to find the angels, who are much wiser than they, laying no schemes to be made archangels! (Maxims for Meditation.)

Content from a quiet mind

Is not the bee as well contented with feeding on the dew, or sucking from a flower, as the ox that grazeth on the mountains? Contentment lies within a man, in the heart; and the way to be comfortable is not by having our barrels filled, but our minds quieted. The contented man (saith Seneca)is the happy man . . . Discontent robs a man of the power to enjoy what he possesses. A drop or two of vinegar will sour a whole glass of wine. (T. Watson.)

Contentment of the unregenerate

As a typical instance of the contentment of some unregenerate persons, note the following: “A captain of a whale-ship told one of the wretched natives of Greenland that he sincerely pitied the miserable life to which he was condemned. ‘Miserable!’ exclaimed the savage. ‘I have always had a fish-bone through my nose, and plenty of train-oil to drink: what more could I desire?’” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

I have enough

1. The first man who ever said so.

2. What even non-spiritual men may say. Should not Christians say more?

3. Property should be a heart-store.

4. “Enough” can never be true of spiritual blessings.

5. The evils of avaricious grasping.

6. We must not be avaricious, even on the plea that it is for others,

7. Christianity should be proved by contentment. Examples of

Christ and Paul. (J. Parker, D. D.)


Verse 13

Genesis 33:13

The children are tender

Gently! gently!

I.
LET US VIEW JACOB AS AN EXAMPLE TO US. Tender consideration for the young and feeble.

1. How we may overdrive.

2. Why we should not overdrive the lambs.

(10) We remember how tender Jesus is: and this brings us to our second point.

II. LET US VIEW JACOB AS A PICTURE OF OUR LORD JESUS. See His portrait Isaiah 40:11.

1. The weak have a special place in His love.

2. He will not have it that any of them should die.

3. Therefore He never overdrives one of them.

4. But He suits His pace to their feebleness, “I will lead on softly” Genesis 33:15).

“I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” Has He not thus been very tender to us? “ Thy gentleness hath made me great” Psalms 18:35). Let us not fret and worry as though He were an exactor. We are not driven by Jehu, but led by Jesus. Let us rest in His love. At the same time let us not be slower than need be. Towards others let us be tenderness itself, for we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Jacob’s precaution

The angels of peace and of love seem to hover over the charm of the preceding scene; and the heart lingers with delight in contemplating the noble emulation of generosity and confidence. But is not this harmony too soon disturbed? Does not again a spirit of suspicion and reserve overshadow the mind of Jacob? Is he incapable of rising to the natural purity of his disinterested brother? Or does his keen intellect teach him how imprudent it would be unguardedly to rely upon the fallacious calmness of a passionate mind? Admitted even, that Jacob’s apprehensions were, in this respect, exaggerated, his precaution was the result of a deep insight into Esau’s character; the most insignificant circumstance might recall to his memory the events of the past; his rage might be re-kindled; and, though perhaps later bewailing his rashness, he might, by his superiority, be misled to deeds of cruel revenge. When, therefore, Esau wished to accompany Jacob, for protection, through the regions with which his excursions had made him familiar, the latter cautiously declined the offer; he refused even the garrison or guard which Esau proposed to leave him; but he promised, of his own accord, to visit him in his home in Seir; for he knew, that the sacred rights of hospitality would there protect him, even against an outbreak of passion. But though the objections of Jacob may have been as many evasions, they were not untruths; he could certainly not, without great danger, follow with his encumbered caravan, the march of Esau; and the latter seemed to acknowledge the justness of the remark; but he opposed the second offer with the simple question: “Wherefore do I thus find grace in the sight of my lord?” He invented no fictitious pretext; he thus almost exposed himself to the danger of arousing his brother’s suspicion; but he had banished deceit from his heart; and he preferred risk to falsehood. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)

Sympathy for the feeble

The Lord chooses under-shepherds for His flock among men subject to weakness and infirmity, that they may have a fellow-feeling for the feeble. Selah Merrill, in his “East of the Jordan,” describes the movement of an Arab tribe, and says,” The flocks of sheep and goats were mostly driven by small children. Sometimes there were flocks of lambs and kids driven by children not much older relatively than the lambs and kids themselves. Some of the men had in their arms two, three, four, or a whole armful of kids and lambs that were too young to walk; and among some cooking utensils there was a large saucepan, and in it was a pair of small kids that were too young for the journey.” (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Gentle dealing for the feeble

When a candle is newly lighted and needs to be moved, it must be carried at a slow pace or it will be extinguished. A fire which is almost expiring may be revived by a gentle breath, but it will be blown out if the bellows are plied at their full force. You can drown a little plant by watering it too much, and destroy a lovely flower by exposing it to too much sun. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Gentleness and strength go together

Nothing is so strong as gentleness; nothing so gentle as real strength. (Francis de Sales.)

Tenderness of manner

Even in our manner there should be tenderness. A truly kind act may be so performed as to cause as much grief as joy. We have heard of one who would throw a penny at a beggar and thus hurt him while relieving him. A heart full of love has a mode of its own by which its gifts are enhanced in value. There is enough misery in the world without our carelessly adding to it. Some persons are morbidly sensitive, and this is wrong on their part; but when we are aware of their failing we must be the more careful lest we cause them needless pain. A gouty man will cry out if we walk with heavy footstep across the room. Do we censure him for this? No, we pity him, and tread softly. Let us do the same for the sensitive. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

The weakest first

At the Stockwell Orphanage the usual rule of walking is--little boys first. In this way the younger children cannot be overdriven or left behind, and moreover all the boys can see before them, whereas by the usual practice of putting the tall fellows first the view in front is shut out from all but the few who lead the way. Let the Church have great care for the weaker brethren, and shape her action with a constant reference to them. A strong Christian might do a thousand things lawfully if he only thought of himself, but he will not do one of them because he wishes to act expediently, and would not grieve his brother, or cause him to stumble.


Verse 17

Genesis 33:17

Jacob journeyed to Succoth

Lessons

1.
Providence in love carrieth on his own after removing of blocks from their way.

2. The movings and journeyings of his own, providence guides, as of the wicked, but with distinction.

3. Esau under providence may be carried to Seir, strong mountains, but Jacob to Succoth, a poor cottage and a booth..

4. Under providence it concerns good householders to build shelters, for themselves, families, and cattle.

5. Such common works of saints are recorded as pleasing unto God.

6. Jacob’s seed are careful to keep booth-providences in remembrance, Name of place showeth this. (G. Hughes, B. D.)


Verse 18

Genesis 33:18

And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem,. . . and pitched his tent before the city

Jacob’s mistake

God had not said, Go to Shechem; but, “I am the God of Bethel.
” Bethel, rather than Shechem, was his appointed goal. But alas! we are all too ready to fall short of God’s schemes for our elevation and blessedness. And so Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem. But he did worse; he pitched his tent before the city--as Lot did, when he pitched his tent before Sodom. What took him there? Was it that Rachel persuaded him that a little society would be a pleasant relief to the monotony and seclusion of the camp life? Was it that his children urged him to it against his better mind? Was it some idea of obtaining eligible alliances for his children among the children of the land? Whatever may have been his reason, there stands the sad and solemn fact that Jacob pitched his tent before the city. Are not many Christians doing so still? They live on the edge of the world, just on the borderland; far enough away to justify a religious profession, yet near enough to run into it for sweets. They send their children to fashionable schools, that they may acquire the false veneer of the world, and past muster in its drawing rooms. They remove into the fashionable quarters of a town; and adopt a certain style; and throw themselves into the swim of all manner of worldly engagements--that they may get in with “society.” They choose their church, their pastimes, their friendships, on the sole principle of doing as others do; and of forming good alliances for their children. What is all this but pitching their tents towards Shechem? “But what are we to do?” say they; “our children must have society; they cannot be recluses, or be for ever shut up in our homes.” But why need we cater for them by rushing into the world? Are there not plenty of innocent pastimes, on which worldliness has never breathed its withering breath? Are there not enough elements in the bright social intercourse of the family circle; in the play of imagination and wholesome merriment; in games of skill; in the charms of books; in the recital of travel and adventure; in the witchery of wholesome songs and music; and even in the revelations of modern popular science--to beguile the hours of long winter evenings, without calling in the aid of worldly society, whose brightest hours leave a sense of vacuity and thirst, to say nothing of a positive sting? The most earnest religion does not debar us from manly sports: the swift movement of the skater over the frozen lake; the evening row; the exhilarating climb: or from the culture of the faculties of art; and music; and imagination; of science and poesy. Surely, in all these there is enough to brighten Christian homes, without grieving the Holy Spirit, or lowering their tone. But if parents and guardians will insist on something more exciting and stimulating than these, they must reckon on being called upon to pay the price. They may have the dice-box, the theatre, the dance, if they will; but they must learn, by sad experience, the bitter cost. He needs a long spoon who sups with the devil. The fact is, it is much easier to give these things than to arouse oneself to provide something better. The something better needs time and thought; and staying at home from religious meetings, to give it effect: but the ultimate benefit will more than repay the self-denial
. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

Shechem

I. RELIGIOUS REVIVAL.

II. FAMILY TRIALS. (T. S. Dickson.)


Verse 19-20

Genesis 33:19-20

And he bought a parcel of a field

Jacob’s faith and piety

I.
HIS FAITH. He bought a parcel of ground as a pledge of his faith in the future possession of that country by his posterity (Genesis 33:19). This purchase of a portion of land, concerning which God had promised Abraham that it should be his, showed Jacob’s deep conviction that the promise was renewed to him and to his seed.

II. HIS PIETY. This was an evidence of his faith. He gave himself up entirely to God, and this inward feeling was expressed outwardly by acts of obedience and devotion. His piety is seen--

1. In an act of worship. “He erected there an altar.” This was in keeping with his vow (Genesis 28:21).

2. In the use of blessings already given. He called the altar “El-Elohe-Israel” (Genesis 33:20). He now uses his own new name, Israel, for the first time, in association with the name of God. He uses that name which signifies the Mighty One, who was now his covenant God. He lives up to his privilege, uses all that God had given. He had vowed that he would take the Lord to be his God.

3. In the peace he enjoyed. He arrived in peace at his journey’s end (Genesis 33:18). (T. H. Leale.)

Lessons

1. Jacob and his seed desire to usurp nothing but what they buy from the world.

2. God’s pilgrims mind no great purchase below, but only a place for a tent: a little place.

3. It is lawful for Jacob to deal with Canaanites in just exchanges (Genesis 33:19).

4. Saints would not have a house but that God should dwell in 2:5. Succeeding saints repair religion and the means of the exercise of it, set up by progenitors.

6. Altarworship, or worship by Christ, is that which saints have ever practised.

7. True religion is terminated in the Almighty God.

8. Religious worship is the true memorial of God’s making His Church truly Israel (Genesis 2:20). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

He erected there an altar

The family altar

By calling this altar “El-Elohe-Israel,” or God the God of Israel, it was virtually saying, “I erect this altar for the worship of my family, to the God with whom I have prevailed in supplication, and who has proved Himself the hearer of my prayer.” Such an altar should there be in every household; and, without further special reference to our text, I proceed to the subject I have chosen for this occasion,, namely, that of family worship.

1. We may remark, first, that it is clearly the duty of every family to maintain such worship.

2. We may pass on, therefore, in the second place, to the advantages of family worship. Among its lesser benefits, we may remark in passing that, rightly conducted, it makes a profitable impression upon those out of the family, who may chance to witness it. Family worship is also of unspeakable advantage in maintaining all the other institutions of our holy religion. We can hardly enumerate the advantages of family worship to the household itself. That it draws down the blessing of God upon the domestic circle needs no proof, for we have for our encouragement, not only the general promises made to prayer, but the special assurance that “where two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name He will be with them”; and we have farther, the evidence of actual experience. If we value the salvation of our loved ones we shall not neglect this means of securing it. The restraining influence of domestic worship upon all the annoyances and disturbers of domestic peace is most powerful and valuable. Who can kneel down and pray daily before his family against a sin which he habitually commits? How can the inmates of a dwelling cherish unkind feelings towards each other while united in common prayer?

3. We may next notice the manner in which family devotions may best be performed.

4. Our last point will be to notice the objections and difficulties which are commonly opposed to the duty. One may reply, that all these arguments and statements may be very good and true, but that he makes no profession of religion, and it would be improper, therefore, for him to set up family worship. Why so? Is it wrong for him to pray in secret, or in the house of God, or to give his children religious instruction? And why any more so to pray in the family? (W. H. Lewis, D. D.)

Jacob’s thankfulness after deliverance

See the practice of faithful men, ever when God hath been merciful to them, and delivered them out of danger. Now Jacob buildeth an altar in the true thankfulness of his soul unto God for this great mercy and deliverance of him from his brother Esau. And he calleth it the mighty God of Israel: giving to the sign the name of the thing which it signified, which is usual in the Scripture. Thus would God it might kindle some heat in our hearts and consciences, to consider ourselves, the dangers we have been in our days, the dangers of the land wherein we inhabit. The dangers of wife, children, and friends, and now our safety and deliverance from all our fears. For this hath the Lord done for us, and whatsoever it is in our eyes, surely it is wonderful even through the world. But where now are our altars? That is, where are our thanks and most grateful songs for our deliverance? We have found mercy as Jacob did; yea, for more, for greater Esaus have come against us, than did against him, not with four hundred men, but many thousands, to captivate us for ever as their slaves when they had slain their fill. And yet we live, and by God only who hath strangely revenged us upon them that would thus have eaten us up. That is, as I say again, we give not thanks for the custom of our time, as he did after the manner of his. At the first peradventure we did, but it was soon at an end. Now are we fallen into a deep sleep again, and both God and His mercy is forgotten. Our danger also, as if it had never been. But in the Lord I beseech you, let us awake again, look upon Jacob here what he cloth, and every man and woman follow his example. Build God an altar, not in earth with lime and stone, but in your heart of most kind and thankful remembrance for all His mercies to the land, to our dread sovereign, to ourselves, our souls and bodies, to our wives and children, to our neighbours and friends, and infinite ways that we cannot name. Bless His majesty for them, and let not the remembrance die, till you die yourself. A thankful heart is all that the Lord seeketh, and it is all that indeed we can do to Him. (Bp. Babington.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Genesis 33:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/genesis-33.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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