Genesis 33:2 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 33:2, NIV: "He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear."

Genesis 33:2, ESV: "And he put the servants with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all."

Genesis 33:2, KJV: "And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost."

Genesis 33:2, NASB: "He put the slave women and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last."

Genesis 33:2, NLT: "He put the servant wives and their children at the front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last."

Genesis 33:2, CSB: "He put the slaves and their children first, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last."

What does Genesis 33:2 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The long-awaited reunion with Esau has come, decades after Jacob fled to avoid his twin brothers rage (Genesis 27:41–45). Jacob still doesn't know if Esau's reaction will be peaceful or violent. All he knows is that Esau is coming with 400 men (Genesis 32:7–8). Once Esau is finally in sight, Jacob chooses a very specific arrangement for his family, placing them in position as his brother approaches (Genesis 33:1).

Jacob's strategy is to place his servant wives, Bilhah and Zilpah (Genesis 30:3, 9), and his children through them, at the front of the line. These are followed by Leah and her children. In the back are Rachel and her son, Joseph. Jacob's motivations for this are not explicitly given, but they aren't hard to guess. Jacob has long favored Rachel, so this arrangement is probably a reflection of his preferences for his own children. That seems harsh, but it would not have been an uncommon attitude in that era.

The strategic part of this plan becomes clearer in the next verse: Jacob is going to approach Esau first, ahead of all his family (Genesis 33:3). We might cringe at his overt favoritism, but at the same time, we should note that he's risking himself first and foremost. Jacob's intent seems to be that if Esau chooses violence, the wives and children will have an opportunity to escape. Rachel and Joseph, being at the rear, would have the clearest path to flee.