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Genesis 33

New International Version

1 Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. 2 He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. 4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. 5 Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. 'Who are these with you?' he asked. Jacob answered, 'They are the children God has graciously given your servant.' 6 Then the female servants and their children approached and bowed down. 7 Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down. 8 Esau asked, 'What's the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?' 'To find favor in your eyes, my lord,' he said. 9 But Esau said, 'I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.' 10 No, please!' said Jacob. 'If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably. 11 Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.' And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it. 12 Then Esau said, 'Let us be on our way; I'll accompany you.' 13 But Jacob said to him, 'My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. 14 So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.' 15 Esau said, 'Then let me leave some of my men with you.' 'But why do that?' Jacob asked. 'Just let me find favor in the eyes of my lord.' 16 So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. 17 Jacob, however, went to Sukkoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place is called Sukkoth. 18 After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. 19 For a hundred pieces of silver, he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. 20 There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.
English Standard Version

1 And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two female servants. 2 And he put the servants with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. 3 He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. 4 But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. 5 And when Esau lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” 6 Then the servants drew near, they and their children, and bowed down. 7 Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down. And last Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. 8 Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “To find favor in the sight of my lord.” 9 But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” 10 Jacob said, “No, please, if I have found favor in your sight, then accept my present from my hand. For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me. 11 Please accept my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough.” Thus he urged him, and he took it. 12 Then Esau said, “Let us journey on our way, and I will go ahead of you.” 13 But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail, and that the nursing flocks and herds are a care to me. If they are driven hard for one day, all the flocks will die. 14 Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly, at the pace of the livestock that are ahead of me and at the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.” 15 So Esau said, “Let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.” 16 So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. 17 But Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built himself a house and made booths for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth. 18 And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. 19 And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. 20 There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.
King James Version

1 And 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. 2 And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost. 3 And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. 4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept. 5 And 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. 6 Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves. 7 And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves. 8 And 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. 9 And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself. 10 And 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. 11 Take, 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. 12 And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee. 13 And 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. 14 Let 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. 15 And 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. 16 So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir. 17 And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth. 18 And 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. 19 And 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. 20 And he erected there an altar, and called it EleloheIsrael.
New American Standard Bible

1 Then Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. 2 He put the maids and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. 3 But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. 4 Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. 5 He lifted his eyes and saw the women and the children, and said, 'Who are these with you?' So he said, 'The children whom God has graciously given your servant.' 6 Then the maids came near with their children, and they bowed down. 7 Leah likewise came near with her children, and they bowed down; and afterward Joseph came near with Rachel, and they bowed down. 8 And he said, 'What do you mean by all this company which I have met?' And he said, 'To find favor in the sight of my lord.' 9 But Esau said, 'I have plenty, my brother; let what you have be your own.' 10 Jacob said, 'No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then take my present from my hand, for I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably. 11 'Please take my gift which has been brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me and because I have plenty.' Thus he urged him and he took it. 12 Then Esau said, 'Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.' 13 But he said to him, 'My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die. 14 'Please let my lord pass on before his servant, and I will proceed at my leisure, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord at Seir.' 15 Esau said, 'Please let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.' But he said, 'What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.' 16 So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. 17 Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built for himself a house and made booths for his livestock; therefore the place is named Succoth. 18 Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city. 19 He bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem's father, for one hundred pieces of money. 20 Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.
New Living Translation

1 Then Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming with his 400 men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and his two servant wives. 2 He put the servant wives and their children at the front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. 3 Then Jacob went on ahead. As he approached his brother, he bowed to the ground seven times before him. 4 Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept. 5 Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, 'Who are these people with you?' 'These are the children God has graciously given to me, your servant,' Jacob replied. 6 Then the servant wives came forward with their children and bowed before him. 7 Next came Leah with her children, and they bowed before him. Finally, Joseph and Rachel came forward and bowed before him. 8 'And what were all the flocks and herds I met as I came?' Esau asked. Jacob replied, 'They are a gift, my lord, to ensure your friendship.' 9 'My brother, I have plenty,' Esau answered. 'Keep what you have for yourself.' 10 But Jacob insisted, 'No, if I have found favor with you, please accept this gift from me. And what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God! 11 Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.' And because Jacob insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift. 12 'Well,' Esau said, 'let's be going. I will lead the way.' 13 But Jacob replied, 'You can see, my lord, that some of the children are very young, and the flocks and herds have their young, too. If they are driven too hard, even for one day, all the animals could die. 14 Please, my lord, go ahead of your servant. We will follow slowly, at a pace that is comfortable for the livestock and the children. I will meet you at Seir.' 15 'All right,' Esau said, 'but at least let me assign some of my men to guide and protect you.' Jacob responded, 'That's not necessary. It's enough that you've received me warmly, my lord!' 16 So Esau turned around and started back to Seir that same day. 17 Jacob, on the other hand, traveled on to Succoth. There he built himself a house and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place was named Succoth (which means 'shelters'). 18 Later, having traveled all the way from Paddan-aram, Jacob arrived safely at the town of Shechem, in the land of Canaan. There he set up camp outside the town. 19 Jacob bought the plot of land where he camped from the family of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for 100 pieces of silver. 20 And there he built an altar and named it El-Elohe-Israel.
Christian Standard Bible

1 Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming toward him with four hundred men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two slave women. 2 He put the slaves and their children first, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed to the ground seven times until he approached his brother. 4 But Esau ran to meet him, hugged him, threw his arms around him, and kissed him. Then they wept. 5 When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he asked, "Who are these with you?" He answered, "The children God has graciously given your servant." 6 Then the slaves and their children approached him and bowed down. 7 Leah and her children also approached and bowed down, and then Joseph and Rachel approached and bowed down. 8 So Esau said, "What do you mean by this whole procession I met?" "To find favor with you, my lord," he answered. 9 "I have enough, my brother," Esau replied. "Keep what you have." 10 But Jacob said, "No, please! If I have found favor with you, take this gift from me. For indeed, I have seen your face, and it is like seeing God's face, since you have accepted me. 11 Please take my present that was brought to you, because God has been gracious to me and I have everything I need." So Jacob urged him until he accepted. 12 Then Esau said, "Let's move on, and I'll go ahead of you." 13 Jacob replied, "My lord knows that the children are weak, and I have nursing flocks and herds. If they are driven hard for one day, the whole herd will die. 14 Let my lord go ahead of his servant. I will continue on slowly, at a pace suited to the livestock and the children, until I come to my lord at Seir." 15 Esau said, "Let me leave some of my people with you." But he replied, "Why do that? Please indulge me, my lord." 16 That day Esau started on his way back to Seir, 17 but Jacob went to Succoth. He built a house for himself and shelters for his livestock; that is why the place was called Succoth. 18 After Jacob came from Paddan-aram, he arrived safely at Shechem in the land of Canaan and camped in front of the city. 19 He purchased a section of the field where he had pitched his tent from the sons of Hamor, Shechem's father, for a hundred pieces of silver. 20 And he set up an altar there and called it God, the God of Israel.

What does Genesis 33 mean?

Jacob made extensive preparations to meet his estranged brother, Esau, as recorded in the prior chapter. After all the waiting and wondering, the moment has finally arrived. Esau has come. Will he bring violence or peace?

Jacob makes one last-minute strategic choice before approaching his brother. He arranges his family into at least three distinct groups with some space between them. He places his two servant wives and their children at the front of the line. Next he places Leah and her children. Finally, he places his beloved Rachel and Joseph. Given that Jacob is going to approach Esau first, this is not a cowardly act, at all. It does, however, show Jacob's open favoritism, since Rachel and Joseph will have the easiest path of escape in case Esau becomes aggressive (Genesis 33:1–2).

Jacob then moves to the front of this procession and begins heading toward Esau, but slowly. He stops seven times to bow low to the ground on the way. Finally the moment comes. Esau does not draw a sword. Instead, he runs to Jacob, throws his arms around his brother and kisses him. Both men weep at the reunion. They are reconciled, at last, despite all Jacob did to Esau 20 years ago (Genesis 33:3–4).

Then Esau notices and asks about Jacob's wives and children. They approach, each group in turn, and themselves bow before Esau, treating him as a prince or lord. They make for an impressive group. As arranged before, Jacob would have introduced them in the order of preference, saving his favored wife and son for last (Genesis 33:5–7).

Esau asks Jacob about all the company that came before, referring to Jacob's massive gift of goats, sheep, camels, cows, and donkeys—550 animals in total. Jacob replies that these were given to find favor in Esau's sight. Perhaps using customary politeness, Esau tries to refuse them, saying he has enough. Jacob insists, however, that Esau take them as evidence that he truly favors Jacob. Jacob declares that Esau's acceptance of him warrants the gift. Seeing Esau's face, he asserts, is like seeing the face of God (Genesis 33:8–10).

Esau finally agrees to accept the gift and invites Jacob to travel with him back to his home in Seir. As later verses will show, Jacob doesn't want to go that way. Here, however, he doesn't say so. Instead, he tells Esau that his company will travel too slowly to keep up; the children are frail and the nursing animals can't be pushed. He refuses escort, and says he will come along at his own pace (Genesis 33:11–16).

Once Esau leaves, heading south towards Seir, Jacob travels in the opposite direction. He heads north, building permanent structures at Succoth and then eventually west, setting up camp outside of the city of Shechem. In fact, Jacob purchases the land he is camped on from the people of Shechem and builds an altar to the Lord there, just as Abraham had done many years before (Genesis 33:17–20).

Jacob's presence near Sechem will not be peaceful, however. Chapter 34 describes a terrible story of violation and revenge, which will shape the destiny of the tribes of Israel.