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Genesis 32-34

Supplemental notes for the Daily Bible Study Bible Reading Plan

by Wayne Blank

Genesis Chapter 32

Jacob had an angelic welcome on his return journey from his 20 years with Laban (see Jacob and Laban), a friendly, undefeatable force (that was also there when he had left i.e. Genesis 28:12) that may have encouraged Jacob to send word to his brother Esau that he was coming home.

The Jabbok River

"Jacob went on his way and the angels of God met him; and when Jacob saw them he said, "This is God's army!" So he called the name of that place Mahanaim.

And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, instructing them, "Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, 'I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; and I have oxen, asses, flocks, menservants, and maidservants; and I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.'" (Genesis 32:1-5 RSV)

The response was alarming. Jacob did the only two things that he could - disperse his group as much as possible, and pray.

"And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, "We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men with him."

Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies, thinking, "If Esau comes to the one company and destroys it, then the company which is left will escape." (Genesis 32:6-8 RSV)

"Deliver me, I pray Thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, lest he come and slay us all, the mothers with the children." (Genesis 32:11 RSV)

While awaiting the encounter with his brother Esau, Jacob spent the night (almost) alone at the point that the attack would come, near the ford of the Jabbok River. He didn't get any sleep that night, not only because of apprehension of what the morning would bring, but because of one of the defining moments of Bible History and Prophecy that occurred there that night - Jacob's name change to Israel.

"And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob's thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking."

But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me."

And he said to him, "What is your name?"

And he said, "Jacob."

Then he said, "Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed."

Then Jacob asked him, "Tell me, I pray, your name."

But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him.

So Jacob called the name of the place Penuel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved." (Genesis 32:24-30 RSV)

Genesis Chapter 33

When morning came, Jacob found himself standing alone against a force of 400 men. After again checking to see that he had done all that he could do for the safety of his family, he walked, alone, straight at the approaching army - very likely while thinking "I'm going to need Your help in a few seconds Lord...".


"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 maids. And he put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother." (Genesis 33:1-3 RSV

Esau had either become more peaceful with age (which seems unlikely since he travelled with 400 troops) or he realized that The Lord was with Jacob and that an attack on Jacob would result in his own annihilation.

"But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept." (Genesis 33:4 RSV)

Esau then invited Jacob to join him in his territory, in Seir (see the Fact Finder question below), but Jacob was no fool. Perhaps the invitation was genuine, but perhaps it was not. When the opportunity came, Jacob proceeded instead across the Jordan into "Israel."

"So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir.

But Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built himself a house, and made booths for his cattle; therefore the name of the place is called Succoth. And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in The Land Of Canaan, on his way from Padan Aram; and he camped before the city. 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. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel." (Genesis 33:16-20 RSV)

Genesis Chapter 34

Of all of the recorded Children of Jacob, there was only one named daughter, Dinah. When their sister was treated wrongly, Jacob's sons responded with lethal force, despite Jacob's concern that it would trigger a war with the Canaanite people of the land who greatly outnumbered the Israelites.


"Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land; and when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humbled her." (Genesis 31:1-2 RSV)

"The sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard of it; and the men were indignant and very angry, because he had wrought folly in Israel by lying with Jacob's daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done." (Genesis 34:7 RSV)

"They slew Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went away. And the sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled; they took their flocks and their herds, their asses, and whatever was in the city and in the field; all their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and made their prey." (Genesis 34:26-29 RSV)

Fact Finder: What was Esau's claim to the land of Seir?
See The Land of Seir

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