Summary: After dreading the meeting - Jacob and Esau have a family reunion. But then jealousy and violence take over as Jacob’s sons do something unthinkable.
Jacob has had a really tough time - back in Padan Aram he finally left his uncle Laban, who had cheated him for 20 years. Laban would have probably killed him had God not intervened but even still Laban gives Jacob a really hard time and then makes this agreement asking that God judge Jacob if he mistreats his daughters.
So after that Jacob approaches the borders of Israel - afraid of the next enemy he must face - Esau - his brother who had vowed to kill him. So he devises all these plans to handle Esau - gifts and words - sort of the old Jacob trying to outwit his brother.
But God has other plans and wrestles all night with Jacob until at last all he has left is to hang on the angel and demand a blessing - which God gives him as a change of name - associated with a change of heart. No longer Jacob, deceiver - governed by self, he was now Israel, governed by God.
So now it’s the next morning - D-Day.
Verses 1 - 3
So by now Esau has gotten wave after wave of gifts - and Jacob looks up and here he comes with 400 men. Jacob, or Israel, has got to be wondering - did it work? Am I facing a brother or a battle?
The old Jacob would have probably put everybody else out in front and himself hiding in the back - but now he puts his family behind him (with Rachael and Joseph in the rear) and faces Esau - bowing down as a sign of respect - not just once but 7 times.
But as it turns out - Esau is more interested in swapping family news than taking revenge.
What a relief - reminds me of the prodigal son a little bit. It is amazing what time and distance can do - you realize just how rashly you might have reacted to something. It’s a good lesson - once you react you rarely have a chance to re-act because relationships get severed and sometimes take years to be restored.
James 1:19-20 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
Verses 5 - 7
The wives and kids come forth - bowing. Again Jacob gives God the glory for the kids and the provisions.
So next comes this little back and forth on the gifts Jacob brought:
Verses 8 - 11
I imagine one of the reasons Jacob insists on giving the gifts to Esau is his extreme relief that the meeting turned out so well.
He is not as open, though, to Esau’s next suggestion.
Verses 12 - 17
You get the sense that Jacob really doesn’t want to go with Esau. My sense is that he still doesn’t like his brother - they are simply too different. Esau’s attitudes and lifestyle are not compatible with a person whose heart is given to the Lord.
There are times when we can re-establish ties - but not close relationships with those who don’t know the Lord. Perhaps Jacob thinks that Esau will have too great an influence over his family.
Jacob doesn’t tell Esau that he’s going another direction - but he doesn’t lie to him either. Instead Jacob goes to Succoth. Succoth is in modern Jordan - about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. It means "booths."
Verses 18 - 20
Shechem is about 35 miles north of Jerusalem - across the Jordan and a little south of Succoth. This is important because Jacob buys land - it shows ownership of the Promised Land - just as Abraham did in chapter 23 when he bought land in Hebron (to the south of Shechem).
He also built an altar there - calling it "God, the God of Israel." Abraham built an altar on the same spot in 12:7 after God appeared to him and told him he would have this land.
Verses 1 - 4
This chapter is one of the darker passages of Genesis - we have rape, deception, religious hypocrisy, followed by terrible violence.
There is some question as to whether Shechem violently raped Dinah or whether there was some form of mutuality - but there may have been more than violence or lust involved - it may have been a strategic move on Shechem’s part. In that culture when an arranged marriage was unlikely - one or more of the parties could take matters into their own hands. Once a woman had lost her virginity an arrangement with another family was unlikely so then the two would be married. It’s pretty horrible - having to marry your rapist.