How Jacob Wasn’t In A Hurry To Obey God?

Jacob And Esau Make Peace

You see nothing could be more devastating than to be making progress in a particular area and then to be swallowed up by a sense of pride and complacency. We would then tend to rest upon our successes and fail to press on to greater growth and maturity.


While we are forever secure in the salvation that Jesus Christ has provided and we have accepted (John 10:27-29), there is a kind of complacency, which can be destructive and counter-productive to our spiritual lives. We can wrongly conclude that since we are eternally secure there is no need to press on, that there is no urgency and no imminent danger in our Christian experience.


The moment we feel secure, we are in the greatest danger.


The moment we become aloof to the intensity of the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged and the enemy who seeks to destroy us, we are beginning to fall into the enemy’s grasp.


That is precisely what Jacob does in these two chapters of Genesis. In the first portion of chapter 33 Jacob fearfully faces his brother, expecting that the worst might happen. But once this danger passes, Jacob becomes forgetful of the divine command and of his own vow to return to Bethel.


A false sense of security made Jacob careless in his actions and brought him to a point of very grave danger. This danger was both physical and spiritual. Except for the questionable actions of his sons and the providence of God, Jacob could have been virtually destroyed.


This passage is particularly relevant to 20th century Christians who live in America and Canada, for we have been lulled into a false sense of security by our comfortable and easy way of life. We have Social Security and Medicare, welfare and workman’s compensation. We have insurance protection for our homes, our health, our ability to earn a living, and against all kinds of losses. We never wake up in the morning wondering if we will eat or where we will sleep the next night.


Christians can feel even more comfortable, for many believe that when things really begin to get bad (e.g., the great tribulation) they will not be around to face it anyway because of the rapture. In the midst of this kind of artificial security, we begin to live carelessly and find ourselves in danger of some serious spiritual defeats.


Let us seek to learn from the life of Jacob how we can avoid complacency and over-confidence, which can be hazardous to our spiritual health.


Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming toward him with 400 men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two female slaves.
He put the female slaves and their children first, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last.

Genesis 33:1-2 (HCSB)


Right after this great experience with the Lord, Israel now faces the biggest challenge of his life. That’s the way it usually is. The Lord strategically places His encounters with us in our lives at pivotal times.


Israel kept the wife and child he loved the farthest from Esau for protection. If any of his family would be killed it would be the concubines and their sons. This may have been reality but how must this have made the concubines and his least-favorite son’s feel?


Then Jacob went on ahead. As he approached his brother, he bowed to the ground seven times before him.

Genesis 33:3 (NLT)



To Israel’s credit, he went out to meet his brother Esau before his wives and children encountered him. It was Jacob that Esau had hatred for. If any harm was going to happen to anyone, it would be Jacob and maybe Esau would let the family go.


Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept.

Genesis 33:4 (NLT)


esau-jacob-embracing-loveWhat a wonderful reception from the brother that had vowed to kill Jacob (Genesis 27:41)! The Scripture doesn’t tell us how Esau’s heart was changed. His actions of bringing 400 men with him would imply that the change happened as he came to meet Jacob.It’s possible that Jacob’s messages and gifts softened his heart. Regardless of how the Lord did it, we know it is only the Lord who can change people’s hearts.


Esau was weeping because of his love for Jacob. Jacob was probably weeping for joy that the Lord had turned Esau’s heart from killing him.


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. Then the servant wives came forward with their children and bowed before him. Next came Leah with her children, and they bowed before him. Finally, Joseph and Rachel came forward and bowed before him.

Genesis 33:5-7(NLT)


The usual small talk began with questions about the wives and children.


“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.”
“My brother, I have plenty,” Esau answered. “Keep what you have for yourself.”

Genesis 33:8-9 (NLT)


Jacob was relying on grace, not on what he could do. This is a real sign of maturity. Jacob expects trouble from Esau, but he finds the pain of the past healed. Now Esau wants nothing from his brother. Jacob wasn’t the only one that had changed. Esau is very gracious here.


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!”

Genesis 33:10 (NLT)


Jacob had just seen God face to face (Genesis 32:30). It isn’t recorded that Jacob (Israel) told Esau about wrestling with an angel of God. I don’t believe he did. This would only have rekindled the rivalry between these brothers and possibly produced a very different result. We need to be careful with whom we share the intimate details of our relationship with the Lord (Matthew 7:6).


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.

Genesis 33:11 (NLT)


The last time these brothers were together, it was all about what they could get for themselves. Esau had sold Jacob the birthright (Genesis 25:29-34), and Jacob had stolen their father’s blessing (Genesis 27:35-36). That’s what caused all the problems. But here they were, twenty years later (Genesis 31:38), and they both were satisfied with what they had and didn’t want anything from each other except acceptance. What a difference.


Then Esau said, “Let’s move on, and I’ll go ahead of you.”

Genesis 33:12 (HCSB)


Esau not only didn’t do Jacob harm but now he wants to be Jacob’s friend and guide. God did a miracle in this relationship. This should bring hope to all who have loved ones estranged from them.


Jacob replied, “My lord knows that the children are weak, and I have nursing sheep and cattle. If they are driven hard for one day, the whole herd will die.
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.”

Genesis 33:13-14 (HCSB)


Having accepted Jacob’s generosity in the gift of the droves of livestock, Esau offered to accompany his brother as he journeyed on to Canaan and, I would suppose, to the home of their father. Jacob expressed his appreciation but explained that he could not travel at the same pace as his brother and those with him. The young cattle and children would only serve to slow Esau down unnecessarily. To hurry the children and cattle would only result in needless losses.


And Esau said, “Now 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.”

Genesis 33:15 (NKJV)


Jacob’s reasoning made sense, but Esau seemed to feel it necessary for Jacob and his family and flocks to have an escort. Consequently, he urged Jacob to allow him to have some of his men accompany his party into the land. Jacob indicated that there was really no reason to take such precautions and that all he desired of his brother was his favor.


So Esau turned around and started back to Seir that same day.

Genesis 33:16 (NLT)


And so Esau went on, assuming that he would see Jacob shortly; but, as we know, this will not happen. It would seem that years would pass until these men met once more. While we wish not to believe it and there may be some plausible explanations for his words, one does get the uneasy feeling that Jacob has resorted to his old habit of deception.


While he said he was going to meet Esau at Seir (verse 14), he may have had no intention of doing so. Certainly that is the way things worked out, and yet without any good reason. The disastrous results of Jacob’s side trip would indicate that Jacob was wrong in going to Succoth and later to Shechem.


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.

Genesis 33:17 (NLT)


It is Derek Kidner who aptly summarizes the significance of Jacob’s journey to Succoth:


“Succoth was a backward step, spiritually as well as geographically …”


God had first appeared to Jacob at Bethel, and it was there that Jacob vowed to someday return to build an altar and give a tithe to God (Gen. 28:20-22). When God instructed Jacob to return to Canaan, He identified Himself as the “God of Bethel” (Gen. 31:13). Jacob was instructed to return “to the land of your fathers and to your relatives” (Gen. 31:3). Succoth was in the opposite direction of Seir where Jacob had told Esau he was coming.


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. Jacob bought the plot of land where he camped from the family of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for 100 pieces of silver. And there he built an altar and named it El-Elohe-Israel.

Genesis 33:18-20 (NLT)


God’s command was that Jacob returns to Bethel and then to his home where Isaac still lived, which was Hebron. Instead, he tarried first at Succoth and then settled near Shechem. At Succoth, the pilgrim who was supposed to live in a tent (Heb. 11:9-16) built a house for himself and shelters for his flocks and herds. When he moved near Shechem, Jacob purchased a piece of property and became a “resident alien” in the land. He was settling down in the land.


It’s obvious that Jacob wasn’t in a hurry to obey God and return the Bethel. We commend him for erecting an altar and giving public witness of his faith in the Lord, but sacrifice is no substitute for obedience (1 Sam. 15:22).


The name he gave the altar (“God, the God of Israel”) indicates that he claimed his new name “Israel,” but he certainly wasn’t living up to all that his name implied. Because he tarried in that part of the land, his granddaughter Dinah was raped and two of his sons became murderers. It was an expensive detour.



Andrew Wommack’s Living Commentary


766304: Be Authentic (Genesis 25-50) Be Authentic (Genesis 25-50)
By Warren W. Wiersbe

Life is full of imitations. Which is why today’s culture genuine, transparent people of God; believers who crave real spiritual growth. But what does that look like? The book of Genesis provides the answer, where we find 3 men who experienced an authentic life: Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

Be Authentic: Genesis 25-50 shows the vital need shows the vital need for authenticity in an artificial world. Through this commentary you will discover how to pursue authentic relationships with others and God and how to live out your faith in an irresistible, compelling way.



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