An Encounter with Esau

Genesis 33:1-20

When Jacob spies Esau in the distance, he again divides and organizes his camp. He walks ahead of them and bows seven times before his brother. Esau embraces Jacob, and the brothers weep. Esau is awed by the magnitude of Jacob’s camp. Jacob tells Esau that everything he sent before him is a gift for his older brother. When Esau tries to decline, saying he, too, has much wealth, Jacob insists he keep it, as God has already granted him everything. Esau invites his younger brother to travel with him, but Jacob begs off, saying Esau’s pace is too difficult for Jacob’s camp, and they would one day meet up in Esau’s home of Seir. Thus assured, Esau departs for Seir, but Jacob heads instead to Succoth, so called for the succot, or booths, he builds for his animals.


From Succoth, Jacob travels to Shechem, where he purchases a piece of land and settles peacefully with his family. He builds an altar there for God, calling it El-elohe-Israel, or the God of Israel.


The Israel Bible notes that Jacob’s actions are a sign for future generations: the first thing he does after escaping Esau’s clutches is purchase land, teaching us that to remain secure, the Jewish people must continue to build up their homeland, Israel.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

There is a subtext of a power struggle in the encounter between Jacob and Esau. What do you think is really going on between them?

Comments ( 7 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • There is a kind of powerstruggle caused by fear and anxiety, waiting for consequences, surprise and helplessness, weaknes and might, as these brothers are the complete opposite of each other. They had become strangers to eachother, for so long not been in the company of each other. What can you await of this person.? Ja’acov surrendered himself into the hands of …..G-d., holding on th HIM after Peniel if it is His will to be killed …..would Esav still want his death?

  • Thank you for all your comments. I do see this differently now and will meditate on this today.

  • These comments changed my whole perspective of this meeting. I do now understand, again, that the things in the Word make sense and considering their history, this meeting of hugs, kisses and tears just didn't make sense (except through a Divine intervention of touching hearts). Seeing this meeting through the knowledge of the original writings brings clarity and understanding that extends even to current events today. Thanks!

  • I agree with both comments above. Ya'acov wasn't a stupid man. He knew what the "score" was. He was also keenly aware of the nature of the "kiss". Esau CAN NOT be trusted. Their tactic is the same today. Their Quran gives them authority to lie in order to achieve their ends. The sad fact is that western authorities just don't get this Middle East mindset. It WILL be their undoing.

  • 4 And Esav ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him; and they wept.
    ד וַיָּרָץ עֵשָׂו לִקְרָאתוֹ וַיְחַבְּקֵהוּ וַיִּפֹּל עַל צַוָּארָו וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ וַיִּבְכּוּ.

    This is a place where the "jots and tittles" come into play. In a Torah scroll, there are dots that appear over each letter in this word, "וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ". I believe the word is translated as "kissed". Our Torah teacher has taught us that despite the illusion that Esau is happy to see his brother and acts in a loving manner towards him, in reality, it was Esau's desire to sink his teeth into his brother's neck and rip his throat out so strong was his anger.
    Ya'acov knew in his heart that his brother was hiding his hatred and wisely decided to move his family to an area far from his brother to settle down and establish his family. He full well knew there was never going to be any real peace between himself and his brother Esau and there never was for the rest of their days and we bear the brunt of that to this day.
    Baruch Hashem

    • Great comments! These dots are called "jots" and give extra and deeper meaning to the text. Many sages refer to Esau's gesture as a "kiss of death". With that analogy in mind, the similarities of today are striking.

  • Herman

    Esav and Jaácov are concealing their true feelings (Esav: madness, anger, jealousy?) (Ja’acov: distrust, fear, protection of his ‘house’) They act just like Eastern men will do: courteous, hospitable and,with a lot of external gestures. Inside J.: how to get rid of my brother as soon as possible. E.: how to do what i am planning without loosing my face.

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