Page images
PDF
EPUB

which our commentator Henry remarks, with his usual pith, “ Hard words, we say, break no bones, and therefore we should bear them patiently ; but it seems soft words do, and therefore we should, on all occasions, give them prudently." Treat men as friends, and you make them so. Pray. but as Jacob did, and be as obliging and condescending as he was, and you will go through the world by it.

Ver. 5—7. The two brothers having wept over each other, Esau, lifting up his eyes, saw the women and children, and inquired who they were ? Jacob's answer is worthy of him. It savours of the fear of God which ruled in bis heart, and taught him to acknowledge him even in the ordinary concerns of life. They are, saith he, the children which God hath graciously given thy servant. Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves. And Leah also, with her children, came near,

and bowed themselves : and after came Joseph near, and Rachel, and they bowed themselves. Had this been done to Jacob, methinks he would have answered, God be gracious unto you, my children! But we must take Esau as he is, and rejoice that things are as they are. We have often occasion to be thankful for civilities, where we can find nothing like religion. One cannot help admiring the uniformly good behaviour of all Jacob's family. If one of them had failed, it might have undone all the good which his ingratiating conduct had done : but to their honour it is recorded, they all acted in unison with him. When the head of a family does right, and the rest follow his example, every thing

goes on well.

Ver. 8. But Esau desires to know the meaning of these droves of cattle being sent to him. The answer is, These are to find grace in the sight of my lord. This would express how high a value he set upon his favour, and how much he desired to be reconciled to him; and so tended to conciliate. We might, in most cases, purchase peace and good-will from men at a much cheaper rate than this; a few shillings, nay often, only a few kind words would do it ; and yet we see, for the want of these, strifes, contentions, law-suits, and I know not what evil treatment, even between those who ought to love as brethren. But if the

favour of man be thus estimable, how much more that of God? Yet no' worldly substance nor good deeds of ours are required as the price of this; but merely the receiving of it as a free gift, through Him who hath given himself a sacrifice to obtain the consistent exercise of it towards the unworthy.

Ver. 9–11. The reply of Esau to this obligiog angwer was I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself. There might be in this language pretty much of a high spirit of independence. Whatever eliect Jacob's present had had upon him, be would not be thought to be influenced by any thing of that kind; especially as he had great plenty of his own. Jacob, however, continued to urge it upon him, not as if he thought he needed it, but as a token of good-will, and of his desire to be reconciled. He did not indeed make use of this term, nor of any other that might lead to the recollection of their former variance. He did not say that he should consider the acceptance of his present as a proof that he was cordially reconciled to him; but what he did say, though more delicately expressed, was to the same effect. Such I conceive to be the import of the terms, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand. The receiving of a present at another's hand is perhaps one of the greatest proofs of reconciliation. Every one is conscious that he could not receive a present at the hand of an enemy. And upon this principle no offerings of sinful creatures can be accepted of God, till they are reconciled to him by faith in the atonement of his Son. To find grace in the sight of Esau, and to have his present accepted as a token of it, was the desire of Jacob. To these ends he further assures bim how highly his favour was accounted of, and that to have seen his face in the manner he had, was to him next to seeing the face of God. This was strong language, and doubtless it was expressive of strong feelings. Reconciliation with those with whom we have long been at variance, especially when it was through our own miaconduct, is, as to its effect upon the mind, next to reconciliation with God. Finally : He entreats him to accept what he had presented, as his blessing : (80 a present was called when accomYou. V.

36

ܪ

[ocr errors]

a

panied with love, or good-will :*) and the rather because God bad graciously blessed him, and giving him enough; nay more, had given him all things. Esau on this accepted it; and as far as we know, the reconciliation was sincere and lasting.

Ver. 12–15. Esau proposes to be going, and to guard his brother and his family through the country. The proposal was doubtless very friendly, and very honourable ; and appears to have contained an invitation of Jacob and bis family to his house at Seir : but Jacob respectfully declines it, on account of the feebleness of the cattle, and of the children. There is no reason that I know of for supposing Jacub had any other motive than that which he alleged; and this is expressive of his gentleness as a shepherd, and his tenderness as a father. There are many persons with whom we may wish to be on good terms, who nevertheless, on account of a difference of character, taste, or manners, would be very unsuitable companions for us. Jacob proposes going to Seir after bis arrival; and this he probably did, though we read not of it. We have no account of his visiting his father Isaac till he had been several years in Canaan ; yet to suppose him capable of such a neglect, were not only injurious to his character, but contrary to what is implied by Deborah, one of Isaac's family, being found in his house at the time of her death. $ Esau's first proposal being declined, he next offers to leave a part of his men, as a guard to Jacob's company : but this also he respectfully declines, on the ground of its being unnecessary ; adding, Let me find grace in the sight of my lord-which I conceive was equal to saying, Let me have thy favour, and it is all I desire.

Ver. 16–20. The two brothers having parted friendly, Esau returns to Seir, and Jacob journeyed to a place east of Jordan, where he stopped awhile, and built a house for his family, and booths for his cattle. Upon this spot a city was afterwards built, and called Succoth; that is booths, from the circumstance above

* See Josh. xv. 19. 1 Sam. xxv. 27. 2 Kings v. 15.

+ Though both expressions are rendered alike, I have enough, yet they differ in the original: Esau said 275 I have much ; but Jacob 92 yil have all.

R. # Chap. xxxv. 8.

[ocr errors]

related. He did not stop here, however, with a design to abide ;

* for he was commanded to return to the land of his kindred, that is to Canaan, and he was as yet not in Canaan : but finding it a country abounding with rich pasture, he might wish to refresh his herds, and take time for inquiry into a more suitable place for a continued residence. Hence, when after this be passed over Jordan, and came to Shakem, a city of Shechem, in the land of Cannan, it is said to be when he came from Padan-aram ; intimating that till then he had not arrived at the end of his journey. Shalem is considered by Ainsworth, and some others, not as the name of a city, but as a term denoting the peace and safety with which Jacob arrived. Hence they render it, “ He came in safety, or in peace, to the city of Shechem.” It is an argument in favour of this translation, that we have no account of a city called Shalem near to Shechem. All agree that it could not be the place where Melchizedek reigned, as it was forty miles distant from it; and as to that near Enon, where John was baptizing,f it was not in the neighbourhood of Shechem, but of Jordan. This rendering also gives additional propriety and force to the phrase, When he came from Padan-aram. It is a declaration to the honour of bim who had said, Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again unto this land. He arrived in peace at his journey's end, notwithstanding the dangers and difficulties he met with by the way.

Shechem, before which Jacob pitched his tent, was a city called after the name of the son of Hamor, its king, of whom we sball presently hear more. It is the same place as that which in the New Testament is called Sychar. I Here he bought a parcel of a field, that neither he nor his cattle might trespass on the property of others. This field was afterwards taken from him, it should seem, by the Amorites ; and he was under the necessity of recovering it by his sword and his bow ; which, baving accomplished, be bequeathed it to his son Joseph. I have sometimes thought that this parcel of ground might be designed to exhibit a specimen of the whole land of Canaan. When the Most High

a

* Josh, xiii.

27.Judges viii. 5.

+ John iji, 23.

† John iv. 5.

divided to the nations their inheritance, he marked out an allot. ment for the children of Israel :* but the Canaanites taking pos. session of it, were obliged to be dispossessed by the rightful owners, with the sword and with the bow.

But that wbich requires the most particular notice, is, that he erected there an altar, and called it El-elohe-Israel ; i. e. God the God of Israel. It was worthy of this great and good man publicly to acknowledge God, after so many signal deliverances, and soon after his arrival. His first purchasing a piece of ground, and there erecting his altar, was like saying, Whenever this whole country shall be in possession of my posterity let it in this manDer be devoti.d to God. Nay, it was as if he had then taken possession of it in the name of the God of Israel, by setting up his standard in it. It is the first time also in which he is represented as availing himself of his new name, and of the covenant blessing conferred upon him under it. The name given to the altar was designed, no doubt, to be a memorial of both ; and whenever he should present his offerings upon it, to revive all those sentiments which he had felt when wrestling with God at Peniel. It were no less happy for us, than consistent with our holy profession, if every distinguishing turn of our lives were distinguished by reDewed resignations of ourselves to God. Such times and places would serve as memorials of mercy, and enable us to recover those thoughts and feelings which we possessed in our happiest days.

.* Deut. xxxii. 8.

« PreviousContinue »