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Esau, having got off the beast he probably rode, ran to him, and, with all the kind feelings of a brother, put his arms round his neck and kissed him.
If Esau had come with any design to do Jacob harm, God had softened his heart ; and certainly he showed a noble spirit in forgiving his brother who had once done him so much injury, but who now, however, showed how much he wished to make him amends for it.
Next Jacob's family approached Esau, and bowed themselves also, and then Jacob offered his presents to his brother.
But Esau, not being covetous, wanted nothing to reconcile him.
Jacob, however, was not quite sure of his brother's sincerity, and, perhaps, feared that when the first warm feeling of his heart had been shown, it would grow cooler, and he might be in danger; he therefore said, “Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my
hand : for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God,"—meaning that it was pleasant, as a sight of God's favour is also pleasant," and thou wast pleased with me. In Eastern countries, if a present be offered to a superior, and he will not take it, there is much to fear from his refusal ; but if he accept it, it is a mark of his favour and protection, and there is nothing to fear.
Jacob also wished to give his brother something in token of kindness, and in return for the harm he had formerly done him. “And he urged him, and he took it."
Esau now offered either to keep him company, or to leave some servants behind as a guard of honour or safety, that he might look more grand, or be protected against dangers; but this Jacob did not need, and so they parted.
Jacob went for a while to a place called Succoth, and afterwards he removed to “Shalem, a city of Shechem," and there he bought some land for the use of his cattle.
There also he erected an altar, and called it by a name which meant God, the God of Israel: thus he returned thanks to God for having preserved him and blessed him, and allowed him to return to the land of Canaan.
The Slaying of the Shechemites.
GENESIS XXXIV. 25-31. Jacob had one daughter, called Dinah, and she was, most likely, on that account, the darling of the family, and too much indulged; but “those children neither prove the best nor the happiest that are most indulged.”
Dinah probably thinking herself lonely at home, wished to go and see the daughters of the land," and to visit the ungodly people of Shechem; and her mother, perhaps from a foolish fondness, gave her leave.
Dinah was now about fifteen or sixteen years of age; and Shechem, the prince of the country, having seen her, resolved to take her by force and carry her home, and never let her return to her father's house again, but have her for his wife.
But the family of Israel were not to marry with any of those who were not worshippers of the true God.
Shechem and his father Hamor, however, did all they could to persuade Jacob to let Shechem keep his daughter, for whom he felt a strong affection; and as in those times a man gave a dowry, or something of value, to the parents for taking away their daughters for wives, Shechem offered any sum that might be asked.
Jacob's sons pretended to agree, but on one condition, which was, that the Shechemites should practise the religious forms of the Hebrews. To this, Hamor and his son consented; and so did all the people, out of regard to their prince, who seems, notwithstanding his carrying away Dinah, to have had some good qualities.
The Shechemites, having fulfilled their agreement, and submitted to the religious customs of the Hebrews, fully relied on their good faith; but, when they were quite off their guard, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males, and rescued their sister. And “they took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field. And all their wealth, and all their little ones and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house."
This was a treacherous and cruel act on the part of Jacob's sons, and he could not but be very angry at it. It was, indeed, just in God to permit the Shechemites so to perish, for they had only become religious for the sake of pleasing their prince, and benefiting by their union with the Hebrews; and God hates hypocrisy.
But as far as it respected Jacob's sons doing this act, it was very wicked, for they broke their faith with the Shechemites, and besides that, they punished a whole city for the fault of one man.
Jacob feared now for the honour of religion, as well as for the safety of his family: for who after this would be likely to trust an Israelite ? And if
And the old man was all in a tremble. And he asked hastily who had deceived him ; but, being governed by a spirit of prophecy, that is, having spoken by the guidance of God, he said of Jacob, “I have blessed him ; yea, and he shall be blessed."
Pocr Esau now cried bitterly, and he said, “Bless me, even me also, O my father ! hast thou not reserved a blessing for me ?"
And Isaac gave him a blessing also; but it was not that of the first-born: he lost his birthright.
GENESIS XXVIII. 12, 13. Esau was in the greatest rage on account of the loss of his birthright, and as he expected that his father would soon die, he being very old, he vowed that he would then kill his brother. Rebekah was told what he said, and Jacob, by her advice, fled for safety to his uncle Laban, at Haran; but, before he left, Isaac bade him farewell, and renewed his blessing at parting.
Isaac also gave Jacob a charge that he should not take any one for a wife that did not serve the true God, and that he should therefore try and marry one of Laban's daughters. Esau knew this, and to vex his father, like a wicked man, he went directly and married a wicked woman.
“ And Jacob went out from Beersheba,” where Isaac and Rebekah now lived, “and went towards Haran, And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set: and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep."
Jacob's bed was very hard, and in this country we should find such a one likely to give a man his death, after travelling all day forty-eight miles, which is thought by learned travellers to be the distance he went: but it is very common, even now, for travellers in those parts to sleep in the open air; besides, “Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents,” and his hardy nature made him feel less the want of the comforts of home.
And, whilst Jacob was asleep, he dreamed the dream mentioned in this chapter.
This was one way in which the Lord spake to the patriarchs, and Jacob could know that it was divine, and no common dream. The ladder which he saw reaching from heaven to earth, and which was full of angels, or heavenly messengers, going up and down, will show us, as well as Jacob, that God's angels watch over us when we sleep, especially if we cast our. selves into God's care ; and how must Jacob's heart have been strengthened, when God himself then spoke and said, “ Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again unto this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of."
This event was very comforting to Jacob; and as we ought to remember the mercies of God at all times, he set up a stone on the spot, that he might know it when at any distant time he should return home; and he poured oil upon it, probably in token that there he would build an altar to worship God; for “he called the name of that place Bethel,” which means the house of God, for there he had seen God, and there he hoped again to see him in his gracious goodness towards him. “And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my
father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God :" not that he meant he should not be his God if he did not do all these things for him, for Jacob showed he would have no other God by resolving to take no wife but one that would serve God; but he meant that then he would make a particular mention of him, and declare what a God his God was. This appears from what he further says: “This stone which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house : and of all that thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto thee."
Jacob and the Daughters of Laban.
GENESIS XXIX. 15—20. Jacob, now knowing well that God would protect him, went on gladly to Haran, or " The Land of the People of the East," as it lay east of Canaan.
On coming to Haran he saw a well—perhaps the same where Abraham's servant stopped ; and there is a well near that spot still, called by some Jacob's Well
, although Jacob was there between three and four thousand
There he also stopped ; and there were flocks of sheep resting near it, waiting for water, attended by their shepherds.
Jacob very civilly spoke to the shepherds, and asked if they knew Laban. They told him that they did know him—that he was well, and that Rachel, his daughter, was then coming with her father's sheep, to get water for them.
Jacob rolled away the great stone which covered the well, to keep the water clean, “and watered the flock of Laban, his mother's brother."
God did not particularly guard him, all the tribes round about might fall upon him, to avenge so cruel a deed.
Jacob and the Strange Gods.
GENESIS Xxxv. 1-5. While Jacob was perplexed about the cruel conduct of his sons Simeon and Levi, and afraid lest it should bring a host of enemies upon him, God appeared to him, and commanded him to remove to Bethel.
Jacob then ordered all the false gods to be put out of his family, 'which it is supposed that the servants he brought from Syria, when he left Laban, had kept among them, and, perhaps, some had been brought from the Shechemites.
Jacob now ordered the garments of his people also to be changed, for, perhaps, many of them were stained with blood in the late cruel affair.
He likewise took away a quantity of ear-rings, which were either stuck in the ears of the false gods, or worn by the people as charms to protect them, as they thought, from danger; and these he buried with the strange gods under an oak tree, near Shechem, that nobody might have them any more.
And though Jacob was now in as much or more danger than he was formerly from Esau, yet God made the people around afraid of touching him; and so he escaped, and went to Bethel, and there he praised and worshipped God, and set up a pillar, as we build monuments, in remembrance of his goodness.
Jacob then removed from Bethel, and on his journey Benjamin was born, and Rachel his mother died. This chapter also tells us that Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died; and that Isaac died, aged one hundred and eighty years : he was a good and peaceable man. Esau and Jacob, being reconciled, united in burying their good old father.
In this chapter we have the names of Jacob's twelve sons, who were called the twelve patriarchs, or chiefs, of numerous families and tribes.
Leah's sons were six: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulon. She was also the mother of Dinah, Jacob's daughter.
Rachel had two sons, Joseph and Benjamin.
Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid, had two sons, Dan and Naphtali. And Zilpah, Leah's handmaid, had two sons, Gad and Asher.
The tribe of Joseph was usually called after the names of his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim; and though this would make thirteen tribes, yet