(Calvin, Genesis 2. part 12)

appears to be weak *against* us, that he may conquer *in* us. Some 
restrict this to one kind of temptation only, where God openly and 
avowedly manifests himself as our adversary, as if armed for our 
destruction. And truly, I confess, that this differs from common 
conflicts, and requires, beyond all others, a rare, and even heroic 
strength. Yet I include willingly every kind of conflict in which God 
exercises the faithful: since in all they have God for an antagonist, 
although he may not openly proclaim himself hostile unto them. That 
Moses here calls him a man whom a little after he declares to have been 
God, is a sufficiently usual form of speech. For since God appeared 
under the form of a man, the name is thence assumed; just as, because of 
the visible symbol, the Spirit is called a dove; and, in turn, the name 
of the Spirit is transferred to the dove. That this disclosure was not 
sooner made to the holy man, I understand to be for this reason, because 
God had resolved to call him, as a soldier, robust and skilful in war, 
to more severe contests. For as raw recruits are spared, and young oxen 
are not immediately yoked to the plough; so the Lord more gently 
exercises his own people, until, having gathered strength, they become 
more inured to toil. Jacob, therefore, having been accustomed to bear 
sufferings, is now led forth to real war. Perhaps also, the Lord had 
reference to the conflict which was then approaching. But I think Jacob 
was admonished, at his very entrance on the promised land, that he was 
not there to expect a tranquil life for himself. For his return to his 
own country might seem to be a kind of release; and thus Jacob, like a 
soldier who had kept his term of service, would have given himself up to 
repose. Wherefore it was highly necessary for him to be taught what his 
future conditions should be. We, also, are to learn from him, that we 
must fight during the whole course of our life; lest any one, promising 
himself rest, should wilfully deceive himself. And this admonition is 
very needful for us; for we see how prone we are to sloth. Whence it 
arises, that we shall not only be thinking of a truce in perpetual war; 
but also of peace in the heat of the conflict, unless the Lord rouse us. 
  25. "And when he saw that he prevailed not against him." Here is 
described to us the victory of Jacob, which, however, was not gained 
without a wound. In saying that the wrestling angel, or God, wished to 
retire from the contest, because he saw he should not prevail, Moses 
speaks after the manner of men. For we know that God, when he descends 
from his majesty to us, is wont to transfer the properties of human 
nature to himself. The Lord knew with certainty the event of the 
contest, before he came down to engage in it; he had even already 
determined what he would do: but his knowledge is here put for the 
experience of the thing itself. 
  "He touched the hollow of his thigh." Though Jacob gains the victory; 
yet the angel strikes him on the thigh, from which cause he was lame 
even to the end of his life. And although the vision was by night, yet 
the Lord designed this mark of it to continue through all his days, that 
it might thence appear not to have been a vain dream. Moreover, by this 
sign it is made manifest to all the faithful, that they can come forth 
conquerors in their temptations, only by being injured and wounded in 
the conflict. For we know that the strength of God is made perfect in 
our weakness, in order that our exaltation may be joined with humility; 
for if our own strength remained entire, and there were no injury or 
dislocation produced, immediately the flesh would become haughty, and we 
should forget that we had conquered by the help of God. But the wound 
received, and the weakness which follows it, compel us to be modest. 
  26. "Let me go." God concedes the praise of victory to his servant, 
and is ready to depart, as if unequal to him in strength: not because a 
truce was needed by him, to whom it belongs to grant a truce or peace 
whenever he pleases; but that Jacob might rejoice over the grace 
afforded to him. A wonderful method of triumphing; where the Lord, to 
whose power all praise is entirely due, yet chooses that feeble man 
shall excel as a conqueror, and thus raises him on high with special 
eulogy. At the same time he commends the invincible perseverance of 
Jacob, who, having endured a long and severe conflict, still strenuously 
maintains his ground. And certainly we adopt a proper mode of 
contending, when we never grow weary, till the Lord recedes of his own 
accord. We are, indeed, permitted to ask him to consider our infirmity, 
and, according to his paternal indulgence, to spare the tender and the 
weak: we may even groan under our burden, and desire the termination of 
our contests; nevertheless, in the meantime, we must beware lest our 
minds should become relaxed or faint; and rather endeavour, with 
collected mind and strength, to persist unwearied in the conflict. The 
reason which the angel assigns, namely, that the day breaketh, is to 
this effect, that Jacob may now that he has been divinely taught by the 
nocturnal vision. 
  "I will not let thee go, except." Hence it appears, that at length the 
holy man knew his antagonist; for this prayer, in which he asks to be 
blessed, is no common prayer. The inferior is blessed by the greater; 
and therefore it is the property of God alone to bless us. Truly the 
father of Jacob did not otherwise bless him, than by divine command, as 
one who represented the person of God. A similar office also was imposed 
on the priests under the law, that, as ministers and expositors of 
divine grace, they might bless the people. Jacob knew, then, that the 
combatant with whom he had wrestled was God; because he desires a 
blessing from him, which it was not lawful simply to ask from mortal 
man. So, in my judgment, ought the place in Hosea (chap. 12: 3) to be 
understood, "Jacob prevailed over the angel, and was strengthened; he 
wept, and made supplication to him." For the Prophet means, that after 
Jacob had come off conqueror, he was yet a suppliant before God, and 
prayed with tears. Moreover, this passage teaches us always to expect 
the blessing of God, although we may have experienced his presence to be 
harsh and grievous, even to the disjointing of our members. For it is 
far better for the sons of God to be blessed, though mutilated and half 
destroyed, than to desire that peace in which they shall fall asleep, or 
than they should withdraw themselves from the presence of God, so as to 
turn away from his command, that they may riot with the wicked. 
  28. "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob." Jacob, as we have seen, 
received his name from his mother's womb, because he had seized the heel 
of his brother's foot, and had attempted to hold him back. God now gives 
him a new and more honorable name; not that he may entirely abolish the 
other, which was a token of memorable grace, but that he may testify a 
still higher progress of his grace. Therefore, of the two names the 
second is preferred to the former, as being more honorable. The name is 
derived from "sarah" or "sur", which signifies to rule, as if he were 
called a Prince of God: for I have said, a little before, that God had 
transferred the praise of his own strength to Jacob, for the purpose of 
triumphing in his person. The explanation of the name which is 
immediately annexed, is thus given literally by Moses, "Because thou 
hast ruled with, or, towards God and towards man, and shalt prevail." 
Yet the sense seems to be faithfully rendered by Jerome: but if Jacob 
acted thus heroically with God, much more should he prove superior to 
men; for certainly it was the purpose of God to send forth his servant 
to various combats, inspired with the confidence resulting from so great 
a victory, lest he should afterwards become vacillating. For he does not 
merely impose a name, as risen are accustomed to do, but with the name 
he gives the thing itself which the name implies, that the event may 
correspond with it. 
  29. "Tell me, I pray thee, thy name." This seems opposed to what is 
declared above; for I have lately said, that when Jacob sought a 
blessing, it was a token of his submission. Why, therefore, as if he 
were of doubtful mind, does he now inquire the name of him whom he had 
before acknowledged to be God? But the solution of the question is easy; 
for, though Jacob does acknowledge God, yet, not content will an obscure 
and slight knowledge, he wishes to ascend higher. And it is not to be 
wondered at, that the holy man, to whom God had manifested himself under 
so many veils and coverings, that he had not yet obtained any clear 
knowledge of him, should break forth in this wish; nay, it is certain 
that all the saints, under the law, were inflamed with this desire. Such 
a prayer also of Manoah, is read in the book of Judges, (13:18), to 
which the answer from God is added, except that there, the Lord 
pronounces his name to be wonderful and secret, in order that Manoah may 
not proceed further. The sum therefore is this, that though Jacob's wish 
was pious, the Lord does not grant it, because the time of full 
revelation was not yet completed: for the fathers, in the beginning, 
were required to walk in the twilight of morning; and the Lord 
manifested himself to them, by degrees, until, at length, Christ the Sun 
of Righteousness arose, in whom perfect brightness shines forth. This is 
the reason why he rendered himself more conspicuous to Moses, who 
nevertheless was only permitted to behold his glory from behind: yet 
because he occupied an intermediate place between patriarchs and 
apostles, he is said, in comparison with them, to have seen, face to 
face, the God Who had been hidden from the fathers. But now, since God 
has approached more nearly unto us, our ingratitude is most impious and 
detestable, if we do not run to meet with ardent desire to obtain such 
great grace; as also Peter admonishes us in the first chapter of his 
first epistle. (Ver. 12, 13.) It is to be observed, that although Jacob 
piously desires to know God more fully, yet, because he is carried 
beyond the bounds prescribed to the age in which he lived, he suffers a 
repulse: for the Lord, cutting short his wish, commands him to rest 
contented with his own blessing. But if that measure of illumination 
which we have received, was denied to the holy man, how intolerable will 
be our curiosity, if it breaks forth beyond the contended limit now 
prescribed by God. 
  30. "And Jacob called the name of the place." The gratitude of our 
father Jacob is again commended, because he took diligent care that the 
memory of God's grace should never perish. He therefore leaves a 
monument to posterity, from which they might know that God had appeared 
there; for this was not a private vision, but had reference to the whole 
Church. Moreover, Jacob not only declares that he has seen the face of 
God, but also gives thanks that he has been snatched from death. This 
language frequently occurs in the Scriptures, and was common among the 
ancient people; and not without reason; for, if the earth trembles at 
the presence of God, if the mountains melt, if darkness overspreads the 
heavens, what must happen to miserable men! Nay, since the immense 
majesty of God cannot be comprehended even by angels, but rather absorbs 
them; were his glory to shine on us it would destroy us, and reduce us 
to nothing, unless he sustained and protected us. So long as we do not 
perceive God to be present, we proudly please ourselves; and this is the 
imaginary life which the flesh foolishly arrogates to itself when it 
inclines towards the earth. But the faithful, when God reveals himself 
to them, feel themselves to be more evanescent than any smoke. Finally; 
would we bring down the pride of the flesh, we must draw near to God. So 
Jacob confesses that, by the special indulgence of God, he had been 
rescued from destruction when he saw God. It may however be asked, "Why, 
when he had obtained so slight a taste only of God's glory, he should 
boast that he had seen him, face to face?" I answer, it is in no way 
absurd that Jacob highly celebrates this vision above all others, in 
which the Lord had not so plainly appeared unto him; and yet, if it be 
compared with the splendour of the gospel, or even of the law, it will 
appear like sparks, or obscure rays. The simple meaning then is, that he 
saw God in an unwonted and extraordinary manner. Now, if Jacob so 
greatly exults and congratulates himself in that slender measure of 
knowledge; what ought we to do at this day, to whom Christ, the living 
image of God, is evidently set before our eyes in the mirror of the 
gospel! Let us therefore learn to open our eyes, lest we be blind at 
noonday, as Paul exhorts us in the second epistle to the Corinthians, 
the third and fourth chapters. 
  31. "And he halted upon his thigh." It is probable, and it may be 
gathered even from the words of Moses, that this halting was without the 
sense of pain, in order that the miracle might be the more evident. For 
God, in the flesh of his servant, has exhibited a spectacle to all ages, 
from which the faithful may perceive that no one is such a powerful 
combatant as not to carry away some wound after a spiritual convict, for 
infirmity ever cleaves to all, that no one may be pleased with himself 
above measure. Whereas Moses relates that the Jews abstained from the 
shrunken sinew, or that part of the thigh in which it was placed: this 
was not done out of superstition. For that age, as we know, was the 
infancy of the Church; wherefore the Lord retained the faithful, who 
then lived, under the teaching of the schoolmaster. And now, though, 
since the coming of Christ, our condition is more free; the memory of 
the fact ought to be retained among us, that God disciplined his people 
of old by external ceremonies. 
1 And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and 
with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and 
unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids. 
2 And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her 
children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost. 
3 And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven 
times, until he came near to his brother. 
4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and 
kissed him: and they wept. 
5 And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and 
said, Who [are] those with thee? And he said, The children which God 
hath graciously given thy servant. 
6 Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they 
bowed themselves. 
7 And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves: and 
after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves. 
8 And he said, What [meanest] thou by all this drove which I met? And he 
said, [These are] to find grace in the sight of my lord. 
9 And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto 
10 And Jacob 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, and thou wast pleased with 
11 Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God 
hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged 
him, and he took [it]. 
12 And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go 
before thee. 
13 And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children [are] tender, 
and the flocks and herds with young [are] with me: and if men should 
overdrive them one day, all the flock will die. 
14 Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will 
lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the 
children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir. 
15 And Esau said, Let me now leave with thee [some] of the folk that 
[are] with me. And he said, What needeth it? let me find grace in the 
sight of my lord. 
16 So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir. 
17 And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made 
booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called 
18 And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which [is] in the land 
of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the 
19 And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at 
the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred 
pieces of money. 
20 And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel. 
1. "And Jacob lifted up his eyes." We have said how greatly Jacob feared 
for himself from his brother; but now when Esau himself approaches, his 
terror is not only renewed, but increased. For although he goes forth 
like a courageous and spirited combatant to this contest, he is still 
not exempt from a sense of danger; whence it follows, that he is not 
free, either from anxiety or fear. For his cruel brother had still the 
same cause of hatred against him as before. And it was not probable, 
that, after he had left his father's house, and had been living as he 
pleased, he had become more mild. Therefore, as in a doubtful affair, 
and one of great danger, Jacob placed his wives and children in the 
order described; that, if Esau should attempt anything hostile, the 
whole seed might not perish, but part might have time for flight. The 
only thing which appears to be done by him out of order is, that he 
prefers Rachel and her son Joseph to all the rest; whereas the substance 
of the benediction is really in Judah. But his excuse in reference to 
Judah is, that the oracle had not yet been revealed; nor, in fact, was 
made known till shortly before his death, in order that he might become 
at once its witness and its herald. Meanwhile, it is not to be denied, 
that he was excessively indulgent to Rachel. It is, indeed, a proof of 
distinguished courage, that, from a desire to preserve a part of his 
seed, he precedes his companies, and offers himself as a victim, if 
necessity demanded it. For there is no doubt that the promise of God was 
his authority and his guide in this design; nor would he have been able, 
unless sustained by the contident expectation of celestial life, thus 
bravely to meet death. It happens, indeed, sometimes, that a father, 
regardless of himself, will expose his life to danger for his children: 
but holy Jacob's reason was different; for the promise of God was so 
deeply fixed in his mind, that he, disregarding the earth, looked up 
towards heaven. But while he follows the word of God, yet by the 
affection of the flesh, he is slightly drawn aside from the right way. 
For the faith of the holy fathers was not so pure, in all respects, but 
that they were liable to swerve to one side or the other. Nevertheless, 
the Spirit always so far prevailed, that the infirmity of the flesh 
might not divert them from their aim, but that they might hold on their 
course. So much the more ought every one of us to be suspicious of 
himself, lest he should deem himself perfectly pure, because he intends 
to act rightly; for the flesh ever mingles itself with our holy purpose, 
and many faults and corruptions steal in upon us. But God deals kindly 
with us, and does not impute faults of this kind to us. 
  3. "And bowed himself to the ground seven times." This, indeed, he 
might do for the sake of giving honour: for we know that the people of 
the east are addicted to far more ceremonies than are in use with us. To 
me, however, it seems more probable, that Jacob did not pay this honour 
simply to his brother, but that he worshipped God, partly to give him 
thanks, and partly to implore him to render his brother propitious; for 
he is said to have bowed down seven times before he approached his 
brother. Therefore, before he came in sight of his brother, he had 
already given the token of reverence or worship. Hence we may 
conjecture, as I have said, that this homage was paid to God and not to 
man: yet this is not at variance with the fact, that he also approached 
as a suppliant, for the purpose of assuaging his brother's ferocity by 
his humiliation. If any one object, that in this manner he depreciated 
his right of primogeniture; the answer is easy, that the holy man, by 
the eyes of faith, was looking higher; for he knew that the effect of 
the benediction was deferred to its proper season, and was, therefore, 
now like the decaying seed under the earth. Therefore, although he was 
despoiled of his patrimony, and lay contemptible at his brother's feet; 
yet since he knew that his birthright was secured to him, he was 
contented with this latent right, counted honours and riches as nothing, 
and did not shrink from being regarded as an inferior in the presence of 
his brother. 
  4. "And Esau ran to meet him." That Esau meets his brother with 
unexpected benevolence and kindness, is the effect of the special favour 
of God. Therefore, by this method, God proved that he has the hearts of 
men in his hand, to soften their hardness, and to mitigate their cruelty 
as often as he pleases: in short, that he tames them as wild beasts are 
wont to be tamed; and then, that he hearkened to the prayers of his 
servant Jacob. Wherefore, if at any time the threats of enemies alarm 
us, let us learn to resort to this sacred anchor. God, indeed, works in 
various ways, and does not always incline cruel minds to humanity; but, 
while they rage, he restrains them from doing harm by his own power: but 
if it is right, he can as easily render them placable towards us; and we 
here see that Esau became so towards his brother Jacob. It is also 
possible, that even while cruelty was pent up within, the feeling of 
humanity may have had a temporary ascendancy. And as we see that the 
Egyptians were constrained, for a moment, to the exercise of humanity, 
although they were rendered nothing better than before, as their 
madness, which soon afterwards broke out, bears witness: so it is 
credible that the malice of Esau was now under constraint; and not only 
so, but that his mind was divinely moved to put on fraternal affection. 
For even in the reprobate, God's established order of nature prevails, 
not indeed in an even tenor, but as far as he restrains them, to the end 
that they may not mingle all things in one common slaughter. And this is 
most necessary for the preservation of the human race. For few are so 
governed by the spirit of adoption, as sincerely to cultivate mutual 
charity among themselves, as brethren. Therefore, that men spare each 
other, and do not furiously rush on each other's destruction, arises 
from no other cause than the secret providence of God, which watches for 
the protection of mankind. But to God the life of his own faithful 
people is still more precious, so that he vouchsafes to them peculiar 
care. Wherefore it is no wonder, that for the sake of his servant Jacob, 
he should have composed the fierce mind of Esau to gentleness. 
  5. "And he lifted up his eyes." Moses relates the conversation held 
between the brothers. And as Esau had testified his fraternal affection 
by tears and embraces, there is no doubt that he inquires after the 
children in a spirit of congratulation. The answer of Jacob breathes 
piety as well as modesty; for when he replies, that his numerous seed 
had been given him by God, he acknowledges and confesses that children 
are not so produced by nature as to subvert the truth of the 
declaration, that "the fruit of the womb is a reward and gift of God." 
And truly, since the fecundity of brute animals is the gift of God, how 
much more is this the case with men, who are created after his own 
image. Let parents then learn to consider, and to celebrate the singular 
kindness of God, in their offspring. It is the language of modesty, when 
Jacob calls himself the servant of his brother. Here again it is proper 
to recall to memory what I have lately touched upon, that the holy man 
caught at nothing either of earthly advantage or honour in the 
birthright; because the hidden grace of God was abundantly sufficient 
for him, until the appointed time of manifestation. And it becomes us 
also, according to his example, while we sojourn in this world, to 
depend upon the word of the Lord; that we may not deem it wearisome, to 
be held wrapped in the shadow of death, until our real life be 
manifested. For although apparently our condition is miserable and 
accursed, yet the Lord blesses us with his word; and, on this account 
only, pronounces us happy, because he owns us as sons. 
  6. "Then the handmaidens came near." The wives of Jacob, having left 
their country, had come as exiles into a distant land. Now, at their 
first entrance, the terror of death meets them; and when they prostrate 
themselves in the presence of Esau, they do not know whether they are 
not doing homage to their executioner. This trial was very severe to 
them, and grievously tormented the mind of the holy man: but it was 
right that his obedience should be thus tried, that he might become an 
example to us all. Moreover, the Holy Spirit here places a mirror before 
us, in which we may contemplate the state of the Church as it appears in 
the world. For though many tokens of the divine favour are manifest in 
the family of Jacob; nevertheless we perceive no dignity in him while 
lying with unmerited contempt in the presence of a profane man. Jacob 
also himself thinks that he is well treated, if he may be permitted by 
his brother, as a matter of favour, to dwell in the land of which he was 
the heir and lord. Therefore let us bear it patiently, if, at this day 
also, the glory of the Church, being covered with a sordid veil, is an 
object of derision to the wicked. 
  8. "What meanest thou by all this drove?" He does not inquire as if he 
were altogether ignorant; seeing he had heard from the servants, that 
oxen and camels and asses and other cattle were sent him as a present; 
but for the purpose of refusing the gift offered to him: for when 
anything does not please us, we are wont to make inquiry as concerning a 
thing unknown to us. Jacob, however; is urgent; nor does he cease to 
ask, till he induces his brother to receive the gift: for this was as a 
pledge of reconciliation. Besides, for the purpose of persuading his 
brother, he declares, that it would be taken as a great kindness not to 
refuse what was given. For we do not willingly receive anything but what 
we certainly know to be offered to us freely and with a ready mind. And 
because it is not possible that we should willingly honour any but those 
we love, Jacob says that he rejoiced in the sigh of his brother as if he 
had seen God or an angel: by which words he means, not only that he 
truly loved his brother, but also that he held him in esteem. But it may 
seem, that he does wrong to God, in comparing Him with a reprobate man; 
and that he speaks falsely, because had the choice been given him, he 
would have desired nothing more earnestly than to avoid this meeting 
with his brother. Both these knots are easily untied. It is an 
accustomed form of speaking among the Hebrews, to call whatever is 
excellent, divine. And certainly Esau being thus changed, was no obscure 
figure of the favour of God: so that Jacob might properly say, that he 
had been exhilarated by that friendly and fraternal reception, as if he 
had seen God or an angel; that is, as if God had given some sign of his 
presence. And, indeed, he does not speak feignedly, nor pretend 
something different from what he has in his mind. For, being himself 
perfectly free from all hatred, it was his chief wish, to discharge 
whatever duty he could towards his brother; provided that Esau, in 
return, would show himself a brother to him. 
  10. "Receive my present at my hand." This noun may be taken passively 
as well as actively. If understood actively, the sense will be, "Accept 
the present by which I desire to testify my goodwill towards thee." If 
understood passively, it may be referred to God, as if Jacob had said, 
"Those things which the Lord has bestowed upon me by his grace, I 
liberally impart to thee, that thou mayest be, in some measure, a 
partaker with me of that divine blessing which I have received." But not 
to insist upon a word, Jacob immediately afterwards clearly avows that 
whatever he possesses, is not the fruit of his labour or industry, but 
has been received by him through the grace of God, and by this reasoning 
he attempts to induce his brother to accept the gift; as if he had said, 
"The Lord has poured upon me an abundance, of which some part, without 
any loss to me, may overflow to thee." And though Jacob thus speaks 
under the impulse of present circumstances, he yet makes an ingenuous 
confession by which he celebrates the grace of God. Nearly the same 
words are on the tongues of all; but there are few who truly ascribe to 
God what they possess: the greater part sacrifice to their own industry. 
Scarcely one in a hundred is convinced, that whatever is good flows from 
the gratuitous favour of God; and yet by nature this sense is engraven 
upon our minds, but we obliterate it by our ingratitude. It has appeared 
already, how labourious was the life of Jacob: nevertheless, though he 
had suffered the greatest annoyances, he celebrates only the mercy of 
  12. "Let us take our journey." Although Esau was inclined to 
benevolence, Jacob still distrusts him: not that he fears to be 
ensnared, or that he suspects perfidy to lie hidden under the garb of 
friendship; but that he cautiously avoids new occasions of offense: for 
a proud and ferocious man might easily be exasperated again by light 
causes. Now, though just reason for fear was not wanting to the holy 
man, yet I dare not deny that his anxiety was excessive. He suspected 
the liberality of Esau; but did he not know that a God was standing 
between them, who, as he was convinced by clear and undoubted 
experience, watched for his salvation? For, whence such an incredible 
change of mind in Esau, unless he had been divinely transformed from a 
wolf into a lamb? Let us then learn, from this example, to restrain our 
anxieties, lest when God has provided for us, we tremble, as in an 
affair of doubt. 
  13. "My lord knoweth." The things which Jacob alleges, as grounds of 
excuse, are true; nevertheless he introduces them under false pretexts; 
except, perhaps, as regards the statement, that he was unwilling to be 
burdensome and troublesome to his brother. But since he afterwards turns 
his journey in another direction, it appears that he feigned something 
foreign to what was really in his mind. He says that he brings with him 
many encumbrances, and therefore requests his brother to precede him. "I 
will follow (he says) at the feet of the children; that is, I will 
proceed gently as the pace of the children will bear; and thus I will 
follow at my leisure, until I come to thee in Mount Seir." In these 
words he promises what he was not intending to do; for, leaving his 
brother, he journeyed to a different place. But truth is so precious to 
God, that he will not allow us to lie or deceive, even when no injury 
follows. Wherefore, we must take care, when any fear of danger occupies 
our minds, that we do not turn aside to these subterfuges. 
  17. "And Jacob journeyed to Succoth." In the word Succoth, as Moses 
shortly afterwards shows, there is a prolepsis. It is probable that 
Jacob rested there for some days, that he might refresh his family and 
his flock after the toil of a long journey; for he had found no quiet 
resting-place till he came thither. And therefore he gave to that place 
the name of Succoth, or "Tents," because he had not dared firmly to 
plant his foot elsewhere. For though he had pitched tents in many other 
places; yet on this alone he fixes the memorial of divine grace, because 
now at length it was granted to him that he might remain in some abode. 
But since it was not commodious as a dwelling-place, Jacob proceeded 
farther till he came to Sichem. Now, whereas the city has its recent 
name from the son of Hamor, its former name is also mentioned, (ver. 
18;) for I agree with the interpreters who think Salem to be a proper 
name. Although I do not contend, if any one prefers a different 
interpretation; namely, that Jacob came in safety to Sichem. But though 
this city may have been called Salem, we must nevertheless observe, that 
it was different from the city afterwards called Jerusalem; as there 
were also two cities which bore the name of Succoth. As respects the 
subject in hand, the purchase of land which Moses records in the 
nineteenth verse, may seem to have been absurd. For Abraham would buy 
nothing all his life but a sepulchre; and Isaac his son, waiving all 
immediate possession of lands, was contented with that paternal 
inheritance; for God had constituted them lords and heirs of the land, 
with this condition, that they should be strangers in it unto death. 
Jacob therefore may seem to have done wrong in buying a field for 
himself with money, instead of waiting the proper time. I answer, that 
Moses has not expressed all that ought to come freely into the mind of 
the reader. Certainly from the price we may readily gather that the holy 
man was not covetous. He pays a hundred pieces of money; could he 
acquire for himself large estates at so small a price, or anything more 
shall some nook in which he might live without molestation? Besides, 
Moses expressly relates that he bought that part on which he had pitched 
his tent opposite the city. Therefore he possessed neither meadows, nor 
vineyards, nor stable land. But since the inhabitants did not grant him 
an abode near the city, he made an agreement with them, and purchased 
peace at a small price. This necessity was his excuse; so that no one 
might say, that he had bought from man what he ought to have expected as 
the free gift of God: or that, when he ought to have embraced, by hope, 
the dominion of the promised land, he had been in too great haste to 
enjoy it. 
  20. "And he erected there an altar." Jacob having obtained a place in 
which he might provide for his family, set up the solemn service of God; 
as Moses before testified concerning Abraham and Isaac. For although, in 
every place, they gave themselves up to the pure worship of God in 
prayers and other acts of devotion; nevertheless they did not neglect 
the external confession of piety, whenever the Lord granted them any 
fixed place in which they might remain. For (as I have elsewhere stated) 
whenever we read that an altar was built by them, we must consider its 
design and use: namely, that they might offer victims, and might invoke 
the name of God with a pure rite; so that, by this method, their 
religion and faith might be made known. I say this, lest any one should 
think that they rashly trifled with the worship of God; for it was their 
care to direct their actions according to the divinely prescribed rule 
which was handed down to them from Noah and Shem. Wherefore, under the 
word "altar," let the reader understand, by synecdoche, the external 
testimony of piety. Moreover, it may hence be clearly perceived how 
greatly the love of divine worship prevailed in the holy man; because 
though broken down by various troubles, he nevertheless was not 
forgetful of the altar. And not only does he privately worship God in 
the secret feeling of his mind; but he exercises himself in ceremonies 
which are useful and commanded by God. For he knew that men want helps, 
as long as they are in the flesh, and that sacrifices were not 
instituted without reason. He had also another purpose; namely, that his 
whole family should worship God with the same sense of piety. For it 
behaves a pious father of a family diligently to take care that he has 
no profane house, but rather that God should reign there as in a 
sanctuary. Besides, since the inhabitants of that region had fallen into 
many superstitions, and had corrupted the true worship of God, Jacob 
wished to make a distinction between himself and them. The Shechemites 
and other neighbouring nations had certainly altars of their own. 

(continued in part 13...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: cvgn2-12.txt