Genesis 33:14 NASB

[14]Please let my lord pass on before his servant, and I will proceed at my leisure, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord at Seir."

Did Jacob deliberately mislead his brother that he would be joining him at Seir, we are only told he went to Succoth (Gen 33:17) then he came to the city of Shechem (Gen 33:18). In the narrative nowhere is it ever mentioned that he eventually visited his brother in Seir, could he have been still afraid of him?


Yes, Jacob does mislead his brother. After their dramatic reconciliation in Genesis 33, Jacob resists Esau's invitation to join him in the south (Seir) by:

  • reassuring Esau that he'll follow at a distance, 33:14a, "Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly,..."
  • only to stop well short of the final destination, 33:17, "But Jacob journeyed to Succoth...", in the environs of Shechem (33:18).

It helps to see a map to get a sense for the dynamics here:

Gen 33 map

One of the puzzles of this narrative is why Jacob even bothers to alert his estranged brother, Esau, to his presence -- which he does earlier in Genesis 32:3,

3 Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom,...

He was at that point at Mahanaim, a good distance from his starting point (Padan-aram; Gen 31:18), but still not near Seir, Esau's country. It helps to see the whole Jacob cycle at this point, as analysed by Michael Fishbane his study "Composition and Structure in the Jacob Cycle (Gen. 25:19-35:22)", Journal of Jewish Studies 26 (1975): 15-38 (and republished elsewhere, see * below) -

Jacob cycle

On this reading, Jacob's "deception" of Esau in Genesis 33 (section C1) corresponds to the earlier deception in 27:1-28:9 (section C). There are ironies: the first deception was in the domestic space (Jacob's space); the latter in the open country (Esau's space). And while it was Jacob who had the mysterious encounter (Gen 32), it is Esau who in Genesis 33 appears to be the "changed" man.

* Also reprinted in his collection Text and Texture: Close Readings of Selected Biblical Texts (Schocken, 1979), which itself was reprinted as Biblical Text and Texture: A Literary Reading of Selected Texts (Oneworld, 1998).

  • That is a good question why Jacob sent to Esau in Seir. I had assumed that Jacob had to pass by Seir, but your map shows how far away it was. Maybe Jacob wanted to make things right with his brother. Jun 6 '20 at 15:32
  • It might not be so obvious that it was deception. In Gen 23, Ephron offers to give Abraham the plot for Sarah's burial. Clearly he did not expect Abraham to take him literally. So Jacob's promise to follow Esau and his declining an escort may have been understood as a polite way to decline living together closely. These were after all middle-easterners with their own style of negotiations.
    – blearyeye
    Feb 27 at 16:42

It was the Lord who changed Jacob, the Angel who wrestled with him in Peniel... the Angel who wanted to bless Jacob, asked his name and he acknowledge he was Jacob, a deceiver but the Angel changed his name to Israel because he prevailed, that fight with the angel was a fixed fight designed for Jacob to win. The fact that God changed the name of Jacob to Israel was a sign that God was pleased with Jacob, who hanged on through the wrestling match did not let the Angel go until he receive the blessing. Fast forward Solomon said in Proverbs; "if a men's way pleases the Lord He makes even his enemies to be @ peace with him. This is why Esau's attitude towards Jacob was changed. Jacob went to Succoth which was part of the promise land Canaan to fulfill his God given destiny that is to inherit the promised land which is Canaan, not to deceive his brother Esau.

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    – sara
    Sep 16 '19 at 8:07

Jacob’s journey forward from the point of reuniting with Esau is shown in Scripture, from Genesis 33:14, on to 33:18, 35:1, 35:16, 35:21, 35:27-29, to Hebron. If you follow the journey on a map from Succoth/Shechem to Hebron, you’ll see they went right past Seir, (also spelled Sa’ir or Si’ir). :) Then from the point of Gen. 35:27-29, both Jacob’s family and Esau’s family dwelt in the same place until 36:6-8.

(As a total side note: Who knows- maybe Jacob and Esau even did the part of the journey from Seir to Hebron (to see Isaac), together! Just a thought, but that is obviously not mentioned in Scripture)


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