Good evening, and welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the book of Genesis. Tonight is study #1 of Genesis 33, and we will be reading Genesis 33:1-5:
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. And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost. And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept. 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.
I will stop reading there. We are moving on into another chapter of Genesis, but it is continuing the account from the previous chapter in Genesis 32. Actually it has been a continuing tale since chapter 31 when Jacob fled (with his wives and children and flocks) from Laban in Haran. So the time is the same. It is still that 40th year, as Jacob spent 40 years in Haran. He is 100 years old, and the Lord has just changed his name to “Israel,” which means “as a prince he has power with God.”
Esau, his brother, has come, and we saw the spiritual meaning of Esau in the last chapter, and we will look at that again because God will direct us to do so. We saw that Esau and his 400 men are a picture of the Law of God. We have not talked too much about the 400 (men), although we can see that the number “400” is “10 x 40,” and, again, it is the 40th year, the “testing program” of God.
Remember when the Lord Jesus was tempted by the devil in Matthew 4, the temptation really increased at the point of the 40 days. We can see this if we go to Matthew 4:1:
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
So the fasting of 40 days and 40 nights seems to have appeared first, and afterwards, Jesus was hungred. And then it says in Matthew 4:3:
And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
This appears to be happening on the 40th day after this long period of fasting. We will not go to other examples of the number “40,” but at least we can see in our verse that the 40 years had passed in which Jacob was in Haran, but the “testing” has not ceased, but it has intensified. It has increased, with Laban pursuing Jacob and their encounter on mount Gilead, and now there is the meeting with his brother Esau who had intended to kill him because his blessing had been taken away through deception, and so forth. But now Esau was coming with 400 men, and that was a big army. We can see the spiritual meaning of 400 being “10 x 4,” with “10” pointing to completeness, and “4” pointing to testing, so the completeness of testing is in view.
But what about these 400 men? What will assist us in seeing who they might represent is to look in the Bible to see if there are any other references to 400 men. We find several instances. Let us go to 1Kings 18:19:
Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table.
This was the tremendous contest between the true prophet Elijah and the false prophets. There were 450 false prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the groves which ate at Jezebel’s table. Jezebel was notorious as a symbol of the apostate church with another kind of gospel. She was a wicked woman, as Revelation 2 teaches us in Revelation 2:20:
Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
To commit fornication in a spiritual sense is to teach falsehoods and wrong gospels, and these 400 prophets of the grove ate at Jezebel’s table. They were involved in idolatry and spiritual fornication.
That does not bode well for the meaning of 400 men. Also, let us go to 1Kings 22 where we read of a historical event where the king of Judah joined together with the king of Israel, Jehoshaphat, and it says in 1Kings 22:5-6:
And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Enquire, I pray thee, at the word of JEHOVAH to day. Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.
These prophets proved to be false, and there was a lone man, Micaiah, who was a true prophet. And Jehoshaphat sensed that these prophets that spoke with one voice were not true men, and he asked, “Is there not here a prophet of JEHOVAH besides?” And then the king of Israel said, “There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of JEHOVAH: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.” But Micaiah the son of Imlah was called, and he first mocked and said, “Go up to Ramothgilead and prosper,” but then he spoke the truth and he said that if the king went up, he was going to die. Then the king of Israel said, “Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?” But, again, there are 400 prophets, but they are not faithful men. They are ungodly, wicked men.
If we go to 2Chronicles 18, we read the parallel account in 2Chronicles 18:5:
Therefore the king of Israel gathered together of prophets four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall we go to Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear?
They told him to go up and he would prosper, which was a lie. So they were not prophets of God. They were prophets that claimed relationship to God, but they did not have it.
In 1Samuel 22, we read of David, a type of Christ, and he had 400 men, so maybe there is a possibility of 400 men being a picture of God’s people. Let us take a look at 1Samuel 22:1-2:
David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father's house heard it, they went down thither to him. And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.
Well, that sounds promising. That sounds pretty good. They were people that were in distress and in debt. (People that were discontented could be a concern.) David is a great type of Christ, and 400 men came to him as he was being persecuted by Saul. We might think, “They could represent God’s elect.” But let us follow this account for a bit, and in 1Samuel 25 we read of Nabal who spoke roughly and foolishly to David’s men when David requested that Nabal provide for his men because they had been keeping watch and safeguarding Nabal’s flocks. David was about to destroy him, and it says in 1Samuel 25:12-13:
So David's young men turned their way, and went again, and came and told him all those sayings. And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff.
David was going to fight a battle against Nabal, and we know that in this account, Nabal’s wife Abigail came with food for David’s men and interceded on behalf of her husband and their household that he would not smite it. David received her intercession, and his wrath was turned away.
But notice that there are now 600 men: “David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff.” So that is significant. Now David has 600 men, and the number “600” would identify with the “completeness of work,” would it not? It is “6 x 10 x 10.” There are multiples of the number “10,” and the number “6” points to “work.” God created the world in six days, and He rested the seventh day. That is one example. But even though there are 600 men, they were broken up, and 400 went with David and 200 stayed with the stuff and remained behind. And we will see that is important because it happens again when we look at an account in 1Samuel 30 where the Amalekites had invaded and taken captive the wives of David and his men. We read in 1Samuel 30:3-6:
So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David's two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in JEHOVAH his God.
Then let us go down to 1Samuel 30:9:
So David went, he and the six hundred men that were with him, and came to the brook Besor, where those that were left behind stayed. But David pursued, he and four hundred men: for two hundred abode behind, which were so faint that they could not go over the brook Besor.
Again, there is a separation. There were 600 men, and 400 continued on with David to battle while 200 men were too faint and stayed behind, and we will see they stayed with the stuff. But before we look at that, I should point out that we are seeing, once again, a clear one third/two thirds relationship with the number of men. There were 600 total, and 400 went with David, which would be two thirds, while 200 remained behind, which would be one third. What do we know about this kind of breakdown? God tells us in Zechariah 13, and He gives us the spiritual meaning of this in Zechariah 13:8:
And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith JEHOVAH, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.
Here we see two parts that are cut off and die, and one part is left. Then it says in Zechariah 13:9:
And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, JEHOVAH is my God.
This is basically a strong biblical type and figure that we find again, and again. For example, we see it with the captains and their fifty in 2Kings 1. Two captains and their fifty were burned up, and a third captain and his fifty pleaded for mercy and they were spared and lived, just as God says He would “bring the third part through the fire.”
And now we are seeing this relationship with David and his 600 men. The 400 are “two parts” or “two thirds,” and they went with him into battle against the Amalekites. And another “third part” stayed behind and did not engage in the battle, just as we saw in the account of Nabal.
Now if we looked at this from a worldly perspective and the minds of worldly men, we would say the 400 were the honorable ones. They were the brave and true patriots. They were the ones that stayed with David to fight and, of course, historically, this has some truth and would seem to be a correct idea. On the other hand, the 200 stayed with the stuff, and in this case they were “too faint,” and they could not go on. They were weak, and they were not very helpful to David in fighting the enemy, and they just remained behind with the stuff, like you would find women and children doing in that day.
But this is what the Lord tells us concerning the 400 and the 200, if we go on to read 1Samuel 30:16-17:
And when he had brought him down, behold, they were spread abroad upon all the earth, eating and drinking, and dancing, because of all the great spoil that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines, and out of the land of Judah. And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, which rode upon camels, and fled.
Before we continue reading, notice that we are told that David, alone, smote them. David did the smiting, not the 400. Yes, historically, it would not have been only David himself, but he had 400 men with him.. This is speaking in terms of David as General. David (who would be king) has an army, and if his army smote the enemy, then he would get the credit. We understand that. For example, when the army of Napoleon won a battle over the British hundreds of years ago, the report would come back to Britain that Napoleon had defeated them, even though Napoleon himself may not have entered into battle, but only his men. Nonetheless, this verse is telling us that David did the smiting. This kind of language is found not only here, but in other places regarding men that represent Christ. One example would be in Judges 11, as Jephthah speaks in Judges 11:29-33:
Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him. Then the Spirit of JEHOVAH came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon. And Jephthah vowed a vow unto JEHOVAH, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be JEHOVAH'S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and JEHOVAH delivered them into his hands. And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.
And yet, he was with an army. He did not smite them alone, but God credits Jephthah because in the battle that the Lord Jesus Christ fought, the battle of salvation, the Bible always emphasizes that He is alone, and His own arm brought Him salvation. And we read that kind of language in a few places. God is jealous, and He will not share His glory with another, as the Lord Jesus Christ did the work of atonement alone in paying for the sins of His people, and He gets all the glory.
So as David was a type of Christ, it says that David smote them. It goes on to say in 1Samuel 30:17-20:
And David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away: and David rescued his two wives. And there was nothing lacking to them, neither small nor great, neither sons nor daughters, neither spoil, nor any thing that they had taken to them: David recovered all. And David took all the flocks and the herds, which they drave before those other cattle, and said, This is David's spoil.
“David, David, David,” because Christ is the One who spoiled the enemy and recovered the captives, “taking captivity captive,” which is the language we find in the Word of God. David’s recovering of his wives and children is a picture of the Lord Jesus delivering the captives and bringing them to Himself. So the 400 men do not even seem to have been there as we read this account. So, spiritually, it is a much different picture than the natural or worldly perspective of 400 men going to fight with their king or general. But, here, there is no mention of them.
When we read on, it says in 1Samuel 30:21-22:
And David came to the two hundred men, which were so faint that they could not follow David, whom they had made also to abide at the brook Besor: and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him: and when David came near to the people, he saluted them. Then answered all the wicked men and men of Belial, of those that went with David, and said, Because they went not with us, we will not give them ought of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away, and depart.
We do not have time to continue this right now, but notice the language and the shift of pronouns, as the 400 men say, “we have recovered,” as they want part of the glory. They want to share credit for the work of deliverance.