A Daily Genesis

Genesis 32:4-13

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[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 32:4 . . Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom,[/B]

The Hebrew word for "messengers" is the same word often used for angels. Since that word has such wide application, some have proposed that Jacob dispatched the holy angels on ahead to meet with Esau for him. Well, I think that might be stretching the imagination just a little too far. Jacob was in charge of his own camp, not God's, and there's no textual evidence to suggest otherwise.

Jacob had learned where Esau lived, and could have avoided contact with him if he wanted to. Esau's land was pretty far out of the way. His haunts were way down in Seir, a mountainous tract which runs along the eastern side of the Araba, once occupied by the ancient cave dwelling Horites.

If you have a map handy, it's in between the southern end of the Dead Sea and the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba. Jacob's destination was Shechem, in the vicinity of modern day Nabulus, up in the West Bank about 80 miles northwest of the tip of the Red Sea; as the crow flies.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 32:5a . . and instructed them as follows: Thus shall you say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob:[/B]

Jacob instructed his servants to acknowledge Esau as Jacob's superior. It's true the patriarchy passed to Jacob, but he must have felt it was expedient to set that aside for now and approach his brother from the standpoint of their natural birth rank. Jacob never really desired to lord it over his brother, and there was certainly no reason to assert his patriarchal rank at this time[ most especially for the purpose of this particular reunion; which was to make amends for past grievances and to set the stage for Jacob's peaceable return to the neighborhood.

This show-down was a necessity. Jacob couldn't very well be looking over his shoulder all the time, wondering if Esau was around somewhere nearby drawing a bead on him. They had to get their differences smoothed out now before Jacob settled his family in Canaan. And this meeting was going to be difficult enough without invoking the prerogatives of royalty. No; it was better that Jacob met with Esau as his younger brother, and then go from there and see what happens.
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[COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 32:5b-6 . . I stayed with Laban and remained until now; I have acquired cattle, donkeys, sheep, and male and female slaves; and I send this message to my lord in the hope of gaining your favor.[/B]

The delegation's mission was merely to inform Esau that Jacob was back in town; and to make sure Esau knew that Jacob was not here for a fight. He was in fact inclined to seek Esau's good graces. Esau's initial reaction was probably an instinctive posture of self defense. Since it was predicted that the younger would rule the older, it may have appeared to Esau that Jacob was returning from Paddan-aram with a large body of fighting men to claim the covenanted boundaries, and to subjugate Esau under patriarchal rule as predicted in Gen 25:23.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 32:7-9 . .The messengers returned to Jacob, saying: We came to your brother Esau; he himself is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him. Jacob was greatly frightened; in his anxiety, he divided the people with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking: If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, the other camp may yet escape.[/B]

Jacob quite naturally jumped to the conclusion that Esau still sought his death. From all appearances, it sure looked that way. So he followed a typical caravan tactic of dividing his troupe so that if Esau should attack the lead group, the one following would have a chance to escape while Esau was busy with the first. It would have been wiser to take up positions and wait for Esau to come to Jacob. But apparently, the local terrain wouldn't permit Jacob's assembly to scatter all over the place and thereby make it difficult for Esau to attack everyone at once.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 32:10 . .Then Jacob said: O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me; Return to your native land and I will deal bountifully with you!
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One can't help but admire Jacob's praying style. It's so practical-- no bombast, no pious rhetoric, no platitudes, no rote, and no siddur --just down to business, and right from the heart.

But what I really love most about his style is the appeal he makes to certain promises that God made to him. Jacob came to the point in his walk of faith where he realized that if God planned to make good on those promises, then He has to keep Jacob alive to do it; just like Abraham reasoned that God had to raise Isaac from the dead in order to keep the promises he made concerning him (cf. Heb 11:17-19) promises which, in reality, made Jacob just as bullet proof as they had made Abraham and Isaac.
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[COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 32:11-13 . . I am unworthy of all the kindness that You have so steadfastly shown Your servant: with my staff alone I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; else, I fear, he may come and strike me down, mothers and children alike. Yet You have said; I will deal bountifully with you and make your offspring as the sands of the sea, which are too numerous to count.[/B]

Jacob was given a promise, and he held God to it. It takes real spiritual fortitude to do that. In court, we commonly make people take an oath to tell the truth and then hold them to their word. And we notarize our legal documents so they become binding and carry some weight. So why don't we do the very same thing with God? Would He be insulted? No way! If only more people would hold God to his word like Jacob did. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. As the writer of the book of Hebrews said; reliance upon God's testimony provides one with encouragement, and an anchor for the soul. (Heb 6:16-19)

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