01/15/2020 Bible Study Gen 32:16-32 Jacob prepares to meet Esau
Genesis Chapter 32
Verse 1. And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
Note: Jacob now is continuing his journey to Canaan. Jacobs physical home is still a distance
off but the land he is coming into is that promised to Abraham and Isaac and now Jacob
is to inherit.
Key Phrase: and the angels of GOD met him; Literally, the messengers of Elohim, not chance
travelers who informed him of Esau's being in the vicinity, but angels.
Verse 2. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host: and he called the name of
that place Mahanaim.
Key Phrase: And when Jacob saw them; These appeared in a visible form, most probably
human, and in the habit, and with the accouterments of soldiers.
Key Phrase: he said, This is God’s host; Or army, hence he is often called the Lord of hosts.
Angels have this name from their number, order, strength and military exploits
Key Phrase: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim; Which signifies two hosts or
Armies. Either his own family and company making one, and the angels another,
or they very probably appeared in two companies. As two armies, and one went
on one side of Jacob and his family, and the other on the other side. It is believed
by religious scholars that one went before him, and the other behind him. This
was to secure him from any insult of Laban, should he pursue after him. The other
one to protect him from Esau, near whose country Jacob now was of whom he
was in some fear off or in danger from.
Verse 3. And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the
country of Edom.
Key Phrase: And Jacob sent messengers before him unto Esau his brother; These were some
of his own servants he sent to inform him of his coming. By this way he might
learn in what temper and disposition of mind he was towards him.
Key Phrase: unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom: Which had its first name from Seir the
Horite. Esau having married into his family came into the possession of it by
virtue of that marriage. It is recorded that he and his sons drove out the Horites,
the ancient possessors of it. It was afterwards called Edom, a name of Esau, which
he had from the red pottage he sold his birthright for to his brother Jacob.
Note: Esau it seems was removed from his father's house, and was possessed of a country
after mentioned, called from his name; and which Aben Ezra says lay between Haran and
the land of Israel. This path to Esau did not directly lie in the road Jacob need take to get
home, yet, as it was near him, he did not choose to pass by without seeing his brother.
Verse 4. And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy
servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now:
Key Phrase: And he commanded them: Being his servants he gives instruction too.
Key Phrase: saying, thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Being not only a lord of a country,
but his eldest brother. to intimate that he did not insist on the prerogatives of the
birthright and blessing which he had obtained for himself. Leaving it to God to
fulfil his own purpose in his seed. He chose to bespeak in this manner to soften
his mind and let him know he was not a threat to him. Note he does not give up
his right as heir of the blessing and all it contained.
Key Phrase: thy servant Jacob saith thus; Expressing great humility and modesty, though his
father Isaac by his blessing had made him lord over Esau. The time was not come
for this to take place. First his father not being yet dead and second it was to have
its accomplishment not in his own person, but in his posterity or offspring.
Key Phrase: I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now; Jacob had been a
servant in Laban's family for twenty years past. He had an hard master and
therefore could not be the object of his brother's envy, but rather of his pity and
Verse 5. And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and women servants: and I
have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.
Key Phrase: And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and women servants; This
he would have said, so he would know he wasn’t coming to ask anything of him.
As well as put himself and his family upon him as a burden. This would also let him
know that should not treat him with contempt, as a poor mean beggarly creature.
Also to indicate that he should not be ashamed of the relation Jacob was to him.
Key Phrase: and I have sent to tell my lord; of his coming, and of his state and circumstances:
Key Phrase: that I may find grace in thy sight; Share in his good will which was all he wanted.
That friendship, harmony and brotherly love, might subsist between them which
he was very desirous of.
Verse 6. And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and
also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him.
Key Phrase: And the messengers returned to Jacob; After they had delivered their message,
with the answer they brought back from Esau.
Key Phrase: saying, we came to thy brother Esau; Which, though not expressed is implied in
these words and is still more manifest by what follows.
Key Phrase: and also he cometh to meet thee; To pay a friendly visit, as they supposed.
Key Phrase; and four hundred men with him; This Esau would have done partly to show his
grandeur and partly out of respect to Jacob, to honor him.
Note: There are some that think this was done with an ill intent to him and which indeed
Verse 7. Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was
with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands;
Key Phrase: Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; Knowing what he had done to his
brother in getting the birthright and blessing from Isaac instead of Esau. What a
level of hostility Jacob had conceived in his mind against him on that account.
Note: Jacob betrays much weakness and want of faith here when God has promised again and
again that he would he with him. God instructed Jacob that He would keep him, protect
him and return him safe to the land of Canaan. Even when he had just had such an appearance of angels to be his helpers, guardians, and protectors.
Key Phrase: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and the herds, and
the camels, into two bands: Jacob had some of his servants and shepherds with
a part of the flocks and herds in one band or company. Also some with the rest of
them and the camels, his wives and his children in the other.
Verse 8. And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company
which is left shall escape.
Key Phrase: And said, if Esau come to the one company, and smite it; The first company,
which perhaps consisted only of some servants, with a part of his cattle. So that if
Esau should come in a hostile manner and fall upon that and slay the servants
Esau would take the cattle as a booty and not pursue him.
Key Phrase: then the other company which is left shall escape; By flight in which most likely
was he himself, his wives and children and the camels to carry them off. Jacob
who would have notice by what should happen to the first band.
Note: One would think, that, notwithstanding all this precaution and wise methods taken,
there could be little expectation of escaping the hands of Esau. If he came out on such an ill design; for whither could they flee? How could they hope
to get out of the reach of four hundred men pursuing after them.,
Verse 9. And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord
which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal
well with thee:
Key Phrase: And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac; In this
distress he does not consult the teraphim Rachel had taken from her father. Nor
does he call upon the hosts of angels that had just appeared to him to help
protect, and guard him. Jacob prays to God only, the God of his fathers, who had
promised great things to them and had done great things for them.
Key Phrase: the Lord which saidst unto me, return unto thy country, and to thy kindred; The
same God had appeared to him, when in Laban's house and bid him return to his
own country to his father's house. In obedience to which command he was now
on his journey too. His actions so far are according to the will of God. Jacob acts
as though he had no dependence nor put any confidence in anything done by him.
Key Phrase: and I will deal well with thee; Jacob recites God’s promise in this prayer yet he
hoped God in his grace and goodness would have a regard unto him, as he was
doing what he was directed to by him.
Note: The phrase “and I will deal well with thee”; means to bestow good things on thee, both
temporal and spiritual, and among the former, preservation from evils and dangers is
Verse 10. I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast
shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am
become two bands.
Key Phrase: I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies; Or of any of them, according to
his humble sense of things his mind was now impressed with. He was not worthy
of the least mercy and favor that had been bestowed upon him. Not even of any
temporal mercy, and much less of any spiritual one, and therefore did not expect
any from the hands of God, on account of any merit of his own.
Key Phrase: and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant; in performing
promises made to him; grace, mercy, goodness and truth and faithfulness in
the performance of them; Jacob had had a rich experience of both, and was deeply
affected therewith, and which made him humble before God.
Key Phrase; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; The river Jordan is near to which he
now was or at least had it in view with either with the eyes of his body or his mind.
Note: This river he passed over when he went to Haran with his staff in his hand and that only,
which was a shepherd's staff and now a travelling one. He passed "alone" over it, as
Onkelos and Jonathan add by way of illustration; unaccompanied by any, having no
friend with him, nor servant to attend him. Jarchi's paraphrase is, "there was not with
me neither silver nor gold, nor cattle, but my staff only." Just as he was 20 years ago.
Key Phrase: And now I am become two bands; Into which he had now divided his wives,
children, servants, and cattle. He mentions this to acknowledge the great goodness
of God to him, the large increase he had made him and how different his current
circumstances now were to what they were when he was upon this spot, or
thereabouts twenty years ago.
Verse 11. Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I
fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.
Key Phrase: Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; For
though his brother and it was his brother Esau that had formerly vowed revenge
upon him and had vowed to kill him, Genesis 27:41, Jacob knew not but that he
was still of the same mind. Which now having an opportunity and in his power to
do it being accompanied with four hundred men feared he would attempt it. Thus
Jacob therefore entreats the Lord, who was greater than he, to deliver him from
falling into his hands, and being destroyed by him.
Key Phrase: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children;
Jacob seems to be more concerned for his wives and children than for himself.
The phrase denotes the utter destruction of his family, the cruelty and inhumanity
that would be exercised therein. Which shows us what an opinion he had of his
brother and of his savage disposition.
Note: Jacob accepted the responsibility for what he had done to Esau in this verse but asked
God to not let what he had done be cast upon his wives and children. Reminds me of
another verse in the bible Ezekiel 18:20.
Verse 12. And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea,
which cannot be numbered for multitude.
Key Phrase: And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good; All kind of good most certainly and
constantly. Jacob rightly interpreted the promise, "I will be with thee", Genesis
31:3; for the promise of God's presence includes and secures all needful good to
Note: From this general promise Jacob draws a special and particular good; the preservation
of him and his family, he was now pleading for.
Key Phase: and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for
multitude; Which could not be fulfilled if he and his family were cut off at once as
he feared. Our God is faithful to who He has promised if we are obedient and
faithful to Him.
Verse 13. And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a
present for Esau his brother;
Key Phrase: And he lodged there that same night, At Mahanaim, or some place near it.
See Map at back of Handout Mahanaim:
Key Phrase: and took of that which came to his hand; The interpretation of the Hebrew here
leaves out the true meaning. It is not what came next to hand. That he did was
with great deliberation, judgment, and prudence. The phrase signifies what he
was in possession of or was in his power to give. As Jarchi rightly interprets it.
Key Phase: a present for Esau his brother: In order to try and pacify him, gain his good
and avert his wrath and displeasure. See Proverbs 18:16.
Note: Though Jacob had prayed to God, committed himself and family to him, and left all with
him. He thought it proper to make use of all prudential means or methods for his safety.
Verse 14. Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams,
Verse 15. Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and
Note: Goats—ewes—camels—kine—asses. As the kinds of cattle are arranged according to
their value, it is remarkable that kine (cows) should be prized above camels; for the milk
of cows was regarded as of little worth. This high estimation of them, therefore, must
have arisen from an increased regard for agriculture, the ploughing being done in the
East by oxen. Asses of course come last, as being the animal used by chieftains for
riding, and therefore prized as matters of luxury. (See Genesis 12:16; Judges 5:10.)
Note: Jacob selected “milch camels” because their milk forms a valuable part of the daily food
of the Arabs. This proportion of one he goat to ten she goats, and of one ram to ten
ewes, is a proper one. Being so judged in other times and countries. It has also shown to
be necessary for the purposes of breeding. Jacob knew by this action which was seen as
acceptable in the culture of the time that superiors are always approached with presents
and the respect expressed is estimated by the quality and amount of the gift. The
present of Jacob consisted of five hundred fifty head of cattle, of different kinds, such as
would be most prized by Esau. It was a most magnificent present skill fully arranged and