August 3, 2015

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

PART III: HISTORY OF ISAAC AND JACOB (Gen. 25:19-36:43)

 

Topic #D:  JACOB'S RETURN TO CANAAN. (Gen. 31:1-33:17)                

 

 


Lesson III.D.7: He Sends A Present To Esau. (Gen. 32:13-21)

 

 

 

Genesis 32:13-21 (KJV)

 

13 And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother;

14 Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams,

15 Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals.

16 And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said unto his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt drove and drove.

17 And he commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying, Whose art thou? and whither goest thou? and whose are these before thee?

18 Then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob's; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he is behind us.

19 And so commanded he the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, saying, On this manner shall ye speak unto Esau, when ye find him.

20 And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me.

21 So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company.

 

 

 

Introduction

 

Jacob combined action with earnest prayer; and this teaches us that we must not depend upon the aid and intercession of God in such a way as to supersede the exercise of good judgement and foresight. Superiors (the bosses) may give presents to their workers, and the respect they gain is gauged by the quality and amount of the gift. The present of Jacob consisted of five hundred fifty animals (livestock), of different kinds, which would be highly prized by Esau. It was a most brilliant present, skillfully arranged to arrive in successive droves. The milch camels alone were of immense value; for the she camels form the principal part of Arab wealth; their milk is an important part of their diet; and in many other respects they are extremely useful.

 

 

Commentary

 

13 And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother;

 

“AND HE LODGED THERE THAT SAME NIGHT”; that is,at Mahanaim (see 32:21), or some place near it.

 

Upon hearing that Esau was approaching in an unfriendly manner, Jacob had divided his possessions into two main divisions, in the hope of saving at least one. Initially, he had reacted out of fear of Esau, but now, quieted by his prayer, and perhaps instructed by the Holy Spirit—he has decided to try for a peaceful resolution of Esau’s bitterness and hostility toward him—he selects a present for Esau of five hundred and fifty head of cattle, and sends them ahead (to Esau) with intervals between each drove. He hoped that repeated expressions of contrition might atone for him deceiving Esau and soften his fierce mood. But first he sees all his followers safely across the Jabbok, while he (alone) remains behind to pray. He placed everything in God’s power—faith seems to have regained the ascendancy over his fears—though he still takes every prudent measure to insure the safety of those whom he loved.

 

“AND TOOK OF THAT WHICH CAME TO HIS HAND A PRESENT FOR ESAU HIS BROTHER.”“AND TOOK,” not by making random choices, but after careful consideration “OF THAT WHICH CAME TO HIS HAND,”—not from those things which were in his hand when he first arrived at Haran (all he had was his staff and the clothes on his back), but the things which came into his hand while he served his Uncle Laban—“A PRESENT FOR ESAU HIS BROTHER.”

 

“OF THAT WHICH CAME TO HIS HAND” is rendered “of that which came IN his hand,” in Hebrew. Some Jewish interpreters take the phrase literally and presume that it is referring to precious stones; but the true meaning is “what he possessed,” or what he had with him (livestock). The phrase “WHICH CAME TO HIS HAND” would imply that he did not make a selection, but took what he came to first. That would be wrong, because what he did was with great deliberation, judgment, and discretion; therefore the phrase signifies what he possessed, or owned.

 

“A PRESENT FOR ESAU HIS BROTHER” would, as he hoped, pacify him, gain his good will, and stop his wrath and displeasure—“A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great” (Proverbs 18:16). Though Jacob had prayed to God, committed himself and his family to Him, and left all with him, yet he thought it prudent to make use of all practical means and methods for his safety:not that he doubted God's assistance, but used such means as God had given him.

 

 

14 Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams,

15 Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals.

 

 

TWO HUNDRED SHE GOATS, AND TWENTY HE GOATS, TWO HUNDRED EWES, AND TWENTY RAMS, THIRTY MILCH CAMELS (especially valuable in the East on account of their milk, which was particularly sweet and wholesome) WITH THEIR COLTS, FORTY KINE, AND TEN BULLS, TWENTY SHE ASSES, AND TEN FOALS. The selection was representative of the animals (livestock) typically owned by eastern nomads. For example, the Bible makes note of the immense wealth of Job—“He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys . . .” (Job 1:3); but toward the end of his life he was even richer, “So the LORD blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys” (Job 42:12). Jacob’s choice of animals was based on the experience he gained from tending Laban’s flocks for twenty years. He chose wisely and the proportion of male to female animals was arranged according to what the experience of the best ancient authorities has shown to be necessary for the purposes of breeding.

 

The numbers givenhere enable us to form some idea of the great size of Jacob’s caravan, as they traveled through the desert. The animals may have been mentioned in the order of their value, beginning with the least valuable.The ploughing was done in the East by oxen; and with the increase in the desire for agricultural products the value of oxen went up. Asses of course come last, since it was the animal used by chieftains for riding, and therefore prized as a sign of a person’s wealth and authority. (See Genesis 12:16; Judges 5:10.) Jacob selected “MILCH CAMELS”—“MILCH CAMELS” were bred primarily for milk production—because their milk forms a valuable part of the daily food of the Arabs.The milk of cows was regarded as having little worth.

 

I believe that due to the dangerous position Jacob was in that he turned to the Great Helper in time of need, and with an earnest prayer pleaded for the God of his fathers, Abraham and Isaac, who had directed him to return, that, on the ground of the abundant mercies and truth (compare Genesis 24:27) He had shown him thus far, He would deliver him out of the hand of his brother, and in this way fulfil His promises.

 

 

16 And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said unto his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt drove and drove.

 

“AND HE DELIVERED THEM INTO THE HAND OF HIS SERVANTS,” and he told them to present them to Esau and tell him they were a gift from his brother, Jacob.

 

“EVERY DROVE BY THEMSELVES” with a space between them—this was a very practical arrangement; for the present would have a more impressive appearance; Esau's anger would have time to cool, and he would have time to estimate the great value of the gift as he passed each successive drove, and if the first was refused, those servants would hasten back to convey a timely warning. The repetition of the announcement of the gift, and of Jacob himself being nearby, was calculated to appease Esau, and persuade him that Jacob was approaching him in brotherly affection.

 

There seems to have been three droves, which we get from Genesis 32:19—And so commanded he the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, saying, On this manner shall you speak to Esau, when you find him.” Jacob ordered those who were in charge of the second and third droves, to say the same things, and in the same words as he had the first: very probably the two hundred and twenty goats, male and female, were in the first drove; and the two hundred and twenty sheep, ewes, and rams, were in the second drove; and the thirty camels, with their colts, and the fifty cows and bulls, with the twenty she asses and ten foals, which is a total of one hundred and forty, were in the third drove. At least one commentator thinks there were five droves, and that is not improbable; the goats in one drove, the sheep in another, the camels and colts in a third, and the kine and bulls might make a fourth, and the asses with their foals a fifth.

 

“AND SAID UNTO HIS SERVANTS, PASS OVER BEFORE ME,” that is, go before me, over the brook Jabbok—“And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two women servants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok” (Genesis 32:22)—a day's journey or less before him, or rather a night's journey, which seems to fit  the context; for they were sent out in the evening, and Jacob stayed behind all night, as it appears from what follows.

 

 “AND PUT A SPACE (Heb., a breathing place) BETWIXT DROVE AND DROVE;”—he means by this that they should not follow each other closely; but that there should be a considerable distance between them, and he wants to make this perfectly clear to his servants. His intention was, partly to prolong time, that Esau would stop each time he encountered one of the droves, and ask questions of the men; and partly, so Esau might  better observe the largeness of his present, and his generosity in giving it; and partly so, both by the present, and by the frequent repetition of his submission to him as his servant, his wrath would be gradually abated, and before they came together he would be predisposed to welcome him with affection and kindness, as he did.

 

 

17 And he commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying, Whose art thou? and whither goest thou? and whose are these before thee?

 

“AND HE COMMANDED THE FOREMOST”; that is, he that was in charge of the care of the first drove, which consisted of male and female goats; but they were all strictly commanded to say the same words (see 32:18, 20), so that Esau might be more impressed and the uniformity of the message might appear more clearly to have come from Jacob himself.

 

“SAYING, WHEN ESAU MY BROTHER MEETETH THEE”—being the first to leave, there was reason to believe he would be the first to contact Esau.

 

“AND ASKETH THEE, SAYING, WHOSE ART THOU?” that is, “whose servant are you; to whom do you belong?”

 

“AND WHITHER GOEST THOU?”—what place are you travelling to?

 

“AND WHOSE ARE THESE BEFORE THEE?”—to whom do these goats you are driving belong to? For when driving these kinds of animals down a road, sheep and goats usually went before those that were in charge of them; however, when they are taken to pastures, the shepherds led the way, and the flocks followed. Jesus said, “And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (John 10:4).

 

In all likelihood, Jacob is a perfect example of the principle “when all else fails, pray.” As soon as he finished praying, he took up us own strategies again. After all, if Jacob really trusted God, he would be at the head of the procession to meet Esau, not the tail.

 

 

18 Then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob's; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he is behind us.

 

He sent his brother, Esau, a very humble message, which he ordered his servants to deliver in a stipulated manner (32:17, 18). They must call Esau their “LORD”, and Jacob his “SERVANT”; they must tell him that the livestock they had was a small “PRESENT” which Jacob had sent him, as a sample of his acquisitions while he was abroad. The animals he sent were to travel in several droves, and the servants that cared for each drove were to deliver the same message. Jacob’s aim was to make the present appear more valuable, and that his submissive manner, so often repeated, might be more likely to influence Esau. They must especially be sure to tell him that Jacob was behind them and coming with his family (32:18–20), so that he might not suspect he had fled through fear;he hoped that this would convince Esau that he went to meet him with complete confidence, and without apprehension. Note, if Jacob will seem not to be afraid of Esau, Esau, it was hoped, will not be a terror to Jacob.

 

 

19 And so commanded he the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, saying, On this manner shall ye speak unto Esau, when ye find him.

 

“AND SO COMMANDED HE THE SECOND, AND THE THIRD” droves—either those who would shepherd the second and third droves, or only the principal drivers, “AND ALL THAT FOLLOWED THE DROVES”—that if any of them should happen to be questioned by Esau or one of his men, they must know how to answer; that they must say the same thing, and in the same words as the first drove. The precise instruction was “ON THIS MANNER SHALL YE SPEAK UNTO ESAU, WHEN YE FIND HIM,” that is, when they met him and perceived it was Esau who was questioning them, they should respond as follows.

 

 

20 And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me.

 

Note: Some Bible scholars believe that what followsare the words of Moses the historian, and not of Jacob to his servants, nor of his servants to Esau:

 

“AND SAY YE MOREOVER, BEHOLD, THY SERVANT JACOB IS BEHIND US.” This is repeated (32:18) to impress it upon their minds, that they must be careful, above all else, to not forget, for it was a detail of great importance; because “the present” would have signified nothing, if Jacob had not appeared in person, for Esau would have thought himself slighted; as if he was unworthy of a visit from his brother, and of a conversation with him.

 

 “FOR HE” (Jacob) “SAID” (had said, in his heart), “I WILL APPEASE HIM WITH THE PRESENT THAT GOETH BEFORE ME, AND AFTERWARDS I WILL SEE HIS FACE,” for he hoped the present would produce the desired effect; that it would take away his wrath, and pacify him; and then he should be able to have a peaceful and pleasurable reunion with him. But in case his anger remaind, perhaps his gifts would cause him to hide his wrath and resentment, so that it does not appear; or cause his fury to die down.

 

Jacob’s gift was calculated to appease Esau, and persuade him that Jacob was approaching him with brotherly affection. Jacob intended this gift to be the means of pacifying his brother before he appears in his presence. “I WILL APPEASE HIM” means literally, “I will cover his face,”—fora man’s anger is most discernible in his face or countenance (Proverbs 21:14)—in the sense of “I will make peace.” The present will so “cover his face,” that Esau cannot look upon Jacob’s offence (Genesis 20:16).

 

“PERADVENTURE” HE WILL ACCEPT OF ME”; greet him with tenderness and affection, and in a very honorable and respectful manner.

 

 

21 So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company.

 

“SO WENT THE PRESENT OVER BEFORE HIM,” meaning that the droves crossed over the brook Jabbok, the night before Jacob did.

 

“AND HIMSELF (Jacob) LODGED THAT NIGHT IN THE COMPANY”; not the whole night, but only a part of it; or “in the camp,” either in the place called Mahanaim, so named for the hosts or crowds of angels seen there; or in his own camp, with his family; or, in the camp with his servants, and not in his tent, for fear that his brother would surprise him and easily capture his company and take away all he owned.This seems to be the same night referred to in 32:13.

 

“MAHANAIM” (meaning two camps in Hebrew) is a place near Jabbok, beyond the Jordan River, mentioned a number of times by the Bible. The precise location of Mahanaim is very uncertain, since the Biblical data is inconclusive. Although two possible sites have been identified, the one most widely accepted lies about ten miles east of the Jordan River. The other is located nine miles farther upstream on the Jabbok River itself. Mahanaim was in the same general area as Jabesh-gilead. “MAHANAIM” is first mentioned by the Bible as the place where Jacob, returning from Padan-aram to southern Canaan, had a vision of angels (Genesis 32:2). Jacob's realization that the place was "God's camp", led him to name the place Mahanaim, meaning Two Camps, or Two Companies, to memorialize the occasion of his own caravan sharing the place with God's company of angels.

 

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