Preparing to Meet Esau

Nov 22, 2015

וַיִּשְׁלַח יַעֲקֹב מַלְאָכִים לְפָנָיו אֶל־עֵשָׂו אָחִיו אַרְצָה שֵׂעִיר שְׂדֵה אֱדוֹם׃

Yaakov sent messengers ahead to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom,

Genesis 32:4

וַתַּעֲבֹר הַמִּנְחָה עַל־פָּנָיו וְהוּא לָן בַּלַּיְלָה־הַהוּא בַּמַּחֲנֶה׃

And so the gift went on ahead, while he remained in camp that night.

Genesis 32:22

Jacob sends messengers ahead to his brother to alert Esau that he is coming home. The messengers return with an ominous report: Esau is coming out to greet him with four hundred men!


To prepare for the potentially hostile encounter, Jacob divides his camp into two groups, so that if one is attacked, at least the other group might escape. He also prays to God to protect him and his family, as He had once promised to do. Finally, he prepares a massive tribute to his brother in the hopes that he would be appeased by Jacob’s generosity.


The Israel Bible points out that when the same Hebrew word is used in two places in the text to refer to unrelated events, there is, in fact, a connection between them. Here, Jacob refers to part of his camp as the playta, or escaped remnant. The same term is used in Obadiah (1:17-18), where it says, “But in mount Zion there shall be those that escape, and it shall be holy; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the LORD hath spoken.” Thus, Jacob hints that only Zion is a refuge for the Jewish people in all future encounters with Esau.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think Jacob makes these preparations in the order which he does? Why not pray first and foremost?

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