Preparing to Meet Esau

Genesis 32:4-22

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?

Comments ( 17 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • Yes unbelief made him divide his flock in two. The more precious ones and the less precious ones. All this happens before the meeting and wrestling at Peniel. Next day he was strengthened in the spirit and goes forward to meet his brother. But he remained split up in groups.Ja’acov was hit on his hip by the man at his wrestling encounter.and received His beracha on his knees(berech) as he could not stand upright very well. Meeting Esav , Ja’acov again fell on his knees (berech) and received in this way the embrace and blessing of Esav. He calls Esav : Adoni”” and says to him literally:hebr. “Please receive my blessing………” (the blessing of the first born or his gift as a result of this blessing)

  • There is a curious connection in Chapter 32 between Avraham and his grandson, Ya'acov. in closely reading the account of Avraham when greeted by three men, and at the age of about 99, Avraham didn't just tell his servants to go get an appropriate calf, he went out and got it himself. The language suggests the actions of a rodeo cowboy in a calf-roping event.
    If that sounds impressive, then consider Jacob's encounter with a "man". This wasn't just an ordinary man. This man was none other than Elohim Himself. Verse 31 says Jacob named the place "Peniel" which means "face of Elohim". The Israel Bible says, "‘for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved". Jacob actually wrestled with Elohim, AND WON! Where are those kind of guys today?

    • Moshe writes in v. 29, "And he said: Thy name shall be called no more Yaakov, but Israel; for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed". I see two points in this statement.
      First, here is one strong dude. The account says he fought with the man until day break. Here is a man that fought with Elohim. As the sun came up, Elohim just couldn't break the hold. Jacob appeared to have the tenacity of a bulldog. The only way Elohim could get away was to bless Jacob, and turn him into a "Hop Along Cassady".
      Second, it is obvious Jacob wrestled with Elohim. However, there is a problem with that. The account says Jacob saw Elohim "face to face". It is written that to look upon YHVH face to face is to die. Moshe wasn't even allowed to do that. He only saw His backside. Does that mean Jacob was privileged? Maybe so. Although there is no "Aleph/Tav" in connection with the "man", I would think it more likely this Man was the person of the Messiah.

  • I really like the connection our commentator makes with v. 9 and Obadiah 1: 17-18. Both references are prophetic to the last generation, of which I believe we are part. They speak of a generation beyond Jacob personally. It will be a time where the descendants of Jacob, which are now scattered in the nations, will be gathered from the four corners of the earth and returned to the Land with the Messiah at their lead, of which the Prophets, Jeremiah and Ezekiel speak.
    When that event occurs, we will be led by Messiah to escape into the wilderness of the peoples. There, we will be hidden and cared for by Messiah, just as Jacob was guided and cared for by YHVH. That will be a grand day when brothers are once again reunited together as "one stick".

    • I would be remiss to neglect responding to the following. Our commentator says, "Jacob hints that only Zion is a refuge for the Jewish people in all future encounters with Esau."
      The statement is true, except for one glaring point. Jacob WAS NOT a Jew. He was a Hebrew. The implication of the above statement is that only Jews will be a part of the blessing and protection of YHVH in those battles. I'm sorry Judah. You're NOT the only beneficiaries of that allusion. Don't forget about Ephraim still scattered out here in the nations. Even more than that, your brother Ephraim will be accompanied by an unfathomable number of aliens and sojourners, just like with Moshe, that also desire to "sh'ma", hear and obey the Elohim of Avraham, Yitzak, and Ya'acov.

      • My brothers and friends, it's already happening, It has been for Judah in Israel and elsewhere since at 1948 and before. It's happening to believers in YHVH all over the world. It's even beginning in the U.S. Can anyone deny we're in the final generation? In the grips of "Jacob's Trouble"? Even the sages of today are speaking of these times. I read it almost daily on Breaking Israel News website.

      • Yes!!!! Very true, DannyLee, thank you again.

  • The course of Jacob's "ship" most certainly was changed in transit. Upon hearing of his brother coming to meet him, with 400 armed warriors, I'm certain Jacob's humanity (fear) awakened within him. However, he used a brilliant military action in confronting Esau. He split his one camp into two and sent them in flanking motions. He sent emissaries out to meet Esau, diversions if you will, each bearing gifts. All the while, Jacob was probably at a distant vantage point, observing the actions of his brother. Of course, the actions were successful, even most likely inspired by his prayers to YHVH.

  • I have heard it said, "only a ship in motion on the sea can change its course. One in port cannot". Jacob had already received his "marching orders" from YHVH. He knew the time to leave was at hand. He knew his destination–back home. Why pray? Any such prayer now could be considered a lack of faith, even insulting to HaShem. He also knew what awaited him on his journey. After all, he sent word to Esau he would be returning.
    I have no doubt fear was very high on his list of emotions at the time. If not, he wouldn't be human. Even though he used necessary means to acquire YHVH's desire for him, Esau was obviously upset and desired to kill him. Knowing this, and being human, I'm certain Jacob prayed, in earnest, with the cadence of his every step. Jacob was only manifesting that ship at sea whose course can easily be changed at any time.

  • I believe the message that his brother Esau was coming out to meet him with 400 men was a huge threat and would inspire fear in anyone. I've been taught that Ya'acov took all the practical measures to ensure the protection of his family that he could and then he laid the matter at the feet of Elohim knowing that his efforts really weren't going to be enough to save them.
    The spiritual lesson is that we have to use our resources to do what we can and put our trust in Elohim to make up the difference. This lesson has served me well in my life. Prayer in this instance was in the right place as Ya'acov allowed the promises of Elohim to bridge the gap between his physical preparations and the huge threat that he was facing.
    Baruch Hashem.

    • Thank you Suejean. Again you make sense out of an age old is so tire that doing what he could and giving it to HaShem is a lesson we all need to learn.

  • Herman

    The division of his flock comes forth from his fear, that his brother would kill him at their encounter. The truth you can read when he is praying (“fear”) that does mean that his faith was low. he should have done better after his encounter with the angels at Mahanaim. Had they been a reminder of the promise once made at Bethel ? I think that also his bad conscience made him think of the cheating of his father(and brother) Or had it only been a “taking of his birthright” ? (“honestly” acquired by the selling of soupe ? )
    Praying first would have given him Shalom .

    • Here it is again, that unsupported concept that Jacob was a deceiver. Only one that listens to other commentators rather than reading the Torah according to Moshe would hold such an idea. Jacob IS NOT a deceiver!! Scripture also DOES NOT indicate he had a guilty conscience. YHVH Himself said the birthright belonged to Jacob. Who are we to judge YHVH, or deride the beneficiaries of His blessings? Or the targets of His judgment?

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