From Genesis 32-34
Jacob is about to meet Esau. But he is greatly afraid. He prays to the LORD for help and sacrifices much to see Esau’s face.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Jacob has left Laban and is returning to his home on the command of the LORD.
32 Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 And when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God’s camp!” So he called the name of that place Mahanaim. (Gen 32.1-2)
‘Gods camp’. ‘Mahanaim’. Angels of God meet Jacob on his way back home. We are not told what they said, but Jacob names the place ‘Two Camps’.
3 And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, 4 instructing them, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have sojourned with Laban and stayed until now. 5 I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male servants, and female servants. I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.’” (Gen 32.3-5)
Jacob left his home and Esau on bad terms. Many years have passed since then. However Jacob still doesn’t know if Esau has cooled down, or if he still harbors a murderous grudge.
‘Sent messengers to Esau’. Jacob is giving Esau advanced notice of his coming. He is doing this to test his reaction and therefore know how he will be received. Jacob wants Esau to know he has property, implying he is willing to give him some in order to win his favour.
6 And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.” 7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, 8 thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape.” (Gen 32.6-8)
‘The messengers returned’. Esau responded to the message alright. He is on his way to Jacob with four hundred men!
Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed.
It seems Esau has prospered greatly while Jacobs was absent. We don’t know what Esau’s intention is. Jacob assumes the worse and prays for help.
9 And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’
10 I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.
11 Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children.
12 But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” (Gen 32.9-12)
‘Return’, ‘I am not worthy’, ‘Deliver me’, ‘Do you good’. Jacob’s pray has four parts. He reminds the LORD he asked him to come in the first place. He humbles himself before the LORD recognising all his generosity. Note the repetition of ‘Two Camps’. He asks for deliverance. He reminds the LORD of his promises.
Do you think this is a good prayer? Why?
13 So he stayed there that night, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau, 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milking camels and their calves, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 These he handed over to his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on ahead of me and put a space between drove and drove.”
17 He instructed the first, “When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?’ 18 then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a present sent to my lord Esau. And moreover, he is behind us.’”
19 He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, “You shall say the same thing to Esau when you find him, 20 and you shall say, ‘Moreover, your servant Jacob is behind us.’” For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.”
21 So the present passed on ahead of him, and he himself stayed that night in the camp. (Gen 32.13-21)
‘Droves’, ‘He is behind us’. Jacob sends three groups ahead of him. Each are to arrive successively. In doing so Jacob desires to appease Esau and also test his intentions from what he does with the next group. If he attacks believing Jacob is in the group then his intentions are revealed.
Afterward I shall see his face.
‘Perhaps he will accept me’. Jacob prefers peace. He wants to win his brother over. He has prayed for deliverance. He has given Esau gifts. He is relying on God to protect him.
He wants to see Esau’s face and find forgiveness and acceptance there.
Story of Israel
The face, gives visable indication of inward emotions. The face of God refers to the character of God and especially his favour towards his people. For God to turn his face to his people is to offer them his grace and help. For God to turn his face against his people is to withhold his favour and blessing. To seek the face of God is to seek his favour.
In the gospel a Canaanite woman sought the face of Jesus. In the process she had to humble herself greatly to find his favour.
25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Mt 15.25-28)
What must we do in our lives in order for us to see God face to face. Like Jacob what do we need to learn about ourselves, what sacrifice do we have to be asked to make in order to stand before God and look him in the face?
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