Jacob’s Fear of Esau
Then as Jacob went on his way, the angels of God met him [to reassure and protect him]. When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God’s camp.” So he named that place Mahanaim ([a]double camps).
Then Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He commanded them, saying, “This is what to say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says this, “I have been living temporarily with Laban, and have stayed there until now; I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male servants, and female servants; and I have sent [this message] to tell my lord, so that I may find grace and kindness in your sight.”’”
The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.” Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps; and he said, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the other camp which is left will escape.”
Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord, who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your people, and I will make you prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and compassion and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant. With only my staff [long ago] I crossed over this Jordan, and now I have become [blessed and increased into these] two groups [of people]. Save me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. And You [Lord] said, ‘I will certainly make you prosper and make your descendants as [numerous as] the sand of the sea, which is too great to be counted.’”
So Jacob spent the night there. Then he selected a present for his brother Esau from the livestock he had acquired: two hundred female goats, twenty male goats, two hundred ewes, twenty rams, thirty milking camels with their colts, forty cows, ten bulls, twenty female donkeys, and ten [donkey] colts. He put them into the care of his servants, every herd by itself, and said to his servants, “Go on ahead of me, and put an interval [of space] between the individual herds.” Then he commanded the one in front, saying, “When Esau my brother meets you and asks to whom you belong, and where you are going, and whose are the animals in front of you? then you shall say, ‘They are your servant Jacob’s; they are a gift sent to my lord Esau. And he also is behind us.’” And so Jacob commanded the second and the third as well, and all that followed the herds, saying, “This is what you shall say to Esau when you meet him; and you shall say, ‘Look, your servant Jacob is behind us.’” For he said [to himself], “I will try to appease him with the gift that is going ahead of me. Then afterward I will see him; perhaps he will accept and forgive me.” So the gift [of the herds of livestock] went on ahead of him, and he himself spent that night back in the camp.
But he got up that same night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and waded over the ford of the Jabbok. Then he took them and sent them across the brook. And he also sent across whatever he had.
So Jacob was left alone, and a [b]Man [came and] wrestled with him until daybreak. When the Man saw that He had not prevailed against Jacob, He touched his hip joint; and Jacob’s hip was dislocated as he wrestled with Him. Then He said, “Let Me go, for day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You declare a blessing on me.” So He asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” And He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but [c]Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked Him, “Please tell me Your name.” But He said, “Why is it that you ask My name?” And He declared a blessing [of the covenant promises] on Jacob there. So Jacob named the place Peniel (the face of God), saying, “For I have seen God face to face, yet my life has not been snatched away.” Now the sun rose on him as he passed Penuel (Peniel), and he was limping because of his hip. Therefore, to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because He touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh by the tendon of the hip.
- Genesis 32:2 Jacob may have been referring to the angels as another camp, along with his own, and viewing their presence as evidence of divine protection. This was Jacob’s second encounter with the “angels of God” (28:12).
- Genesis 32:24 This was God Himself (as Jacob eventually realizes in Gen 32:30; see also v 29 and Hosea 12:4), in the form of an angel.
- Genesis 32:28 “He who strives with God,” or “God strives.”
Jacob Meets Esau
Then Jacob looked up, and saw Esau coming with four hundred men. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. He put the maids and their children in front, Leah and her children after them, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. Then Jacob crossed over [the stream] ahead of them and bowed himself to the ground seven times [bowing and moving forward each time], until he approached his brother.
But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and hugged his neck and kissed him, and they wept [for joy]. Esau looked up and saw the women and the children, and said, “Who are these with you?” So Jacob replied, “They are the children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Then the maids approached with their children, and they bowed down. Leah also approached with her children, and they bowed down. Afterward Joseph and Rachel approached, and they bowed down. Esau asked, “What do you mean by all this company which I have met?” And he answered, “[These are] to find favor in the sight of my lord.” But Esau said, “I have plenty, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” Jacob replied, “No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then accept my gift [as a blessing] from my hand, for I see your face as if I had seen the face of God, and you have received me favorably. Please accept my blessing (gift) which has been brought to you, for God has dealt graciously with me and I have everything [that I could possibly want].” So Jacob kept urging him and Esau accepted it.
Then Esau said, “Let us get started on our journey and I will go in front of you [to lead the way].” But Jacob replied, “You know, my lord, that the children are frail and need gentle care, and the nursing flocks and herds [with young] are of concern to me; for if the men should drive them hard for a single day, all the flocks will die. Please let my lord go on ahead of his servant, and I will move on slowly, governed by the pace of the livestock that are in front of me and according to the endurance of the children, [a]until I come to my lord in Seir [in Edom].”
Then Esau said, “Please let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But Jacob said, “[b]What need is there [for it]? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.” So Esau turned back [toward the south] that day on his way to Seir. But Jacob journeyed [north] to Succoth, and built himself a house and made shelters for his livestock; so the name of the place is Succoth (huts, shelters).
Jacob Settles in Shechem
When Jacob came from Paddan-aram, he arrived safely and in peace at the city of Shechem, in the land of Canaan, and camped in front of the [walled] city. Then he bought the piece of land on which he had pitched his tents from [c]the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for a hundred [d]pieces of money. There he erected an altar and called it [e]El-Elohe-Israel.
- Genesis 33:14 Jacob must have been concerned about traveling through Edom and used this excuse to avoid following Esau to Seir. Indeed, he heads in the opposite direction.
- Genesis 33:15 Lit Why this?
- Genesis 33:19 Lit the hand of the sons.
- Genesis 33:19 Heb qesitah, an uncertain measure of weight; a rabbi once reported hearing the ma’ah, a small coin worth 1/12 of a shekel, called a qesitah.
- Genesis 33:20 I.e. God, the mighty God of Israel.