Monday, July 23, 2012

XIX - Chapters 32,33 - Jacob Meets Esau

Note:  I've been meaning to mention to you:  Most Bibles have a set of maps in the very back.  I should have had you to locate these locations on a map of the "patriarchal era".  It gives you some bearings.  The areas we have been dealing with thus far covers modern Israel, Syria, Lebenon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.  (however much of the old Babylonian Empire included modern day Iraq, which is where the Tygert and the Euphrates Rivers meet.)

Jacob and Laban parted in peace.  This very difficult chapter in Jacob's life was finaly over.  Now Jacob had to prepare for dealing with someone potentially much more dangerous than Laban:  His brother Esau.  Jacob was heading for home in Beersheba, where he knew Esau was.

At the very beginning of chapter 32 we can see that God is going to take special care of Jacob.  Jacob had traveled to a place about fifteen miles north of the River Jabbok, which was only a few days journey from where he will meet up with Esau.  God sends a band of angels to meet Jacob to encourage him and remind him that God will take care of him and his family.  Jacob named that place Mahanaim, which means "two camps".  {There is nothing wrong with asking God for a band of angels.  He has plenty of them.  We need to remember this.}

But Jacob still had to come up with a plan to deal with Esau.  Vss. 3-5 - Jacob felt it would be best to send word ahead telling his brother Esau that he was coming home.  So he sent messengers ahead to Seir, Esau's stronghold city.  They were to tell Esau three things:  Jacob's long stay with Laban, his vast wealth, and his desire to meet peacefully with him.  Vs. 6 - The messengers returned to Jacob from Seir, and the news was frightening:  Esau was coming to meet Jacob and four hundred men were with him.  What must be going through Jacob's mind?  Why would Jacob imagine Esau would be coming with a good size army?  Jacob could not think of a favorable reason for this.  (Niether can I)  The only thing favorable to have thought was that Esau had grown into such a powerful prince that it would be customary to travel with such an escort.  That still seems to me like a stretch.

Vss 7,8 - Jacob was a nervous wreck.  With good reason.  All those years he had to put up with Laban, and now his life might end at the hands of his twin brother.  {We cannot disregard the History of these two brothers.  They fought inside the womb.  Esau won the battle to get out of the womb first.  He was always the stronger of the two.  Try to imagine them as young boys.  I picture them fighting more frequently than most brothers do, and Esau would always be victorious in any physical match.  And let's remember that they departed bitter enemies with Esau swearing he was going to kill Jacob.}   Jacob's plan was to divide his entire camp into two groups.  If Esau fell upon one group and destroyed it, either his thirst for revenge would be satisfied, or perhaps he would think he destroyed all that Jacob had.  Either way, the other group would have some time to escape.

After he had done all he could to prepare for Esau, he went to God in prayer, vs 9.  In the following verses Jacob speaks to God, firstly humbling himself, saying he was unworthy of all God had already done for him.  (Jacob has come a long way.)  He feared that Esau "would smite the mother with the children"(KJV)  This was a phrase used when describing extreme cruelty.  Jacob acknowledged that he was deserving of no more from God, but threw himself on God's mercy.  Pulling out all stops, Jacob sheepishly reminds God of His promise.

Vss 13-21 tell us that Jacob continues to refine his plan, leaving nothing to chance.  The next morning he prepared a fabulous gift for Esau:  550 animals in all.  He wanted to arrange it so as to make the greatest possible impression on Esau.  He divided all the animals into several groups, assigning each group to a servant leader.  He would  have them head toward Esau, keeping a space between one another.  And he gave each the same SPECIFIC set of instructions for when they saw Esau:  They were to say that all these belonged to "your servant Jacob".  They were then to tell Esau that all of these animals were a gift to Esau.  And they were to tell him that Jacob was coming behind them.  Jacob figured that each gift would soften Esau's heart toward Jacob and might totally smooth the rough edges of Esau's heart toward him.  We don't know for sure, but perhaps Jacob was trying to, in a small way, repay Esau of some of the birthright value that Jacob had earlier stolen from him.

So all of the groups of gifts left to meet up with Esau, but Jacob decided to stay in the camp for the night.  vs 24-->  Jacob wanted to be alone with his fears, his problems, and with God.  Jacob is a smart man.  He was starting to do all the right things.  It says in vs 24 that a man wrestled with Jacob till daylight.  Hosea 12 suggests it was an angel.  {I think that is correct.  There were planty of angels in that area at that time.  There are always plenty of angels everywhere.  That should be a comforting thought.}  Whether or not it was and angel, Jacob recognized that the encounter was with God.

Vs 25 -  The angel saw he could not overcome Jacob so he touched Jacob's hip/thigh and it was wrenched, rendering Jacob lame for the rest of his life.  As day was about to break the angel told Jacob to let him go.  Jacob would not let him go until the angel blessed him.  At that time (vs 28) God through His angel changed Jacob's name to Israel.  Israel means "he struggles with God".  Jacob had dealt almost face-to-face with God.  He named that place Penuel which means "face of God".

Chapter 33:  I'm really impressed with Jacob in the beginning verses of this chapter.  There is sooooo much in the details.  Jacob saw Esau and his 400 man army coming.  He had a pecking order for his family:  The female servants Bilhah and Zilpah went first with their children.  Then Leah and her children.  Then Rachel and Joseph (Benjamin wasn't born yet).  But the impressive thing is that Jacob went out to meet Esau first, instead of trying to hide.  (modern day terrorists kill women and children, then hide among them so more decent people would not risk harming the innocent)  Vs 3 says that Jacob went toward Esau, bowing down seven times on his way.  Try to envision what Esau is seeing.  His once arrogant brother was running toward him, limping and bowing seven times as he is running.

But look what happens in verse 4.  Esau runs to Jacob and embraces him in tears of joy.  God had softened Esau's heart.  All was forgiven.  Imagine what was going through Jacob's mind.  Esau asked who all of these people were.  He wanted to meet all of Jacob's family, who were of course Esau's family too.  When Jacob introduced each of them to Esau they all humbly bowed.  Jacob had raised his family well.  Esau mentioned the multitude of gifts sent to him by Jacob and said he did not need these animals because Esau himself had grown extremely wealthy.  But Jacob insisted.

Esau offered to escort Jacob and his estate, but Jacob said he would be fine without an escort.  (Jacob had started relying on God for everything now.)  Believe it or not, there is no record that Esau and Jacob ever saw each other again after that, until the death of Isaac.  Esau went back to Seir and Jacob settled in Succuth.  He probably remained in Succuth for many years as it says he built a house for himself and shelters for his livestock.  From Succoth Jacob moved about twenty miles west across the Jordan to Shechem, where he bought a field and erected an altar and called it El-elohe-Israel, which means "mighty is the God of Israel".

The God of Abraham and Isaac has now become the God of Israel.  God will be known as and refered to the "God of Israel" for much of the Old Testament.

Eleven of the twelve tribes have been established.  Benjamin will be the twelveth, but he has yet to be born.

Next post:  Leah's daughter Dinah

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