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Genesis 32:1-21

Context
Jacob Wrestles at Peniel

32:1 So Jacob went on his way and the angels of God 1  met him. 32:2 When Jacob saw them, he exclaimed, 2  “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim. 3 

32:3 Jacob sent messengers on ahead 4  to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the region 5  of Edom. 32:4 He commanded them, “This is what you must say to my lord Esau: ‘This is what your servant 6  Jacob says: I have been staying with Laban until now. 32:5 I have oxen, donkeys, sheep, and male and female servants. I have sent 7  this message 8  to inform my lord, so that I may find favor in your sight.’”

32:6 The messengers returned to Jacob and said, “We went to your brother Esau. He is coming to meet you and has four hundred men with him.” 32:7 Jacob was very afraid and upset. So he divided the people who were with him into two camps, as well as the flocks, herds, and camels. 32:8 “If Esau attacks one camp,” 9  he thought, 10  “then the other camp will be able to escape.” 11 

32:9 Then Jacob prayed, 12  “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord, you said 13  to me, ‘Return to your land and to your relatives and I will make you prosper.’ 14  32:10 I am not worthy of all the faithful love 15  you have shown 16  your servant. With only my walking stick 17  I crossed the Jordan, 18  but now I have become two camps. 32:11 Rescue me, 19  I pray, from the hand 20  of my brother Esau, 21  for I am afraid he will come 22  and attack me, as well as the mothers with their children. 23  32:12 But you 24  said, ‘I will certainly make you prosper 25  and will make 26  your descendants like the sand on the seashore, too numerous to count.’” 27 

32:13 Jacob 28  stayed there that night. Then he sent 29  as a gift 30  to his brother Esau 32:14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 32:15 thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 32:16 He entrusted them to 31  his servants, who divided them into herds. 32  He told his servants, “Pass over before me, and keep some distance between one herd and the next.” 32:17 He instructed the servant leading the first herd, 33  “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘To whom do you belong? 34  Where are you going? Whose herds are you driving?’ 35  32:18 then you must say, 36  ‘They belong 37  to your servant Jacob. 38  They have been sent as a gift to my lord Esau. 39  In fact Jacob himself is behind us.’” 40 

32:19 He also gave these instructions to the second and third servants, as well as all those who were following the herds, saying, “You must say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. 41  32:20 You must also say, ‘In fact your servant Jacob is behind us.’” 42  Jacob thought, 43  “I will first appease him 44  by sending a gift ahead of me. 45  After that I will meet him. 46  Perhaps he will accept me.” 47  32:21 So the gifts were sent on ahead of him 48  while he spent that night in the camp. 49 

1 sn The phrase angels of God occurs only here and in Gen 28:12 in the OT. Jacob saw a vision of angels just before he left the promised land. Now he encounters angels as he prepares to return to it. The text does not give the details of the encounter, but Jacob’s response suggests it was amicable. This location was a spot where heaven made contact with earth, and where God made his presence known to the patriarch. See C. Houtman, “Jacob at Mahanaim: Some Remarks on Genesis XXXII 2-3,” VT 28 (1978): 37-44.

2 tn Heb “and Jacob said when he saw them.”

3 sn The name Mahanaim apparently means “two camps.” Perhaps the two camps were those of God and of Jacob.

4 tn Heb “before him.”

5 tn Heb “field.”

6 sn Your servant. The narrative recounts Jacob’s groveling in fear before Esau as he calls his brother his “lord,” as if to minimize what had been done twenty years ago.

7 tn Or “I am sending.” The form is a preterite with the vav consecutive; it could be rendered as an English present tense – as the Hebrew perfect/preterite allows – much like an epistolary aorist in Greek. The form assumes the temporal perspective of the one who reads the message.

8 tn The words “this message” are not in the Hebrew text, but have been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.

9 tn Heb “If Esau comes to one camp and attacks it.”

10 tn Heb “and he said, ‘If Esau comes to one camp and attacks it.” The Hebrew verb אָמַר (’amar) here represents Jacob’s thought or reasoning, and is therefore translated “he thought.” The order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons.

11 tn Heb “the surviving camp will be for escape.” The word “escape” is a feminine noun. The term most often refers to refugees from war.

12 tn Heb “said.”

13 tn Heb “the one who said.”

14 tn Heb “I will cause good” or “I will treat well [or “favorably”].” The idea includes more than prosperity, though that is its essential meaning. Here the form is subordinated to the preceding imperative and indicates purpose or result. Jacob is reminding God of his promise in the hope that God will honor his word.

15 tn Heb “the loving deeds and faithfulness” (see 24:27, 49).

16 tn Heb “you have done with.”

17 tn Heb “for with my staff.” The Hebrew word מַקֵל (maqel), traditionally translated “staff,” has been rendered as “walking stick” because a “staff” in contemporary English refers typically to the support personnel in an organization.

18 tn Heb “this Jordan.”

19 tn The imperative has the force of a prayer here, not a command.

20 tn The “hand” here is a metonymy for “power.”

21 tn Heb “from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau.”

22 tn Heb “for I am afraid of him, lest he come.”

23 sn Heb “me, [the] mother upon [the] sons.” The first person pronoun “me” probably means here “me and mine,” as the following clause suggests.

24 tn Heb “But you, you said.” One of the occurrences of the pronoun “you” has been left untranslated for stylistic reasons.

sn Some commentators have thought this final verse of the prayer redundant, but it actually follows the predominant form of a lament in which God is motivated to act. The primary motivation Jacob can offer to God is God’s promise, and so he falls back on that at the end of the prayer.

25 tn Or “will certainly deal well with you.” The infinitive absolute appears before the imperfect, underscoring God’s promise to bless. The statement is more emphatic than in v. 9.

26 tn The form is the perfect tense with a vav (ו) consecutive, carrying the nuance of the preceding verb forward.

27 tn Heb “which cannot be counted because of abundance.” The imperfect verbal form indicates potential here.

28 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

29 tn Heb “and he took from that which was going into his hand,” meaning that he took some of what belonged to him.

30 sn The Hebrew noun translated gift can in some contexts refer to the tribute paid by a subject to his lord. Such a nuance is possible here, because Jacob refers to Esau as his lord and to himself as Esau’s servant (v. 4).

31 tn Heb “and he put them in the hand of.”

32 tn Heb “a herd, a herd, by itself,” or “each herd by itself.” The distributive sense is expressed by repetition.

33 tn Heb “the first”; this has been specified as “the servant leading the first herd” in the translation for clarity.

34 tn Heb “to whom are you?”

35 tn Heb “and to whom are these before you?”

36 tn The form is the perfect tense with the vav (ו) consecutive; it has the nuance of an imperfect of instruction.

37 tn The words “they belong” have been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.

38 tn Heb “to your servant, to Jacob.”

39 tn Heb “to my lord, to Esau.”

40 tn Heb “and look, also he [is] behind us.” The referent of the pronoun “he” (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

41 tn Heb “And he commanded also the second, also the third, also all the ones going after the herds, saying: ‘According to this word you will speak when you find him.’”

42 tn Heb “and look, your servant Jacob [is] behind us.”

43 tn Heb “for he said.” The referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity. The Hebrew word מַקֵל (maqel), traditionally represents Jacob’s thought or reasoning, and is therefore translated “thought.”

44 tn Heb “I will appease his face.” The cohortative here expresses Jacob’s resolve. In the Book of Leviticus the Hebrew verb translated “appease” has the idea of removing anger due to sin or guilt, a nuance that fits this passage very well. Jacob wanted to buy Esau off with a gift of more than five hundred and fifty animals.

45 tn Heb “with a gift going before me.”

46 tn Heb “I will see his face.”

47 tn Heb “Perhaps he will lift up my face.” In this context the idiom refers to acceptance.

48 tn Heb “and the gift passed over upon his face.”

49 tn The disjunctive clause is circumstantial/temporal.



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