Genesis 32:3

Jacob's preparation against danger betokened his sense of duty to do his utmost under the circumstances, and his sense of past errors and ill desert towards his brother. There is an exercise of our own judgment in times of distress and extremity which is quite consistent with dependence upon God. - R.

And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother.
I. We will consider, in the first place, THE PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES WHICH JACOB ADOPTED. In the first instance, as soon as he heard of the evil which apparently awaited him, he immediately divided" the people that were with him into two bands," in the hope that if one company was suddenly surprised and smitten, the other might in the interim escape.

II. But in the second place, let us notice WHAT WAS JACOB'S CHIEF RESOURCE IN THIS PRESSING EXIGENCY. It was the throne of grace. Prayer is, in fact, the peculiar privilege and the natural habit of a truly pious mind. Prayer also is a very powerful proof of the state of the heart. If we see men, who profess and call themselves Christians, struggling and contending in their own strength, with second causes, as the source of their sorrows, in the hope of overcoming them, and not affectionately, earnestly, spontaneously spreading their case before the Lord, we have reason to doubt the sincerity of their religious profession.

III. But, with these prefatory remarks, let us now examine THE NATURE OF JACOB'S PRAYER. It is a very beautiful example of real prayer. It is simple, full, and energetic. We will glance briefly at its leading topics.

1. There is, first, a simple and vindicatory statement of the circumstances in which Jacob was placed. He had not brought himself thoughtlessly or wilfully into this difficulty. "Thou saidest unto me, return unto thy country and thy kindred." "I am here, in obedience to Thy command." There is a very wide distinction between those trials and sufferings into which a man is brought by wilfulness and sin, and those which come upon him independently of his own control, and in respect to which, his mind must necessarily be free from guilt.

2. But, secondly, though in this instance Jacob was free to appeal to the knowledge of God for his acquittal from any wilful trangression in those steps which had led him into danger, yet he did not hesitate, in other respects, to take at once the only ground upon which a human creature can consistently stand before God; and, consequently, we find the justification of his conduct in his present circumstances, immediately followed by an humble acknowledgment of his utter unworthiness before God. "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, that Thou hast showed unto Thy servant." How different is this from the proud feeling of independence with which men generally regard their property in this life I The language of a prosperous man among his fellows, as well as in his heart, is too frequently, "My power, and the might of my hand, have gotten me this wealth."

3. But, thirdly, in the midst of humiliating confession, Jacob did not forget His mercies. He thankfully records them. He extols the mercy and the faithfulness of God. "With my staff I passed over this Jordan, and lo, I am become two bands." If we would secure the continuance of our blessings, we should be free to remember them. But once more we notice, that Jacob continues his prayer by an affectionate enunciation of God's promises. "I fear lest Esau come and smite me, and the mother with the children; and Thou saidst I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude." We are always safe when we can grasp the promises of God, and convert them into prayers. "Thou hast said, a new heart will I give thee, and a new spirit will I put within thee. O Lord, create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me."

4. Lastly, Jacob evidently showed that he placed an unfeigned and implicit confidence in the covenant, the promises, and the mercies of God. All the language of his prayer, tends to call up before him an animating view of the character of Him whom he addressed. This is precisely the spirit in which the Christian is now encouraged to approach the Lord. He has purer light, and greater knowledge.

(E. Craig.)


1. He sends messengers of peace.

2. He divides his company into two bands.

3. He sends a present.


1. He appeals to God as the Covenant God and Father (ver. 9).

2. He pleads God's gracious promise to himself. "The Lord which saidst unto me, "Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee."

3. He confesses his own unworthiness, and God's goodness and faithfulness (ver. 10).

4. He presents his special petition expressing his present want (ver. 11). He prays to be delivered from his brother's anger, the possible consequences of which were fearful to contemplate.

5. He cleaves to God's word of promise (ver. 12). God had promised to do him good, and to make his seed as the sand of the sea for multitude. And Jacob pleads as if he said, how could this promise be fulfilled if himself and his family were slain? This prayer shows the kind husband, the tender father, the man of faith and piety.

(T. H. Leale.)

I. In regard to THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH JACOB WAS PLACED, we may observe that he was surrounded by a numerous family, to whom he was strongly attached, and some of whom were of a very tender age; and that he saw the whole of them, with himself, liable, in the course of a few transitory hours, to be cut off by the sword of an enraged brother.

II. THE CONDUCT WHICH JACOB ADOPTED UPON THIS OCCASION IS FULL OF INTEREST AND INSTRUCTION. It was equally removed from presumption and despair; and presents one of the most edifying examples of sanctified affliction.

1. He did everything in his power to avert his brother's wrath, and conciliate his favour.

2. He made an arrangement in regard to his family, which was calculated at least to save some of them.

3. He had recourse to earnest prayer.(1) It was addressed to the God of his fathers. Jacob had descended from ancestors distinguished by their piety; and he avails himself of that circumstance to raise his drooping faith.(2) In Jacob's prayer we observe an humble acknowledgment of his absolute demerit before God.(3) When asking of God the favour of protection, Jacob gratefully acknowledges the blessings he had already received.(4) The prayer which is now under our consideration contains an encouraging reference to the Divine direction, which Jacob was then in the very act of obeying.(5) In this most impressive prayer the patriarch pleads the promise of God in regard to his posterity. The facts which have now occupied our attention contain many practical lessons of general application. They remind us, in a very impressive manner —

1. Of the established connection between sin and punishment.

2. The history of Jacob suggests the immense importance of genuine piety.

3. The example of Jacob, on the occasion described in the text, teaches the important lesson, that to obtain from God the blessing we desire, it is our duty to use the requisite means, and at the same time to place an absolute reliance upon His mercy.

(T. Jackson.)

1. Providence ordereth returns of messages sometimes to be cross to the expectation of His saints.

2. Messages of peace are delivered to wicked men from saints sometimes without answerable return.

3. Faithful messengers will perform their charge whatever the issue be (Proverbs 25:13).

4. Wicked men though intreated, may show themselves in their power and terror to the saints (ver. 6).

5. Creature-terrors are apt to stir up fears vehemently in the hearts of God's dearest ones.

6. Fears in saints are not so violent, but that they rationally provide for their safety under them.

7. It is good prudence to save part from ruin when the whole is in danger.

8. Military order in setting troops in place, is not unbeseeming saints (ver. 7; Genesis 14:15).

9. God's armies do not quiet saints sometimes, when sense worketh on outward danger.

10. Smitings of some by enemies are reasonable warnings for others to escape (ver. 8).

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

1. Faith in prayer to God is the saints' immediate help against fear in the hour of temptation.

2. The saints' providence for themselves is but in order to their refuge in God.

3. God in gracious relations to poor souls is the proper object of prayer.

4. Saints may be bold to fly to God for help in the execution of His commands.

5. God in the promise of grace to His people is the special object of their faith and prayer.

6. Special faith evidencing and applying promises is very necessary to effectual prayer in temptation (ver. 9).

(G. Hughes, B. D.)


1. How it originated.(1) In the report he heard of Esau's approach at the head of four hundred men (ver. 6).(2) His fear lest Esau might intend to carry out his old purpose of revenge (ver. 7; 27:42).(3) His perplexity. Not having strength to resist such a force (ver. 7).(4) His desire to save, if possible, the half of his property (ver. 8).

2. In what it consisted. In the division of his flocks and herds, &c., into two companies. It must have been a huge company at the first, for him to think, after the message he sent (vers. 4, 5), that his brother would imagine the half was all he had. He thought that one half, hearing the attack upon the other, might in the confusion escape while Esau was driving off his plunder.

3. The plan was well contrived. A little of the old Jacob is here planning and scheming.

4. How he wronged his brother by his unjust suspicions.

5. How he wronged God, by not in the first place seeking His guidance and help. His old method of taking the plan into his own hands. Still relying too much on human sagacity.


1. Having made his plans, according to his own wisdom, then he asked God to bless him; and in the end found that his plans were all needless. Prayer at the first would have saved him much perplexity and fear.

2. When he did pray he displayed great humility of soul and dependence upon God.(1) He approached God in His covenant relation as the God of Abraham.(2) He reminds his Divine friend of his own obedience in obeying His call to return.(3) He mentions the promise, "I will deal well with thee."(4) He protests his own great unworthiness.(5) He gratefully acknowledges the good hand of God in so increasing his substance.(6) He supplicates present help in his time of need.(7) He reminds God of the covenant promise. Having presented this his prayer, he proceeds to select a present for his brother.

III. JACOB'S CONDUCT. All being ready, his company divided, the present prepared, Jacob sent the present forward in divisions, each drove with servants, and each servant with a message; one part of the message being that Jacob was himself about to follow the gift. The spirit of the gift conciliatory. Conciliation his avowed purpose (ver. 20). The present was designed to break down every feeling of revenge and anger supposed still to exist in the mind of Esau. Jacob himself would remain that night, which at one time he feared would be his last, with his company. Growing more confident as the night advanced, he arose and sent over his wives and children. Thus committed to the care of God all that he had. Learn:

1. That the fruit of past sins is sure to spring up in our way. Jacob cannot forget the evil he had done; nor return, after this long absence from home, without confronting its results.

2. That, prayer is the best means of meeting great difficulties. Our best plans ineffective without that blessing which prayer secures. Prayer puts the heart into the best condition for enduring trial.

(J. C. Gray.)

Esau, Isaac, Israelites, Jacob, Laban, Penuel, Seir
Edom, Jabbok River, Jordan River, Mahanaim, Mizpah, Peniel, Penuel, Seir
Ahead, Brother, Edom, Esau, Face, Field, Fields, Front, Jacob, Messengers, Seir, Se'ir, Servants, Towards
1. Jacob's vision at Mahanaim.
3. His message to Esau.
6. He is afraid of Esau's coming.
9. He prays for deliverance.
13. He sends a present to Esau, and passes the brook Jabbok.
24. He wrestles with an angel at Peniel, where he is called Israel.
31. He halts.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Genesis 32:3

     4112   angels, messengers
     5408   messenger

Genesis 32:3-21

     5922   prudence

Mahanaim: the Two Camps
And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim' (i.e. Two camps).--GENESIS xxxii. 1, 2. This vision came at a crisis in Jacob's life. He has just left the house of Laban, his father-in-law, where he had lived for many years, and in company with a long caravan, consisting of wives, children, servants, and all his wealth turned into cattle, is journeying back again to Palestine. His road
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The Twofold Wrestle --God's with Jacob and Jacob's with God
'And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast shewed unto Thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

"And He Said, Let Me Go, for the Day Breaketh. " --Genesis xxxii. 26
"And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh."--Genesis xxxii. 26. Let me go, the day is breaking, Dear companions, let me go; We have spent a night of waking In the wilderness below; Upward now I bend my way, Part we here at break of day. Let me go, I may not tarry, Wrestling thus with doubts and fears, Angels wait my soul to carry, Where my risen Lord appears; Friends and kindred, weep not so, If you love me let me go. We have travell'd long together, Hand in hand, and heart in heart, Both
James Montgomery—Sacred Poems and Hymns

Of the Name of God
Exod. iii. 13, 14.--"And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." We are now about this question, What God is. But who can answer it? Or, if answered, who can understand it? It should astonish us in
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

Gen. xxxi. 11
Of no less importance and significance is the passage Gen. xxxi. 11 seq. According to ver. 11, the Angel of God, [Hebrew: mlaK halhiM] appears toJacob in a dream. In ver. 13, the same person calls himself the God of Bethel, with reference to the event recorded in chap. xxviii. 11-22. It cannot be supposed that in chap xxviii. the mediation of a common angel took place, who, however, had not been expressly mentioned; for Jehovah is there contrasted with the angels. In ver. 12, we read: "And behold
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament

"Lord, teach us to pray."--Luke xi. 1. "Jacob called the name of the place Peniel."--Gen. xxxii. 30. ALL the time that Jacob was in Padan-aram we search in vain for prayer, for praise. or for piety of any kind in Jacob's life. We read of his marriage, and of his great prosperity, till the land could no longer hold him. But that is all. It is not said in so many words indeed that Jacob absolutely denied and forsook the God of his fathers: it is not said that he worshipped idols in Padan-aram: that
Alexander Whyte—Lord Teach Us To Pray

The Great Shepherd
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. I t is not easy for those, whose habits of life are insensibly formed by the customs of modern times, to conceive any adequate idea of the pastoral life, as obtained in the eastern countries, before that simplicity of manners, which characterized the early ages, was corrupted, by the artificial and false refinements of luxury. Wealth, in those
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 1

We shall consider our text, then, as one of the productions of a great master in spiritual matters, and we will study it, praying all the while that God will help us to pray after the like fashion. In our text we have the soul of a successful pleader under four aspects: we view, first, the soul confessing: "I am poor and needy." You have next, the soul pleading, for he makes a plea out of his poor condition, and adds, "Make haste unto me, O God!" You see, thirdly, a soul in it's urgency, for he cries,
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 17: 1871

Explanatory and Biographical
INTRODUCTION TO [202]BOOK I English lyrical religious poetry is less easily divisible than our secular verse into well-marked periods, whether in regard to matter or to manner. Throughout its long course it has in great measure the groundwork of a common Book, a common Faith, and a common Purpose. And although incidents from human life and aspects of nature are not excluded (and have in this selection, when possible, been specially gathered, with the view of varying the garland here presented)--yet
Francis Turner Palgrave—The Treasury of Sacred Song

The Worst Things Work for Good to the Godly
DO not mistake me, I do not say that of their own nature the worst things are good, for they are a fruit of the curse; but though they are naturally evil, yet the wise overruling hand of God disposing and sanctifying them, they are morally good. As the elements, though of contrary qualities, yet God has so tempered them, that they all work in a harmonious manner for the good of the universe. Or as in a watch, the wheels seem to move contrary one to another, but all carry on the motions of the watch:
Thomas Watson—A Divine Cordial

The Angel of the Lord in the Pentateuch, and the Book of Joshua.
The New Testament distinguishes between the hidden God and the revealed God--the Son or Logos--who is connected with the former by oneness of nature, and who from everlasting, and even at the creation itself, filled up the immeasurable distance between the Creator and the creation;--who has been the Mediator in all God's relations to the world;--who at all times, and even before He became man in Christ, has been the light of [Pg 116] the world,--and to whom, specially, was committed the direction
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament

Meditations for the Morning.
1. Almighty God can, in the resurrection, as easily raise up thy body out of the grave, from the sleep of death, as he hath this morning wakened thee in thy bed, out of the sleep of nature. At the dawning of which resurrection day, Christ shall come to be glorified in his saints; and every one of the bodies of the thousands of his saints, being fashioned like unto his glorious body, shall shine as bright as the sun (2 Thess. i. 10; Jude, ver. 14; Phil. iii. 21; Luke ix. 31;) all the angels shining
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

St. Malachy's Apostolic Labours, Praises and Miracles.
[Sidenote: 1140, October] 42. (23). Malachy embarked in a ship, and after a prosperous voyage landed at his monastery of Bangor,[576] so that his first sons might receive the first benefit.[577] In what state of mind do you suppose they were when they received their father--and such a father--in good health from so long a journey? No wonder if their whole heart gave itself over to joy at his return, when swift rumour soon brought incredible gladness even to the tribes[578] outside round about them.
H. J. Lawlor—St. Bernard of Clairvaux's Life of St. Malachy of Armagh

A Treatise of the Fear of God;
SHOWING WHAT IT IS, AND HOW DISTINGUISHED FROM THAT WHICH IS NOT SO. ALSO, WHENCE IT COMES; WHO HAS IT; WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS; AND WHAT THE PRIVILEGES OF THOSE THAT HAVE IT IN THEIR HEARTS. London: Printed for N. Ponder, at the Peacock in the Poultry, over against the Stocks market: 1679. ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and "a fountain of life"--the foundation on which all wisdom rests, as well as the source from whence it emanates. Upon a principle
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3

Thirdly, for Thy Actions.
1. Do no evil, though thou mightest; for God will not suffer the least sin, without bitter repentance, to escape unpunished. Leave not undone any good that thou canst. But do nothing without a calling, nor anything in thy calling, till thou hast first taken counsel at God's word (1 Sam. xxx. 8) of its lawfulness, and pray for his blessings upon thy endeavour; and then do it in the name of God, with cheerfulness of heart, committing the success to him, in whose power it is to bless with his grace
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

Fragrant Spices from the Mountains of Myrrh. "Thou Art all Fair, My Love; There is no Spot in Thee. " --Song of Solomon iv. 7.
FRAGRANT SPICES FROM THE MOUNTAINS OF MYRRH. HOW marvellous are these words! "Thou art all fair, My love; there is no spot in thee." The glorious Bridegroom is charmed with His spouse, and sings soft canticles of admiration. When the bride extols her Lord there is no wonder, for He deserves it well, and in Him there is room for praise without possibility of flattery. But does He who is wiser than Solomon condescend to praise this sunburnt Shulamite? Tis even so, for these are His own words, and were
Charles Hadden Spurgeon—Till He Come

A Believer's Privilege at Death
'For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.' Phil 1:1I. Hope is a Christian's anchor, which he casts within the veil. Rejoicing in hope.' Rom 12:12. A Christian's hope is not in this life, but he hash hope in his death.' Prov 14:42. The best of a saint's comfort begins when his life ends; but the wicked have all their heaven here. Woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.' Luke 6:64. You may make your acquittance, and write Received in full payment.' Son, remember that
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

The Old Testament opens very impressively. In measured and dignified language it introduces the story of Israel's origin and settlement upon the land of Canaan (Gen.--Josh.) by the story of creation, i.-ii. 4a, and thus suggests, at the very beginning, the far-reaching purpose and the world-wide significance of the people and religion of Israel. The narrative has not travelled far till it becomes apparent that its dominant interests are to be religious and moral; for, after a pictorial sketch of
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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