Chapter 32:1-21 (ESV) - Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God's camp!” So he called the name of that place Mahanaim.
And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, instructing them, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have sojourned with Laban and stayed until now. 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.’”
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.” 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, thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape.”
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,’ 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. 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. 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.’”
So he stayed there that night, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau, two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milking camels and their calves, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 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.” 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?’ 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.’” 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, 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.” So the present passed on ahead of him, and he himself stayed that night in the camp.
Question to consider: Why did Jacob divide up his group into two camps?
The name Jacob gave the camp was Mahanaim, which meant “double camp.” Jacob recognized that God’s messengers were camped among his people. There’s no reason given as to why they were there, but at least they were not in opposition to them. Maybe it was a welcomed sight to realize they were back in the land of his father, Isaac.
Of course, they were also now in the land of his brother, Esau, as well so Jacob sent messengers to let him know he had arrived peacefully and was intending to stay. The messengers returned with the news that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men. Given Esau’s murderous intent twenty years earlier, Jacob’s immediate thought was that Esau intended to carry out his plan of harm.
So he divided up his family, servants, and flocks into two camps with the hopes that Esau would spare at least one of them. In the past, Jacob’s fear got the better of him, and he fell into sin. However, this time he chose to wisely come before the Lord in prayer. He recognized God’s faithfulness and appealed to God to continue to protect him so that His promise of a multitude of offspring would come to pass.
He woke up the next morning and decided to extend an offer of peace to his brother with a generous gift. Again, this showed maturity because in the past, he might have attempted to deceive his brother or done a preemptive strike to save himself.
Dear heavenly father, we thank You for always keeping Your promises to Your people. Jesus promised that He would be with us until the end of the age. Help us to cling to that promise when fear tries to overtake us. Amen.