Thursday, February 3, 2011

Genesis 32:13-21 Night at Mahanaim

Jacob spent the night at Mahanaim with his family, servants and animals.  He selected a gift of 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes and 20 rams, 30 camel and their young, 40 cows and 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys and 10 male donkeys for his brother Esau.  The sheer size of this gift gives us some idea of how wealthy Jacob had become.  He had first crossed the Jordan with only his staff, but now he could spare 550+ animals as a gift!  Each herd was separated, and he instructed the servants who were taking the gift to Esau that they should go ahead and leave some space between the herds.  (v.13-16)

[How would you like to have been the first guy to be leading that procession to Esau?!  I also wondered if giving Esau this large gift was wise -- wasn't it almost like rubbing in the fact that Jacob has the blessing and is fabulously wealthy?  However, since Jacob says that he hopes to pacify Esau by this gift (v.20), I assume it is not gloating, but rather, a sharing with Esau of some of the wealth which Esau may still believe is rightfully due him.  In God's sight, that is really not the case, for God had decided to exalt Jacob over his brother even before they were born (Genesis 25:23), so in a sense, Jacob owes Esau nothing.  In human terms, Jacob had stolen Esau's blessing, but God had intended it to be his all along.  I am not saying that the end justifies the means.  Not at all.  However,  I am saying that it is Jacob's sinful deception (wresting the blessing from his brother Esau, instead of waiting for God to give it to him) which he is probably trying to make up for now.]
Aside from his gift, Jacob also instructed the servants as to what they should say:  "...When my brother Esau meets you and asks, 'To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?' then you are to say, 'They belong to your servant Jacob.  They are a gift to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.' "  (Genesis 32:17-18 NIV)  Note Jacob refers to himself as Esau's servant, and Esau as his lord.  While these terms may be only an expected formality, Jacob indicates both his peaceful intentions and that he is not going to lord it over Esau.

"So Jacob's gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp." (Genesis 32:21 NIV) 

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