Genesis 32:3-4 Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He also commanded them saying, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: ‘Thus says your servant Jacob, “I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now…”
Jacob Sends Messengers of God
Jacob is preparing to meet his brother Esau after being away from home at least 20 years. The sages explain that the messengers Jacob sent to meet Esau were angels of God disguised as men because Esau would not have been able to look on angels without dying.
32:4 Having successfully fled his father-in-law Laban, Jacob prepared to confront his brother Esau. His mother Rebecca had told him that although Esau still harbored his longstanding hatred against him, the passage of time had softened it somewhat, so Jacob hoped that a conciliatory message might assuage it altogether.1 He did not risk sending human messengers whom Esau could harm;2 instead, Jacob dispatched angels as messengersahead of him to his brother Esau.These angels assumed human form for this mission, for Esau was not sufficiently spiritually refined to survive a face-to-face encounter with angels.3 He sent the messengers to the land surrounding Mount Seir, which, ever since Esau had started frequenting it, had become known after his by-name4 as the field ofEdom.
5 He instructed them as follows, “Thus shall you say to my master, Esau, ‘So said your servant, Jacob: “There is no need for you to be concerned about our father’s blessing to me that I shall rule over you,5 for he made this blessing contingent on my first becoming a recognized political leader,6 and I am anything but that. In fact, I have been sojourning with Laban in his land for the past twenty years, during which time my social status has not risen above that of a simple sojourner. Because I have been dependent on Laban for my livelihood all these years, I have delayed my return home until now. But I am also proud to say that even though I have been sojourning with Laban all these years, I have continued to faithfully observe the Torah’s commandments, and I have not been influenced by his corrupt ways.
6 As further proof that our father’s blessings to me have not yet been fulfilled, you should recall that, although he blessed me with the dew of the heavens and the choicest fruits of the land,7 I in fact possess no land at all; all I have acquired is cattle, donkeys, flocks, menservants, and handmaids.
It is thus clear that our father’s blessing to me will probably not take effect during our lifetimes.8 Since we can therefore live in peace, I am now sending word toyou, my master, that I am coming to you in a spirit of friendship, in order to gain favor in your eyes.” ‘ “
7 The angels approached Esau, as Jacob had charged them to, and delivered his message. The angels then returned to Jacob, saying, “We came toEsau, whom you had hoped would be willing and ready to relate to you as your brother, but he evinced no brotherly sentiments; we found we had come tonone other than the infamous, unreformed, and malevolent Esau. In response to our announcement of your arrival, he himself has set out and is heading towards you, and he has 400 armed men with him.” – The Lubavitcher Rebbe
The news from the messengers that Esau was heading towards him with 400 armed men caused Jacob to fear for himself and his family. He was afraid that he would be killed or have to kill, which is against the Torah (instruction) from God. The sages teach us that Jacob took three distinct actions in preparing to meet with Esau.
- Jacob prepared for battle with Esau.
- Jacob prayed for God to stop the battle or make him victorious.
- Jacob prepared a propitiatory gift for Esau.
He separated his family and estate because God’s promise applied to his family, not his estate! Jacob intended to rely mainly on his prayers, yet he did not pray first, he instead prepared for battle. The sages teach that he prepared first because his prayer would be based on his preparation.
He divided the people who were with him—along with the flocks, cattle, and camels—into two camps, one camp comprising his servants and possessions, and the second comprising himself and his family. Because God had promised Abraham and Isaac to multiply their descendants, and it was on the strength of this promise that Jacob planned to ask God to protect his family, he separated his family from his estate (for God’s promise applied to his family, not to his estate).”Thus,” he said, “even if Esau is not appeased by my propitiatory gift, andEsau comes to the first camp and attacks it, and overcomes it because it lacks God’s promised protection—and I will then be forced to defend the remaining camp against his attack—I am sure that I will succeed in repelling him and that the remaining camp will survive, because after all, God didpromise to protect me and my family.” ~ The Lubavitcher Rebbe
Jacob’s Prayer for Protection
Genesis 32:9- 12 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 relatives, and I will prosper you,’ I am unworthy of all the loving kindness and all of the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with children. For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.”
Jacob prepared for battle in a way that reflected the Divine promise he planned to invoke. Now, he was ready to pray. When God appeared to Jacob at Bethel he identified himself as, “God of Abraham and God of Isaac.” Here God promised to protect Jacob wherever he would go.
When God appeared to Jacob at Padam Aram he identified Himself simply as, “God,” and He said, “Return to your land and to your birthplace, and I will make things go well with you.” In his prayer, Jacob is now invoking these two promises from God. The sages teach that Jacob was concerned that his own merit was not enough to move God to protect him. He repents of his sins. He feels he may have already used up God’s mercy. He thanks God for the protection and blessings He has already provided. He petitions God for new and fresh protection in the merit of Abraham and Isaac. He admits his fear to God; and he reminds God that he told him, “I will surely make things go well with you;” both in your own merit and the merit of your forefathers… He reminds Him of the promise to Abraham concerning his descendants which had not been fulfilled yet.
Jacob Prepares a Gift for Esau
The morning after his prayer, Jacob implemented his third strategy: Esau’s gift. Before selecting Esau’s gift, Jacob gave his tithes to God. Esau’s gift came from what was leftover and Jacob’s to give away.
Jacob selected for Esau:
- 200 she-goats and 20 he-goats
- 200 ewes and 20 rams
- 30 nursing camels with their young
- 40 cows and 10 bulls
- 20 she-donkeys and 10 he-donkeys
The sages teach that “because camels mate modestly the Torah (instruction) does not mention the male mates explicitly.
Notice that Jacob sent five types of animals to Esau. Five in the alephbet is Hei and represents Expression: Thought, Speech, Action.
The name of the letter hei appears in the verse, “Take [hei] for yourselves seed.” “Take (hei)” expresses revelation of self in the act of giving oneself to another. Giving to others in the form of self-expression is the ultimate gift of self. In the secret of the letter gimmel, the rich man gives of himself to the poor man in the form of charity. The highest form of charity is when the giver is completely concealed from the receiver, in order not to embarrass him, as is said, “the concealed gift subdues anger.” Here, in the secret of the letter hei, the gift itself is the relation and expression of self, drawing the receiver into the essence of the giver.
The soul possesses three means of expressions~”garments”: thought, speech, and action. The higher garment, thought, is the expression of one’s inner intellect and emotions to oneself. The process of the intellect and emotions becoming conscious through thought is similar to giving oneself (the essentially unconscious domains of the soul) to another (one’s state of consciousness). The two lower garments, speech and action, express oneself to others.
The three lines which compose the form of the hei correspond to these three garments: the upper horizontal line to thought; the right vertical line to speech; the unattached foot to action.
The horizontal line symbolizes a state of equanimity. The continuous, horizontal flow of thought is the contemplation of how God is found equally in every place and in everything. In relating to one’s neighbor, one must realize that each of us possesses an innate inner point of goodness, and that all of us are equal in essence. This realization, the horizontal high plane of one’s consciousness in relation to another, sets the “scene” for all individual, personal relationships.
The origin-point of speech, the right vertical line of the hei is directly connected to the line of thought and thereafter descends to express one’s thoughts and inner feelings to others. The root of the word speech in Hebrew, davar, means “leadership,” as in the expression “There is one leader [dabar] in a generation, not two leaders in a generation.” Leadership implies hierarchy, relative positions of up and down, and thus is represented by a vertical line. The King, and likewise every leader, rules through his power of speech, as is said, “By the word of the King is His sovereignty.”
The separation of action, the unattached left foot of the hei, from thought, the upper horizontal line, reflects a deep truth about the nature of action. “Many are the thoughts in the heart of man, yet the advice of God shall surely stand.” The servant of God experiences the existential gap between his thoughts and deeds. Often he is unable to realize his inner intentions. Other times he is surprised by unexpected success. In both cases he feels the hand of God directing his deeds. The gap is the experience of the Divine Nothing, the source of all creation in deed: something from nothing.
We have now reached the culmination of the process of giving of oneself to another. The gift, represented by the foot, the unattached segment of hei, when fully integrated in the receiver, becomes his own power of action and giving of himself to others. Even more, now he fully realizes that the ultimate effect and potency of his deeds are in truth the act of
The name hei means to be broken; to take seed; behold; revelation.
It was by Divine Providence that Jacob sent this gift to Esau. It doesn’t say Jacob was happy about having to take the steps, but he was obedient and did so in order to hopefully be received peacefully by Esau. In fact, the sages teach that Jacob was angry about having to take these actions. However, he did not allow his anger to become a stumbling block.
Nuggets of Gold (God)
Today we have learned that Jacob sent messengers of God ahead of him to Esau. We can also ask God to send his messengers before us to help prepare the way. We also learned that Jacob prepared for battle with Esau. He took action in making preparations by separating his family from his estate. God’s promises concerning him were on his family, not his estate. He recognized and remembered what the promises concerned. He prayed to God, repenting of his sins, petitioning God for renewed mercies, and thanking God for the protection and blessings he had already provided for him. Finally, he prepared a gift for Esau in hopes of establishing peace.
How do we handle circumstances with our fellow church members, people in our community, and people in our family? Do we make preparations for battle when we learn one may be imminent? Do we pray for protection from God and blessings on the ones planning to come against us? Do we give them a gift? Or, do we talk about them, tear them down, and do what we can to make ourselves “feel” good and justified in the actions we take? We want our congregations to grow, but we tear each other down. How can God build up if we are continuously tearing down? It’s time to become spiritual adults. Time to give ourselves to others. Time to build up our congregations and speak life into those around us, not tear them down. Ephesians 6:18 Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.
Father, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, just as Jacob came to you in prayer, repenting of his sins, confessing his fear, and asking for renewed mercy and protection, I come to you today. I ask you to forgive me of my sins. I ask you to place a hedge of protection around me and my family, around this ministry that You have started. It is not that I deserve renewed mercies, but LORD, because You love me. I am willing to be a vessel You can use to allow Your light to shine to others. LORD, I pray for my church, my pastor and his family, my assistant pastor and his family, and for each person you send there. May Your light always shine brightly. May the strongholds of dissension be torn down. Lord, I pray for each member of any congregation who reads this post. May your wisdom shine through. May they receive the message that You have for them. I pray for Your children both here and around the world. Please empower them for the work in which they are engaged. May they take up the work that is still undone. Please help me to pray at all seasons in the Spirit for all of Your saints. I thank you for the work You have already done through this blog. I thank you for the lives it has already touched. I thank you for blessings You have provided and the ones You plan to provide. In Jesus name. Amen.