Genesis 32:20
And say you moreover, Behold, your servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me.
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(20) I will appease him.—The Heb. literally is, he said I will cover his face with the offering that goeth before my face, and afterwards I will see his face; peradventure he will lift up my face. The covering of the face of the offended person, so that he could no longer see the offence, became the usual legal word for making an atonement (Leviticus 9:7, &c). For the “offering” (Heb., minchah) see Genesis 4:3; and for “the lifting up of the face,” Genesis 4:7.

32:9-23 Times of fear should be times of prayer: whatever causes fear, should drive us to our knees, to our God. Jacob had lately seen his guards of angels, but in this distress he applied to God, not to them; he knew they were his fellow-servants, Re 22:9. There cannot be a better pattern for true prayer than this. Here is a thankful acknowledgement of former undeserved favours; a humble confession of unworthiness; a plain statement of his fears and distress; a full reference of the whole affair to the Lord, and resting all his hopes on him. The best we can say to God in prayer, is what he has said to us. Thus he made the name of the Lord his strong tower, and could not but be safe. Jacob's fear did not make him sink into despair, nor did his prayer make him presume upon God's mercy, without the use of means. God answers prayers by teaching us to order our affairs aright. To pacify Esau, Jacob sent him a present. We must not despair of reconciling ourselves to those most angry against us.Jacob sends forward a present to Esau. "He lodged there that night." Mahanaim may have been about twenty-five miles from the Jabbok. At some point in the interval he awaited the return of his messengers. Abiding during the night in the camp, not far from the ford of the Jabbok, he selects and sends forward to Esau his valuable present of five hundred and fifty head of cattle. "That which was come into his hand," into his possession. The cattle are selected according to the proportions of male and female which were adopted from experience among the ancients (Varro, de re rust. II. 3). "Every drove by itself," with a space between, that Esau might have time to estimate the great value of the gift. The repetition of the announcement of the gift, and of Jacob himself being at hand, was calculated to appease Esau, and persuade him that Jacob was approaching him in all brotherly confidence and affection. "Appease him." Jacob designs this gift to be the means of propitiating his brother before he appears in his presence. "Lift up my face," accept me. "Lodged that night in the camp;" after sending this present over the Jabbok. This seems the same night referred to in Genesis 32:14.17. he commanded the foremost—The messengers were strictly commanded to say the same words [Ge 32:18, 20], that Esau might be more impressed and that the uniformity of the address might appear more clearly to have come from Jacob himself. I will appease him; Heb. appease or allay his anger; for the Hebrew word panim signifies both anger, as Psalm 21:9 34:16, and face, as every where, because a man’s anger is most discernible in his face or countenance, Proverbs 21:14.

He will accept of me; Heb. will lift up my face or countenance, which now is dejected with the sense of his displeasure; compare Genesis 4:6; or, will accept of my person, as this phrase is oft used. And say ye moreover, behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us,.... This is repeated to impress it upon their minds, that they might be careful of all things, not to forget that, it being a point of great importance; for the present would have signified nothing, if Jacob had not appeared in person; Esau would have thought himself, at best, but slighted; as if he was unworthy of a visit from him, and of conversation with him:

for he said: that is, Jacob, or "had said" (a), in his heart, within himself, as might be supposed from the whole of his conduct; for what follows are the words of Moses the historian, as Aben Ezra observes, and not of Jacob to his servants, nor of them to Esau:

I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterwards I will see his face: he hoped the present would produce the desired effect; that it would turn away his wrath from him, and pacify him; and then he should be able to appear before him, and see his face with pleasure: or, "I will expiate his face" (b), as some render the words, or make him propitious and favourable; or cover his face, as Aben Ezra interprets it, that is, cause him to hide his wrath and resentment, that it shall not appear; or cause his fury to cease, as Jarchi; or remove his anger, wrath, and displeasure, as Ben Melech; all which our version takes in, by rendering it, "appease him"; and then:

peradventure he will accept of me: receive him with marks of tenderness and affection, and in a very honourable and respectable manner.

(a) "dicebat enim", Vatablus, Junius & Tremellius, Drusius. (b) "expiabo faciem ejus", Montanus; "propitium reddam", Drusius, Munster.

And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I {g} will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me.

(g) He thought it no less to depart with these goods with the intent that he might follow the vocation to which God called him.

20. I will appease him] Lit. “I will cover his face,” in the sense of “I will propitiate.” The present will so “cover his face,” that Esau cannot look upon Jacob’s offence; cf. Genesis 20:16. LXX renders ἐξιλάσομαι τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ. Cf. Proverbs 16:14 (the pacifying of a king’s wrath with a gift).

accept me] Lit. “lift up my face.” Cf. Genesis 4:7, Genesis 19:21; Malachi 1:8.Although hoping for aid and safety from the Lord alone, Jacob neglected no means of doing what might help to appease his brother. Having taken up his quarters for the night in the place where he received the tidings of Esau's approach, he selected from his flocks ("of that which came to his hand," i.e., which he had acquired) a very respectable present of 550 head of cattle, and sent them in different detachments to meet Esau, "as a present from his servant Jacob," who was coming behind. The selection was in harmony with the general possessions of nomads (cf. Job 1:3; Job 42:12), and the proportion of male to female animals was arranged according to the agricultural rule of Varro (de re rustica 2, 3). The division of the present, "drove and drove separately," i.e., into several separate droves which followed one another at certain intervals, was to serve the purpose of gradually mitigating the wrath of Esau. פּנים כּפּר, Genesis 32:21, to appease the countenance; פּנים נשׁא to raise any one's countenance, i.e., to receive him in a friendly manner. This present he sent forward; and he himself remained the same night (mentioned in Genesis 32:14) in the camp.
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