Genesis 32:3
And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother to the land of Seir, the country of Edom.
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(Genesis 32:3 to Genesis 33:16.)

(3) Jacob sent messengers.—As Jacob travelled homewards to Hebron the news somehow reached him that Esau, at the head of a large body of retainers, was engaged in an expedition against the Horites. These, as we have seen on Genesis 14:6, were a miserable race of cave-men, utterly unable to cope with Esau and his trained servants. We learn from Genesis 36:6 that Esau’s home was still with Isaac at Hebron, and probably this was a mere marauding expedition, like that against the people of Gath, which a century later cost Ephraim the lives of so many of his sons (1Chronicles 7:21); but it revealed to Esau the weakness of the in habitants, and also that the land was admirably adapted for his favourite pursuit of hunting. He seems also to have taken a Horite wife (Genesis 36:5), and being thus connected with the country, upon Isaac’s death he willingly removed into it, and it then became “the country,” Heb. the field of Edom. Its other name, Seir, i.e. rough, hairy, shows that it was then covered with forests, and the term field that it was an uncultivated region. It was entirely in the spirit of the adventurous Esau to make this expedition, and on his father’s death to prefer this wild land to the peaceful pastures at Hebron, where he was surrounded by powerful tribes of Amorites and Hittites. The land of Seir was a hundred miles distant from Mahanaim, but Esau apparently had been moving up through what were afterwards the countries of Moab and Ammon, and was probably, when Jacob sent his messengers, at no very great distance. At all events, Jacob remained at Mahanaim till his brother was near, when he crossed the brook Jabbok, and went to meet him.

32:1-8 The angels of God appeared to Jacob, to encourage him with the assurance of the Divine protection. When God designs his people for great trials, he prepares them by great comforts. While Jacob, to whom the promise belonged, had been in hard service, Esau was become a prince. Jacob sent a message, showing that he did not insist upon the birth-right. Yielding pacifies great offences, Ec 10:4. We must not refuse to speak respectfully, even to those unjustly angry with us. Jacob received an account of Esau's warlike preparations against him, and was greatly afraid. A lively sense of danger, and quickening fear arising from it, may be found united with humble confidence in God's power and promise.Jacob has a vision of the heavenly host. This passage, recording Laban's farewell and departure, closes the connection of Jacob with Haran and all its toils of servitude, and is hence, annexed to the previous chapter in the English version. In the distribution of the original text, it is regarded as the counterpart of the two following verses, in which Jacob's onward progress is mentioned, and so placed with them at the beginning of a new chapter. "The angels of God met him." Twenty years ago Jacob saw the mystical ladder connecting heaven and earth, and the angels of God thereupon ascending and descending from the one to the other. Now, in circumstances of danger, he sees the angels of God on earth, encamped beside or around his own camp Psalm 34:8. He recognizes them as God's camp, and names the place Mahanaim, from the double encampment. This vision is not dwelt upon, as it is the mere sequel of the former scene at Bethel. Mahanaim has been identified with Mahneh, about eight miles from the cairn of Laban and Jacob.Ge 32:3-32. Mission to Esau.

3. Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau—that is, "had sent." It was a prudent precaution to ascertain the present temper of Esau, as the road, on approaching the eastern confines of Canaan, lay near the wild district where his brother was now established.

land of Seir—a highland country on the east and south of the Dead Sea, inhabited by the Horites, who were dispossessed by Esau or his posterity (De 11:12). When and in what circumstances he had emigrated thither, whether the separation arose out of the undutiful conduct and idolatrous habits of his wives, which had made them unwelcome in the tent of his parents, or whether his roving disposition had sought a country from his love of adventure and the chase, he was living in a state of power and affluence, and this settlement on the outer borders of Canaan, though made of his own free will, was overruled by Providence to pave the way for Jacob's return to the promised land.

The land of Seir; of which see Genesis 14:6 36:9,20,21; whither Esau had removed his habitation from Canaan, partly out of discontent at his parents; partly as most convenient for his course of life; and principally by direction of Divine Providence, that Canaan might be left free and clear for Jacob and his posterity. The land of Seir, the country of Edom; so that Seir and Edom either are one and the same place; or rather Seir was a part of Edom. Some say both names are put here for distinction. For they make two lands of Edom, the one southward from Canaan, the other eastward, and this latter they understood here, alleging that the other, or southern, was so remote from Mount Gilead, whence Jacob was now descending, that Jacob need not fear Esau at that distance, nor send to him. But as that distinction seems to be without solid ground, so this reason seems to have but little weight in it, both because though this history immediately follows his descent from Mount Gilead, yet it might be done some competent time after it, and because Jacob in his journey to those parts where his father Isaac lived, and whither he was going, was still drawing nearer and nearer to Esau. And Jacob sent messengers before him unto Esau his brother,.... Or "angels": not angels simply, as Jarchi, for these were not under the command, and in the power of Jacob to send, nor would they have needed any instruction from him afterwards given, but these were some of his own servants. Esau it seems was removed from his father's house, and was possessed of a country after mentioned, called from his name; and which Aben Ezra says lay between Haran and the land of Israel; but if it did not directly lie in the road of Jacob, yet, as it was near him, he did not choose to pass by without seeing his brother; and therefore sent messengers to inform him of his coming, and by whom he might learn in what temper and disposition of mind he was towards him:

unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom: which had its first name from Seir the Horite; and Esau having married into his family, came into the possession of it, by virtue of that marriage; or rather he and his sons drove out the Horites, the ancient possessors of it, and took it to themselves, from whom it was afterwards called Edom, a name of Esau, which he had from the red pottage he sold his birthright for to his brother Jacob, Genesis 25:30; perhaps it is here called Edom by an anticipation, not having as yet that name, though it had in Moses's time, when this history was wrote; see Genesis 36:18.

And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.
3–12 (J). The Approach of Esau, and Jacob’s Prayer

3. the land of Seir] This name for the country occupied by the Edomites (Genesis 14:6) seems to mean the “shaggy,” or “rough,” “forest-covered” country; see Genesis 33:14; Genesis 33:16, Genesis 36:8. It is applied not only to the mountains on the east of the Arabah desert, but also to the mountain country of the Arabah and the southern borders of Palestine.

the field of Edom] The future home of Esau’s descendants is here so called by a not unnatural anachronism. Cf. Genesis 14:7, “the country of the Amalekites”; Genesis 21:34, “the land of the Philistines.”

The description of the country by the twofold name “land of Seir” and “field of Edom” indicates the two sources of the narrative.Verse 3. - And Jacob sent messengers (with the messengers of Jacob, the messengers of Elohim form a contrast which can scarcely have been accidental) before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, - vide on Genesis 14:6. Seir, nearly equivalent in force to Esau (Ewald), and meaning the rough or bristling mountain (Gesenius), was originally occupied by the Horites, but afterwards became the seat of Esau and his descendants (Deuteronomy 2:4; 2 Chronicles 20:10), though as yet Esau had not withdrawn from Canaan (Genesis 36:5-8) - the country (literally, plain or level tract = Padan (male Hoses 12:13) of Edom, as it was afterwards called. These words of Jacob "cut Laban to the heart with their truth, so that he turned round, offered his hand, and proposed a covenant." Jacob proceeded at once to give a practical proof of his assent to this proposal of his father-in-law, by erecting a stone as a memorial, and calling upon his relations also ("his brethren," as in Genesis 31:23, by whom Laban and the relations who came with him are intended, as Genesis 31:54 shows) to gather stones into a heap, which formed a table, as is briefly observed in Genesis 31:46, for the covenant meal (Genesis 31:54). This stone-heap was called Jegar-Sahadutha by Laban, and Galeed by Jacob (the former is the Chaldee, the latter the Hebrew; they have both the same meaning, viz., "heaps of witness"),

(Note: These words are the oldest proof, that in the native country of the patriarchs, Mesopotamia, Aramaean or Chaldaean was spoken, and Hebrew in Jacob's native country, Canaan; from which we may conclude that Abraham's family first acquired the Hebrew in Canaan from the Canaanites (Phoenicians).)

because, as Laban, who spoke first, as being the elder, explained, the heap was to be a "witness between him and Jacob." The historian then adds this explanation: "therefore they called his name Gal'ed," and immediately afterwards introduces a second name, which the heap received from words that were spoken by Laban at the conclusion of the covenant (Genesis 31:49): "And Mizpah," i.e., watch, watch-place (sc., he called it), "for he (Laban) said, Jehovah watch between me and thee; for we are hidden from one another (from the face of one another), if thou shalt oppress my daughters, and if thou shalt take wives to my daughters! No man is with us, behold God is witness between me and thee!" (Genesis 31:49, Genesis 31:50). After these words of Laban, which are introduced parenthetically,

(Note: There can be no doubt that Genesis 31:49 and Genesis 31:50 bear the marks of a subsequent insertion. But there is nothing in the nature of this interpolation to indicate a compilation of the history from different sources. That Laban, when making this covenant, should have spoken of the future treatment of his daughters, is a thing so natural, that there would have been something strange in the omission. And it is not less suitable to the circumstances, that he calls upon the God of Jacob, i.e., Jehovah, to watch in this affair. And apart from the use of the name Jehovah, which is perfectly suitable here, there is nothing whatever to point to a different source; to say nothing of the fact that the critics themselves cannot agree as to the nature of the source supposed.)

and in which he enjoined upon Jacob fidelity to his daughters, the formation of the covenant of reconciliation and peace between them is first described, according to which, neither of them (sive ego sive tu, as in Exodus 19:13) was to pass the stone-heap and memorial-stone with a hostile intention towards the other. Of this the memorial was to serve as a witness, and the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father (Terah), would be umpire between them. To this covenant, in which Laban, according to his polytheistic views, placed the God of Abraham upon the same level with the God of Nahor and Terah, Jacob swore by "the Fear of Isaac" (Genesis 31:42), the God who was worshipped by his father with sacred awe. He then offered sacrifices upon the mountain, and invited his relations to eat, i.e., to partake of a sacrificial meal, and seal the covenant by a feast of love.

The geographical names Gilead and Ramath-mizpeh (Joshua 13:26), also Mizpeh-Gilead (Judges 11:29), sound so obviously like Gal'ed and Mizpah, that they are no doubt connected, and owe their origin to the monument erected by Jacob and Laban; so that it was by prolepsis that the scene of this occurrence was called "the mountains of Gilead" in Genesis 31:21, Genesis 31:23, Genesis 31:25. By the mount or mountains of Gilead we are not to understand the mountain range to the south of the Jabbok (Zerka), the present Jebel Jelaad, or Jebel es Salt. The name Gilead has a much more comprehensive signification in the Old Testament; and the mountains to the south of the Jabbok are called in Deuteronomy 3:12 the half of Mount Gilead; the mountains to the north of the Jabbok, the Jebel-Ajlun, forming the other half. In this chapter the name is used in the broader sense, and refers primarily to the northern half of the mountains (above the Jabbok); for Jacob did not cross the Jabbok till afterwards (Genesis 32:23-24). There is nothing in the names Ramath-mizpeh, which Ramoth in Gilead bears in Joshua 13:26, and Mizpeh-Gilead, which it bears in Judges 11:29, to compel us to place Laban's meeting with Jacob in the southern portion of the mountains of Gilead. For even if this city is to be found in the modern Salt, and was called Ramath-mizpeh from the even recorded here, all that can be inferred from that is, that the tradition of Laban's covenant with Jacob was associated in later ages with Ramoth in Gilead, without the correctness of the association being thereby established.

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