Genesis 32:6
And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him.
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Genesis 32:6-7. He cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him — He is now weary of waiting for the days of mourning for his father, and before they come resolves to slay thee. Then was Jacob greatly afraid and distressed — He was conscious how deeply he had offended his brother, and remembered the enmity which his brother cherished against him, and hence was not without an apprehension that he might now execute the threatened revenge. We see here how a consciousness of sin tends to weaken faith, and to produce fear and dread. For, notwithstanding the repeated experience Jacob had had of the divine protection; though he had just seen himself surrounded with a host of guardian angels; though he had undertaken his journey in obedience to God’s express command, and had God’s renewed promise to assure him of a safe return, (Genesis 28:15; Genesis 31:13,) yet a consciousness of having injured his brother, and of his brother’s having it in his power, should God permit him, to avenge himself, damps his faith, and fills him with the most painful and distressing apprehensions. A lively sense of danger, however, may very well consist with a degree of confidence in God’s power and goodness.

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 now sends a message to Esau apprising him of his arrival. Unto the land of Seir. Arabia Petraea, with which Esau became connected by his marriage with a daughter of Ishmael. He was now married 56 years to his first two wives, and 20 to his last, and therefore, had a separate and extensive establishment of children and grandchildren. Jacob endeavors to make amends for the past by an humble and respectful approach to his older brother, in which he styles himself, "thy servant" and Esau, "my lord." He informs him of his wealth, to intimate that he did not expect anything from him. "Four hundred men with him." This was a formidable force. Esau had begun to live by the sword Genesis 27:40, and had surrounded himself with a numerous body of followers. Associated by marriage with the Hittites and the Ishmaelites, he had rapidly risen to the rank of a powerful chieftain. It is vain to conjecture with what intent Esau advanced at the head of so large a retinue. It is probable that he was accustomed to a strong escort, that he wished to make an imposing appearance before his brother, and that his mind was in that wavering state, when the slightest incident might soothe him into good-will, or arouse him to vengeance. Jacob, remembering his own former dealings with him, has good cause for alarm. He betakes himself to the means of deliverance. He disposes of his horde into two camps, that if one were attacked and captured, the other might meanwhile escape. He never neglects to take all the precautions in his power.6. The messengers returned to Jacob—Their report left Jacob in painful uncertainty as to what was his brother's views and feelings. Esau's studied reserve gave him reason to dread the worst. Jacob was naturally timid; but his conscience told him that there was much ground for apprehension, and his distress was all the more aggravated that he had to provide for the safety of a large and helpless family. Esau gave them but an imperfect and a doubtful answer, as appears from Jacob’s fear, Genesis 32:7. He brought

four hundred men with him; either as his usual guard, he being then a great man in those parts; or in ostentation of his power and greatness, in spite of all the injury which his father or brother did him; or because at first he designed mischief to Jacob, as may seem by his dismissing of his messengers without any testimony of his favour, though afterwards, upon Jacob’s prayer, God changed his mind.

And the messengers returned to Jacob,.... After they had delivered their message, with the answer they brought back:

saying, we came to thy brother Esau; which, though not expressed, is implied in these words, and is still more manifest by what follows:

and also he cometh to meet thee; and pay a friendly visit, as they supposed:

and four hundred men with him; partly to show his grandeur, and partly out of respect to Jacob, and to do honour to him; though some think this was done with an ill design upon him, and which indeed seems probable; and it is certain Jacob so understood it, as is evident by the distress it gave him, and by the methods he took for his safety, and by the gracious appearance of God unto him, and the strength he gave him on this occasion, not only to pray to and wrestle with him, but to prevail both with God and men, as the following account shows. The Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem call these four hundred men leaders or generals of armies, which is not probable; they were most likely Esau's subjects, his tenants and servants.

And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him.
6. four hundred men] Where Esau was, and how he had become the head of a force of four hundred men, is not related, but may have formed part of another narrative. His intentions, if not hostile, are suspicious (cf. Genesis 33:4).

Verse 6. - And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee (vide Genesis 33:1), and four hundred men with him. That Esau was attended by 400 armed followers was a proof that he had grown to be a powerful chieftain. If the hypothesis be admissible that he had already begun to live by the sword (Genesis 27:40), and was now invading the territory of the Horites, which he afterwards occupied (Delitzsch, Keil, Kurtz), it will serve to explain his appearance in the land of Seir, while as yet he had not finally retired from Canaan. That he came with such a formidable force to meet his brother has been set down to personal vanity, or a desire to show how powerful a prince he had become (Lyra, Menochius); to fraternal kindness, which prompted him to do honor to his brother (Peele, Calvin, Clarke), to a distinctly hostile intention (Willet, Ainsworth, Candlish), at least if circumstances should seem to call for vengeance (Keil), though it is probable that Esau's mind, on first hearing of his brother's nearness, was simply excited, and "in that wavering state which the slightest incident might soothe into good will, or rouse into vengeance" (Murphy). Genesis 32:6From this point Jacob sent messengers forward to his brother Esau, to make known his return in such a style of humility ("thy servant," "my lord") as was adapted to conciliate him. אחר (Genesis 32:5) is the first pers. imperf. Kal for אאחר, from אחר to delay, to pass a time; cf. Proverbs 8:17, and Ges. 68, 2. The statement that Esau was already in the land of Seir (Genesis 32:4), or, as it is afterwards called, the field of Edom, is not at variance with Genesis 36:6, and may be very naturally explained on the supposition, that with the increase of his family and possessions, he severed himself more and more from his father's house, becoming increasingly convinced, as time went on, that he could hope for no change in the blessings pronounced by his father upon Jacob and himself, which excluded him from the inheritance of the promise, viz., the future possession of Canaan. Now, even if his malicious feelings towards Jacob had gradually softened down, he had probably never said anything to his parents on the subject, so that Rebekah had been unable to fulfil her promise (Genesis 27:45); and Jacob, being quite uncertain as to his brother's state of mind, was thrown into the greatest alarm and anxiety by the report of the messengers, that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men. The simplest explanation of the fact that Esau should have had so many men about him as a standing army, is that given by Delitzsch; namely, that he had to subjugate the Horite population in Seir, for which purpose he might easily have formed such an army, partly from the Canaanitish and Ishmaelitish relations of his wives, and partly from his own servants. His reason for going to meet Jacob with such a company may have been, either to show how mighty a prince he was, or with the intention of making his brother sensible of his superior power, and assuming a hostile attitude if the circumstances favoured it, even though the lapse of years had so far mitigated his anger, that he no longer seriously thought of executing the vengeance he had threatened twenty years before. For we are warranted in regarding Jacob's fear as no vain, subjective fancy, but as having an objective foundation, by the fact that God endowed him with courage and strength for his meeting with Esau, through the medium of the angelic host and the wrestling at the Jabbok; whilst, on the other hand, the brotherly affection and openness with which Esau met him, are to be attributed partly to Jacob's humble demeanour, and still more to the fact, that by the influence of God, the still remaining malice had been rooted out from his heart.
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