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JACOB'S FEAR OF ESAU-HIS WRESTLING WITH THE ANGEL.
Ver. 1, 2. The sacred writer, pursuing the history of Jacob, informs us that he went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when he saw them, he said, This is God's host : and he called the name of the place Mahanaim. That the angels of God are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister
for them who shall be heirs of salvation, is a truth clearly revealed in the scriptores : but this their ministry has seldom been rendered visible to mortals. The angel of Jehovah, it is said, encampeth round about them
. that fear him, and delivereth them. But I do not recollect that any of these celestial guardians have appeared in this character to the servants of God, except in times of imminent danger. When a host of Syrians encompassed Dothan, in order to take Elisha, bis servant was alarmed, and exclaimed, Alas, master, how shall we do? The prophet answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. Yet there was no earthly force to protect them. But when, in answer to the prophet's prayer, the young man's eyes were opened, he saw the mountain full of , horses, and chariots of fire round about Elisha. , In this case, God's hosts became visible, to allay the fear of man's hosts. Thus it was also in the present instance. Jacob had just escaped one host of enemies, and another is coming forth to meet him. At this juncture God's host makes its appearance, teaching him to whom he owed bis late escape, and that he who had delivered, did deliver, and he might safely trust would deliver him. The angels
which appeared on this occasion are called God's host, in the singular : but by the name which Jacob gave to the place, it appears that they were divided into two, encompassing him as it were before and behind; and this would correspond with the two
l hosts of adversaries, which at the same time, and with almost the same violent designs were coming against him ; the one had already been sent back without striking a blow, and the other should be the same. This howeyer was not expressly revealed to Jacob, but merely a general encouragement afforded him : for it was not the design of God to supersede other means, but to save him in the use of them.
Ver. 3—5. Jacob has as yet heard nothing of his brother Esau, except that he had settled in the land of Seir, the country of Edom; but knowing what had formerly taken place, and the temper of the man, he is apprehensive of consequences. He therefore resolves on sending messengers before him, in order to sound him, and if possible, to appease
messengers are instructed what they shall say, and how they shall conduct themselves on their arrival, all in a way to conciliate. Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus : I have sojourned with Laban, and staid there until now. And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, und men-servants, and women-servants : and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight. Observe, (1). He declines the honour of precedency given bim in the blessing, calling Esau his lord. Isaac had said to him, Be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee; but Jacob either understood it of spiritual ascendency, or if of temporal, as referring to his posterity, rather than to him. He therefore declines all disputes on that head. (2.) He would have him know that he was not come to claim the double portion, nor even to divide with bim his father's inheritance ; for that God had given him plenty of this world's goods without it. Now as these were the things which had so greatly provoked Esau, a relinquishment of them would tend more than any thing to conciliate him.
Ver. 6–12. The messengers had not proceeded far, ere they met Esau coming forth to meet his brother Jacob, and four hundred men with him: It would be se by the account, that they
went and delivered their message to him. But, however that was, they appear to have been struck with the idea that he was coming with a hostile design, and therefore quickly returned, and informed their master of particulars. We are surprised that Jacob's journey, which had taken him but about a fortnight, and bad been conducted with so much secresy, should yet have been known to Esau. His thirst for revenge must have prompted him to great vigilance. One would think he had formed connexions with persons who lived in the way, and engaged them to give him information of the first movements of his brother. However this
Jacob was greatly afraid, and even distressed. This term with us is sometimes lightly applied to the state of mind produced by ordinary troubles : but in the scriptures it denotes a sore strait, from which there seems to be no way of escape. This distress would probably be heightened by the recollection of his sin, which first excited the resentment of Esau. There is no time, however, to be lost. But what can be do? Well, let us take notice what a good man will do in a time of distress,
may, as occasion requires, follow his example. First : He uses all possible precaution, dividing the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands ; saying, If Esau come to the one company and smite it, then the other
which is left shall escape. Secondly: He betakes himself to prayer ; and as this is one of the scripture examples of successful prayer, we shall do well to take particular notice of it Observe, (1.) He approaches God as the God of his father; and as such, a God in covenant. O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac! This was laying hold of the divine faithfulness : it was the prayer
of faith. We may not have exactly the same plea ia our approaches to God; but we have one that is more endearing, and more prevalent. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a character which excites more bope, and in which more great and precious promises have been made than in the other. (2.) As his own God, pleading what he had promised to him. Jehovah, who saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee. Jehovah has never made promises to us in the same extraordinary way as he did to Jacob : Vol. V.
but whatever he hath promised to believers in general, may be pleaded by every one of them in particular, especially when encountering opposition in the way which he hath directed them to go. (3.) While he celebrates the great mercy and truth of God towards him, he acknowledges himself unworthy of the least instance of either. The worthiness of merit is what every good man in every circumstance, must disclaim : but that which he has in view, I conceive, is that of meetness. Looking back to his own unworthy conduct, especially that which preceded and occasioned his passing over Jordan with a staff only in his hand, he is affected with the returns of mercy and truth which he had met with from a gracious God. By sin he had reduced himself in a manner to nothing ; but God's goodness had made him great. As we desire to succeed in our approaches to God, we must be sure to take low ground ; hunbling ourselves in the dust before him, and suing for relief as a matter of mere grace. Finally : having thus prefaced his petition, he now presents it :
Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau ; for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the chil. dren. This was doubtless the petition of a kind husband, and a tender father : it was not as such only, nor principally however, but as a believer in the promises, that he presented it: the great stress of the prayer turns on this hinge. It was as though he had said, “If my life, and that of the mother, with the children, be cut off, how are thy promises to be fulfilled ?' Hence he adds, And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy SEED as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude. It is natural for us, as husbands and as parents, to be importunate with God for the well-being of those who are so nearly related to us : but the way to obtain mercy for them is to seek it in subordination to the divine glory.
Ver. 13——30. Jacob and his company seem now to have been north of the river Jabbok, near to the place where it falls into the Jordan. Here he is said to have lodged that night. Afterwards we read of his rising up, and sending his company over the ford. (ver. 22.) Probably it was during one single night that the whole of what follows in this chapter occurred. The messengers