Life-Study of Genesisby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Genesis 32 and 33 contain a very strange experience in the life of Jacob, the chosen one. We have already pointed out that Jacob did not trust in the Lord. Since the time he was born, he exercised his natural ability to do things for himself. In chapter thirty-one he fled from Laban, and God delivered him out of Laban's usurping hand. Because Laban told him that God had warned him not to hurt Jacob, Jacob took the opportunity to boldly rebuke him (31:24, 36). Nevertheless, the Lord brought him through that difficulty. However, in front of Jacob was another serious problemhis brother Esau.
Jacob was in a dilemma. Behind him was Laban and in front of him was Esau. I believe that while Jacob was fleeing from Laban and returning to the land of his fathers, he was greatly disturbed by these two men. It was difficult for him to remain with Laban and it was just as difficult for him to return to the place where Esau was. By God's mercy, he was released from Laban, but now he had to confront Esau.
Genesis 32:1 and 2 say, "And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's camp: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim," which means two camps (Heb.). As Jacob went on his way, he was probably thinking about how he would face his brother. Perhaps he said to himself, "I have been delivered from my uncle, but how shall I deal with Esau, my brother?" Much to his surprise, the angels of God met him, indicating that they would protect him. God's angels are always invisibly present with His chosen people. In this instance, the angels appeared to Jacob and he saw them. He did not see a small number of angels; rather, he saw two camps of them. This reminds us of Psalm 34:7, which says, "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them." The presence of two camps of angels should have been a great encouragement to this troubled Jacob. However, he was still afraid that his brother would smite him.
After Jacob saw the two camps of angels, he should have been comforted. Nevertheless, he did not trust in these two camps of angels. God's purpose in showing him this vision of angels undoubtedly was to comfort him, to strengthen him, and to cause him to trust in God's celestial armies. But Jacob did not put his trust in what he saw. Rather, Jacob, who still trusted in his self-striving (vv. 3-8), imitated God's two camps of angels by dividing his people into two camps. Instead of putting his trust in what he saw, he copied the technique. Although we can only guess at what Jacob was thinking when he did this (perhaps he thought that each of the two camps of his household would be protected by the two camps of the angels), one thing is clearJacob did not exercise trust in God nor in the vision of the angels; rather, he expended his time and energy in exercising his natural ability. Verses 7 and 8 say, "Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two camps; and said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape." This was Jacob's cleverness. But actually it was not clever at all, for if Esau could have smitten the first camp of women and children, why could he not have also smitten the second camp? But this dividing of his people was the best that Jacob could do.
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