Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
Genesis 32: 13-21
13 So he stayed there that night, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau, 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milking camels and their calves, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 These he handed over to his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on ahead of me and put a space between drove and drove.” 17 He instructed the first, “When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?’ 18 then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a present sent to my lord Esau. And moreover, he is behind us.’” 19 He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, “You shall say the same thing to Esau when you find him, 20 and you shall say, ‘Moreover, your servant Jacob is behind us.’” For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.” 21 So the present passed on ahead of him, and he himself stayed that night in the camp.
In this section Jacob’s plan for the appeasement of his brother springs into action. Looking at The Pulpit Commentaries for verse 13:
And he lodged there that same night; and took—not by random, but after careful selection; separavit (Vulgate)—of that which came to his hand—not of those things which were in his hand, ω}n e!feren (LXX.), such as he had (Ainsworth), quae in mann erant (Rosenmüller), but of such things as had come into his hand, i.e. as he had acquired (Keil, Alford, ‘Speaker’s Commentary,’ Inglis)—a present (Minchah; used in Genesis 4:3, Genesis 4:4, Genesis 4:5, as a sacrifice to Jehovah, q.v.) for Esau his brother.
present = מִנְחָה minchâh, min-khaw’; from an unused root meaning to apportion, i.e. bestow; a donation; euphemistically, tribute; specifically a sacrificial offering (usually bloodless and voluntary):—gift, oblation, (meat) offering, present, sacrifice.
Continuing in verse 14 with Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:
(14, 15) Goats—ewes—camels—kine—asses.—As the kinds of cattle are arranged according to their value, it is remarkable that kine should be prized above camels; for the milk of cows was regarded as of little worth. This high estimation of them, therefore, must have arisen from an increased regard for agriculture, the ploughing being done in the East by oxen. Asses of course come last, as being the animal used by chieftains for riding, and therefore prized as matters of luxury. (See Genesis 12:16; Judges 5:10.) Jacob selected “milch camels” because their milk forms a valuable part of the daily food of the Arabs.
As the note says, donkeys were once considered a status symbol. From Smithsonianmag.com, by Elizabeth Gamillo – This Ancient Wild Ass Was the Earliest Known Animal Hybrid Bred by Humans. I’ll include some excerpts from the article below:
The kungas of Syro-Mesopotamia were ancient equines that roamed the region 4,500 years ago. Arriving long before domesticated horses did, the stocky horse-like animals were highly valued and used for pulling four-wheeled wagons into battle, reports James Gorman for the New York Times. Having been depicted in mosaics and their value recorded in cuneiform on clay tablets, researchers suspected the prestigious kunga was a type of hybrid donkey. Still, their proper classification in the animal kingdom remained unknown until now.
According to a statement, the elite used the highly-prized, donkey-like creatures for travel and warfare. They may have been considered status symbols or exchanged as royal gifts. Ancient texts from the kingdom of Ebla and the Diyala region in Mesopotamia detail the prices of obtaining the hybrid animal, which cost six times the amount for a donkey, according to the study. Other cuneiform texts also describe animal husbandry programs used to breed the kunga, Science reports.
Interestingly, in modern times, donkeys are seen as a humble animal and Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem, on the back of a donkey, is consistently portrayed as a humble arrival. Nevertheless, we can see that the history here tells us that a donkey may have at one time been viewed as the mot fitting animal for a king to arrive on.
Continuing with Ellicott at verse 16:
(16) A space.—Heb., a breathing place. These paration of the droves would be a matter of course, as each kind would travel peaceably onward only by itself. But Jacob rightly concluded that the repeated acknowledgment of Esau as his lord, added to the great value of the gift, would fill his brother’s heart with friendly feelings, and perhaps therefore he put a longer space than usual between the successive droves.
The Pulpit Commentaries says the following about verses 17 through 20:
And he commanded the foremost, saying (with admirable tact and prudence), When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying, Whose art thou? and whither goest thou? and whose are these before thee! then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob’s; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he (Jacob) is behind us. And so commanded he the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, saying, On this manner shall ye speak unto Esau, when ye find him—literally, in your finding of him. And say ye (literally, and ye shall say) moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is Behind us” for he thought that this would convince Esau that he Went to ‘meet him with complete confidence, and without apprehension” (Kalisch)—for he said (the historian adds the motive which explained Jacob’s singular behavior), I will appease him (literally, I will cover his face, meaning I will prevent him from seeing my past offences, i.e. I will turn away his anger or pacify him, as in Proverbs 16:14) with the present that goeth before me,—literally, going before my face. So Abigail appeased David with a present (1 Samuel 25:18-32)—and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me—literally, lift up my face; a proverbial expression for granting a favorable reception (cf. Genesis 19:21; Job 42:8). “Jacob did not miscalculate the influence of his princely offerings, and I verily believe there is not an emeer or sheikh in all Gilead at this day who would not be appeased by such presents; and from my personal knowledge of Orientals, I should say that Jacob need not have been in such great terror, following in their rear. Far less will now ‘make room,’ as Solomon says, for any offender, however atrocious, and bring him before great men with acceptance”.
Jacob’s plan here is to appease his brother’s anger. Ellicott also touches on “appeasement.”
(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.
After all of this, Jacob remains that night in the camp and waits to see how things play out.