Genesis 32:7 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 32:7, NIV: "In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well."

Genesis 32:7, ESV: "Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps,"

Genesis 32:7, KJV: "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 bands;"

Genesis 32:7, NASB: "Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks, the herds, and the camels, into two companies;"

Genesis 32:7, NLT: "Jacob was terrified at the news. He divided his household, along with the flocks and herds and camels, into two groups."

Genesis 32:7, CSB: "Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; he divided the people with him into two camps, along with the flocks, herds, and camels."

What does Genesis 32:7 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Jacob is afraid. In fact, the Hebrew phrasing in this verse implies he is terrified. The original phrase wa yi'ra Ya'aqob me'ōd wa yē'ser literally means "Then was afraid Jacob, extremely, and distressed." His concern is not without good cause. Twenty years ago, he impersonated his brother, fooling their old and sick father in order to steal the family blessing (Genesis 27:30–35). Esau was furious. He made a plan to kill Jacob (Genesis 27:41–45). Jacob literally ran for his life to another country. Since then, so far as we know, there has been no contact of any kind between the brothers. Does Esau still want him dead?

Now that Jacob is back, he sends a careful, deferential message to his brother. His goal seems to be assuring Esau that he has no hard feelings, and to attempt to make peace. What he hears back is that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men. Naturally, Jacob fears the worst—is this an attack? A welcoming party?

When Jacob is distressed, he usually comes up with a scheme to try and protect himself. He does so now, dividing all of his people, animals, and property into two camps. The following verse will tell us his reasoning: he hopes to give one group time to get away if Esau attacks. In this way, at least some of his family can survive this encounter.