What does Genesis 32:20 mean?
ESV: 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."
NIV: And be sure to say, ‘Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.’ " For he thought, "I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me."
NASB: and you shall say, ‘Behold, your servant Jacob also is behind us.’?' For he said, 'I will appease him with the gift that goes ahead of me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.'
CSB: You are also to say, ‘Look, your servant Jacob is right behind us.’" For he thought, "I want to appease Esau with the gift that is going ahead of me. After that, I can face him, and perhaps he will forgive me."
NLT: And be sure to say, ‘Look, your servant Jacob is right behind us.’' Jacob thought, 'I will try to appease him by sending gifts ahead of me. When I see him in person, perhaps he will be friendly to me.'
KJV: And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me.
NKJV: and also say, ‘Behold, your servant Jacob is behind us.’ ” For he said, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.”
Verse Commentary:
Jacob's plan to appease Esau's presumed wrath toward him is elaborate and strategic. This plan began by separating the caravan into two separate groups, so one would have a chance to escape while the other was attacked (Genesis 32:7–8). It also included Jacob's sincere and desperate prayer to God (Genesis 32:9–12). The final piece of this puzzle, short of actually meeting Esau in person, is Jacob's clever use of gifts.

He has constructed a parade, of sorts, with large gifts of animals arriving before Esau, one after another. Livestock were a major commodity in this era, so Jacob's gift for Esau is incredibly generous. The parade will culminate with Jacob himself arriving and seeing Esau's face. The goal in Jacob's mind is that Esau will accept him. Or, at the very least, that Esau will be pleased enough not to attack Jacob and his family as they pass by.
Verse Context:
Genesis 32:1–21 describes Jacob's preparations to meet his brother Esau, who is coming his way with 400 men. This will be the first time Jacob and Esau have spoken since Jacob fled Esau's rage as described in Genesis 27. Jacob is terrified this approaching force is coming to kill him. He divides his company into two camps. He prays in humility and faith to God for deliverance. He prepares a large gift of 550 animals to be strategically delivered to Esau to appease his presumed anger.
Chapter Summary:
As Jacob turns from Laban and returns to his own country, he must face another fearful potential conflict. His twin brother Esau is coming with 400 men. Jacob fears this group approaches to take revenge for cheating Esau out of the family blessing 20 years earlier. Jacob is so afraid that he splits his company into two camps, even as he prays for deliverance. He also prepares an enormous gift to appease Esau. Finally, while alone in the dark, Jacob is unexpectedly forced to wrestle a mysterious man, who turns out to be God Himself in some manifested form. In a profound moment of symbolism, God forces Jacob to state his own name, which God then changes to Israel.
Chapter Context:
Jacob came to work for Laban while running from the murderous rage of his twin brother, Esau. Jacob was routinely cheated by Laban, eventually resolving to go back home along with his entire family. Unfortunately, this means coming back to face Esau. Jacob soon learns that Esau is headed his way with 400 men. Are they coming to kill Jacob in revenge for his deceit in stealing Isaac's blessing 20 years earlier? Jacob is afraid. He divides his large company into two camps. He prays earnestly to God for deliverance, and he prepares a huge gift to appease Esau. Finally, alone in the dark, Jacob physically grapples with a mysterious man who turns out to be God Himself, in some form. The man questions Jacob, changes his name to Israel, and pronounces a blessing. Thus prepared, Jacob will finally be reunited with his brother in the next chapter.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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