What does Genesis 32:8 mean?
ESV: thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape.”
NIV: He thought, 'If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.'
NASB: for he said, 'If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.'
CSB: He thought, "If Esau comes to one camp and attacks it, the remaining one can escape."
NLT: He thought, 'If Esau meets one group and attacks it, perhaps the other group can escape.'
KJV: And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.
Verse Commentary:
Jacob is afraid. Esau, his estranged twin brother, is coming with 400 men. Maybe it is a welcoming party or, just as likely, Esau is coming to take his revenge on Jacob. Twenty years prior, Jacob hoodwinked their father, Isaac, in order to steal a blessing meant for Esau (Genesis 27:30–35). Prior to that, Esau was manipulated into selling Jacob his birthright (Genesis 25:29–34). It was Esau's murderous rage (Genesis 27:41–45) that drove Jacob to live with Laban, where he built his family and fortune.

In the following verses, Jacob will turn to God in faithful and humble prayer. Before that, though, Jacob will—characteristically—cook up a scheme. He has divided all of his people, animals, and property into two camps (Genesis 32:7). Now he reveals why: If Esau attacks one camp, those in the other camp might be able to get away. In this way, Jacob may at least save half of his large company.
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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