Monday, December 21, 2009

Jacob Also Relies On His Own Plans Genesis 32:13-15

So he spent the night there. Then he selected from what he had with him a present for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milking camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys.

Let’s summarize. Jacob believes his brother Esau is coming after him with a host of men; he divides his own people into two groups in the hopes of saving one of them; he turns to God for protection based on God’s faithfulness to date and His earlier covenant with Jacob; and now Jacob is back to his own plans again. I don’t know what to think of that. I am the first to propose that like an automobile, man can be steered much more easily when in motion. So God wants us to take care of all that we can possibly do and then to rely on him. But is this indeed what Jacob was doing?

Jacob picks two hundred female goats, twenty male goats, two hundred female sheep, twenty male sheep, thirty camels and their young, forty cows, ten bulls, twenty female donkeys, and ten male donkeys to give to Esau as a present. Now why he picked these animals and why the specific numbers from each, at least 550 in total, is not known. We can surmise that it was because they were the available ones, or that these were ones that could help Esau built his own flocks, or these were of significant value, or a number of other reasons. Nevertheless, that is what he did. One possibility is that Jacob wanted Esau to know that he was not to worry about Jacob being a burden to him for he had enough to spare.

The opinion is split on whether or not Jacob acted in a manner conducive to someone who had perfect trust in God. Some argue that had he had such trust, he would have led the party meeting his brother and trusted God to do His part for his safety. Others believe that once we turn a matter over to God, we still need to take the humanly possible protective or otherwise appropriate measures. Jacob certainly did that. I personally support the proposition that we must not allow our dependence upon God’s help and intervention to render useless our exercise of common sense and application of wise measures that God Himself has brought to our mind or practice. One could, on the other hand, argue that such “bringing to mind” may not be of God, but of man, including our own sub-conscious thoughts. I would submit that this is unlikely if we are indeed walking in the Sprit and seeking God’s direction.

In this particular case, let us not forget the custom was to always approach ‘superiors’ with presents that would be of value to them. Jacob was following that custom as shown by the gift of the milking camels which are deemed as most valuable by Arabs and are so even today. Camel milk is also a main staff of their diet.

Jacob was indeed a very wise man not only in his business but also in his personal relations with others. That is a prayer that each of us should have as we begin our daily activities. May God grant us the wisdom to be wise in how to parent, or manage, or teach, or otherwise work, and also in how to love, care for, listen to, and serve others.

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