Lectionary Year A
August 4, 2002
Genesis 32:22-31

Step III: Immediate Context


Pre - In verses 13-21 of Genesis 32, Jacob is amassing the stuff of the gift he wants to give Esau - female and male goats, ewes and rams, camels and their colts, cows and bulls and donkeys. Then he instructs his servants how to approach Esau with these herds of gifts.

Post - Following the wrestling match and the blessing, Jacob limps away and we get the rationale for Jews' avoiding eating the muscle of the thigh. Thereafter, in chapter 33, we read of Jacob's strategizing his response to Esau's approach. Then, Esau's approach is recorded.


From the creation sagas, the fall, the earliest families and their plights, we get on toward Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Esau and on to Joseph and his brothers in the book of Genesis. Perhaps the pivotal passage in Genesis comes in 12:1-3. This passage ends Genesis' Primeval History and begins the narratives of the Patriarchs. There we read of God's selecting Abraham and Sarah to multiply, to receive the land and enjoy a relationship with God for the purpose of benefiting people. That relationship with the deity gets more and more emphasis and, possibly, reaches a high point in Jacob's wrestling match and its conversation and blessings. Jacob's stories encompass Genesis 25:19-37:2a. Jacob's conflict with Esau (beginning in 25:23, "Will the younger rule the older?) occupies much of these chapters. The pericope at hand seems to offer a brief respite between some of the more tense experiences between these twin brothers. However, this pericope reports an encounter seemingly more dangerous, at least more mysterious, than the one prepared for and anticipated with Esau.


This part of Genesis is Yahwistic. The Yahwists habitually described God in anthropomorphic characteristics. They write in a "clear and direct style", according to E. A. Speiser (Anchor Bible Commentary). They exhibited deep and abiding faith in God. They wrote, "masterfully" someone attests, around 950 BCE, when the Kingdoms were united. The Yahwists refer regularly to customs, traditions and institutions from earliest Israel. This explains the mention of the wives, the servants, the children and the gifts in the pericope at hand.

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