3 And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.

4 And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now:

5 And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.

It had been twenty years since Jacob had seen his brother. Twenty years is a lot of time for people to change. Certainly, Jacob was not returning as the same man as when he first left his father’s home.

Even so, Jacob had not forgotten the hostility that Esau held towards him when he left, and he thought it wise to send servants ahead with a flattering and humble message. Note that in his statement Jacob calls himself Esau’s servant, refers to Esau as “my lord,” and states that his desire is simply to find grace in his brother’s sight. When Jacob had stolen his father’s blessing Isaac had specifically promised that Esau’s descendants would serve Jacob’s, thus it was particularly prudent for Jacob to show that he did not consider himself as above his brother here and now.

Jacob also included in his message a description of the many animals and people in his entourage. Perhaps this was to alert Esau to the fact that there were many innocents who did not deserve to die for Jacob’s past transgressions, or perhaps to let Esau know that Jacob was independently wealthy, and thus wasn’t coming to take Esau’s living from him.

And now Jacob has only to wait and see what answer is brought back to him. He has knocked on the door of his own home, but he does not know if it is a sword or an embrace that waits upon the other side.

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