Yaakov divides his family into two camps stating that if Eisav attacks one the other will flee and be saved. However his whole family seems to be be there when Eisav arrives, furthermore Yaakov himself states (and it seems to be a metzius) that families with belongings travel far slower than Eisav and his warriors. As such how would sending one camp away have worked in practice and why didn't he actually send the camp away at all?

  • 1
    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/12065/… Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 3:43
  • I remember learning that Rachel was not there, and she was pregnant with Binyamin at the time, therefor Binyamin did not bow down to Eisav with the rest. I wish I could remember all the details so I could post it as an answer - I'll try to see if I can find it.
    – Ariel
    Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 4:20
  • Re "his whole family seems to be be there when Eisav arrives", see judaism.stackexchange.com/q/11977.
    – msh210
    Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 4:42
  • by that line I am referring to the chazal that all of Yaakov's family (except Binyamin and Dina) bowed to Eisav Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 5:12

2 Answers 2


The Gutnick Chumash brings the Lubavitcher Rebbe's explanation of the verse according to Rashi.

Read it for full detail, but in short:

Yaakov was sure that G-d would protect his family. He was not sure that G-d would keep his fortune intact. He therefore split his family and their essentials in one camp, and the rest of his fortune in the other camp. Yaakov figured that "if Eisav will hit one camp (i.e. his belongings) the other camp will surely be spared (i.e. family).

We see later that all the family was together when they met Eisav.

  • I'm not sure how that solves the problem A) why wasn't the second camp (family) missing when Eisav showed up? B) Yaakov himself indicates that family travels slowly, so why would they be spared (ie. why wouldn't Eisav be able to catch and kill the second camp?) and more importantly C) where in the text do we see that Yaakov was sure God would protect his family? If anything we see the opposite Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 3:30
  • @vram: A) It doesn't say that he sent one of the camps away, it says that he split them into two parts. B,C) Rashi to verses 10 and 13 talk about Yaakov having G-d's blessings that He would be with him. This includes the blessings of Avraham regarding his children. This is why Rashi says the second camp will be spared.
    – Menachem
    Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 4:06
  • if one camp isn't sent away why bother dividing them? God's promise isn't to protect yaakov's entire family it's just to protect him and insure that he will have kids. doesn't mean most or all of his kids can't be killed or otherwise harmed (as they later on are) Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 4:18
  • @vram: Rashi Bereshit 28:15 seems to indicate that the promise refers to all of Yaakov's children (as opposed to Avraham and Yitzchak) - chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/8223/showrashi/true#v15
    – Menachem
    Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 17:00

After struggling and overcoming the angel of Eisav, spiritually Yaakov now knew that his encounter with Eisav would be successful and that there was no need to send away the second camp. Furthermore Yaakov felt that his method of bribery/appeasement, which had worked with Eliphaz would be successful enough to abate Eisav's anger.

I believe the way it could have worked in theory had it been necessary would be that they would leave the animals and most of the belongings behind so as to be able to travel more quickly. Yaakov specifies that traveling with children and all of the family belongings are what slows them down; it is reasonable to assume that traveling with servants (especially angelic ones) and women and children only would be able to move more quickly.

  • This is the only answer I have seen that seems to answer all related questions adequately. Do you have a source for this?
    – Gavriel
    Commented Nov 16, 2013 at 16:43
  • Haamek Davar Vayishlach 32:8:3. ויחץ את העם וגו׳. ולא כתיב שחצה את הילדים. מובן מזה שהילדים שמרם אצלו. וא״כ קשה מה שאמר אם יבא עשו אל המחנה האחת והכהו והיה המחנה הנשאר לפליטה. ...ויש לדעת דכל הכנה זו שעשה בזו השעה לא היה אלא באותו יום שחשב שמא יבוא עשו מיד וילחם עמו אבל אח״כ כשראה שלא בא והבין שעשו לן בדרך ע״כ לן גם יעקב וגם עבר הנחל ובבוקר כבר נתחזק לבבו ע״י המלאך ושוב לא עשה הכנה זו. Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 1:02

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