As Jacob started on his way again, angels of God came to meet him. When Jacob saw them, he exclaimed, “This is God’s camp!” So he named the place Mahanaim. Then Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother, Esau … and [they] reported, “We met your brother, Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you—with an army of 400 men!” Jacob was terrified at the news. He divided his household, along with the flocks and herds and camels, into two groups. He thought, “If Esau meets one group and attacks it, perhaps the other group can escape.” Then Jacob prayed, “…—O Lord, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’ 10 I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps! —Genesis 32:1–10, NLT
Returning to the country of his birth after 20 years in faraway lands, Jacob had an experience that revealed his character in dramatic terms. His encounter with angels motivated him to call that meeting place “Mahanaim,” a Hebrew name that meant “two camps.” Jacob felt excitement that his own camp shared the same site as God’s camp, but that’s where his problem reveals itself.
Jacob was a duplicitous man. Sharing a double birth with his twin Esau, his very name meants “the deceiver” and marked him as a double dealer. His personal duplicity shows up in his dealings with Esau, with his father, with Laban, and now, with God. He never realized that God had sent the angels to accompany Jacob’s camp, but rather, saw God’s camp as separate from his own.
Jacob was a “double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8, NLT). He lived in one place with his mind in another. He had two wives. Upon perceiving possible threats from his brother, he divided his household into two camps. But in truth, his household would always suffer division—something that would cost him dearly later when the sons of one of his camps would sell his favorite son from the other camp into slavery, falsely reporting his death. Rotten apples don’t fall far from the tree.
Some immigrants live like Jacob. In their hearts, they live a double life. Their history is divided into two parts—before their migration and after, but the before always conflicts with the after. Some of them have two families—one there and one here. The most damaging thing comes from separating what belongs to them from what belongs to God.
Jacob didn’t understand that two camps cannot remain after our encounter with God. The only legitimate camp is God’s camp, and we and everything that we have belongs in that camp. Join it now!