The Bible like other works of literature may be organized
into paragraphs. A paragraph can be indicated by formatting,
for example by two blank lines surrounding the paragraph. Or,
a paragraph, can be indicated a common theme to a group of sentences.
Each paragraph is a distinct unit with a common
theme. Words in each paragraph can take on a distinctive
meaning. This distinctive meaning, once established, persists
throughout the paragraph. Todays examples illustrate this.
The Biblical paragraph Gn32-01:10 states
And early ....Laban rose up, and kissed his sons ...
And Jacob went on his way, and angels of God met him.
And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is Godís camp; and he called the name of that
And Jacob sent angels before him to Esau his brother
...And he commanded them, saying, say...
And the angels returned to Jacob, saying, We came to your brother Esau, and also he comes to meet you, and four hundred men with him.
Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he
divided the people who were with him,....into two camps
And Jacob prayed....
I am not worthy.... for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and
now I have become two camps
Save me, ...
Rashi makes several comments: First Rashi observes that:
- The Hebrew word Mem-Lamed-Aleph-Caph can
- But in the early part of the above paragraph the phrase
Angels of God leaves no doubt that Mem-Lamed-Aleph-Caph
means angel not messenger.
- Consequently using the paragraph rule, we interpret the
word Mem-Lamed-Aleph-Caph as also meaning angel throughout
We have translated this whole paragraph this way. We emphasize
that the driving force behind the Rashi comment Mem-Lamed-Aleph-
Caph means angel not messenger, is the
paragraph structure. In other words it is not the word meanings
or the grammar that drives Rashi to so interpret but rather the
The second Rashi comment focuses on the repeating phrase
two camps or camps, throughout the paragraph.
The underlined phrase at the end of the paragraph
and now I have become two camps clearly indicates
that the phrase two camps refers to
This interpretation is also strengthened by the opening verses
Angels of God came to Jacob...and he called the place, camps
Here the plural camps has the same connotation as two camps.
- The original camp of people with Jacob
- the camp of Angels that came to greet Jacob
Sermonic points: As long as Jacob dwelt with
the wicked Laban, Angels of God would not meet with him. However,
once he separated from his evil surroundings he was met by angels.
Throughout the Bible we find similar instances where God revealed
Himself to people after they divested themselves of their wicked
surroundings. This emphasizes the spiritual value of living among
friends with spiritual values.