malachim - messengers

The word malachim includes both messengers dispatched by human beings and messengers dispatched by G-d.  Because at this time Yaakov had been forced to flee to Padan Aram due to his fear of his brother 'Esav, he now made an attempt to assuage 'Esav's hurt feelings and to ask his good will by sending messengers, i.e. servants, members of his household.  These messengers were accompanied by the messengers (angels) who had met him at Machanayim as we had read in the previous paragraph.

In this matter he acted just as had his grandfather Avraham when he had sent Eli'ezer on an errand to secure a wife for Yitzchak when he had prayed to G-d and had assured Eli'ezer that a celestial messenger would assist him in his quest (Bereishit 24:7 "He will send His angel ahead of you.")  It was already explained in that connection that the angel preceded Eli'ezer at the well.  Something similar happened here in that the angels G-d had sent to meet Yaakov and who went with the messengers who Yaakov sent out with the gifts preceded the gifts and thus prevented 'Esav his brother from harming Yaakov.  All fo this is based on the fact that the word malachim can have either of the two meanings mentioned earlier.  If further proof is need that the celestial messengers were involved here also, all we need to look at are the words: Vayashuvu hamalachim el-Yaakov lemor  - "the messengers returned to Yaakov saying" (32:7)  If these returning messengers had been human beings, the Torah should have reported, "the angels came to 'Esav and told him such and such"; subsequently they returned to Yaakov reporting that they had carried out their instructions.  The Torah does not mention any of this.  This proves that the messengers in question were celestial creatures and the words (v7) in which the Torah reports a reply by the messengers telling him that 'Esav approaches with 400 armed men indicate that they answered Yaakov (vayashuvu) without having bothered to first go there.  They had been there and they knew that 'Esav approached with hostile intentions.

When the Torah continues in that same verse with the words "we have come to your brother," this refers to human messengers; this is why the Torah had to report things in a sequential manner, i.e. that the messengers returned and told Yaakov they had completed their mission. 


When analyzing the more mystical aspect of the matter, it is possible to view these messengers as fulfilling a dual role, i.e. both as Yaakov's messengers and as G-d's messengers, similarly to Eli'ezer functioning both as a celestial messenger when the Torah described him as ha'ish, and as an ordinary human being, servant of Avraham, when the Torah referred to him as ha'eved, "the servant."  This would account for the fact that the Torah described the messengers as malachim, although they were creatures of flesh and blood.  Both approaches correspond to the truth.  It is simply a matter of emphasis, i.e. whether we concentrate on the external aspects of what occurred, i.e. that which was visible to the physical eye, or whether we concentrate on the more fundamental aspects of the matter, something not visible to the naked eye. 

It is well known (based on Nachmanides) that Yitzchak, Yaakov's father, resided in the southern part of Eretz Yisrael at this time, so that Yaakov would have had to pass through the land of Edom on his return from Padan Aram in order to rejoin his father.  This is hwy he was so cared of 'Esav, as he feared 'Esav would come out to block his way.  This is why he sent the messengers to head off any hostile confrontation.