And when Jacob saw them
These appeared in a visible form, most probably human, and in the habit, and with the accoutrements of soldiers, and therefore afterwards called an host or army. Aben Ezra thinks that Jacob alone saw them, as Elisha first saw the host of angels before the young man did that was with him, ( 2 Kings 6:17 ) : he said, this [is] God's host:
or army, hence he is often called the Lord of hosts; angels have this name from their number, order, strength, and military exploits they perform: and he called the name of the place Mahanaim;
which signifies two hosts or armies; either his own family and company making one, and the angels another, as Aben Ezra observes; or they were the angels, who very probably appeared in two companies, or as two armies, and one went on one side of Jacob and his family, and the other on the other side; or the one went before him, and the other behind him; the latter to secure him from any insult of Laban, should he pursue after him, and distress him in the rear, and the former to protect him from Esau, near whose country Jacob now was, and of whom he was in some fear and danger; thus seasonably did God appear for him. The Jewish writers F20 say, the host of God is 60,000, and that the Shechinah, or divine Majesty, never dwells among less, and that Mahanaim, or two hosts, are 120,000; there was afterwards a city of this name near this place, which very likely was so called in memory of this appearance, ( Joshua 21:38 ) ; and there seems to be an allusion to it in the account of the church, ( Song of Solomon 6:13 ) ; it was in the land of Gilead, and tribe of Gad, forty four miles from Jerusalem to the southeast F21.
F20 In Bereshit Rabba, sect. 75. fol. 66. 1.
F21 Bunting's Travels, p. 74.