Yaakov is returning to his homeland and he hears that Esav is coming towards him with four hundred men. He does not know what his brother’s intentions are so he prays to Hashem to help him. He says: HATZILENI NA MIYAD ACHI MIYAD ESAV, “… Save me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esav…”. (Gen. 32,12) Yaakov only has one brother. When he asked to be saved from his brother it was superfluous to add “from Esav”. Who else could he have meant?
The fact remains that Yaakov did not really know what were the intentions of Esav who was coming to meet him He could be coming to attempt a reconciliation and ask Yaakov to settle near him so the two brothers could live in peace next to each other, or he could come to engage in war and try to eliminate Yaakov and his entourage
That is what his intentions were when he mentions both “brother” and also “Esav”. He implied, if Esav is coming to ask that Yaakov dwell near him, he had to reject that extended invitation. He was afraid if he lived near Esav, his children and grandchildren would mingle with Esav’s children and would learn to live by Esav’s standards. This was unacceptable. If, on the other hand, he came to destroy Yaakov, that would mean that Yaakov is in serious trouble. Either alternative was unacceptable.
That is what he meant by his prayer. If Esav is coming to ask us to dwell near him and act like a brother, that would represent a spiritual danger. He thus prayed to be saved from his “brother”. If, on the other hand, he was coming to fight and annihilate him, then he prayed to be saved from the actions of “Esav”.
At times we are faced by two alternatives and neither of them is acceptable. We must find a third option.