Chapter 32

  1. Preparing to Meet Esau

    • As Jacob resumed his journey home, angels of God came to meet him. When he saw them he exclaimed, “This is God’s camp!” and he named the place Mahanaim which means “two camps”.

      • “We don’t exactly know what this means. In some way, angelic beings that are normally unseen were now made visible to Jacob, and he interacted with them. Perhaps God wanted Jacob to know how great His care was for him and his family.” (Guzik)

      • Guzik also notes that angels are with us even though we are unaware. He also recounts an incredible story from a missionary to the New Hebrides Islands, “It was not as if God’s angels just joined Jacob. They were with him the entire time. Now Jacob could see God’s angels with him and it provided great encouragement… Angels, though “higher” beings than us, are ordained by God to be our servants (Hebrews 1:14) and they minister to us even as they ministered to Jesus (Matthew 4:11). In 2 Kings 6:15-17 Elisha’s servant had his eyes opened to see the tremendous angelic host surrounding them…John Paton, a missionary to the New Hebrides Islands, told of how one night hostile natives surrounded his missions headquarters, intent on burning the Patons out and killing them. He and his wife prayed through the entire night, and when daylight finally came, their attackers all left. A year later, the chief of the tribe became a Christian, and Paton asked the man about that night. The chief replied, “Who were all those men you had with you there?” The missionary explained only he and his wife were there. The chief insisted he had seen hundreds of big men with shining garments and swords circling the mission headquarters, so the natives were afraid to attack (Billy Graham in Angels, God’s Secret Agents, page 3). That night in the New Hebrides Islands, there certainly was a “double camp”.”

– Jacob sent men ahead of him to his brother Esau and told them to give Esau this message, “I, your servant Jacob, have been living with Uncle Laban and was unable to return until now. I own cattle, donkeys, flocks of sheep and goats, and many slaves. I sent these messengers to let you know that I’m on my way home, hoping that you will welcome us.”

      • “When Laban confronted Jacob with a hostile militia Jacob boldly stood up to him and spoke his mind (Genesis 31:36-42). But with Esau, Jacob was afraid to meet him. This was because Jacob knew he was in the right with Laban, but he knew he was in the wrong with Esau.” (Guzik)

    • When the messengers returned they told Jacob that Esau was coming to meet him with a company of 400 men.

    • Jacob was terrified. He divided his group into two camps thinking that if Esau attacked one, the other could escape.

    • Jacob prayed to God saying, “God, you told me to come back to my homeland and that You would make me prosperous. I know I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness that You have already shown me. When I came to Laban I had nothing and now I am returning home with two entire camps. Please protect me from Esau. I am afraid of him and I’m afraid for the mothers and children that are with me. You have promised that I would have too many descendants to count.”

    • The next morning, Jacob sent several gifts to Esau: 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams, 30 milk camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys, and 10 male donkeys.

    • Jacob sent slaves with each group of animals separately, with a good distance between the herds. As each group met Esau, the slave was to tell Esau that the animals were a gift to him from his servant Jacob who will be approaching soon. Jacob hoped that these gifts would encourage Esau to forgive him.

    • Jacob camped that night while his gifts traveled to Esau. During the night, Jacob took his wives, their two slaves, his 11 sons, and all of his possessions across the ford of Jabbok.

  1. Jacob Wrestles with God

    • That night, while Jacob was all alone, a man wrestled with him until the sun rose.

      • “As the following verses show, this was no mere man. This is another special appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament before His incarnation in Bethlehem. This was God in human form.” (Guzik)

      • I love what Boice has to say about this fight, “How did Jacob ever manage to keep up his struggle throughout the entire night? I do not know. But I do know that his determination to hang in there was no greater than our frequent determination to have our own way and eventually win out over God.”

    • When the man saw that He couldn’t defeat Jacob, he struck Jacob in his hip and dislocated it. Then He said, “Let me go, it is morning.”

      • “Sometimes we feel man really can contend with God. A man or woman in rebellion against God might seem to do pretty well. The match seems even in appearance only. God can turn the tide at any moment, and allows the match to go own for His own purposes.” (Guzik)

    • Jacob responded, “I won’t let go unless you bless me.” The man asked him his name and he told him that it was Jacob.

    • The man said, “Your name is not Jacob anymore, it is Israel because you have fought with God and men and won.”

    • Then Jacob said, “Please tell me Your name.”

    • But He responded, “Why do you want to know My name?” Then He blessed Jacob.

          • “Israel means “God fights”: God first had to fight with him, but now God would fight for him. Jacob’s name was thus full of promise for Jacob and his descendants. Through his entire life, Jacob had been seizing God’s blessing by his own abilities and by any means possible. Jacob knew the importance of the blessing, but he was too self-sufficient and proud to let the blessing be given to him. He had been fighting God long before this encounter…Jacob knew who was with him (32:30); the request was his attempt to regain some control. God would not reveal his name, which cannot be had on demand.” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

        • Jacob named the place Peniel, because he said he had seen God face to face and yet his life had been spared. The sun was rising as he passed by Peniel and he was limping because of the injury to his hip.

        • To this day Israelites don’t eat the thigh muscle at the hip socket because of Jacob’s injury in his struggle with God.