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Genesis 32

Table of Content

This chapter is about Jacob the wrestler.

Up front there is an interesting play on words in the Hebrew:

  • Je’abeq = God wrestles

  • Ja’aqob = Jacob

  • Jabboq = jabbok

Before he meets Esau, Jacob has three other encounters:

With angels, with God, and with himself.

1 Jacob also went his way and angels of God met him.
2. When he saw them, Jacob said, This is an army of God! Therefore he gave that place the name Mahanaim.
3. And Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau, to the land of Seir, the territory of Edom.
4. He commanded them, This is what you must say to my lord, to Esau: This is what your servant Jacob says: I have dwelt as a stranger with Laban, and have kept myself there until now.
5. I have cattle, donkeys, small livestock, slaves and slave women, and I have sent someone to tell this to my lord, that I may find mercy in your eyes.
6. The messengers returned to Jacob and said: We have come to your brother, to Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, with four hundred men with him.
7. Then Jacob became very afraid and it distressed him. He divided the people who were with him, the small livestock, the cattle, and the camels into two camps,
8. for he said, If Esau arrives at one camp and defeats it, then the remaining camp may escape.
9. Further, Jacob said, God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, LORD, Who hath said unto me, Return unto thy land and thy family circle, and I will do thee good -
10. I am too insignificant for all the manifestations of goodness and all the faithfulness which thou hast shown unto thy servant. After all, only with my staff did I cross the Jordan here, and now I have grown into two camps!
11. Save me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I am afraid of him; otherwise he will come and strike me and the mothers down together with their children!
12. For you have said, I will surely do you good, and I will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of the multitude!
13. He spent the night there that night; and he took some of what had come into his possession as a gift for his brother Esau:
14. two hundred goats and twenty bucks, two hundred ewes and twenty rams,
15. thirty nursing camels with their foals, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty donkeys and ten asses.
16. Then he gave them into the hand of his servants, each flock separately; and he said to his servants: Cross the brook, before me, and keep distance between the herds.
17. And he commanded the first: If my brother Esau meet you, and you ask, Whose are you? And where are you going? And whose is this flock that you are driving before you?
18. then you must say, This is a gift from your servant Jacob, sent to my lord Esau; behold, he himself is also coming after us!
19. And he commanded also the second, the third, and all those who were walking behind the flocks: You must speak to Esau in the same way as soon as you find him.
20. And you must also say, Behold, your servant Jacob is coming after us! For he said, I will favor him with this gift which goes out before me; afterward I will face him. Perhaps he will favor me.

Jacob will meet his past, the deceiver and the thief. 

He had not seen Esau for 20 years.

Would Esau attack or forgive him?

Would Jacob lose everything he had acquired?

1.    Jacob meets angels (vs 1-20): 
Jacob herkende de engelen meteen. 
Jacob immediately recognized the angels. They apparently had human forms but were still apparently clearly distinguishable as angels. The reference to angels is a reminder of Jacob's dream at Bethel
(Genesis 28:12 Then he dreamed, and behold, on the earth was set a ladder, the top of which touched heaven, and behold, the angels of God climbed up and down it.).
Here is the only place in the OT where the same term for angels is used.
By "army of God" Jacob means God's army that accompanies and protects him on his way to Canaan.Jacob starts to figure out his own plans: 2 camps. But....
Manahaim means two camps, two army camps: his camp and God's camp.
It comes back in vs 7 and vs 10 where he completely ignores God's camp. 
He did not put his trust in God who had protected him all these years.
He trusted in himself and divided his possessions into two camps and devised gifts for Esau.
If Jacob had remembered his experience with God at Bethel, he would not have been afraid of Esau.
And then he began to cry out for help.

21. So the gift crossed the stream, ahead of him; he himself, however, spent the night in the camp that night.
22. That same night he arose, took his two wives, his two slave women, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.
23. He took them and made them cross the stream. All that he had, he made them cross.
24. But Jacob was left alone, and a Man wrestled with him until the dawn.
25. And when the Man saw that He could not overcome him, He touched his hip joint, so that Jacob's hip joint was dislocated as He wrestled with him.
26. And He said, Let Me go, for the dawn has come. But he said, I will not let thee go, unless thou bless me.

2.    Jacob meets God: (vs 21-26)

When we are alone with God good things start happening.
We assume that the "Man" is the Angel of the Lord, that is, Jesus Christ. He came to wrestle with Jacob and it lasted all night.
Keep in mind that Jacob was not fighting to get a blessing from God. No, he was defending himself and refusing to give in.
The Lord wanted to break Jacob and bring him to the point where he will say," not I, but Christ".
(Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ; and no longer I live, but Christ lives in me; and inasmuch as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.)
All night they fought.
Jacob defended himself, refusing to surrender or even acknowledge that he had sinned. Then God weakened Jacob and the wrestler could only surrender. No sneaky extracting of a blessing, no negotiating for a blessing, but Jacob asked God for His blessing....and he got it.

27. And He said to him, What is thy name? And he answered, Jacob.
28. Then He said, Your name shall henceforth be called no more Jacob, but Israel, for you have fought with God and with men, and have overcome.
29. Jacob thereupon asked: Tell me still thy name. And He said, Why do you ask about My Name? And He blessed him there.
30. And Jacob gave that place the name of Pniel. For, said he, I have seen God face to face, and my life is saved.
31. And the sun rose upon him, when he had passed through Pniel; but he went limp in his hip.
32. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the hip muscle, which is above the hip joint, because He had touched the hip joint of Jacob at the hip muscle

3.    Jacob meets himself (vs 27-32)

We will never truly see ourselves until we first see the Lord.
After all, the Bible is our mirror!
"What is your name?" was the question that forced Jacob to confess who he really was: Jacob the deceiver.
Only when Jacob saw himself did he confess his sins and change!
(You might say he started reading the Bible; Isaiah 55:11)
God gave him a new name: Israel which means "God reigns" or "prince with God."
(That equals being born again, sealed with God's Spirit!)
The only way to experience the power of God is to be broken by God.
And so God gave him a new beginning and new power when he began to "walk in the Spirit" and not "in the flesh."
His new walk was therefore a limp, a sign from God.His lame hip was not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength!
In vs 31 the sun is rising, a new day is dawning when Jacob is going to meet Esau in the power of God.....

What does this mean for Israel today?

Hosea 12:3 De HEERE heeft een rechtszaak met Juda.
                  Hij zal Jakob vergelden naar zijn wegen,
                                    Hij zal zijn daden op hem doen terugkeren.
4. In de moederschoot pakte hij zijn broer bij de hielen;
                  in zijn kracht streed hij met God.
5. Hij streed met de Engel en overwon;
                  wenend vroeg hij Hem om genade.
In Bethel vond Hij hem,
                  en daar sprak Hij met ons,
6. namelijk de HEERE, de God van de legermachten,
                  HEERE is Zijn gedenknaam.
7. En u, bekeer u tot uw God,
                  houd u aan goedertierenheid en recht,
                                    zie voortdurend uit naar uw God.

The LORD has a trial with Judah.
                  He will repay Jacob according to his ways,
                                    He will cause his deeds to return upon him.
4. In the mother's womb he grabbed his brother by the heels;
                  in his strength he fought with God.
5. He strove with the Angel and overcame;
                  weeping he asked Him for mercy.
At Bethel He found him,
                  and there He spoke to us,
6. namely, the LORD, the God of hosts,
                  LORD is His memorial name.
7. And you, repent to your God,
                  keep goodness and justice,
                                    look forward continually to your God.

Hosea shows that the victor begs for mercy! (vs. 5). This is contradictory.

We see here the struggle of God with His people. The initial blessings and also the deception.The common thread in Israel's history is the struggle with God.
Stephen says in Acts 7:51-52"Stubborn and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Who among the prophets did your fathers not persecute? Even they killed those who announced the coming of the Righteous One, of Whom you have now become traitors and murderers"
Peter, however, says in Acts 3:17-18 "And now I know, brethren, that you did it out of ignorance, as well as your leaders, but God fulfilled in this way what He had announced through all His prophets, namely, that the Christ would suffer".
Peter's remark that they had done it in ignorance we also recognize with Jacob. The one with Whom he fought, turned out to be the Savior!
The period preceding Christ's return will again be characterized by a heavy struggle with God. This is comparable to the night in which Jacob wrestled alone with the Lord. And then they will see God, they will recognize their Messiah when Jesus sets His foot on the Mount of Olives. Then Israel will have a new name: "Prince with God" and the millennial kingdom of peace will begin!

What does this mean for you?

This story is the picture of ourselves: we have our sinful self, which is in constant battle with the Holy Spirit within us. Eventually you find yourself alone (vs 24) and wrestling with God. Often this is in the night. You have left everything behind (vs 22) Jabbok means : "to empty"
And if you don't want to, God cannot overcome you. That is your free will!
But when God makes you look in the mirror, you see your imperfections and you have to acknowledge that He is Lord. From that moment on, in your weakness comes your victory. And you will always be reminded of that moment by the scars you have inflicted on yourself in your struggle with God. As an overcomer, you emerge from the battle with a new name: Prince with God!