Jacob Fears Esau
32 Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God’s camp!” So he called the name of that place Mahanaim.
And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, instructing them, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have sojourned with Laban and stayed until now. I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male servants, and female servants. I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.’”
And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.” Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape.”
And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”
So he stayed there that night, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau, two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milking camels and their calves, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. These he handed over to his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on ahead of me and put a space between drove and drove.” He instructed the first, “When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?’ then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a present sent to my lord Esau. And moreover, he is behind us.’” He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, “You shall say the same thing to Esau when you find him, and you shall say, ‘Moreover, your servant Jacob is behind us.’” For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.” So the present passed on ahead of him, and he himself stayed that night in the camp.
Jacob Wrestles with God
The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh.
Genesis 32 Commentary
by Hank Workman
“Conscience does make cowards of us all.”Shakespeare
The last time Jacob saw Esau he vowed to kill him. Although 20 years had passed, going back to face his brother brought great distress. Interestingly, Jacob had stood up boldly to Laban because he knew he was in the right. With things concerning his brother, he knew he had acted terribly and his conscience was pricked. Throughout these years of labor, God had worked in Jacob and his character.
Sending gifts and treasures ahead of him, he had hoped to have a peace offering between the two. Reports came back that 400 men were coming to meet him led by Esau himself. The picture looked terrible. This drove Jacob into a state of solid fear and reliance upon God. And what would transpire was a wrestling match with God like none other. Having sent his family and hired help ahead of him, he was alone on the side of the river he would cross to meet Esau.
As night fell, stepping from the shadows, a Man wrestled with Jacob all night. Most commentators agree this was Jesus Christ, God in human form, who began the match. There was great purpose in this moment. Jacob was contending with God on the matter of his future. But when the Man touched his hip socket, his ability to continue on was hindered. Seeking a blessing, Jacob pleaded for help. He knew he was defeated and God was greater than himself.
Reduced to a place where all he can do is hold onto God with everything he has, he couldn’t fight anymore.
This is not a bad place to be.
We all have those wrestling matches with God. We always lose. But something within those matches take place, we may be seeking deliverance from a circumstance but as with Jacob’s story, he was delivered from his own self-will, self-reliance and personal thoughts of outcomes and plans. It was truly one of the most defining moments in Jacob’s life as he finally could do nothing but trust God who was calling him.
God’s call to us is much the same. He will wrestle with us until we come to a full trust in Him.
The wrestling match brought changes and most critically, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. The name Jacob meant deceiver; now that was the past as God rewarded him with a new name, a new destiny, a new beginning. In God’s graciousness and mercy, Jacob lived and would start off on this new physical and spiritual journey.
What wrestling match are you currently going through? Where is God ‘wrestling you to the ground’ with His power and destiny? The ugly things of our lives He’s always working on. We never win these wrestling matches but come out different on the other side. This may be one of those moments for you.
Genesis 32 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
There are three points that really stick out to me in this chapter.
Separation from the world will often allow us to become aware of God’s greater revelation.
In Genesis 31, we learn that Laban was holding Jacob back. It does not seem coincidental that right after Jacob leaves the presence of Laban, he gains a deeper knowledge of God’s presence. Angels were revealed to Jacob on his journey. The question I have wondered is whether or not these angels had been with him the whole time, or if they just cropped up on the journey? It is quite possible that being under Laban’s influence had blinded Jacob to this spiritual reality, and that they had been there the entire time.
Jacob trusted God’s promise with Laban but immediately feared Esau.
This happens all the time. God takes us through something and reveals his faithfulness, and soon after, we fall right back into the insanity of stress and anxiety when the next situation arises. Jacob knew that God was with him. This has been demonstrated vividly throughout these chapters in Genesis. However, God’s faithfulness did not automatically make Jacob immune to the “what-if” scenarios.
Sometimes we feel like we are on a roller coaster with God. We wrestle through fear and doubt despite knowing in our hearts that God is faithful and sovereign. We say, like the man with the demon-possessed son, “I do believe, help my unbelief.” Jacob was wrestling with God mentally and emotionally and God was about to take it to the physical.
Jacob didn’t want anything from God, but God decided to ambush the sin that was holding him back.
It is interesting when we consider that Jacob didn’t pick a fight with God. The Man came and found him and wrestled him until daybreak. Jacob’s pride and self-reliant attitude had to go. His patterns of sneaky, manipulative scheming were not of God.
“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.”James Montgomery Boice
I love this story so much because it shows just how serious God is about helping us get through our hurts, habits, and hang-ups. God met Jacob in his mess and on his own turf. He was patient with him, wrestling him all night long. In the end, Jacob had to come to a place where God would conquer him. He had to come to a place where all he could do is hold on. He had to come to a place of brokenness… literally.
Jacob (Israel) would never be the same.