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Chapter 32

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ch. 32:1-21    ch.32:23-32

Jacob Prepares To Meet Esau (ch. 32:1 - 21)


Verses 1 and 2 are extraordinary.  When Jacob and his company got close to his homeland, there appeared a host of angels.  He could actually see these angels.  It is clear that they were there to protect Jacob and his people.  Over the years I have heard stories about how Israelis today have been accompanied by angels when doing a certain dangerous task, often relating to time of war and conflict.  It is my opinion that God has angels watching over the Jews today, as He had these angels watching over Jacob and his people.  Angels aren't always seen, but they are there.  


The existence of angels are real, and they don't solely exist for heavenly reasons.  They have an active role to  play in the affairs of man and the earth.  You see them all the time in the Bible fulfilling God's plans and purposes on earth.  Again, we don't see angels around us, but they are there.     


In verse 3 Jacob sends messengers ahead to greet Esau.  Jacob wanted to know how he was feeling, and he soon found out.


In verses 4 and 5 Jacob instructs the messengers what to say.   In these instructions Jacob calls his brother Esau both master and lord.  This is partly out of respect, hoping that Esau would return the respect.  In reality, because Jacob had received the birthright, the blessings from Isaac twenty years earlier, Esau should have been the one to call Jacob lord and master.


The messengers were told to tell Esau that their master Jacob had become very wealthy while away.  Maybe in Jacob's mind he wanted Esau to know that he had gained his own fortune and needed nothing from him and Isaac.


In verse 6 the messengers come back with distressing news.  They did get to see Esau, and with him was an army of four hundred men.  That did not make Jacob very happy, as seen in verse 7.  So in verses 7 and 8  Jacob divides his company into two groups, both people and cattle.  He thought if Esau would attack him, then only half of his company would be captured or killed.  This wasn't a bad plan.


One might ask, "how did Esau know Jacob was coming back?"   He obviously knew and was ready and prepared for Jacob.   Someone had to have told Esau that he saw Jacob's company moving towards them.  Some scholars suggest that Laban, Jacob's father-in-law,   actually sent out someone to tell Esau Jacob was coming.  We don't know this to be true.  It is only speculation, but it wouldn't surprise me if Laban had sent out men ahead of Jacob.


From verses 9 through 12 we see Jacob in serious prayer.  This is not the first time we see someone talking to God in Genesis, but it is the first time we see a person initiate a prayer such as this.  I'm not saying it's the first time  someone prayed, just the first recorded prayer that is more than a sentence long.   


In the opening part of Jacob's prayer he uses the word God twice and the word Lord once.  You can tell by the wording that he is very afraid.  This is one urgent prayer.  He reminds God that He is the God that told him to return to his homeland so he could prosper, and now he sees an army of four hundred men waiting for him.  Things don't look very good.  This reminder is meant as a request to God for help.


There is something to be learned here.  Just because God tells someone to do something, does not mean he will have an easy time doing God's will.  Abraham obeyed God and left for Canaan , only to find a severe famine in the land.  Now Jacob returns in obedience to God to find an army ready to due him in, or so he thinks.  The natural tendency is to split.  That's what Abraham did decades earlier when he left Canaan because of a famine.  He found himself outside of the will of the Lord for years that caused all sorts of problems. 


New Testament times haven't changed in this respect.  Look at the apostle Paul.  God called him, but his life was far from easy.  Right in the beginning of Paul's new life as a Christian God told him that he would suffer for his name.  So one cannot conclude that because things aren't going right they are outside the will of God.  One also cannot conclude that because things are gong right, they are in the will of God. 


In verse 10 Jacob tells God that he is unworthy of His blessings, and that is true.  Jacob was not worthy.  He was a deceiver.  That being said, none of us are worthy.  Being unworthy for Jacob was not the issue.  God's sovereign choice was the issue.  God told Abraham that he would be a great nation, and that nation would go through the lineage of Isaac.  Then God told Rebekah that the chosen people would go through the chosen son of Jacob.  God would fulfill his promise no matter what. 


Jacob also calls himself a servant in relation to God.  We all should view ourselves as servants of God, especially in this day in age when we tend to view ourselves as kings.   We're not kings.  We are servants, and the quicker we realize this, the better off we will be.


In the last part of verse 10 Jacob states  that when he crossed the Jordon River , he only had his staff.  He was not prepared to fight a battle.  He had no weapons.  There would be no way he could fight Esau and four hundred men and win the battle.  He felt as good as dead. Only God could help him at this point, and He did. Jacob cried out to God to be saved, but not only for him to be saved, but his whole household. 


In verse 12 Jacob now reminds God twice in this short prayer that He promised to prosper him, but how could that be if he were dead. And, how could he have many descendents if he were dead.  Of course, Jacob already had eleven sons, so that was not an issue.  Concerning the descendents, this is yet another reference to the Abrahamic Covenant, which is one of the main themes throughout the book of Genesis, and the whole Bible as far as that goes. 


In verse 13 we see that Jacob spent the night where he was.  He was in great fear.  This will turn out to be one  very memorable night, not just for Jacob but for all of Israel. 


The verse also says that Jacob picked out a gift for Esau.  He really wanted Esau to know that he was coming in peace.  That's only to be expected since Esau had the army and Jacob had no army.  The gift was quite a sizable gift as we see in verses 14 and 15.  He had set aside all sorts of cattle to give to Esau.  He really wanted peace.  It's my opinion that the gift was to appease Esau.  The text makes that clear, but behind the offer of cattle was another motivation, or so I think.  Jacob wanted peace, not simply to regain friendship with Esau, which I don't think he ever had that much of, but simply so he could live in peace himself.  I don't think Jacob was interested in a relationship with his brother, just personal peace, that is somewhat selfish.


In verse 16 Jacob had some servants go ahead of him, with some distance between him and them.  The servants took the cattle to offer to Esau.  


In verses 17 and 18 the servants are instructed to tell Esau that all these cattle are a gift to him from Jacob, and that Jacob is a ways behind them.   Again, the servants call Esau master and lord.  Jacob is coming not simply as a brother, but as a servant to Esau, with the hopes that Esau will accept the gifts and him.  Again, it is my opinion that this attitude towards servanthood that Jacob had was only meant to be self-serving, that is, to find the peace.  I'm not convinced that Jacob really thought he was Esau's servant.  


In verse 19 we see that there were more than just one group of servants sent out ahead of Jacob.  There were at least four of these groups.  All were to say the same thing to Esau.  Jacob had no army, but he was the last in the procession of his company.  He was really afraid, and he really wanted to give Esau time to think about what his plans would be when he finally got to see Jacob.


Verse 20 clearly states Jacob's intention here.  The word  "pacify" is used in this verse.  Jacob wanted to pacify Esau so he would accept him once they meet.  That's the best he could do under the circumstances.


Verse 21 simply states that Jacob's gifts went on ahead of him while he spent the night in the camp waiting, and again, as we will see, this is one very memorable night.


Jacob Wrestles With God (ch. 32:22 - 32)       


In verse 22 we see that Jacob took Leah, Rachel, both Leah and Rachel's maid servants, and his eleven sons and cross the for of the Jabbok.  "The ford of the Jabbok" is a tributary of the Jordan River, about fifteen miles north of the Dead Sea .  It is about fifty miles long. 


I think you can see the relationships that meant lots to Jacob.  He didn't just take his wife and children, but he took the two maid servants as well, the mothers of four of his children.  You might remember, but maid servants who were also concubines were often sent away with their children because they were viewed as second class people.  Jacob obviously did not view these two women as totally second class people, yet in comparison to Rachel he did.


In verse 23 we then see that all the possessions of Jacob followed across the river.


Verse 24 tells us that Jacob stayed alone on the other side of the river.  He did not cross the river, and that night, he wrestled with a man till daylight. 


Apparently Jacob was a pretty strong man.  He wrestled a long time and the man could not win the battle with Jacob so the man put Jacob's hip joint out of place with a mere touch.  This simple touch begins to explain to us who this man is.  A simple touch would not put any man's hip socket out of place.


In verse 26 the man tells Jacob to let him go since the light of day has now come.  Jacob replied by saying, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."  This too tells us that this man was not any ordinary man.   If he was, why would Jacob demand a blessing from him?


So in verse 27 the man asked Jacob what his name was.  Jacob answered by stating his name.  Once we know who this man was you might wonder why he asked for Jacob's name.


Verse 28 is one very important verse.  I'd go as far to say that it is one of the most important verses to the whole theme of the Bible.  Once Jacob told the man his name, the man said that Jacob would no longer be his name.  Jacob's name would now be " Israel '.  The man tells Jacob why his name was now going to be Israel .  The man said, "your name will be Israel, because you have struggled with God and  men and have overcome."


The man that Jacob had been struggling with was in fact God in human flesh.  Theologians are pretty much in agreement that Jacob wrestled with Jesus all night, because Jesus is God in human flesh.  Jesus appears many times in the Old Testament in various ways.  Many times He appears as an angel and is called "the angel of the Lord".  Here He appears as an ordinary man.  He was both ordinary and divine.  He was ordinary in the fact that Jacob could withstand the wrestling match.  He was divine in the fact that Jacob was merely touched by Him, putting Jacob's hip joint out of its socket.


The name Israel means, "he struggles with God".  How appropriate.  Both Jacob, and all his descendents, that is Israel, continually struggle with God.  That has been the history of the Jews from this wrestling point to the day in which we now live.  Israel is still wrestling with their God.  They're still fighting Him.  They're still disobedient. Some day that will change when God Himself will pour out a spirit of repentance on the Jews and they will return to their God, and as they see Jesus returning in the sky, they will say, "blessed is He, the king of the Jews". 


I can't stress enough how the meaning of the name Israel is so important.  It's a picture of Israel and her history in a nut shell.  Israel means "to struggle with God and overcome the struggle".  Israel has always struggled with God.  They have not yet overcome, but they will.


It is interesting to note that God changed Jacob's name to Israel at this point in time, but for the most part, Jacob is still called Jacob.  During the rest of the pages of Genesis, the name Jacob appears forty five times while the name Israel appears only twenty three times.  I don't think that Jacob fully grasp what was going on here.  I do believe he did grasp the situation to a degree, but it seems clear to me that Jacob was still missing some things in his relationship with is God.  Jacob was still Jacob the deceiver.  Jacob might well have interpreted this event as an event for his immediate purpose, but God had more in mind than Jacob's present situation.  This was an event with historic significance for Jacob's descendents Israel.    


In verse 29 Jacob said, "please tell me your name."  He really needed to have a clearer picture of who he had wrestled with all night, and who he was presently talking too.  The man replied by saying, "why do you ask me my name."  We will see in the next verse that Jacob knew who he was talking to.  The man did not think it was important to give Jacob a proper name.  The man blessed him at that point.  The text does not say just how Jacob was blessed or the words used in the blessing, only that God blessed Jacob.  My guess is that the blessing re-affirmed the Abrahamic Covenant.  We see this covenant re-affirmed many times in Genesis.


In verse 30 we see that Jacob named that place "Peniel, because he saw God face to face, but his life was spared.  Jacob believed that if one saw God face to face, he would die, and that is what Scripture says.  But, did Jacob see God face to face?  In one since of the word he did, but in another sense, he didn't.  He saw a human representation of God, who Jesus is, and that is why he did not die.  Seeing God face to face, in my thinking, would kill us.  That's one reason why God came into humanity in the form of Jesus.


In verse 31 we see that when Jacob left that place he limped because of his hip socket being put out of joint.  From that point on, he walked with a limp.  He had wrestled with God, and God left His imprint on Jacob's body.  In many ways, when you and I struggle with God, His imprint remains with us, and we have a scar for life.  Israel as a nation has always walked with a limp as well.  


Verse 32 states that ever since that day, the Jews do not eat any part of any animal that would include the hip bone.  This is pure tradition.  God, or the Bible does not say that we should avoid meat with the hip bone attached to it.


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