Genesis 32 - Outline of Genesis (MENU page)
32:1 And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
32:2 And when Jacob saw them, he said, This [is] God's host
{ie., camp, band of men}:
and he called the name of that place Mahanaim
{ie., 'two camps,' 'two bands'}.
Two bands - Jacob's feeble group, and the mighty angels of God.
God allowed Jacob to get a glimpse of the angels that protected him. cp. 2Kin 6:13-17
Just as God had intervened to protect Jacob from Laban's wrath (31:29), He would continue to protect him as he travelled toward the land of promise.
But Jacob, fearing the vengeance of Esau (27:41) more than he feared Laban, devises a plan for his own protection.
32:3 And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother
unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.
32:4 And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau;
Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now:
32:5 And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants:
and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.
32:6 And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying,
We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee,
and four hundred men with him.
32:7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed:
and he divided the people that [was] with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands;
32:8 And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it,
then the other company which is left shall escape.
Jacob's plan-
  1. he sent a message to Esau: ''my lord Esau... thy servant Jacob...'' (v.3-4)-
    Jacob had sought predominance over Esau when they were last together.
    Now, he expresses humility, real or feigned, in order to soften Esau's heart.
    - - Esau's approach with 400 men, suggested that he planned to destroy Jacob.
  2. he divided his company into two groups, in order to preserve some (v.7,8).
    This was an act dictated by fleshly wisdom. The action taken proved to be unnecessary.
  3. he prayed (v.9-12)- Jacob had the order wrong: First, he made plans. Then, he prayed.
    ''Jacob's first thought was always a plan, and in this we have a true picture of the poor human heart. True, he turns to God after he makes his plan, and cries to Him for deliverance; but no sooner does he cease praying than he resumes his planning. Now, praying and planning will never go together. If I plan, I am leaning more or less on my plan; but when I pray, I should lean exclusively upon God... [Prayer] is not asking God to sanctify and bless my means, but it is asking Him to do it all Himself.'' [CHM]
32:9 And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac,
the LORD which saidst unto me,
Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:
32:10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth,
which thou hast shewed unto thy servant;
for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.
32:11 Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau:
for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, [and] the mother with the children.
32:12 And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good,
and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.
Jacob's prayer-
  1. Addresses God on the basis of the relationship which He has initiated. v.9
  2. Acknowledges- - his sinful nature- ''I am not worthy...'' v.10
    - - and God's Grace to him- 'I left home with nothing, I return with family and wealth...'
  3. Asks for deliverance (v.11).
  4. Asks according to God's revealed will (v.12). cp. 28:13-15
    This prayer shows that Jacob has been growing spiritually. He could not have prayed like this a few years earlier. In many ways, this is a model prayer.
    - - But where has he placed his confidence? in God, or in the flesh?
    Immediately after his prayer, Jacob launches another plan.
32:13 And he lodged there that same night;
and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother;
32:14 Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams,
32:15 Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals.
32:16 And he delivered [them] into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves;
and said unto his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt drove and drove.
32:17 And he commanded the foremost, saying,
When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee,
saying, Whose [art] thou? and whither goest thou? and whose [are] these before thee?
32:18 Then thou shalt say, [They be] thy servant Jacob's;
it [is] a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he [is] behind us.
32:19 And so commanded he the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves,
saying, On this manner shall ye speak unto Esau, when ye find him.
32:20 And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob [is] behind us.
For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me,
and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me.
32:21 So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company.
32:22 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants,
and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok.
32:23 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had.
Jacob prayed, ''Deliver me from Esau.'' But his thought is, ''I will appease him.''
His prayer professed faith in God. But his hope was actually in the present he prepared. v.20
Such prayer is, at its roots, just another work of the flesh. The mind of flesh thinks:
'After I have done all that I can think to do, I will ask God to bless my plans.'
But ''we must really be brought to the end of everything with which self has [anything] to do; for until then, God cannot show Himself.'' cp. Isa 40:5,6 [CHM]
(This was the lifelong lesson which Abraham finally learned in his old age.)
32:24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
32:25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh;
and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
32:26 And he
{the 'man'} said, Let me go, for the day breaketh.
And he
{ie., Jacob} said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
32:27 And he
{the 'man'} said unto him, What [is] thy name?
And he said, Jacob.
32:28 And he
{the 'man'} said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel:
for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
32:29 And Jacob asked [him], and said, Tell [me], I pray thee, thy name.
And he said, Wherefore [is] it [that] thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.
32:30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel
{ie., 'the face of God'}:
for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
32:31 And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.
32:32 Therefore the children of Israel eat not [of] the sinew which shrank,
which [is] upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day:
because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank.
there wrestled a man with Jacob-
  1. The identity of this 'man' -
    • He is 'God,' according to v.28,30.
    • Referring to this incident, Hosea 12:2-5 identifies Him as 'the angel,' 'the LORD God of hosts,' 'the LORD is His memorial [name].'
    • He is the Angel of the LORD, whose name is 'secret.' cp. v.29; Judg 13:18
    • Therefore, this is another 'theophany' (an appearance of God in human form, ie., the pre-incarnate Christ).
  2. The identity of the wrestler-
    Note that it does not say, ''Jacob wrestled with the man.'' v.24
          This passage is often misunderstood as referring to Jacob's power in prayer. However, ''my wrestling with a man, and a man wrestling with me, present two totally different ideas to the mind. In the former case, I want to gain some object from him; in the latter, he wants to gain some object from me.'' [CHM]
         God wanted to bring Jacob to the end of himself -- to see that he was totally helpless in his own strength. Jacob struggled on, until God pressed the issue of his weakness by putting his thigh out of joint.
         Then, seeing that he had no resource or strength in himself, and knowing that his only hope was in God, Jacob clung to Him.
         Jacob stopped struggling, and simply held on to God: ''I will not let thee go.'' v.26
    ''Other refuge have I none;
    Hangs my helpless soul on Thee...''
         [from hymn, 'Jesus Lover of My Soul,' by Charles Wesley]
thy name shall be called no more 'Jacob,' but 'Israel'... thou hast... prevailed-
Jacob {the 'usurper'}, the man of fleshly schemes, was being transformed into
Israel {'God prevails' or 'God contends'}, a man entirely dependent upon God.
Jacob ''prevailed'' with God (v.28), only when he was constrained to yield and allow God to prevail over him (v.25).
The lesson here applies to -
  1. all believers:
    • I must be 'weak' before I can be 'strong.'
      The power of Christ can only 'rest on me' in connection with the knowledge of my infirmities. cp. 2Cor 12:7-10
    • No flesh shall glory in His presence. cp. 1Cor 1:26-31
    • The believer can find rest from the struggle between his old and new natures (Rom 7:19-25),
      only by yielding to God's working within him (Rom 8:7-12; Gal 2:20).
  2. the nation of Israel:
    The names 'Jacob' and 'Israel' often refer to the nation of Israel, in later scripture passages.
          The message of Hos 12:1-8 is directed to the nation of Israel. God reminds them of Jacob's experience at Peniel, to show them that the strength, which they think to have in themselves and in their alliances with other nations, is an illusion. They cannot prevail until they turn wholly to Him.
          ''Jacob, for his misconduct, was exiled from the promised land, having nothing but his staff. He returns a wealthy prince, but lamed. So, Israel cast out of Jehovah's land because of her sin will return with abundance, but broken and contrite in spirit.'' [GWms]
         In themselves, the people of Israel are nothing but dry bones. Someday, they will see that the LORD is their only hope (Eze 37:11-14).

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