(Gen 32:1 NASB) Now as Jacob went on his way, the angels of God met him.
(Gen 32:2 NASB) And Jacob said when he saw them, “This is God’s camp.” So he named that place Mahanaim.
Gen 32:2: “Mahanaim” means “double camp.” This is referring to the fact that both the angels (messengers) and Jacob camped there.
(Gen 32:3 NASB) Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.
(Gen 32:4 NASB) He also commanded them saying, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: ‘Thus says your servant Jacob, “I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now;
(Gen 32:5 NASB) and I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.”‘”
Gen 32:5: It is difficult to say that Jacob is being brave in this instance. He is referring to Esau as “my lord” (adown) and it is a term that a slave would use in reference to his master.
Jacob lists separately the oxen, donkeys, flocks, and servants. He wants to list them singularly and give them collectively to add value to his gift (pay-off). He doesn’t list his camels which are the most valuable of livestock, although they are listed later in the chapter as a part of the gift. He wants to understate his possessions and make the gift itself greater and even more pleasing than as announced.
(Gen 32:6 NASB) And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”
(Gen 32:7 NASB) Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies;
(Gen 32:8 NASB) for he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.”
Gen 32:8: Jacob is an intelligent man. He is offering great gifts and he also is determining an exit strategy. Now he is going to enter into prayer.
Jacob is making laborious preparations for this confrontation. It is worth mentioning that trusting in Elohim does not mean that we should not be prepared.
(Gen 32:9 NASB) And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who didst say to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’
(Gen 32:10 NASB) I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which Thou hast shown to Thy servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies.
Gen 32:10: Jacob knows his own heart. He knows that he is not worthy of the least of the mercies Elohim has shown him. We can all resound that sentiment.
(Gen 32:11 NASB) “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me, the mothers with the children.
(Gen 32:12 NASB) “For Thou didst say, ‘I will surely prosper you, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.'”
Gen 32:12: Jacob’s prayer is superb. He realizes that he isn’t receiving the mercy and blessings of Elohim because he deserves them. He is receiving them because Elohim promised them and He will not go back on His Word. Elohim does not change His mind, nor does He go back on His promises.
(Gen 32:13 NASB) So he spent the night there. Then he selected from what he had with him a present for his brother Esau:
(Gen 32:14 NASB) two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams,
(Gen 32:15 NASB) thirty milking camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys.
(Gen 32:16 NASB) And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on before me, and put a space between droves.”
Gen 32:16: There are 550 beasts in all. It is a lavish gift.
(Gen 32:17 NASB) And he commanded the one in front, saying, “When my brother Esau meets you and asks you, saying, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and to whom do these animals in front of you belong?’
(Gen 32:18 NASB) then you shall say, ‘These belong to your servant Jacob; it is a present sent to my lord Esau. And behold, he also is behind us.'”
Gen 32:18: Jacob is going to send the gifts to Esau in waves. He is going to make this seem as a parade in Esau’s honor.
(Gen 32:19 NASB) Then he commanded also the second and the third, and all those who followed the droves, saying, “After this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him;
(Gen 32:20 NASB) and you shall say, ‘Behold, your servant Jacob also is behind us.'” For he said, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.”
(Gen 32:21 NASB) So the present passed on before him, while he himself spent that night in the camp.
Gen 32:21: Esau would just have enough time to scrutinize and examine the animals when another wave of them would show up, and then another, and so on.
Jacob let the gifts go ahead of him while he stayed behind in his camp at Mahanaim.
(Gen 32:22 NASB) Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.
(Gen 32:23 NASB) And he took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had.
Gen 32:23: Jacob sent his wives, their servants, and his eleven sons across the stream. He is now alone in his encampment. Perhaps he wants to spend the night in prayer to Elohim.
(Gen 32:24 NASB) Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
(Gen 32:25 NASB) And when he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.
Gen 32:25: Jacob wrestled with a “man” as mentioned here. In Hosea 12:4, we are told it was an “angel.” In Hosea 12:5 it would appear that this “angel” was a manifestation of Elohim Himself.
A Jewish commentary published by the Jewish Publication Society says the identification of the opponent of Jacob is unknown. They went as far as to say that it could have been the spiritual entity of Esau himself. I find that humorous. This event certainly seems to describe Elohim appearing as a man. He is named “Elohim” twice in this passage.
The fact that He merely touched Jacob’s hip and disabled him is ample evidence to show that He could have defeated Jacob at any time. We are not told if the ensuing pain resulting in a limp was temporary or for the rest of his life.
So what was the purpose in wrestling with Jacob? Apparently Elohim was demonstrating to Jacob the futility of attempting to handle this situation with Esau on His own. If Jacob tries to handle this situation himself, He is struggling against Elohim. While it is good to prepare, he needs to place this situation in the hands of Elohim and trust that His will will be done.
(Gen 32:26 NASB) Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
(Gen 32:27 NASB) So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”
(Gen 32:28 NASB) And he said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”
Gen 32:28: Elohim wanted to leave before the sun rises. Apparently He did not want Jacob to see His face. Jacobs’s response shows that Jacob now realizes that he cannot overcome with his own power. He requires the blessing of Elohim in order to succeed. That appears the be the purpose of this episode.
The name change has been the subject of much controversy. The Jewish Publication Society says the full meaning of “Israel” is not fully known. The context of this passage would appear to mean “one who struggles with El.”
The name Jacob means “the supplanter.” With this name change comes a character change also. Now he learns to rely on Elohim in times of distress.
(Gen 32:29 NASB) Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there.
(Gen 32:30 NASB) So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”
Gen 32:30: In light of this passage, it is difficult to not come up with the conclusion that this was indeed, Elohim Himself that was wrestling with Jacob. “Peniel” means “the face of Elohim.”
(Gen 32:31 NASB) Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh.
(Gen 32:32 NASB) Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.
Gen 32:32: Jacob’s hip apparently did not remain dislocated or else he could not even limp.
It is a Jewish tradition to this day to avoid eating the sciatic nerve (sinew) of the hind quarter of animals because of this account. This is not explicitly described as a law, but an explanation that the children of Israel did not eat this portion of an animal even until the time of Moses.
Patrick McGuireCopyright 2014 Patrick McGuire and Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly All rights reserved, no portion of this Lesson may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews. Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly Fort Smith, Arkansas