GROWING SPIRITUARY THROUGH CRISES
Genesis 32:1-33:20 March 16 2008
Jacob experienced many problems during his 20-year sojourn
away from home. His uncle often had deceived him, and on
Jacob’s wedding night Laban gave him Leah as a wife instead of
Rachel. Laban also had changed Jacob’s wages 10 times. Jacob
had worked two decades through severe hardship for minimal
wages. Then when Jacob took his family to return to his
homeland, Laban pursued him all the way to Gilead.
God proved faithful to Jacob and delivered him through every
crisis. Each crisis provided an opportunity for Jacob to grow
spiritually. As he returned home, he still had to confront a major
crisis. Having endured the challenges of the relationship with his
uncle Laban , he still had to face Esau, who had threatened to
kill him (Gen. 27:41).
Genesis 32:1-33:20 focuses primarily on the anxiety Jacob
felt about this crisis, his unexpected encounter with the Lord,
and the surprising outcome of his encounter with Esau.
1. Use Common Sense (Gen. 32:6-8)
Gen. 32:6 When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said,
“We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet
you, and four hundred men are with him.” 32:7 In great fear
and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into
two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. 32:8
He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group
that is left may escape.”
Jacob sent messenger ahead to alert Esau of his approach.
He instructed them to tell Esau of his delay with Laban. They
also were to inform him of Jacob’s wealth. Jacob hoped this
courtesy would garner favor from his brother by apprising
him of his whereabouts, informing him of the reason for his
20-year absence, and assuring him that he would not be a
Four hundred. A round number for a sizable unit of
fighting men (1Sam 22:2; 25:13; 30:10).
2. Pray to God (Gen. 32:9-12)
Gen. 32:9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham,
God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ‘Go back to
your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’
32:10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness
you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I
crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups.
32:11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau,
for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the
mothers with their children. 32:12 But you have said, ‘I
will surely make you prosper and will make your
descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be
Jacob reminded himself of the Lord’s faithfulness
over three generations by praying to the God of Abraham
and Isaac. He also based his prayer on God’s promises to
him, introducing the prayer with the words "the LORD
who said to me" and concluding with the words You have
said (Gen. 32:9,12).
Jacob prayed. His first recorded prayer since leaving
Bethel. Mothers with their children. Jacob was afraid that
Esau’s wrath would extend to Jacob’s family as well. Your
descendants like the sand of the sea. A reference to God’s
promise in (Gen.28:14 Also Gen.22:17).
3. Learn from God (Gen. 32:24-31)
Gen. 32:24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled
with him till daybreak. 32:25 When the man saw that
he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of
Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled
with the man. 32:26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for
it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go
unless you bless me.” 32:27 The man asked him, “What
is your name?” Jacob,” he answered. 32:28 Then the
man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,
because you have struggled with God and with men and
have overcome.” 32:29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your
name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then
he blessed him there. 32:30 So Jacob called the place
Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face,
and yet my life was spared.” 32:31 The sun rose above
him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of
Left alone. As he had been at Bethel (Gen.28:10-22).
A MAN. God himself (as Jacob eventually realized;
Gen.32:30) in the form of an angel (Hos 12:3-4 and
Gen. 16:7). Wrestled. God wrestled (YEABEQ) with Jacob
(YAAQOB) by the Jabbok (YABBOQ )—the author delighted
in wordplay. Jacob had struggled all his life to prevail,
first with Esau, then with Laban. Now, as he was about
to reenter Canaan, he was shown that it was with God
that he must “wrestle.” It was God who held his destiny
in his hands.
Could not overpower him. . . Touched the socket. God
came to him in such a form that Jacob could wrestle with
him successfully, yet he showed Jacob that he could disable
him at will.
I will not let you go. Jacob’s persistence was soon
rewarded (Gen.32:29). Unless you bless me. Jacob finally
acknowledged that the blessing must come from God.
Your name will no longer be Jacob. Now that Jacob had
acknowledged God as the source of blessing and was about
to reenter the promised land, the Lord acknowledged Jacob
as his servant by changing his name (Gen.17:5 ). Israel. Here
in Father Jacob /Israel, the nation of Israel got her name and
her characterization: the people who struggle with God
(memorialized in the name Israel) and with men
(memorialized in the name Jacob) and overcome. God later
confirmed Jacob’s new name (Gen.35:10).
Why do you ask my name? Such a request of God is both
unworthy and impossible to fulfill (Jdg 13:17-18).
I saw God face to face , and yet my life was spared. (Gen.
16:13; Jdg 6:22-23; 13:22). Only God’s “back” (Ex 33:23) or
“feet” ( Ex 24:10) or “form” (Num12:8), in a symbolic sense,
may be seen.
What is the significance of Esau approaching Jacob
with 400 men? Esau had 400 men who could fight for him. A
force this size would have constituted a standard militia.
When Abram rescued Lot from the king of the east, his force
only had 318 men (Gen.14:14). Before David became king, he
traveled with between 400 and 600 men who fought for him
(1 Sam.22:2;25:13;30:10). In both cases, Abram’s and David’s
militias were of sufficient size to wage war and Win.
That Esau was able to Assemble such a number
indicated God had blessed him during Jacob’s absence. Jacob
channeled God’s blessings toward building his family and his
livestock. Esau focused in part at least on building an army
as well as on gaining possession (Gen. 36:6-7). Esau lived up
to an earlier description as a rugged hunter and outdoorsman
(Gen. 25:27). Isaac indicated Esau would live by his sward
(Gen. 27:40). As Jacob was about to reenter the land, Esau
was approaching with this show of force. Jacob could only
assume Esau was about to Attack him and smite his family
(Gen.32:11). God intervened. Jacob became humble and
confident; Esau welcomed him with hugs and kisses instead
of swords and spears (Gen. 33:4).