Daily reading assignment: Genesis 32-34
We continue our devotional commentary in Genesis 32 with Jacob anticipating the arrival of Esau, his elder brother whose birthright he had stolen twenty years prior. Reminded of the proverb, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle”(Proverbs 18:19), Jacob’s sin haunts him (32:3-5).
Told his brother Esau is approaching with four hundred men (32:6), Jacob fears the worse. Desiring to spare his family and possessions from a total loss should Esau attack, Jacob divides his household (32:7-8). Sending gifts before him and hoping to appease the wrath of his brother, Jacob prayed to the LORD rehearsing His promise to be with him (32:9-23).
In the solitude of that night, we read of Jacob, “there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day” (32:24).
Who was this man? The man who wrestled with Jacob was the LORD Himself; a “theophany” – the pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ in the physical form of a man (32:24-32).
Even with his thigh out of joint, Jacob refused to allow the LORD to depart until he was assured of His blessing (32:25-28). The LORD then blessed Jacob (whose name meant trickster or schemer) and changed his name to “Israel” (meaning one who has power with God).
As the sun rose, Jacob, now named Israel, was a changed man. He had spent his life scheming; however, he was now a man transformed by the experience of seeing “God face to face” and living to tell it (32:30). No longer a man relying upon his own wits, the painful limp in his stride will serve as a constant reminder of the night God broke his will (32:30-31).
In the words of A.W. Tozer, “The Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.” [The Divine Conquest (Harrisburg, PA: Christians Publications, 1950), p. 53].
Jacob had finally come to the end of himself and the God of his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac was his God. More than an intellectual assent to the person and promises of the LORD, Jacob’s life was so transformed he was a new man…no longer Jacob, he was Israel. If you saw him, you would recognize him; he was a man with a limp whose faith was in the LORD.
After an absence of 20 years, Jacob returned to Canaan (Genesis 33) and was met by his brother Esau who, in spite of his treachery, gave him a loving embrace. Although received in peace, Jacob refused his brother’s invitation to dwell in Bethel (lit. the house of God), and instead traveled to Succoth where he lived among the heathen of the land (33:17).
Jacob’s failure to go to Bethel and dwell with his father Isaac and brother Esau turned tragic when his daughter Dinah was raped by Shechem, the son of Hamor who was ruler in Succoth (34:1-2). Pretending to save face and make peace, the decision was made for Dinah to become Shechem’s wife and the households of Jacob and Hamor become one on the condition that Hamor’s men accepted circumcision (34:8-16).
Hamor accepted the stipulation and convinced the men of his household to accept the rite of circumcision, reasoning they would inevitably be enriched by Jacob’s possessions (34:20-23).
The circumcision of Harmor’s household was a ruse by Jacob’s sons who were bent on revenge (34:25-29). Knowing the men would be incapacitated, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s full brothers, attacked Hamor’s household, killing the men (34:25-26). Jacob’s other sons, joined their brothers, claiming the wives and possessions of the city for spoil.
Take a lesson from Israel’s (Jacob) life: His failure to separate himself from the ungodly citizens of the land became a grief and sorrow Jacob and his sons carried to their graves. (2 Corinthians 6:14, 17)
Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith