Scripture reading – Genesis 32
The Backdrop to Events in Genesis 32
After twenty years of shepherding his father-in-law’s flocks, the LORD commanded Jacob to go home: “Return unto the land of thy fathers…and I will be with thee” (31:3).
Fearing his father-in-law would forbid his parting, Jacob secretly departed Padanaram, the place he had served his father-in-law Laban (31:17-20). Crossing the Euphrates river, and putting as much distance between himself and Laban, Jacob set his face toward Canaan, and arrived at Mount Gilead, on the east side of the Jordan River (31:21).
His stealth parting had given Jacob a three-day start before news reached Laban that he and his family had taken flight (31:22). Laban set out in anger, and pursued Jacob for seven days, before overtaking him at Mount Gilead. What ill intentions Laban might have had, were confronted by God who came to him “in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad” (31:24).
The verbal confrontation between Jacob and Laban is recorded in Genesis 31:26-42, and the amicable resolution between the two is recorded in Genesis 31:43-55. Setting a pillar of stones as a memorial to their covenant of peace, “Laban departed, and returned unto his place” (31:55)
Genesis 32 – Facing Your Greatest Enemy, and Greatest Fears
Jacob set out on his journey, and God gave him a vision of an angelic host that would accompany him, and he named the place, Mahanaim, “God’s Camp” (32:1-2).
Twenty years had passed since Jacob stole his brother’s birthright, and fled Canaan. His return home would take him through Edom, his brother Esau’s land and country (32:3). Though two decades in the making, his reunion with his brother had revived the memory of Esau’s threats and his fears. I am 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).
Knowing his brother was a warrior (27:40), and he a shepherd, Jacob feared Esau. Understanding he might face his brother’s wrath, Jacob plotted and planned how he might defuse his brother’s fury (32:4-8). When he received news that Esau was coming with four hundred men (32:6), Jacob prepared for the worst, and divided his household, hoping to spare his family and possessions from a total loss should Esau attack (32:7-8).
Jacob had evidently forgotten about the host of angels that had appeared to him along the way (32:1-2), and he prayed to the LORD, reminding Him how He had commanded him to return to his homeland, with the promise, “I will deal well with thee” (32:9-12).
Jacob then sent gifts to his brother, in hopes of appeasing his wrath (32:9-23). Knowing he would face his brother the next day, Jacob spent the night alone, perhaps pondering what the morning might bring upon him and his family (32:13, 24-32).
It was in the solitude of the night that the LORD appeared to him in the physical form of a man, and wrestled with both Jacob’s body and soul (32:24-32). Even with his hip out of joint, Jacob wrestled with the LORD until he was assured of His blessing (32:25-28).
The LORD blessed Jacob (whose name meant trickster or schemer), and gave him the name of “Israel,” meaning one who has power with God (32:28).
The next morning, it was Israel, a man transformed by the grace of God, that faced his enemy. He had spent his life scheming, and wrestling with God; however, he was transformed after seeing “God face to face” (32:30). No longer a man that relied on his wit, the painful limp in his stride was as a reminder of the night God broke his will (32:30-31).
Jacob had come to the end of himself, and the God of his grandfather Abraham, and his father Isaac, was his God. Jacob’s life was so transformed. If you saw him, you would know him; for he was a man with a limp, whose faith was in the LORD.
In the words of A.W. Tozer, “The Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.”
Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith
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