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Scripture reading – Genesis 32
The Backdrop to Events in Genesis 32
A Review of Genesis 31
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).
Jacob secretly departed Padanaram, where he had served his father-in-law Laban (31:17-20). He crossed the Euphrates river and put as much distance as possible between himself and Laban. Finally, he set his face toward Canaan and arrived at Mount Gilead on the east side of the Jordan River (31:21).
Jacob’s stealth parting gave him a three-day start before the 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. Thankfully, 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 was recorded in Genesis 31:26-42, and the amicable resolution between the two followed in Genesis 31:43-55. Then, setting a pillar of stones as a memorial to their covenant of peace, “Laban departed, and returned unto his place” (31:55)
Facing Your Greatest Enemy, and Greatest Fears (32:1-12)
Jacob continued his journey to Canaan, and God gave him a vision of an angelic host that accompanied him. Therefore, he named the place Mahanaim, meaning “God’s Camp” (32:1-2).
Twenty years had passed since Jacob stole his brother’s birthright and fled Canaan. His return home took him through Edom, his brother Esau’s land and country (32:3). Though two decades in the making, Jacob’s anticipated reunion with his brother 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)
Jacob feared Esau because his brother was a warrior (27:40), and he was a shepherd. Understanding he might face his brother’s wrath, Jacob plotted to defuse his brother’s fury (32:4-8). However, when he received the news that Esau was coming with four hundred men, he prepared himself and his household for the worst (32:6). Jacob proceeded to divide his home and hoped to spare his family from a total loss should Esau and his men attack (32:7-8).
In the same way, you might forget God’s promises in a time of trouble; Jacob had forgotten the host of angels that appeared to him along the way (32:1-2). Nevertheless, when he prayed and rehearsed those things the LORD commanded him, he remembered His promise saying, “I will deal well with thee” (32:9). Jacob then cast himself upon God’s mercies and confessed, “10I 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” (32:10).
Jacob understood that should Esau seek vengeance, he would be unable to deliver himself and his family from his brother’s hand. Therefore, Jacob prayed, “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” (32:11). He reminded the LORD of His promise, saying, “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” (32:12).
An Appeasement (32:13-23)
Hoping to appease his brother’s wrath, Jacob sent gifts ahead of his family (32:9-23). Knowing he would face his brother the next day, Jacob spent the night alone and pondered what the morning would bring him and his family (32:13, 24-32). In the night’s solitude, the LORD appeared to Jacob as a man (a theophany, God appearing in a physical body) and wrestled with his body (“for “Jacob’s thigh was out of joint”) and soul throughout the night (32:24-32).
A New Name (32:27-32)
Even though his hip was displaced, Jacob wrestled with the LORD until he received assurance of His blessing (32:25-28). Then, the LORD blessed Jacob (whose name meant trickster or schemer) and gave him the name “Israel,” meaning one who has power with God (32:28).
The following morning, Israel, a man transformed by God’s grace and promises, faced his brother. He had spent his life scheming and wrestling with God; however, Jacob was changed after seeing “God face to face” (32:30). No longer a man that relied on his wit, the painful limp in his stride was 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. He was Israel and a new man. Had you seen him, you would know him; for he was a man with a limp whose faith was in the LORD.
Closing thoughts – Friend, are you living the life of Jacob depending on your wits, or are you Israel, one who has seen “God face to face” (32:30)? When Jacob yielded his will to God, he was transformed for he believed His Word and rested in His promises.
Remember, the hurts, sorrows, and disappointments you bear are God’s tools to draw sinners to Himself. You, too, can become Israel by trusting Jesus Christ as your Savior (2 Corinthians 5:17). In the words of A.W. Tozer, “The Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.”
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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