Genesis 32

1 As Jacob went on his way, some angels met him.
2 When he saw them, he said, "This is God's camp"; so he named the place Mahanaim.
3 Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the country of Edom.
4 He instructed them to say: "I, Jacob, your obedient servant, report to my master Esau that I have been staying with Laban and that I have delayed my return until now.
5 I own cattle, donkeys, sheep, goats, and slaves. I am sending you word, sir, in the hope of gaining your favor."
6 When the messengers came back to Jacob, they said, "We went to your brother Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you. He has four hundred men with him."
7 Jacob was frightened and worried. He divided into two groups the people who were with him, and also his sheep, goats, cattle, and camels.
8 He thought, "If Esau comes and attacks the first group, the other may be able to escape."
9 Then Jacob prayed, "God of my grandfather Abraham and God of my father Isaac, hear me! You told me, Lord, to go back to my land and to my relatives, and you would make everything go well for me.
10 I am not worth all the kindness and faithfulness that you have shown me, your servant. I crossed the Jordan with nothing but a walking stick, and now I have come back with these two groups.
11 Save me, I pray, from my brother Esau. I am afraid - afraid that he is coming to attack us and destroy us all, even the women and children.
12 Remember that you promised to make everything go well for me and to give me more descendants than anyone could count, as many as the grains of sand along the seashore." 1
13 After spending the night there, Jacob chose from his livestock as a present for his brother Esau: 200 female goats and 20 males, 200 female sheep and 20 males, 30 milk camels with their young, 40 cows and 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys and 10 males.
16 He divided them into herds and put one of his servants in charge of each herd. He said to them, "Go ahead of me, and leave a space between each herd and the one behind it."
17 He ordered the first servant, "When my brother Esau meets you and asks, "Who is your master? Where are you going? Who owns these animals in front of you?'
18 you must answer, "They belong to your servant Jacob. He sends them as a present to his master Esau. Jacob himself is right behind us.' "
19 He gave the same order to the second, the third, and to all the others who were in charge of the herds: "This is what you must say to Esau when you meet him.
20 You must say, "Yes, your servant Jacob is right behind us.' " Jacob was thinking, "I will win him over with the gifts, and when I meet him, perhaps he will forgive me."
21 He sent the gifts on ahead of him and spent that night in camp.
22 That same night Jacob got up, took his two wives, his two concubines, and his eleven children, and crossed the Jabbok River.
23 After he had sent them across, he also sent across all that he owned, 2
24 but he stayed behind, alone. 3 Then a man came and wrestled with him until just before daybreak.
25 When the man saw that he was not winning the struggle, he hit Jacob on the hip, and it was thrown out of joint.
26 The man said, "Let me go; daylight is coming." "I won't, unless you bless me," Jacob answered.
27 "What is your name?" the man asked. "Jacob," he answered.
28 The man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have struggled with God and with men, and you have won; so your name will be Israel." 4
29 Jacob said, "Now tell me your name." 5 But he answered, "Why do you want to know my name?" Then he blessed Jacob.
30 Jacob said, "I have seen God face-to-face, and I am still alive"; so he named the place Peniel.
31 The sun rose as Jacob was leaving Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.
32 Even today the descendants of Israel do not eat the muscle which is on the hip joint, because it was on this muscle that Jacob was hit.

Genesis 32 Commentary

Chapter 32

Jacob's vision at Mahanaim, His fear of Esau. (1-8) Jacob's earnest prayer for deliverance, He prepares a present for Esau. (9-23) He wrestles with the Angel. (24-32)

Verses 1-8 The angels of God appeared to Jacob, to encourage him with the assurance of the Divine protection. When God designs his people for great trials, he prepares them by great comforts. While Jacob, to whom the promise belonged, had been in hard service, Esau was become a prince. Jacob sent a message, showing that he did not insist upon the birth-right. Yielding pacifies great offences, ( Ecclesiastes 10:4 ) . We must not refuse to speak respectfully, even to those unjustly angry with us. Jacob received an account of Esau's warlike preparations against him, and was greatly afraid. A lively sense of danger, and quickening fear arising from it, may be found united with humble confidence in God's power and promise.

Verses 9-23 Times of fear should be times of prayer: whatever causes fear, should drive us to our knees, to our God. Jacob had lately seen his guards of angels, but in this distress he applied to God, not to them; he knew they were his fellow-servants, Re. 22:9 . There cannot be a better pattern for true prayer than this. Here is a thankful acknowledgement of former undeserved favours; a humble confession of unworthiness; a plain statement of his fears and distress; a full reference of the whole affair to the Lord, and resting all his hopes on him. The best we can say to God in prayer, is what he has said to us. Thus he made the name of the Lord his strong tower, and could not but be safe. Jacob's fear did not make him sink into despair, nor did his prayer make him presume upon God's mercy, without the use of means. God answers prayers by teaching us to order our affairs aright. To pacify Esau, Jacob sent him a present. We must not despair of reconciling ourselves to those most angry against us.

Verses 24-32 A great while before day, Jacob being alone, more fully spread his fears before God in prayer. While thus employed, One in the likeness of a man wrestled with him. When the spirit helpeth our infirmities, and our earnest and vast desires can scarcely find words to utter them, and we still mean more than we can express, then prayer is indeed wrestling with God. However tried or discouraged, we shall prevail; and prevailing with Him in prayer, we shall prevail against all enemies that strive with us. Nothing requires more vigour and unceasing exertion than wrestling. It is an emblem of the true spirit of faith and prayer. Jacob kept his ground; though the struggle continued long, this did not shake his faith, nor silence his prayer. He will have a blessing, and had rather have all his bone put out of joint than go away without one. Those who would have the blessing of Christ, must resolve to take no denial. The fervent prayer is the effectual prayer. The Angel puts a lasting mark of honour upon him, by changing his name. Jacob signifies a supplanter. From henceforth he shall be celebrated, not for craft and artful management, but for true valour. Thou shalt be called Israel, a prince with God, a name greater than those of the great men of the earth. He is a prince indeed that is a prince with God; those are truly honourable that are mighty in prayer. Having power with God, he shall have power with men too; he shall prevail, and gain Esau's favour. Jacob gives a new name to the place. He calls it Peniel, the face of God, because there he had seen the appearance of God, and obtained the favour of God. It becomes those whom God honours, to admire his grace towards them. The Angel who wrestled with Jacob was the second Person in the sacred Trinity, who was afterwards God manifest in the flesh, and who, dwelling in human nature, is called Immanuel, ( hosea 12:4 hosea 12:5 ) . Jacob halted on his thigh. It might serve to keep him from being lifted up with the abundance of the revelations. The sun rose on Jacob: it is sun-rise with that soul, which has had communion with God.

Cross References 5

  • 1. 32.12Genesis 22.17.
  • 2. +232.23Wisdom 10.12.
  • 3. 32.24-26Hosea 12.3, 4.
  • 4. 32.28Genesis 35.10.
  • 5. 32.29Judges 13.17, 18.

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. mahanaim: [This name in Hebrew means "two camps."]
  • [b]. israel: [This name sounds like the Hebrew for "he struggles with God" or "God struggles."]
  • [c]. peniel: [This name sounds like the Hebrew for "the face of God."]

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS 32

This chapter informs us of Jacob's proceeding on in his journey, and of his being met and guarded by an host of angels, Ge 32:1,2; of his sending messengers to his brother Esau, acquainting him with his increase, and desiring his favour and good will, Ge 32:3-5, who return and report to him, that Esau was coming to him with four hundred men, which put him into a panic, and after devising ways and means for the security of himself; and those with him, at least a part, if not the whole, Ge 32:6-8; then follows a prayer of his to God, pressing his unworthiness of mercies, and his sense of them, imploring deliverance from his brother, and putting the Lord in mind of his promises, Ge 32:9-12; after which we have an account of the wise methods he took for the safety of himself and family, by sending a present to his brother, dividing those who had the charge of it into separate companies, and directing them to move at a proper distance from each other, he, his wives and children, following after, Ge 32:13-23; when they were over the brook Jabbok, he stopped, and being alone, the Son of God in an human form appeared to him, and wrestled with him, with whom Jacob prevailed, and got the blessing, and hence had the name of Israel, Ge 32:24-28; and though he could not get his name, he perceived it was a divine Person he had wrestled with, and therefore called the name of the place Penuel, Ge 32:29-31; the hollow of his thigh being touched by him with whom he wrestled, which put it out of joint, he halted as he went over Penuel, in commemoration of which the children of Israel eat not of that part of the thigh, Ge 32:31,32.

Genesis 32 Commentaries