Genesis 32

Jacob Fears Esau

1 And Jacob went on his way, and angels of God met him.
2 And when he saw them, Jacob said, "This [is] the camp of God!" And he called the name of that place Mahanaim.
3 Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother, to the land of Seir, the territory of Edom.
4 And he instructed them, saying, "Thus you must say to my lord, to Esau, 'Thus says your servant Jacob, I have dwelled as an alien with Laban, and I have remained [there] until now.
5 And I have acquired cattle, male donkeys, flocks, and male and female slaves, and I have sent to tell my lord, to find favor in your eyes.'"
6 And the messengers returned to Jacob [and] said, "We came to your brother, to Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men [are] with him."
7 Then Jacob was very frightened and distressed. So he divided the people, flocks, cattle, and camels that [were] with him into two companies.
8 And he thought, "If Esau comes to one company and destroys it, the remaining company will be [able] to escape."
9 Then Jacob said, "O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, O Yahweh, who said to me, 'Return to your land and to your family, and I will deal well with you.'
10 {I am not worthy} of all the loyal love and all the faithfulness that you have shown your servant, for with [only] my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.
11 Please rescue me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, lest he come and attack mother and children [alike].
12 Now you yourself said, 'I will surely deal well with you and make your offspring as the sand of the sea that cannot be counted for abundance.'"
13 And he lodged there that night. Then he took {from what he had with him} a gift for Esau his brother:
14 two hundred female goats, twenty male goats, two hundred ewes, twenty rams,
15 thirty milk camels with their young, forty cows, ten bulls, twenty female donkeys, and ten male donkeys.
16 And he put [them] under the hand of his servants, {herd by herd}, and said to his servants, "Cross on ahead before me, and put some distance {between herds}.
17 And he instructed the foremost, saying, "When Esau my brother comes upon you and asks you, saying, 'Whose [are] you and where are you going? To whom do these [animals] belong ahead of you?'
18 Then you must say, 'To your servant, to Jacob. It [is] a gift sent to my lord, to Esau. Now behold, he [is] also [coming] after us.'"
19 And he also instructed the second [servant] and the third, and everyone [else] who [was] behind the herds, saying, "You must speak to Esau according to this word when you find him.
20 And moreover, you shall say, 'Look, your servant Jacob [is] behind us.'" For he thought, "{Let me appease him} with the gift going before me, and afterward I will see his face. Perhaps he will {show me favor}."
21 So the gift passed on before him, but he himself spent that night in the camp.

Jacob Wrestles with God

22 That night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.
23 And he took them and sent them across the stream. Then he sent across all his possessions.
24 And Jacob remained alone, and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the dawn.
25 And when he saw that he could not prevail against him, he struck his hip socket, so that Jacob's hip socket was sprained as he wrestled with him.
26 Then he said, "Let me go, for dawn is breaking." But he answered, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
27 Then he said to him, "What [is] your name?" And he said, "Jacob."
28 And he said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed."
29 Then Jacob asked and said, "Please tell me your name." And he said, "Why do you ask this--for my name?" And he blessed him there.
30 Then Jacob called the name of the place Peniel [which means] "I have seen God face to face and my life was spared."
31 Then the sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, and he was limping because of his hip.
32 Therefore the {Israelites} do not eat the sinew of the sciatic nerve that [is] upon the socket of the hip unto this day, because he struck the socket of the thigh of Jacob at the sinew of the sciatic nerve.

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.

Footnotes 11

  • [a]. Literally "I am small"
  • [b]. Or "done"
  • [c]. Literally "from that which was going from his hand"
  • [d]. Literally "every herd by its own"
  • [e]. Literally "between a herd and between a herd"
  • [f]. Literally "let me cover his face"
  • [g]. Literally "lift up my face"
  • [h]. That is, the man
  • [i]. That is, the man
  • [j]. "Israel" means "he struggles with God," or "God struggles"
  • [k]. Literally "sons/children of Israel"

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