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Genesis Thirty Two

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Genesis 32:1 And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.

angels of God. This is Jacob's second encounter with angels; the first, twenty years earlier, was as he left the promised land. He encounters them again as he returns. In both cases, whether facing the external dangers of the material world (typified by Laban) or the internal dangers of the religious world (typified by Esau), Jacob could rely on the help of God's invisible army of ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14); the same is true for faithful men of God today.

Genesis 32:2 And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.

Mahanaim. “Mahanaim” means “two hosts,” referring to the small visible company of faithful followers and the vastly superior invisible host of mighty angels.

Genesis 32:3 And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.

Genesis 32:4 And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now:

Genesis 32:5 And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.

Genesis 32:6 And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him.

to meet thee. Esau was probably as fearful as Jacob, since he had not heard from him in twenty years and well remembered God's prophecy of Jacob's ruling.

Genesis 32:7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands;

Genesis 32:8 And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.

Genesis 32:9 And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:

Jacob said, O God. This prayer of Jacob's (Genesis 32:9-12) is a beautiful model of effectual praying after sincerely following God's will and having done all he humanly could with his own resources and opportunities. Acknowledging that all of God's blessings were only by His grace, Jacob then simply asks God to fulfill His Word, even though the outward circumstances seemed almost hopeless. No prayer can be truly efficacious unless it is in full harmony with God's revealed Word.

Genesis 32:10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.

Genesis 32:11 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.

Genesis 32:12 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.

Genesis 32:13 And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother;

Genesis 32:14 Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams,

Genesis 32:15 Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals.

Genesis 32:16 And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said unto his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt drove and drove.

Genesis 32:17 And he commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying, Whose art thou? and whither goest thou? and whose are these before thee?

Genesis 32:18 Then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob's; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he is behind us.

a present. Esau feared that Jacob was coming to claim the promised sovereignty over him and to take his possessions from him. By his language, Jacob allayed the first fear, and by his generous gifts, the second. Jacob was more concerned with God's sovereignty and God's provision.

Genesis 32:19 And so commanded he the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, saying, On this manner shall ye speak unto Esau, when ye find him.

Genesis 32:20 And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me.

Genesis 32:21 So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company.

Genesis 32:22 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok.

Genesis 32:23 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had.

Genesis 32:24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

wrestled a man. This “man” was actually an angel (Hosea 12:4)—in fact, the angel, the preincarnate Christ, for Jacob recognized that he had seen God face to face (Genesis 32:30), and this is impossible except through Christ (John 1:18). The intensity of Jacob's prayer, as he “wrestled” in his intercession (the word Jabbok means “wrestler,” the river being named for the unique event that occurred there), was such that God actually deigned to appear to him in human form as an antagonist over whom he must prevail for the blessing. As he had held on to Esau's heel at birth, so he now held on to God, so earnest was his desire for God's purpose to be accomplished in and through him.

Genesis 32:25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.

Genesis 32:26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.

Genesis 32:27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.

Genesis 32:28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

Israel. “Israel” can mean either “one who fights victoriously with God” or “a prevailing prince with God.” This constitutes God's permanent testimony to Jacob's character, an opinion quite different from that of many modern Bible teachers. The “Supplanter” is now the “Prevailer.” God delights in the faith of those who cling tenaciously to His promises and who claim them in prevailing prayer (see Luke 18:1, 7).

Genesis 32:29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.

Genesis 32:30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

Genesis 32:31 And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.

Genesis 32:32 Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank.

the sinew which shrank. This sentence is apparently an editorial insertion by Moses in Jacob's toledoth, noting a custom by the Israelites commemorating the great experience of their founder. In order that Jacob should know forever that it was God who had actually allowed him to prevail, and not his own strength, a muscle in the ball-and-socket joint in the thigh, probably containing the sciatic nerve, shrunk, resulting in a permanent limp and perpetual reminder of the experience.