Genesis 32

Jacob meets Esau

1 Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.

2 And when Jacob saw them he said, "This is God's camp!" So he called the name of that place Mahanaim.

This seems to come out of the blue. Who are these angels of God? Whoever they are, Jacob sees this places as "God's camp". Since Jacob had his own camp or company of people, he names this place Mahanaim, which means "Two Camps" or "Two Companies". This turns out to be prophetic as we shall see in v.7.

3 And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom,

4 instructing them, "Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, 'I have sojourned with Laban and stayed until now.

5 I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male servants, and female servants. I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.'"

6 And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, "We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him."

7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps,

8 thinking, "If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape."

After having named the place Mahanaim or "Two Camps", Jacob now does in fact split his own camp into two, fearing that Esau is coming to attack him and his camp.

9 And Jacob said, "O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, 'Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,'

10 I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.

11 Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children.

12 But you said, 'I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.'"

In his desperate prayer, Jacob remembers the promise that God had made in Genesis 28 13-15.

13 So he stayed there that night, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau,

14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams,

15 thirty milking camels and their calves, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys.

16 These he handed over to his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, "Pass on ahead of me and put a space between drove and drove."

17 He instructed the first, "When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, 'To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?'

18 then you shall say, 'They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a present sent to my lord Esau. And moreover, he is behind us.'"

19 He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, "You shall say the same thing to Esau when you find him,

20 and you shall say, 'Moreover, your servant Jacob is behind us.'"For he thought, "I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me."

21 So the present passed on ahead of him, and he himself stayed that night in the camp.

Jacob wrestles with God

22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.

23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had.

24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.

Like v.2, this verse seems out of the blue. Jacob was alone and then he wrestled a man.

25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.

26 Then he said, "Let me go, for the day has broken." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."

Why does this mysterious man tell Jacob to let him go? It can't be because he is losing the wrestling match because it's Jacob who seems to be more desperate.

27 And he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob."

Jacob’s name is translated as "he deceives" or simply "deceiver". God renames him "God contended" or "Wrestles with God". Perhaps God is reminding Jacob of his deception when he had pretended to be his brother Esau to trick his father Isaac.

28 Then he said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed."

29 Then Jacob asked him, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him.

"Why is it that you ask my name?" is the same question the Angel of the LORD (malak Yahweh) asks Samson's father, Manoah, when he too asks for a name (Judges 13:18). The Hebrew is identical in both cases (lammah zeh tisal lismi; H4100 H2088 H7592 H8034). We won't know the mystery of this angel's name until the NT, when he will be our Immanuel ("God with us") and named Jesus.

30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered."

31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Peniel or Penuel means "God's face". Jacob knows that he has seen God. It is more likely that he saw the Angel of the LORD (malak Yahweh), who can regarded as the second person of the Trinity i.e. the pre-incarnate Christ. The prophet Hosea identifies the man who had struggled with Jacob as both God and "the angel" (Hosea 12:4).

32 Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob's hip on the sinew of the thigh.