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Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Genesis

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FRAMEWORKS: Genesis 32: Preparing to Meet Esau


v.1,2 Jacob sees Angels

v.3-6 Jacob sends a message home that he is returning

v.7-12 In Fear Jacob Prays

v.13-21 He Prepares Gifts for Esau

v.22-32 Jacob Wrestles With God



v.1,2 Jacob sees Angels


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

v.2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim. [meaning two camps – his and God's]


[Notes: Almost insignificant verses except they show God is there with Jacob as he continues on home.]



v.3-6 Jacob sends a message home that he is returning


v.3 Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.

v.4 He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now.

v.5 I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.'”

v.6 When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”


[Notes: Jacob wants to ease his way back into his home situation after 20 years away [31:41] and so sends a messenger ahead of him saying he is coming back after all this time and hopes to receive Esau's welcome and approval. The messenger, on his return, tells Jacob that Esau is coming with a large band of men.]



v.7-12 In Fear Jacob Prays


v.7 In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well.

v.8 He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.”

v.9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,'

v.10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps.

v.11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children.

v.12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.'”


[Notes: Jacob assumes Esau is coming to kill him after all that happened twenty years ago, and so in desperation he prays. He reminds the Lord that He had told him to return and that He would bless him. He asks for the Lord's protection and again reminds Him he had promised his descendants would prosper. The message had obviously gone home!]



v.13-21 He Prepares Gifts for Esau


v.13-15 He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys.

v.16 He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, “Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds.”

v.17 He instructed the one in the lead: “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘Who do you belong to, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?'

v.18 then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.'”

v.19 He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds: “You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him.

v.20 And be sure to say, ‘Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.'” For he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.”

v.21 So Jacob's gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp.


[Notes: Still in scheming mode he separates out a large gift for Esau from all of his many herds. The magnitude of the gift [which would only be a part of what he had] indicates just how wealthy Jacob has become. He instructs his servants to make space between each of the herds that constituted the gift to, bit by bit, impact Esau as to just how rich [? and powerful] his brother now was – perhaps not wise to contend with him.]



v.22-32 Jacob Wrestles With God


v.22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.

v.23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.

v.24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.

v.25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.

v.26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

v.27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered.

v.28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

v.29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

v.30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, [meaning God's face] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

v.31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.

v.32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob's hip was touched near the tendon.


[Notes: That night one of the strange events of the Old Testament occurred. Jacob is alone in the night when a man arrives and goes to apparently attack him. The two of them wrestle until daybreak and when Jacob would not submit, the man put Jacob's hip out of joint. What follows is highly significant:

•  the man calls on Jacob to submit [v.26a]

•  Jacob refuses unless the man will bless him [v.26b]

•  the man asks him his name [v.27] and he confesses it – Jacob, twister.

•  the man changes his name to Israel [meaning God-wrestler] [v.28]

•  Jacob then asks him his name, and the man simply queries why he asks but does now bless him. [v.29]

•  Jacob reveals he realises he has wrestled with God and has been spared.[v.30]

The significance of this may be inferred as follows:

•  God comes to Jacob to get him to submit to Him

•  Jacob refuses [as he has done all his life] and ‘wrestles' with God.

•  When God calls him to give up he makes the point that he can only give up his life if God will bless him.

•  The blessing comes in a strange form: first he has to acknowledge who he is – his name, what it means and what he's been like all his life – grabber, twister, deceiver.

•  As soon as he acknowledges that, God blesses him [decrees good for him].

The enormity of the whole story of Jacob is that God knew exactly what he would be like but also what he could become and, because of that latter point, He chose him over Esau who was indifferent to God and remained like that. All of his life, Jacob had been putting himself first and yet God had been there again and again reassuring him:

•  allowing Isaac to speak the family blessing over him [27:28,29],

•  allowing Isaac to bless him when he left home [28:3,4],

•  receiving the Lord's blessing about descendants and the land in a dream [28:12-15],

•  the Lord telling him to go home [31:3] and He will be with him,

•  the Lord warning Laban in a dream to treat Jacob well [31:24],

•  the Lord sending two angels to accompany him [32:1],

•  and now at this crisis moment bringing him to a place of facing himself and then being blessed yet again.

It is a remarkable story of a twister, blessed by God and brought to a point of self-realization and surrender to God. Watch what sort of man he eventually turns out to be. He is already the father of a big family with eleven sons, and very rich.]



Lessons or Challenges to Ponder from Genesis Chapter 32


1. When you know that reconciliation is the right path, it is wise to spend time thinking about how it may be brought about, so that the other party finds it acceptable.

2. When God ‘wrestles' with us it is always to help us face the truth, often about ourselves and our failures and shortcomings and need of His help, as well as realising His greatness and His grace that perseveres with us.



Continue to Chapter 33