The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Genesis 32

Gen 32:1

Gen 32: See Article, Jacob the wrestler.

AND THE ANGELS OF GOD MET HIM: That is, Jacob continued his journey back to the land of promise, having spent 20 years in Syria whilst God purged the "deceitful Syrian" out of his character. Though Jacob had long been in the "Truth" [he is here at least 77 years old] only now is he in the process of being "converted." "His way" is now becoming the way of God, and so it is no wonder that the angels of God now meet him -- whether in person or in vision, we do not know (Psa 34:7). The angels met him to welcome him to Canaan again, having attended to him 20 years previous on the way to Syria (Gen 28:13). Jacob receives now a more honorable reception than ever any prince had who was met by the magistrates of a city. They met him to congratulate his arrival, and his escape from Laban. They had invisibly attended him all along, but now they appeared, because he had greater dangers before him. When God designs his people for extraordinary trials, He prepares them by extraordinary comforts.

Gen 32:2

Jacob's 3 memorials: (1) "House of God" / God's presence / Gen 28:17-19; (2) "Host of God" / God's power / Gen 32:2; (3) "Face of God" / God's favor / Gen 32:30.

See Lesson, Jacob's life, a type of Israel.

MAHANAIM: "2 hosts": God's host and Jacob's host. God's "12 legions" (Mat 26:53) and the little band of the faithful. Cp Elisha in 2Ki 6:16,17.

Gen 32:7

DISTRESS: Sw "trouble" in Jer 30:7.

Gen 32:9

Jacob's prayer: covenant (v 9), confession (v 10), confidence in God (v 11), and confidence in God's word (v 12).

Gen 32:10

KINDNESS AND FAITHFULNESS: "Mercies" and "truth", related to God's covenants of promise: Mic 7:20; Psa 89:28,29; Isa 55:3; etc.

I HAD ONLY MY STAFF WHEN I CROSSED THIS JORDAN: That is, Jacob was poor and alone when he first left Canaan.

BUT NOW I HAVE BECOME TWO GROUPS: That is, now God has caused Jacob to prosper greatly.

Gen 32:13

"A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great" (Pro 18:16).

Gen 32:22

Vv 22,23: Jacob was fearful for the safety of his family: v 11. His family and he passed over Jabbok (v 22). Then he changed his mind and sent them back to north side (v 23), to remain there in comparative safety. Jacob remained alone (v 24) on south side, to face Esau's band (WJ 69).

JABBOK: Sig "Yahweh wrestles".

Gen 32:24

Vv 24-32: A parable of moral change: As the nation of Israel wrestled with God (in the person of Christ), and was humbled (by trials), so that they will at last bow down in humility -- to be blessed, and receive a new name: Hos 12:3-6.

A MAN WRESTLED WITH HIM: Jacob "wrestles" with man and God by seeking his own means -- guile and strength. Jacob thought he was fighting with Esau (cp Gen 33:10) -- because: why fight an angel or a stranger? (Did the angel alter his appearance to look like Esau?)

Gen 32:25

WHEN THE MAN SAW THAT HE COULD NOT OVERPOWER HIM: Jacob would never surrender. The power of angels is sometimes limited: 1Pe 1:12; Mat 24:36; Dan 8:13; 10:13; Gen 22:12; Exo 31:17 (cp Exo 23:12) (WJ 71). Others with whom God has "wrestled": David (Psa 51:7,8); Hezekiah (Isa 38:12-14); Jeremiah (Lam 3:3-10); and esp Job (Job 10:16-20).

HIP (HOLLOW OF THIGH): The thigh is the greatest muscle in the body.

HIS HIP WAS WRENCHED: Jacob is disabled and helpless before Esau, and he is humbled before God. He should have recognized that God is in control of all affairs: Gen 28:12; 31:11; 32:1.

Gen 32:26

Jacob now realizes his true helplessness, and he clings to his one hope -- in prayer.

BLESS ME: This includes the idea of forgiveness (Gen 22:17; Act 3:25; Gal 3:8; Exo 12:32; Num 6:24; Psa 72:12; 1Co 10:16; Joel 2:14) -- ie, for chronic sin of self-reliance. "He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior. Such is the generation of those that seek thy face (Peniel: vv 30,31), O (God of) Jacob" (Psa 24:5,6).

Gen 32:27

Vv 27,28: Thus his name is changed, from "Supplanter" to "Prince with God", from a man of GUILE to a man of FAITH. All in anticipation of Gen 35:10.

Gen 32:28

NO LONGER... BUT: An instance of "not only, but also" -- common Heb idiom. Hence Jacob -- although given a new name -- was still referred to by the old name also.

YOU HAVE STRUGGLED WITH GOD... AND HAVE OVERCOME: Jacob overcame through dependence of the strength of God. Cp Jer 31:11; Phi 4:13. LXX: "and with men thou shalt prevail" -- ref to his coming encounter with Esau?

For Jacob and so for us, it is a recurring nightmare. For each day we, too, struggle and prevail, but each night we retire, wounded, and with self inflicted injuries that we need God to heal during our sleep.

Our self-inflicted wounds are when we are not in the Christ-like way. We need to add the third dimension of behavior -- we fight for God, we fight men, The third dimension of behaving with wisdom and grace, Jacob learned later in his life, and so hopefully will we.

"You have contended with gods and with men and you have prevailed" -- Is this all the blessing you apportioned me, mysterious one? Woe is me, I know, against all of you I have prevailed, over everything. But over one I could not, over myself alone" (Yitzhak Lamdan).

There was one element left out of the discussion, between Jacob and the angel, the hardest of all to overcome, for we are never satisfied with our own performance, are we? Jacob was, in his dying hours: Perfect (see Gen 49:18).

Gen 32:30

Jacob's 3 memorials: see v 2n.

MY LIFE WAS SPARED: "For the LORD will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they" (Jer 31:11). In answer to Jacob's prayer (v 11). By faith the adversary-angel of darkness became to Jacob a protecting angel of light -- bringing blessing: "If God be for us..." (Rom 8:31,32).

"There are many Jacobs in the service of God today -- men who have received clear, gracious, divine assurances of the forgiveness of sins, of unfailing heavenly care and guidance, and of ceaseless angelic concern for all their affairs, and who yet live as though convinced that their own wit and wisdom and scheming and contriving are worth more than anything that the heavenly minister can achieve. It is enough to make angels weep with disappointment. Yet, happily, with some the day of realization comes as it did for Jacob, early enough to transform a life of assertive self-dependence into a pilgrimage of faith. Jacob illustrates plainly the angelic nature of what we call providence: [angels] giving affairs an intelligent bent this way and that, as occasion requires, without showing His hand. Where the angels do not operate, providence is not at work, but affairs are left to work themselves out on natural principles. Yet angelic operations in ordinary life are not distinguishable from the effect of nature, the results induced appearing natural. We cannot discover their hand and need not make the attempt. Our part is to fear God, keep the commandments, and go forth with courage and trust, believing the assurance that all things work together for good for those who love God" (RR).

Gen 32:31

THE SUN ROSE ABOVE HIM: Jacob had begun a new day: a new life protected by the "Sun of righteousness with healing in his wings" (Mal 4).

HE WAS LIMPING BECAUSE OF HIS HIP: A reminder of his mortal dependence. But physical weakness was not important, for Jacob had God's strength (Hos 12:3-6). Cp Mic 4:6 ("her that halteth"), Zep 3:19 ("I will save him that halteth").

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