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A Time of Trouble — Genesis Chapter 32

This blog post will cover the devotionals #143, 144 for Genesis Chapter 32.


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[143] Genesis 32:1-8,13-23

Before Jacob had wrestled with the Heavenly messenger, he prepared his family for the possibility of attack by his brother. He also tried to lessen the blow in several ways. First, he sent messengers to his brother, explaining where he’d been, that he had many flocks and servants, and that he wanted to inform him—hoping to find mercy from Esau. Esau said that he was coming to meet him with four hundred men. Second, Jacob divided his people and animals into two groups, so that, if Esau attacked one group, the other would have a chance to get away. Jacob’s wives’ handmaids and their children were sent at the head of the group, then Leah with her children, then his beloved Rachel and Joseph at the back. Third, Jacob prepared a great gift for his brother from all his flocks and herds. He took two hundred (each) she-goats and ewes, twenty (each) he-goats, rams, and she-asses, thirty nursing camels and their colts, forty heifers, and ten (each) bulls and foals. He separated them into three droves and had his servants lead them, one at a time and spaced out, to Esau. They were instructed to tell Esau they were gifts from Jacob, who was behind them. He hoped to appease Esau’s anger. He rested that night with the groups, then sent them all ahead of him so he could remain and pray (and wrestle). Why was Jacob so fearful about Esau, and what was his motive in sending the gifts? After Jacob had fled, following his deception against Isaac and Esau, Esau believed that he’d still end up being the inheritor of his father’s wealth after all. Jacob feared that if Esau heard of his return, he’d feel he was in danger of losing it again, and Esau would finally get his revenge. Thus, he sent the gifts in hopes to assure Esau that he wasn’t coming to take his wealth. This fear is what the angels appeared to calm Jacob of (in Genesis 32:1, 2). Two hosts of angels surrounded his company to show that they were protecting them. He felt encouraged as a result (though not perfectly relieved). We’ll see, in devotional #144, what it took to fully relieve his fears about Esau.

[144] Genesis 32:9-12,24-32

Why was the Angel that wrestled with Jacob there to begin with? Jacob was in terror of the probability that his brother, Esau, would kill him on his way home to Isaac. He was so tormented by this that he spent the night praying to God to keep His promise to be with and protect him. The Angel stood before him, presenting the true character of the wrong he’d committed against his brother. He was about to leave Jacob, but he grabbed Him and wouldn’t let go. He continued praying tearfully, explaining the deep repentance he’d experienced for his sins and deception against Esau. He also claimed God’s promises and showed how God had favored him here and there while he was away from home. He wrestled all night, begging for the blessing, which the Angel seemed to be resisting / indifferent to—even going so far as to constantly remind Jacob of his sins. The Angel tried to break free of Jacob—whose grasp was both physical and spiritual. The Angel could’ve released Himself by supernatural power but didn’t do it. He did decide to convince Jacob that He could, though, because Jacob wouldn’t give up. We saw, in devotional #114, that when someone puts their hand under someone’s thigh during an oath, they’re telling them that they submit to their authority. Jacob tried to get the Angel to submit to his pleading for the assurance of forgiveness, as well as for Him to keep the oath He had made to bless him, but instead of placing His hand under Jacob’s thigh, He touched it and it went out of joint. Jacob could’ve accepted this as a sign that the Angel wouldn’t submit, yet, despite the pain and the awareness of the Angel’s power, Jacob wouldn’t give up and nothing could stop him from attaining his goal of a blessing. At the very end of the struggle, he was more determined than at the beginning. He fought until dawn, at which point, the Angel told him to let go. Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.” Just like he held Esau’s heel as they left the womb, he held onto the Angel. The Angel asked his name (not because He didn’t know, but because He wanted to make a lesson out of what was about to happen), and when Jacob responded (recall that Jacob means ‘supplanter’), He told him that his name would no longer be Jacob, but Israel (‘prevail’) because, as a prince of God, he has power with God and men, and had prevailed. What prevailed was Jacob’s persevering faith. Once he was assured of the blessing and the forgiveness he sought, his name was changed to represent his change of character. Jacob named that place Peniel (‘face of God’) because it was no angel, but Christ Himself, that wrestled with him and had preserved his life in His presence. Christ blessed Jacob. Hosea 12:3-6 says, “He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength, he had power with God: Yes, he had power over the Angel and prevailed: he wept and petitioned Him: he found him in Bethel, and he spoke with us there; even the Lord God of hosts; the Lord is his memorial. Therefore, turn to your God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on your God continually.” Just as He had done with the Canaanite woman who pleaded for her demon-possessed child to be healed (who'd replied to Christ’s apparent indifference, in Matthew 15:27, “yet the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their master’s table”), Christ acted indifferent to Jacob’s pleading solely to test his faith and perseverance—which proved to be great.

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