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Saturday, June 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 32

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-32

Shall we turn in our Bibles to Genesis chapter thirty-two?

Now in the thirty-first chapter we had the parting of Laban, Jacob's uncle as he kisses his grandchildren goodbye, as he sets up the stone and as he gives a heavy-duty charge to Jacob saying, "you take care of my girls and my grandkids. And if you do anything wrong, may God watch over you and take care of you".

And so Laban departed with his host and returned back to Padanaram.

And Jacob [chapter thirty-two] went on his way, and the angels of God met him ( Genesis 32:1 ).

So he's just left the host of Laban and he starts on his way again towards Esau. And the angels of God met him. No doubt this was very encouraging to Jacob at this point to meet the angels of God. Now it is interesting, it doesn't tell us in what form or whatever. We do know that angels did in many cases take on human form in the Old Testament. In what form the angels met him here is not declared, just that the angels of God met him. Angels, it seems, are able to materialize and to speak to people.

Actually in the book of Hebrews, we are told to be careful to entertain strangers. You might be entertaining angels without even knowing it. Now to my knowledge, I have never seen an angel in my whole life. My wife gets upset when I say that but I mean, really, truly angel. She's an angel but not a really truly one, I don't think.

There is a pastor up in Boise, Idaho that declares that Gabriel's been visiting him over a period of time. From the things that Gabriel has supposedly told him, I doubt that it's Gabriel. Now we are told that we are not to believe every spirit but to "try the spirits if they be of God" ( 1 John 4:1 ). And we are told that Satan is able to transform himself into an angel of light in order to deceive. And Paul says, "If an angel of heaven preaches any other gospel than that which you've already received, let him be accursed" ( Galatians 1:8 ).

So if an angel would come along and say, "Hey, God loves everybody and it doesn't matter what you might do, God will accept you and receive you, you don't need to pray, you don't need to come by Jesus Christ"; hey, let that angel be accursed. The angels of God would not reveal or say anything that would be contrary to the already revealed word of truth that we have in the Bible. So though I've never seen an angel, I'm open. I would-I would enjoy the experience very, very much, I'm sure.

There are angels, the Scriptures said, "who have been given charge over us to keep us in all of our ways", ( Psalms 91:11 ), sort of guardian angels. I do believe in them. Mine has been with me on several occasions and has helped me out. I'm very conscious and aware of my angel's presence with me on occasion and of his help. And there have been occasions when I turned and said, "thanks, buddy. Appreciate that one", you know, that was really you know, I don't know how I got out of it myself. But except that the angels of the Lord delivered me and it was very obvious that it was just the hand of the Lord that delivered.

So Jacob met the angels.

And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host ( Genesis 32:2 ):

He just saw Laban's host; they were a rough host. But "this is God's host:"

and he called the name of that place Mahanaim ( Genesis 32:2 ).

"Mahanaim" means the place of two hosts. So it was the host of Laban and the host of angels.

And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom. And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall you speak unto my lord Esau; [Tell him] Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now: And I have oxen, and asses, and flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight. 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 ( Genesis 32:3-6 ).

So the reception committee with Esau was on their way. So it was the third host now. There was the host of Laban, that was very uncomfortable. There was the host of angels, that was comfortable. There is now the host of Esau coming with four hundred men and that again is uncertain. But it seems to be uncomfortable at the moment because the last time he saw Esau, Esau was threatening to kill him. Why would he want to bring four hundred men with him unless he intended him harm? And so the news is disrupting to Jacob. He doesn't like the news that he hears of the four hundred men that Esau is bringing with him.

Notice, Jacob in his message to Esau is pointing out his own wealth in order to cause Esau to be comfortable not thinking that Jacob is coming back to claim his inheritance. Coming back to claim his birthright. Coming back to take away from Esau or to try to take from Esau. I don't need anything. I'm very rich. I have servants, menservants, maidservants, cattle, oxen, the whole thing, and I'm returning now and the addressing of him as "lord". Though his father said, "And your brother shall be your servants", yet Jacob is addressing him as the lord.

Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that were with him, the flocks, the herds, the camels, into two bands; and he said, If Esau comes to one company, and smites it, then the other company which is left escape ( Genesis 32:7-8 ).

He immediately began to prepare. The first thing was just to divide the whole company into two bands. Figuring if Esau strikes one, while they are fighting and all, it would give the other band an opportunity to escape.

And then Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, the LORD which said unto me, Return to thy country, and to your family, and I will deal well with you ( Genesis 32:9 ):

Now Jacob as he begins to pray is immediately reminding the Lord of what the Lord said to him. How oftentimes in prayer I remind the Lord of what He said. Lord, You said, "Where two or three are gathered together" or "where two or three agree" ( Matthew 18:20 ). Now the Lord knows He said that and I know He said it but I just like to remind Him that He said it every once in a while, you know. I like to remind the Lord of His promises.

Now Lord, "You promised if we ask anything" and just remind Him that "Lord, this is what You said. I didn't say this, Lord, You said this". And so Jacob is doing much the same thing. He's reminding the Lord of what the Lord said. "Lord, You're the One that said return and I will deal well with you. Now Lord, I'm returning and here comes my brother" and the acknowledgment in verse ten.

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

He is returning now to the area where Jabbok enters into the Jordan river and as he looks down into the valley and he sees the Jordan river before him, he remembers twenty years earlier when he was fleeing from his brother. All he had was just a walking stick, just my staff. Coming back now twenty years later, God has been so good and blessed him so abundantly that he's had to divide his whole group into two companies of people. Two bands. "Lord, I don't deserve anything. I'm not worthy the least of Your mercies. You've blessed me abundantly. When I passed over Jordan, all I had the staff. Now I've become two bands".

Now to give you a little idea of how large a group he had with him, in his present to Esau he sent to him five hundred and fifty animals. Now that was just a small part of one of the bands of animals. So I mean, this was a big drive of cattle, and sheep, servants and all that Jacob is coming back with; a wealthy man. And he attributes the wealth unto God. "I'm not worthy, I'm not deserving. And yet, look what You've done". And then his real request.

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. And you said,[again reminding God what He said] I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude ( Genesis 32:11-12 ).

I do think that there's tremendous value in the promises of God's scripture and as we remind ourselves of what God has said; "Lord, You have said I will supply all your needs according to my riches in glory by Christ Jesus"( Philippians 4:19 ). The Lord likes you to take Him at His word. Stand upon His promises.

The real prayer is "deliver me from the hand of Esau". Now the honest confession, "I am afraid", and it's an honest confession. It may be a negative confession but it's honest. And I think an honest, negative confession is probably better than a dishonest, positive confession. "Oh, I'm not afraid, everything's all right". And you're trembling; that isn't honest. Jacob is honest with God. "I'm afraid that he's going to come and kill me." Very negative confession but it was true. Jacob was afraid. And it's best to be honest. Honest especially when you're talking with God.

It's who do you think you're kidding when you're not really honest with God? He knows your heart, He knows what's in your heart. You're not fooling God at all. So it's best to be honest with God, totally honest and open. I love a frankness with God. I love being just blunt and frank when I talk with God. I love to tell Him exactly how I feel.

I'm more open with God, I think, than I am with anybody else because I know that I might as well be. I know it's ridiculous for me not to be open with God. I know that there is not any hiding of anything from God. That everything is open and naked before Him. And thus, any endeavor of mine to disguise or to color or to in anywise alter the true feelings of my heart are just absolute folly. It's just deceiving myself. And so a great openness with God, a great honesty.

"Lord, I am afraid. I don't know what I'm going to do. Lord, I'm just really disturbed over this thing. But God, I'm angry, I'm mad, I can't stand what they're doing, Lord." And just be honest with God about your emotions, about your feelings and then God can deal with them.

As long as I'm trying to cover and, you know, try to fool God and say, "Oh, it's all right, Lord, everything's okay, I feel great. Oh, it doesn't bother me, no, no". Then I'm not, then God can't deal with the real issues of my life, until I get just really frank with Him and honest in my dealings with God.

Jacob was honest. And then he reminded as I said God of His promise, "You said 'I will surely do thee good and make thy seed as the sand of the sea.' Now Lord, how can my seed be as the sand of the sea if Esau wipes us all out?" You see, that's the idea, "You made the promise that I'm, you know, my descendants are going to be unnumbered and Lord, that'll never be if Esau comes and wipes me out".

And so he lodged there that same night; and he took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother; two hundred she goats, twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, twenty rams, thirty milch camels with their colts, forty cows, ten bulls, twenty she asses, ten foals. And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and he said to his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space between the droves and drove. And he commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau my brother meets you, and asks you, saying, Who are you? and where are you going? Who do these animals belong to? Then you shall say, They are of thy servant Jacob's; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, he is behind us. And so he commanded the second, the third, and all that followed the droves, saying, On this manner shall you speak unto Esau, when you find him. And say moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept me ( Genesis 32:13-20 ).

So Jacob prays and then he does his best to set things up. Now as I told you, one of Jacob's problems was that he felt that God couldn't do His work without his help. In other words, Jacob always was trying to help God out. Jacob wasn't a man to just trust the Lord alone. He was the kind of a fellow who would pray and then do his best to set things up. He was a very wise man and a very clever man.

And he always was scheming, always conniving, always manipulating people, and this is just another one of Jacob's manipulations, having prayed, rather than just leaving it there with God. Then he does his best to help God work out the situation by setting up this whole appeasement program, sending out the servants with all of these droves of cattle and sheep and rams and goats and so forth. So that by the time Esau gets to him, he's sort of just overwhelmed by all of the presents that he has received from Jacob. And he is hoping that the anger of Esau will surely be appeased by all of these gifts.

You say, "Well, God wants us to do something, doesn't He?" Yes, I do not believe that faith is really passive. I think that faith is active and I believe that God does expect us to use our heads and use the wisdom that He has given to us. But I do believe that God wants us to be trusting in Him in His ability to do His work. I think that too many times we get into problems where we shouldn't really get involved at all where we're trying to help God out and God doesn't need my help.

And so he went the present over before him: and he stayed that night in the company. And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, [that is, Bildad and Zilpah] and his eleven sons, and he passed over the ford Jabbok. And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over all that he had. And Jacob was left alone ( Genesis 32:21-24 );

I really feel that he sent them all away so he could get a good night's sleep. Others think that he sent them away so he could spend the night in prayer. That doesn't sound like Jacob. He's a practical man and as I say, he really is trusting in himself more than God at this particular point. Yes, he takes God into account, he asked God to help him but then he does his best to help himself.

And so I think that he knew that this has been a rough day. It's been an emotional day. Laban is upset and I can't go back that direction. Esau is coming; I don't know what his attitude is. And so he thinks, I better get a good night's sleep. Get all these little kids out of here, because you remember all and they were eleven boys and how many girls; we don't know. There were girls also and they were all under thirteen years of age.

So a lot of racket, you know, and a lot of cutting up and a lot of playing and a lot of movement in the night. And Jacob felt he needed a good night's rest. And so Jacob was left alone but rather than getting a good night rest,

there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him ( Genesis 32:24-25 ),

That is, this angel that was wrestling with Jacob, Jacob would not give up. He could not prevail against Jacob. Jacob was a strong, iron-willed man, and that was Jacob's weakness was his strength. He was so strong; he was prone to trust and rely upon himself rather than to trust in the Lord completely. And so here is a night in which he really needs rest more than any other night, and rather than being able to get rest, the Lord sends an angel to wrestle with him all night long. But he still wouldn't give up. He still wouldn't surrender. And so when the angel saw that he would not surrender,

he touched the hollow of his thigh; and it went out of joint, as he wrestled with him ( Genesis 32:25 ).

He deliberately crippled Jacob. Using the divine power, he crippled this man. Now Jacob's one thought was always he could flee. He set things up so that Esau would meet the other company. If Esau was still angry and started to smite the company, then he could flee. And always in the back of his mind, if all else fails, run.

Now the Lord has closed out that door of escape. He's crippled, how can he run? And so the angel touched the hollow of his thigh, the thing shriveled, he became a cripple. God shut him off from escaping now. And this is what finally brought Jacob to the place of giving up. "That's it, I've had it". Jacob finally surrendered. That which God was wanting him to do all along, surrender his life, surrender his will unto the Lord finally came with the crippling. It took the crippling to do it. That's tragic. Sometimes a person's greatest strength can be their greatest weakness.

But Paul the apostle, he was another Jacob in a sense. The guy with an iron will. When Paul wanted to do something, it was almost impossible to stop him. He was preaching in Lystra and the people got angry and they stoned him. They thought they killed him. They dragged him out of town, even as friends thought he was dead and Paul himself doesn't know if he was dead or alive. And his friends were gathering around his body weeping over Paul. Oh, the great soldier of the cross. What a loss you know to the kingdom of God. And pretty soon, Paul began to move, stood up, shook himself. Let's go back into town. Man, how do you stop a guy like that? You don't. That iron will.

But it also became a problem. For Paul was in Galatia and he intended to go over into Bithynia with the Gospel. He had a desire to get into Asia there. "Oh, I want to go into Asia and preach". God didn't want him to go to Asia. But Paul was determined to go to Asia.

So God had to make Paul so sick he couldn't get out of bed until He got Paul's attention. Paul said, "Where is it You wanted me to go, Lord? Over to Greece? Oh, but I wanted to go to Asia, Lord". "Greece, Paul". But he was so sick he couldn't go on into Asia. The Lord just put-had, but he had to put him in bed; he had to, you know; that's sad. But Paul probably could never have endured all of the things that he endured unless he had that great will. It was a great strength but yet so many times the natural abilities are the very things that get in our way in our attempt to serve God.

And God has to deal and bring us to a dependence upon Him in all things. He doesn't want me to depend upon my natural abilities. He wants me to depend totally upon Him. And with Jacob, it took the crippling in order to bring Jacob to the place of surrender, in order that God might really do all for Jacob He wanted to do. He couldn't do it as long as he was this clever, conniving kind of a guy. God couldn't do what He was wanting to do. And so He brings him to the place of weakness. Brings him to a crippling situation.

Jacob is surely not a good example for us. It's just a good illustration and demonstration of what God has to do to some people to bring them into a complete surrender of themselves to God, so that then God can take them and begin to work through them. And they have that understanding, that deep understanding that I have to depend upon the Lord. And so the angel crippled him. And Jacob, at this point, defeated according to Hosea, began to weep and plead with the angel.

You know, you have to hear a person's tone of voice many times to know what they're really saying. You cannot put the tone of voice in words on a page. You've got to hear it. And as we read the words on the page, it sounds like Jacob is demanding, coming from a position of victory or power saying, "I'll not let you go except you bless me".

As the day was breaking,

The angel said, Let me go, the day is breaking. And Jacob said, I will not let you go ( Genesis 32:26 ),

It sounds like he's coming from a position of power and all. Not so. Hosea says he was at this point broken. He was weeping. He was crying. He was pleading. He was actually saying in essence, "please don't go without blessing me. I can't let you go".

unless you bless me ( Genesis 32:26 ).

I've had it. I'm destroyed. I can't run. I've had it. Please don't go without first of all blessing me.

And so the angel said unto him, What is your name ( Genesis 32:27 )?

Reminding him of his character. For his name was a reflection of his character.

My name is Jacob ( Genesis 32:27 ).

"My name is heel catcher because I caught my brother's heel and I've been at everybody's heel. I've been clever. I've been able to get by because of my dogged determination. I don't give up. I'm a self-governed man. I'm the master of my destiny. I'm the master of every situation. My name is Jacob."

Your name ( Genesis 32:28 )

And here's the blessing; the blessing is just the change of a name.

Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel ( Genesis 32:28 ):

But the name change indicates the change of nature. You're no longer to be a self-governed, clever heel catcher; but you're now to be a man whose life is governed by God, Israel. And it indicates the change of character. Actually it is the new birth; it's being born again. No longer being mastered by self, by the flesh. And now being mastered by the spirit of God. Living now a life after the Spirit. What a beautiful blessing. The greatest blessing he could ever receive. It was the blessing that was to last the rest of his life.

God wants to bless you. He wants to change your nature from a self-governed, independent, self-sufficient individual into a person who is relying and trusting in God whose life is governed by the spirit of God. And so the change in Jacob, the blessing was the change of nature that God gave to him.

for as a prince thou hast power with God and with men, and hast prevailed ( Genesis 32:28 ).

God is changing your nature, making you a prince. Giving you power with God and power with men.

And Jacob said to him, What is your name? And he said, Why do you ask me my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for he said I have seen God face to face ( Genesis 32:29-30 ),

"Peniel" means the face of God.

and my life is preserved. And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he [was limping or] halted upon his thigh ( Genesis 32:30-31 ).

He was crippled. The crippling was an experience that lasted.

Therefore the children of Israel eat not 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 ( Genesis 32:32 ). "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Genesis 32". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/genesis-32.html. 2014.
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