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MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 32:1-2
JACOB’S VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE WORLD
I. Jacob’s visible world. He had just escaped the persecutions of his father-in-law, and was now expecting to meet with a fiercer enemy in his brother. All was dread and anxiety. He is scarcely delivered from one host of enemies when another is coming forth to meet him. Such was the gloomy and hopeless condition of the outward world as it appeared to Jacob’s natural eye.
II. Jacob’s invisible world. What a different scene is presented to him when his spiritual eye is opened, and God permits him to see those invisible forces which were engaged on his side. We are told that “the angels of God met him.” He was weak to all human appearance; but he was really strong, for God’s host had come to deliver him from any host of men that might oppose. So far as we know, the angels of God have only appeared to man in times of great danger. Thus, when the host of the Syrians encompassed Dothan in order to take Elisha, the servant of the prophet was alarmed, and cried out, “Alas! Master, how shall we do?” And the prophet’s assuring answer was, “Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” (2 Kings 6:17). There was no visible help, no earthly powers to protect the prophet, but in answer to his prayer, “the young man’s eyes were opened, and he saw the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” God’s hosts stood revealed to allay the fear of man’s hosts. So it was in Jacob’s case. The host of God is described as parting into two bands, as if to protect him behind and before; or to assure him that as he had been delivered from one enemy, so he would be delivered from another enemy, which was coming forth to meet him. Thus Jacob was taught—
1. To whom he owed his late mercies.
2. The true source of his protection.
3. His faith is confirmed. It is justified for the past, and placed upon a firmer basis for the future.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 32:1. As the angels appeared to him in a dream on his way to Laban, so now they appear to him more visibly on his return home. This sight is assuring, like that vision of the ladder, which he had seen twenty years before, traversed by the angel guards. Here they are encamped around him. (Psalms 34:8). The promise made to him that he should be returned to his own land in peace was to be made good. (Genesis 28:15).—(Jacobus.)
Jacob here obtains a clear assurance of God’s protection and guidance. We see, therefore, in him the union of two classes of feelings—fear for the future, and trust in God; and such must be ever our Christian life: not an entire life of rest, for we have sinned; nor an entire life of unrest, for God has forgiven us; but in all life a mixture of the two. Christ alone had perfect peace, for He had perfect purity.—(Robertson.)
Genesis 32:2. Why the angels are called hosts.
1. From their multitude.
2. From their order.
3. From their power for the protection of the saints, and the resistance and punishment of the wicked.
4. From their rendering a cheerful obedience as become a warlike host.—(Lange.)
All God’s children may call death, as Jacob did this place, Mahanaim; because there the angels meet them.—(Trapp).
Genesis 32:1. The angels of God met him.] “Lit., came, drew near to him, not precisely that they came from an opposite direction.” (Lange.)—
Genesis 32:2. Mahanaim.] Heb. Two camps. Probably alluding to the meeting of his own encampment with that of God. But some contend that this is the usual Hebrew plural of dignity or majesty. Mahanaim was situated S.W. of Mizpah in Gilead, probably the modern Mahneh.—
Genesis 32:3. The land of Seir.] This is Arabia Petrea, on the east and south of the Dead Sea.—
Genesis 32:7. Greatly afraid and distressed.] Heb. “Straitened.” In the Scriptures this word denotes “a sore strait,” from which there seems to be no way of escape. Two bands. “The word Mahanah (see Genesis 32:2) is used throughout these verses as signifying the parts of Jacob’s company, and ought to have been carefully preserved in the A.V., as it is by the LXX. It is caprice of this kind, rendering the word “host” in Genesis 32:2, “band” in Genesis 32:7, and “company” in Genesis 32:8, which has so obscured the meaning of Scripture for English readers.” (Alford.)—
Genesis 32:10. I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies.] Heb. I am less than all the mercies; i.e., I am too little for them. Of all the truth, which Thou hast shown unto Thy servant. Heb. The truth which Thou hast done. In Scripture truth is represented as something which may be done or acted, as well as spoken. (St. John 3:21; 1 John 1:6.) With my staff I passed over this Jordan. (Onk.)—By myself alone I crossed over this Jordan—
Genesis 32:11. The mother with the children.] “These words, like ‘root and branch,’ betoken utter extirpation of a family or a community: compare Hosea 10:14.” (Alford.)—
Genesis 32:13. Took of that which came to his hand.] The usage of the Heb. implies, not as the A.V., that which came uppermost, but rather that which he possessed,—which he had previously acquired.
Genesis 32:22. The ford Jabbok.] “Nearly the same word as is rendered wrestled in (Genesis 32:24), from which the brook may have derived its name. This brook is the Zerka, and empties into the Jordan on the east side, a distance below the sea of Galilee.” (Jacobus). The brook at the ford is about ten yards wide.—
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 32:3-23
JACOB’S PREPARATION FOR MEETING HIS ANGRY BROTHER
I. He took those measures dictated by human prudence.
1. He sends messengers of peace. Jacob had to pass through Mount Seir, where Esau had taken up his abode. He sends messengers to his brother to sue for peace and favour, in terms of great humility. They bring back the unfavourable report that Esau is coming with a band of men, as with hostile intent. Jacob now remembers his former sin. The very mention of his brother’s name brings the past vividly before him. He must make no delay in conciliating his brother. The messengers are charged to use words of lowly submission. Esau is to be addressed as lord, Jacob not even insisting upon the temporal prerogatives of the birthright. He accepts a humiliating position.
2. He divides his company into two bands. This arrangement he carried out both with respect to his flocks and to his family. The manner in which he arranges the latter shows how he felt that the situation was desperate. He places in front the handmaids and their children, then Leah and hers, and lastly, the best beloved Rachel and Joseph. Those he cared for least he places the nearest to the danger. He was forced to consider the agonising question as to who he should be willing first to lose.
3. He sends a present to his brother. (Genesis 32:13-15.) It is a liberal one, consisting of quite half the flocks he had acquired. (Genesis 32:7-8.) He puts a space between drove and drove, so as to make an effective impression of liberality upon his brother. Thus he hopes to appease his anger.
II. He took those measures dictated by religion. He betakes himself to prayer, which he utters in touching words. There are pious and noble elements in this prayer.
1. He appeals to God as the Covenant God and Father. (Genesis 32:9.)
2. He pleads God’s gracious promise to himself. “The Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee.”
3. He confesses his own unworthiness, and God’s goodness and faithfulness. (Genesis 32:10.) Twenty years ago, when he crossed over Jordan in his flight from Esau, his sole property was the staff he carried in his hand. Now, he is blessed with all this increase. He disclaims all merit of his own, and acknowledges that God’s goodness had made him great. He also praised God for His “truth,” i.e., for His faithfulness. In the Scriptural usage of the term, God had “done” truth in fulfilling His word of promise.
4. He presents his special petition expressing his present want. (Genesis 32:11.) He prays to be delivered from his brother’s anger, the possible consequences of which were fearful to contemplate.
5. He cleaves to God’s word of promise. (Genesis 32:12.) God had promised to do him good, and to make his seed as the sand of the sea for multitude. And Jacob pleads as if he said, how could this promise be fulfilled if himself and his family were slain? This prayer shows the kind husband, the tender father, the man of faith and piety. There is an element of selfishness in it, for it was wrung from him by the dread of danger. But it is at such times that the soul is cast upon God. In the religious life, the highest motives come last. We begin first to turn to God from a sense of our danger.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 32:3-5. Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau. Observe in these conciliatory instructions to the messengers,
(1) That he declines the honour of precedency given in the blessing, calling Esau his lord. Isaac had said to him, “Be lord over thy brethren.” (Genesis 27:29). But Jacob either understood it of spiritual ascendancy, or, if of temporal, as referring to his posterity, rather than to himself. He, therefore, assumes the air and language of deference to his brother as David did towards Saul, (1 Samuel 24:7-9), from purely prudential considerations.
(2). He would have him know that he was not come to claim the double portion, nor even to divide with him his father’s inheritance. Now, as these were things which had so greatly provoked Esau, a relinquishment of them would tend more than anything else to conciliate him.—(Bush).
Jacob in this message mentioneth his property, that Esau might not think that he sought to him for any need; but only for his favour. And this was something, to a man of Esau’s make; for such like not to hear of, or be haunted with, their poor kindred. (Luke 15:30). “This thy son,” saith he, that felt no want: he saith not, This my brother; he would not own him, because in poverty.—(Trapp).
Confidence in men mostly stands or falls with their fortunes.
Genesis 32:6. This was a formidable force. Esau had begun to live by the sword (Genesis 27:40), and had surrounded himself with a numerous body of followers. Associated by marriage with the Hittites and the Ishmaelites, he had rapidly risen to the rank of a powerful chieftain. It is vain to conjecture with what intent he advanced at the head of so large a retinue. It is probable that he was accustomed to a strong escort, that he wished to make an imposing appearance before his brother, and that his mind was in that wavering state, when the slightest incident might soothe him into good will, or arouse him to vengeance.—(Murphy.)
When Jacob was well rid of his father-in-law, he thought all safe; and his joy was completed by the sight of that army of angels. But he is damped and terrified with this sad message of Esau’s approach and hostile intentions. This is the godly man’s case while here. One trouble follows in the neck of another. Ripen we apace, and so get to heaven, if we would be out of the gun-shot. The ark was transportative till settled in Solomon’s temple; so, till we come to heaven we shall be tossed up and down and turmoiled: whilst we are—as Bernard hath it—“in this exile, in this purgatory, in this pilgrimage, in this vale of tears.”—(Trapp.)
Genesis 32:7-8. This fear of his brother was the direct consequence of his sin, the sin that embittered his whole life.—(Robertson.)
This was his weakness, and may be ours in like case, as looking to the present peril, and, “forgetting the consolation,” as the apostle speaketh Hebrews 12:5, that he might have drawn from the promise of God, and presence of angels. Faith quelleth and killeth distrustful fears: but Satan, in a distress, hides from us that which should support us, and greatens that that may appal us.—(Trapp.)
The disposal of his company into two bands, so that if one was attacked the other might escape, is characteristic of Jacob. He was a scheming man, and never neglected to take every possible precaution.
Genesis 32:9. He appeals to the God of Abraham and Isaac, to Jehovah the God of promise and performance.—(Murphy.)
We must not overlook the name of Jehovah in his prayer. The danger is so great that a more general belief in a general providence will not sustain him.—(Hengstenberg.)
Promises must be prayed over. God loves to be burdened with, and to be importuned in His own words; to be sued upon His own bond. Prayer is putting the promises into suit. Such prayers will be nigh the Lord day and night. (1 Kings 8:59). He can as little deny them as deny Himself.—(Trapp.)
Genesis 32:10. Nothing is more humbling than the grace of God.—(Starke.)
Thankfulness was Jacob’s distinguishing grace, as faith was Abraham’s. Abraham appears ever to have been looking forward in hope,—Jacob looking back in memory; the one rejoicing in the future, the other in the past; the one making his way towards the promises, the other musing over their fulfilment.—(J. H. Newman).
With my staff, etc. That is, having nothing but a staff when I passed over this Jordan, I am now become so prosperous as to be able to divide my people, and my flocks and herds into these two large and imposing bands.—(Bush).
Jacob, though now grown so great, forgets not his former meanness.—(Trapp).
Genesis 32:11. The literal rendering is, “the mother upon the children.” It is founded upon what sometimes happens in the sacking of a city, when a devoted mother rushes between her child and the implement of death about to be plunged into its heart and is thus massacred with or upon her offspring. (Hosea 10:14.)—(Bush.)
Genesis 32:12. So Jacob interprets that promise,” I will be with thee,” (Genesis 28:15) which, indeed, hath in it whatsoever heart can wish, or need require. This promise was so sweet to the patriarch, that he repeats and ruminates it. God spake it once, he heard it twice; as David (Psalms 62:11) in another case. A fly can make little of a flower; but a bee will not be off till he hath the sweet thyme out of it.—(Trapp).
To remind God of His promises is one of the privileges of prayer.
Genesis 32:13-16. The sum total of cattle selected for this purpose was five hundred and fifty; a most magnificent present for one in his circumstances. It was a striking proof of his high estimation of the covenant promise, that he was willing for its sake to forego so large a part of his possessions. Jacob here voluntarily subjects himself to so immense a loss, that he may purchase a secure return to the land of his inheritance.—(Bush.)
Genesis 32:17-20. I almost think I hear Jacob telling his servants what they were to say to Esau. He would repeat it many times over, and then ask, “What did I say?” until he had completely schooled them into the story. When they went into the presence of Esau, they would be very particular in placing much stress on Jacob’s saying, “the present is sent unto my lord!” and this would touch his feelings.—(Roberts.)
Genesis 32:21-23. He lodged that night; but lay upon thorns and had little rest. The master is the greatest servant in the house, and hath most business. Jacob “sent them over the brook,” which he would not have done had he not been, upon his prayer, well confirmed and settled in his mind concerning the Lord’s protection.—(Trapp.)
Genesis 32:24. Wrestled.] The Heb. word only occurs in this place. It seems to be derived from a word signifying “dust,” and the allusion is probably to the dust excited by the combatants in wrestling. A man. In Hosea 12:4-5, the man who wrestled with Jacob is called the angel, and the Lord of Hosts. In Genesis 32:30, Jacob calls him God.
Genesis 32:25. The hollow of his thigh.] “Lit., the socket of the hip. It is not said that he struck it a blow (Knobel) (for it is God who is spoken of); needs but to touch its object, and the full result is secured.” (Lange). And the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint. “This is explained more fully in Genesis 32:32. The sinews of his thigh (nervus ischradicus) were paralyzed through the extreme tension and distortion. But this bodily paralysis does not paralyze the persevering Jacob.” (Lange).
Genesis 32:28. Israel.] Signifies, “princely prevailer with God.” One part of the word signifies the same as the name Sarah, “princess.” Such names in Scripture designate the character, rather than the common appellation of those to whom they are applied. (Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 7:14). See also what our Lord says to His disciples, (St. John 15:15). As a prince hast thou power with God. The same word occurs in Hosea 12:4; “He had power with God”; where the Heb. has, “he was a prince with God.”
Genesis 32:30. Peniel.] Heb. “face of God,” called also Penuel, in Genesis 32:31. But the two words have precisely the same import.
Genesis 32:32. Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank.] This custom is not mentioned elsewhere in the O.T., but the Jews rigidly observe it unto this day. Delitzsch says, “This exemption exists still, but since the ancients did not distinguish clearly between muscle, vein, and nerve, the sinew is now generally understood, i.e., the interior cord and nerve of the so-called hind-quarter, including the exterior also, and the ramifications of both.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 32:24-32
JACOB WRESTLING WITH THE ANGEL
Consider this incident:—
I. As to its outward form. Jacob had sent his company on before, and is now left all alone. He entrusts his all to God on whom he had cast himself in prayer. A strange and mysterious being, having at first the form of a man, wrestles with him “until the breaking of the day.” (Genesis 32:24). When this “man” saw that he prevailed not, he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh and put it out of joint. He confesses himself vanquished, and says, “let me go, for the day breaketh,” (Genesis 32:26) when Jacob replies “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” Jacob’s unknown combatant asks his name, when he changes that name in commemoration of Jacob’s power with God, and prevailing with men. Jacob then turns towards his unknown antagonist and asks what is his name. He blesses Jacob, but refuses to tell his name. (Genesis 32:29.) This mysterious being is, at first called a “man,” then an “angel,” and then “God.” When the conquest is over Jacob declares, “I have seen God face to face.” (Genesis 32:30). We cannot take this incident as a dream, but must regard it as history. For it is stated as a fact that the sinew of Jacob’s thigh shrank (Genesis 32:32). The features of this incident are true to all what we know of Jacob’s character. He had been a taker of the heel from his very birth. He had contended successfully with adversaries. True to his character, he struggles with this mysterious combatant while any strength remains. And even when his strength is suddenly withered, he hangs upon his conquerer. He learns to depend upon one mightier than himself.
II. As to its spiritual meaning. This transaction is clearly intended to have a spiritual meaning. If the outward form of it seems strange to us, we must consider that God can adapt the mode in which He shall convey His revelation to the condition of the person receiving it. When God has things of a spiritual nature to reveal, it is not strange that He should begin with the senses. God takes man on the ground on which He finds him, and through the senses leads him to the higher things of reason, of conscience, of faith, and of communion with Himself. These are some of the spiritual truths and lessons to be learned from this incident:—
1. That the great struggle of life is to know and feel after God. We know that we are in the hands of some mysterious and mighty Power. We want to know the secret of that Power, and who is that mysterious Being behind it all. Truly to know God’s name is to know the meaning of it, and not merely the ability to recite words. With the Hebrews of the old time, names stood for realities. To know God’s name was to know His nature. This is our great struggle—our deepest desire. Jacob now stood in dread of his brother Esau, but says not a word regarding his danger. He requests only to be blest by God, and to know His nature. We, too, feel that this universe reposes upon a solemn mystery, and we ask, what is that Name above every name; who is that Being in whom all things have their beginning, and seek their end? Are all our aspirations after God and immortality, only the echo of our own minds and wishes; or, are they some living being outside of us?
2. That God reveals Himself through mystery and awe. The Divine antagonist seemed anxious to depart before the dawn, but Jacob held him, as if in fear, lest the daylight should rob him of the blessing. The darkness of the night was the favourable time. The light of day might dissolve the charm. God is felt more in awe and wonder than in clear conceptions. We feel God most when some dark mystery presses upon us. Darkness shows us more of God than the light. The infinite grandeur of heaven strikes us more by night than by day.
3. That God reveals Himself to us in blessing. God refused to tell Jacob His Name, but “He blessed him there.” This is the chief thing we want. Through blessing imparted to us we shall learn all of that great Name that we can possibly know. If we depend only on words, we may come to mistake them for knowledge. Jacob had to learn and to feel after God by the experience of His goodness, and not merely to satisfy himself with a name. Words would only have limited and circumscribed the Infinite.
4. That God’s revelation of Himself to us is intended to change our character. The name of Jacob was changed to that of Israel. He is no more supplanter (Jacob), but prevailer with God (Israel). He had now put off the old man, and put on the new man; and this change in his character is signified by a new name. He now walks in “newness of life.” Twenty years before this, God had appeared to him and Heaven was opened to him in forgiveness and blessing. But all through and since this the essential principles of his character were not altered. There was still something subtle in him, deep cunning and craft,—a lack of reality. Jacob was tender and devout after his manner; but he was still the subtle supplanter, and only half honest. But now that he is overcome by the awful God, his subtlety departs from him. He becomes real and true. When God lays hold upon us, it is for the purpose of removing us from the old life to the new.
4. That God is conquered by prayer and supplication. “When He saw that He prevailed not against him.” (Genesis 32:25.) Here is the strange spectacle of Omnipotence unable to vanquish “the worm, Jacob.” But the strength by which Jacob wrestled was not the strength of bone and muscle, and the angel’s inability was nothing but the inability to withstand the power of faith in His own promises. The strength by which he prevailed was God’s own strength. Every true Israelite pleads the promises of God with an importunity that will take no denial, and God is pleased to suffer Himself to be thus overcome. God’s contest with us is friendly.
THE FEATURES OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF REVEALED FAITH IN JACOB’S WRESTLING
1. The germ of the incarnation. Godhead and humanity wrestling with each other; the Godhead in the form of a man.
2. The germ of the atonement. Sacrifice of the human will.
3. The germ of justification by faith. “I will not let thee go,” etc.
4. The germ of the new-birth. Jacob, Israel.
5. The germ of the principle of love to one’s enemies. The reconciliation with God, reconciliation with the world.—(Lange).
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 32:24. This strife was not only corporeal but spiritual; as well by the force of his faith as strength of body. “He prevailed” by prayers and tears. (Hosea 12:4.) Our Saviour also prayed Himself into “an agony,” (Luke 22:44.) and we are bidden to “strive in prayer,” even to an agony. (Romans 15:30.) Every sound is not music; so neither is every uttering petitions to God a prayer. It is not the labour of the lips, but the travail of the heart. A man must wrestle with God, and wring the blessing out of His hands, as the woman of Canaan did. He must “stir up himself to take hold of God.” (Isaiah 64:7.)—(Trapp.)
Genesis 32:25. But what a wonder is this? Jacob received not so much hurt from all his enemies as from his best friend. Not one of his hairs perished by Laban or Esau, yet he lost a joint by the angel, and was sent halting to his grave. He that knows our strength, yet will wrestle with us for our exercise, and loves our violence and importunity.—(Bp. Hall.)
This was the turning point in Jacob’s life. Henceforth he will put less dependence on the flesh, and fleshly means, and more upon God his deliverer. He prevailed, indeed, but bore about in his body the marks of the struggle, and succeeded only by prayer and faith. The thigh is the pillar of a man’s strength, and the hip-joint is the seat of physical force for him who would stand his ground as a wrestler.—(Jacobus.)
In all the gains of godliness there is yet something inflicted to keep us humble.
Genesis 32:26. Jacob conquers at the moment his physical strength is crippled. (2 Corinthians 12:10.) The All-powerful cannot go without Jacob’s leave. And Jacob will not let Him go except He bless him. What loving condescension of the covenant God, binding Himself to the sinner! “I will not leave thee nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5.) “Concerning the work of my hands command ye me.” What power of faith to hold on, and not to let go the Covenant Angel without a blessing!—(Jacobus.)
This teaches us as our Saviour did, by the parable of the importunate widow (Luke 18:1), to persevere in prayer, and to devour all discouragements. Jacob holds with his hands, when his joints were out of joint. The woman of Canaan will not be put off, either with silence or sad answers.—(Trapp.)
The highest heroism of faith shines forth in these words. Doubtless the power of Jacob’s antagonist was sufficient to have freed himself from this death-like embrace. But His omnipotence was limited in its operation by his promise to his servant “to do him good.” Nor did He really desire that Jacob should free him from the obligation to do him good. He rather aimed to have the pleasure of seeing how firm, by His grace, are the hearts of His children, even when many waters of affliction go over them, and how the seed of God remains in them. God Himself is the author of this constancy, and hence it is that it is so pleasing in His sight; for He takes pleasure in all His works.—(Bush.)
Genesis 32:27. The mention of his name not only reminded him of his predicted ascendancy over Esau, but also of all the rich blessings and prerogatives of the covenant established with his fathers. And what could more tend to cheer and encourage him on this occasion than such refreshing recollections? Yet the ensuing words disclose a still deeper drift in the question.
Genesis 32:28. The new name is indicative of the new nature which has now come to its perfection of development in Jacob. Unlike Abraham, who received his new name once for all, and was never afterwards called by the former one, Jacob will hence be called now by the one, and now by the other, as the occasion may serve. For he was called from the womb. (Genesis 25:23), and both names have a spiritual significance for two different aspects of the child of God, according to the apostles’ paradox, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13.)—(Murphy).
Proper names in scripture are frequently used to designate the character rather than the common appellation of those to whom they are applied. Thus it was predicted of Christ that “His name should be called Wonderful, Immanuel,” etc. (Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 7:14), the meaning of which is, that His nature should be wonderful, should be Immanuel, etc. So our Lord says to His disciples, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15), i.e., I declare you to be friends. Jacob should now be declared to be possessed of a new character by the significant designation assigned him. In allusion to his “power with God,” the Most High says by His prophet, “I said not to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain.” (Isaiah 45:19.) The seed of Jacob is specified rather than the seed of Abraham, from this eminent instance of Jacob’s praying and prevailing in a season of extremity, and thus carrying an implication that his “seed” would inherit their father’s spirit in this respect.—(Bush.)
No longer Jacob the supplanter, but Israel the Prince of God—the champion of the Lord, who had fought with God and conquered; and who, henceforth, will fight for God and be His true loyal soldier; a larger and more unselfish man—honest and true at last. No man becomes honest till he has got face to face with God. There is a certain insincerity about us all—a something dramatic. One of those dreadful moments which throw us upon ourselves, and strip off the hollowness of our outside show, must come before the insincere is true.—(Robertson.)
All God’s Israel are wrestlers by calling. (Ephesians 6:12.) As “good soldiers of Jesus Christ,” they must “suffer hardness.” (2 Timothy 2:3.) The Lord Christ stands over us as He did over Stephen (Acts 7:53), with a crown upon His head and another in His hand, with this inscription, “To him that overcometh.” (Revelation 2:3)—(Trapp.)
Genesis 32:29. Names have a power, a strange power of hiding God. Speech has been bitterly defined as the art of hiding thought. That sarcastic definition has in it a truth. The Eternal word is the revealer of God’s thought; and every true word of man is originally the expression of a thought; but by degrees the word hides the thought. Words often hide from us our ignorance of even earthly truth. The child asks for information, and we satiate his curiosity with words. Who does not know how we satisfy ourselves with the name of some strange bird or plant, or the name of some new law in nature? We get the name, and fancy we understand something more than we did before; but, in truth, we are more hopelessly ignorant. We fancy we possess it, because we have got the name by which it is known; and the word covers over the abyss of our ignorance. If Jacob had got a word, that word might have satisfied him. He would have said, now I understand God, and know all about Him. God’s plan was not to give names and words, but truths of feeling. That night, in that strange scene, He impressed on Jacob’s soul a religious awe, which was hereafter to develop,—not a set of formal expressions, which would have satisfied with husks the cravings of the intellect, and shut up the soul:—Jacob felt the Infinite, who is more truly felt when least named. Words would have reduced that to the Finite; for, oh! to know all about God is one thing—to know the living God is another.—(Robertson).
Genesis 32:30. Bethel, Mahanaim, Peniel, divine stations in the journey of the pilgrim of faith.—(Lange).
To see God face to face and live is the marvel of human experience.—(Jacobus).
The Christian also has his memorable places: Bethlehem, Capernaum, Jerusalem, Calvary, and the Mount of Olives, are among them. Every Christian has his particular Peniel, in which God revealed himself to him in an especial manner—his closet, the sanctuary, a book, a sermon, a company, a solitary hour, which continue consecrated in his grateful memory.—(Bush).
His words are equivalent to the declaration, “I am preserved, and shall be preserved.” Here, then, is the echo of faith, “Although new tribulations may befall me, according to the will of God, yet I shall be preserved, and He will at length deliver me from all evil. Of this I am assured, for I know in whom I have believed.” His subsequent history shows that his confidence was well founded.—(Bush.)
Genesis 32:31. Nature without was in harmony with the new feelings awakened within his soul. The Sun of Righteousness, the day-spring from on high, had risen upon him. He went lame, but he was blessed. While he rejoices in the exceeding mercy of God, he is, at the same time, reminded of his own nothingness and humbled.
The wrenching of the tendons and muscles was mercifully healed, yet so as to leave a permanent monument in Jacob’s halting gait, that God had overcome his self-will.—(Murphy).
Genesis 32:32. This story contains three points which are specially interesting to every Jew in a national point of view. It explained to him why he was called an Israelite. It traces the origin of his own name to a distant ancestor, who had been a wrestler with God, from whence he had obtained the name Israel. It casts much deep and curious interest round an otherwise insignificant village, Peniel, where this transaction had taken place, and which derived its name from it—Peniel, the face of God. And, besides, it explained the origin of a singular custom, which might seem a superstitious one, of not suffering a particular muscle to be eaten, and regarding it with a kind of religious awe, as the part in which Jacob is said by tradition to have been injured, by the earnest tension of his frame during the struggle.—(Robertson.)
The preceding narrative teaches us,
1. That great trials often befall the people of God when in the way of commanded duty.
2. The surest way of prevailing with man is to prevail with God.
3. Prevailing at last will recompense all our striving.—(Bush.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 32". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany