Genesis 32:1. And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
What an encouragement the visit of these angels must have been to Jacob after the strife which he had had with Laban! But, dear friends, angels often come to meet us, though we know it not. As in the old classic story, the poor man said, “This is a plain hut, but God has been here,” so we may say of every Christian’s cottage, “Though it be poor, an angel has come here,” for David says, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” As the angels of God met Jacob, I trust that, if you have come here after some stern battle, and trial, and difficulty, you may find the angels of God meeting you here. They do come into the assemblies of the saints. Paul tells us that the woman ought to have her head covered in the assembly “because of the angels,” that is, because they are there to see that all things are done decently and in order.
Genesis 32:2. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.
He gave it a name to commemorate God’s having sent the angels, and called it “two camps” or “two hosts.”
Genesis 32:3. And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.
He is out of one trouble with Laban; now he is into another with Esau.
Well did John Bunyan say. —
“A Christian man is seldom long at ease;
When one trouble’s gone, another doth him seize.”
Genesis 32:4-5. And he commanded them, saying, Then shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have adjourned with Laban, and stayed there until now: and I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.
This is very respectful language, and rather obsequious, too; but when a man knows that he has done wrong to another, he ought to be prepared to humble himself to the injured individual; and, though it happened long ago, yet Jacob really had injured his brother Esau, and it was but right that, in meeting him again, he should put himself into a humble position before him. There are some proud people who, when they know that they have done wrong, yet will not own it, and it is very hard to end a quarrel when one will not yield, and the other feels that he will not either. But there is good hope of things going right when Jacob, who is the better of the two brothers, is also the humbler of the two.
Genesis 32:6-7. 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. Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed:
And well he might be, for an angry brother, with four hundred fierce followers, must mean mischief.
Genesis 32:7-8. And he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands; and said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.
This is characteristic of Jacob. He was a man of plans and arrangements, a man of considerable craftiness, which some people nowadays call “prudence.” He used means, and he sometimes used them a little too much. Perhaps he did so in this case; but, at the same time, he was a man of faith, and therefore he betook himself to prayer.
Genesis 32:9-12. And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan, and now I am become two bands. 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 thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the seas which cannot be numbered for multitude.
A prayer most humble, most direct in its petitions, and also full of faith. That was a grand argument for him to use: “Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good.” This is one of the mightiest pleas that we can urge in praying to God: “Do as thou hast said. Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.” O brethren, if you can remind God of his own promise, you must win the day, for promised mercies are sure mercies.
“As well might he his being quit,
As break his promise, or forget.”
“Hath he said, and shall he not do it? “Only for this will he be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them, and we must take care that we call his promise to mind, and plead it at the mercy-seat.
Genesis 32:13-21. And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother; two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams, thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals. And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said unto his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt drove and drove. And he commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying, ‘Whose art thou? and whither goest thou? and whose are these before thee? Then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob’s; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he is behind us. And so commanded he the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, saying, On this manner shall ye speak unto Esau, when ye find him. And say we moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me. So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company.
If Jacob had been true to his faith in God, he would have dispensed with these very prudent preparations; for, after all, the faithfulness of God was Jacob’s best defense; it was from God that his safety came, and not from his own plotting, and planning, and scheming. There are some of you, dear brethren, who have minds that are naturally given to inventions, and devices, and plans, and plots, and I believe that, where this is the case, you have more to battle against than those have who are of an ample mind, and who cast themselves more entirely upon the Lord. It is a blessed thing to be such a fool that you do not know anyone to trust in except your God. It is a sweet thing to be so weaned from your wisdom that you fall into the arms of God. Yet, if you do feel that it is right to make such plans as Jacob made, take care that you do what Jacob also did. Pray as well as plan, and if your plans be numerous, let your prayers be all the more fervent, lest the natural tendency of your constitution should degenerate into reliance upon the arm of flesh, and dependence upon your own wisdom, instead of absolute reliance upon God.
Genesis 32:22-24. And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok. And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had. And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
It was the man Christ Jesus putting on the form of manhood before the time when he would actually be incarnate, and the wrestling seems to have been more on his side than on Jacob’s, for it is not said that Jacob wrestled, but that “there wrestled a man with him.” There was something that needed to be taken out of Jacob, — his strength and his craftiness; and this angel came to get it out of him. But, on the other hand, Jacob spied his opportunity, and, sending the angel wrestling with him, he in his turn began to wrestle with the angel.
Genesis 32:25. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
So that he was made painfully to realize his own weakness while he was putting forth all his strength.
Genesis 32:26. And he said, let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
Bravely said, O Jacob! And ye sons of Jacob, learn to say the same. You may have what you will if you can speak thus to the covenant angel, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”
Genesis 32:27-28. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, —
The supplanter, —
Genesis 32:28. But Israel: —
A prince of God; —
Genesis 32:28-29. For as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name.
That has often been the request of God’s people, they have wanted to know God’s wondrous name. The Jews superstitiously believe that we have lost the sound of the name of Jehovah, — that the name is unpronounceable now altogether. We think not so; but, certainly, no man knows the nature of God, and understands him, but he to whom the Son shall reveal him. Perhaps Jacob’s request had somewhat of curiosity in it, so the angel would not grant it.
Genesis 32:29. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.
He did not give him what he asked for, but he gave him something better, and, in like manner, if the Lord does not open up a dark doctrine to you, but gives you a bright privilege, that will be better for you.
Genesis 32:30-32. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. Therefore the children of Israel eat not of 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 which shrank.
This exposition consisted of readings from Genesis 32. and Psalms 119:33-40.
We shall read three short portions of Scripture, all illustrative of the great truth that God has sometimes given grace to his people to overcome himself, the Almighty has condescended to be vanquished by man. First, let us read the story of Jacob in the Book of Genesis, the thirty-second chapter, at the twenty-second verse: —
Genesis 32:22-24. And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok. And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had. And Jacob was left alone;
He had made a quiet oratory for himself by sending everyone else of the company over to the other side of the brook; his own resolve being —
“With thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.”
Genesis 32:24-25. And there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw —
When the wrestling Man, the Angel of the covenant, saw —
Genesis 32:25-26. That he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, so he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
When we come nearest to God, we must have a deep sense of our own personal weakness; it must never be supposed, if our suit prevails with heaven, that there is anything in us, or anything in our prayers, to account for our prevalence. Whatever power we have, must come from God’s grace alone; and hence, usually, when we pray so as to prevail with the Lord there is at the same time a shrinking of the sinew, a consciousness of weakness, a sense of pain; yet it is just then that we are prevailing, and therefore we may rest assured that our prayer will be answered. The Angel said, “Let me go,” at the very time when Jacob felt the shrinking of the sinew: “He said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he (Jacob) said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”
Genesis 32:27-29. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name?
Holy desires will be realized, and believing prayers will be answered, but mere curiosity will not be gratified. Those who read the Scriptures with a view simply to find out novelties that may tickle their fancy, read in vain. The covenant Angel will give thee what thou wilt if it be needful for thee; but he will not answer thine idle questions. He said to Jacob, “Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name?”
Genesis 32:29-30. And, he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
Thus did Jacob the wrestler overcome his God. Now turn to the thirty-second chapter of the Book of Exodus, where we find a description of the sin of idolatry into which the Israelites fell while Moses was absent in communion with God upon the mountain. The people brought their golden ear-rings to Aaron, and he made a calf, and they bowed before it, saying, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” While this wickedness was going on, Moses was on the mountain-top with God.
This exposition consisted of readings from Genesis 32:22-30; Exodus 32:7-14; and Mark 7:24-30.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Genesis 32". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Easter