Genesis Chapter Thirty-Two


Read Genesis 32:1-5 – Jacob at Mahanaim


v.1And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.”


            Jacob and Laban have reached an agreement and created a covenant between them and now Jacob is free to go on his way.  In the days of old when God dealt directly with man he frequently provided the righteous with messengers and ministers to look after them, just as the Psalmist records:




Thus, this blessing is now also provided to Jacob and his family and a band of angels meet him in welcome.


v.2And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.”


            Mahanaim is a place located on the east side of Jordan.  As we studied in an earlier chapter Jacob had traveled from Haran to the area of Jabesh-Gilead, which is south of the sea of Galilee on the east side of the Jordan River.  Later it became part of the land owned by the tribes of Manasseh and Gad.  At that location later was a city of refuge in the times of the Judges of Israel and a city given to the tribe of Levi.  The name means “two camps” in Hebrew.


v.3  And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.”


            As any prudent man would do when entering the territory or near the territory where his brother might be; Jacob sends messengers to Esau.  Some twenty years have passed since he fled Canaan.  If there is to be a confrontation he wants to find that out.  If his father is still living, which he is, he wants to make contact with his family again and decides to make contact with Esau sooner rather than later.  Seir, or Mount Seir, as it is also called, is simply the location where Esau made his home.  It was designated by God as the land belonging to Esau and his descendants.  When the Israelites conquered Canaan they were specifically instructed by God to leave that area alone:


Deuteronomy 2:4-5And command thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir; and they shall be afraid of you: take ye good heed unto yourselves therefore: Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession.”


v.4-5And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now: 5And 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.”


            Jacob’s message to Esau explains where he has been for so long, that he has been blessed by God.  He is coming in peace, even as a servant, calling Esau lord, and is seeking favor in the eyes of his brother.  He doesn’t know what kind of a reception he’s going to get and as we will see in the verses following that he is approaching this meeting with a lot of concern.


Read Genesis 32:6-12 – Esau’s Response and Jacob’s Prayer


v.6And 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.”


            The report of his messengers does nothing to alleviate Jacob of his concerns and in fact increases his fear of his brother.  He’s coming but bringing 400 men with him.  Jacob probably knows that Esau is just as God had promised: that Esau and his descendants would be a warlike people who “BY THY SWORD SHALT THOU LIVE.”


v.7-8Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands; 8And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.”


            Jacob is so concerned about Esau attacking him that he divides his company into two groups, or two bands.  This is the situation behind the name Jacob gave to that location Mahanaim, which means two camps.  His reasoning is that if Esau decides to attack him that one band would be sacrificed but the other would escape.


v.9And 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:”


            Jacob is afraid!  So he does what all of us should do when we encounter troubles and trials in this life:






v.10I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.”


            First, he comes to God in humility, acknowledging that he does not deserve God’s continued blessings and favor.  He further acknowledges to God that when he passed this way before he had nothing with him but his staff for support and protection.  He was poor, desolate, a fugitive from the wrath of his brother.  Now he has been blessed greatly by God and is surrounded by flocks, herds, servants and family; including sons.  He has been blessed to the extent that he can divide his company into two bands providing at least one of them the opportunity to escape if trouble comes.


v.11Deliver 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.”


            His prayer is much the same as David’s when his enemies pressed upon him:




Jacob lays his fears that Esau will make war against him at the feet of God and prays not only for his safety but the safety of his children and their mother.


v.12And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.”


            Jacob asks God to remember his promises.  If harm comes to him or his children, those promises cannot be kept.


Read Genesis 32:13-23 – Jacob’s Preparation to Meet Esau


v.13-15And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother; 14Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams, 15Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals.”


            Jacob further honors Esau with gifts.  The wisdom of God given through Solomon tells us:




            Jacob gifts are of those animals from his herds and flocks as this is the source of his wealth and includes a sampling of all of his animals.  What are “MILCH CAMELS”?  They are quite simply milk camels, camels kept and bred to for the purpose of giving milk.  This practice is still followed today by desert wanderers in northern Africa, the Middle East and in the deserts of Asia where camels are grown and used.  What does the word “KINE” mean?  It means cattle.


v.16-17And 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. 17And 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?”


            Jacob delivers these animals to his herdsmen and gives them their instructions.  First of all he divides the herds and flocks by type of animal so that they can be handled easier and has them travel with some space or distance between each group.  He knows that they will meet Esau and will be questioned concerning their purpose and who these animals belonged to.  So he gives special instructions to herdsmen, first of all to the “FOREMOST” or lead group.


v.18Then 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.”


            First of all they are to tell Esau that these animals belong to his brother Jacob but are being sent to him as a gift.  In addition they are to tell Esau that Jacob is following them.


v.19-20And 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. 20And say ye 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 Jacob gives the same instructions to each of his servants who are in charge of the flocks and herds that he is sending to Esau as gifts.  Jacob also tells his servants the reason for these gifts.  He remembers that the reason he had to flee Canaan was that his brother was angry with him and had planned to kill him when Isaac died.  So he follows the wisdom of God, again wisdom given to us the through the pen of Solomon:




            He is giving these gifts to Esau to try to pacify his anger and reduce the wrath that he expressed against Jacob.


v.21So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company.”


            So Jacob sends the gifts on to Esau and stays behind for the night but there are further tasks to be accomplished.


v.22-23And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok. 23And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had.”


            During the night he takes all of his company, including this wives and sons and has them cross over the Jabbok, here called a brook.  The Jabbok is a river on the east side of Jordan that rises between Mecca in what is Saudi Arabia today and Damascus in Syria and empties into the Jordan about 20 or 25 miles north of the Dead Sea.  The ford there allowed travelers from the north to enter the Sukkot Valley, which the leads them to another ford that crosses the Jordan providing access to the area of Shechem.  Shechem is Jacob’s destination.


Read Genesis 32:24-32 – Jacob Becomes Israel


v.24  And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.”


            Jacob stays behind when he sends his company on across the ford, perhaps to pray and continue to petition God as he fears the outcome of his meeting with Esau.  In addition to his troubles, the scripture here tells us that Jacob wrestled with a man all night.  The prophet tells that this man was actually an angel as he writes about Jacob in Hosea 12:


Hosea 12:4Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed:…


            We have to wrestle today as well don’t we?


For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12


            And I never read this verse but that I think about the politicians in Washington and what is being done to destroy the influence of God in this country.  I fear that the day will come; perhaps even in our lifetime, when true Christians will again be persecuted by the “RULERS OF THE DARKNESS OF THIS WORLD” and those who are wicked and in high places in this country.


v.25And 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.”


            When the angel saw that he could not overcome Jacob he used a special power to cause Jacob’s thigh or hip to go out of joint or as some other translations word it a cramp to come into his leg.  Commentators see this encounter as both a physical and a spiritual contest, and it did not shake Jacob’s faith or silence his prayer.  Jacob was able to prevail in both aspects of their struggle.


v.26And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”


            As the night was coming rapidly to an end the angel asks Jacob to release him, let him go, but Jacob, knowing that he was struggling with a messenger of God, demands a blessing in exchange.


v.27-28And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. 28And 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.”


            Jacob has the patriarchal blessing of Isaac.  He is to succeed Isaac and carry on the promises made to him and Abraham.  Consequently he is to have power not only with men but also with God due to his faith and his fidelity to their covenant.  The angel tells him that his name will be changed to Israel, a declaration that God confirms to Jacob and is recorded as follows:


“And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.” Genesis 35:10


v.29 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? And he blessed him there.


            One last request that Jacob makes of the angel is to tell Jacob his name.  The angel refuses to tell him.  Why? We’re not told.  All the scripture here tells us is that the angel asked Jacob why he wanted to know his name but the angel does not tell him.  When an angel appears to Manoah, the father of Samson, Manoah asks for the angel’s name and is given this reason:


And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?” Judges 14:18


We know the names of some of the angels that God has sent to mankind as messengers but only a very few and it is obvious that it is God’s intent.

            Secondly Jacob asked the angel to give him a blessing, which the angel does.


v. 30And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”


            The last half of this verse gives us the meaning of the word Peniel.  In the KJV it is rendered “…I HAVE SEEN GOD FACE TO FACE, AND MY LIFE IS PRESERVED.”  Did Jacob see the face of God or did Jacob see the face of one of God’s messengers?  The answer is found in the writing Moses and also in that of the Apostle John:


Exodus 33:20And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.”

John 1:18No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”


I John 4:12No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.”

Why is this important?  Because if provides an opportunity for man to claim a discrepancy in the word of God and cast doubt upon it.  A translation of the Hebrew outside of the scripture renders the definition of Peniel as “I have seen a divine being face to face, yet my life is preserved”.  A divine being and God could be the same but not necessarily.


v.31-32And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. 32Therefore 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 that shrank.”


            As the sun is coming up Jacob proceeded to join his family limping or “HALTED” on his thigh where the angel had touched him.

            In verse 32 we’re told of a tradition of Israel carried on, so far as we know, even down to the time of Jesus.  In honor of Jacob and as a memorial to him they refused to eat of the sinew or muscle of any beast, by which the hip bone is fixed or held in its cup.