Jacob preps for a nervous reunion
Angel campout1 As Jacob continued his trip, angels came to meet him. 2 Jacob saw them and said, “This is God’s camp.” He named the place Two Camps.
Gifts for big brother Esau3 Jacob sent scouts ahead to find his brother Esau, who lived in a land called Seir, sometimes known as Edom. 4 Jacob told the scouts, “Give this message to Esau, my superior. ‘Hello big brother. It’s me, here to serve you. I’ve been living all these years with Uncle Laban. 5 I’m coming home with oxen, donkeys, and flocks, along with slaves—men and women. I’ve sent these scouts ahead to tell you this. I’m hoping you will welcome me.’”
6 After Jacob’s scouts delivered the message, they reported, “We met your brother Esau. He is coming to meet you. He is bringing 400 men with him.” 7 This news terrified Jacob. He divided his caravan of people and livestock into two groups. 8 He said, “If Esau attacks one group maybe this will give the other group time to get away.”
Esau's coming, Jacob's praying9 Jacob prayed, “Oh God of my grandfather Abraham and of my father Isaac. Oh LORD, you told me, ‘Go back to your homeland and your family and I will take good care of you.’ 10 I’m not worthy of that, or of the love, kindness, and dependability you have shown me, your humble servant. When I first crossed this Jordan River many years ago, all I had to my name was a walking stick. Look at me now. I own two camps and everything in them. 11 Please protect me from the sword of my brother Esau. I’m terrified of him. I’m afraid he will kill me and my wives and my children. 12 You gave me a promise: ‘I will take good care of you and give you more descendants than sand in the sea—too many to count.’”
13 Jacob camped there for the night. He selected gifts to send ahead to his brother Esau. 14 Goats: 200 female, 20 male. Sheep: 200 female, 20 rams. 15 Camel: 30 female with their young. Cattle: 40 cows, 10 bulls. Donkeys: 20 female, 10 male.
16 He divided the livestock into three herds. He put three teams of herders in charge of them. He told his herders, “Go on ahead of us and keep some distance between each of the herds as you travel.” 17 To men leading the first herd Jacob said, “When you reach my brother Esau and he asks, ‘Who you are? Where are you going? Who owns these animals?’ 18 Tell him, ‘These animals used to belong to your devoted servant Jacob. But they now belong to you, my master Esau, as a present from him. He is following behind us.’”
19 Jacob gave the same instructions to men leading the other two herds. He told them, “Address Esau this way when you meet him. 20 Say, ‘Your servant Jacob is following behind us.’ I’m hoping he will like these gifts and that by the time we meet, he will welcome me home.” 21 The men drove the gift herds ahead, while Jacob and his two camps bedded down for the night.
Jacob wrestles a mystery man22 Sometime during the night Jacob woke up. Then he woke up everyone else. He led his two wives, two slave wives, and 11 children across the Jabbok River. 23 Then he went back, loaded up all his possessions, and sent everything else across, too. 24 Jacob stayed behind, alone. A man came and wrestled him until it was almost sunrise. 25 The man hadn’t won the match yet so he hit Jacob on the thigh, dislocating Jacob’s hip. 26 Then the man said, “Let go of me. It’s almost dawn.” But Jacob said, “I’m not going to let you go until you bless me.”
Jacob's new name: Israel27 The man asked, “What’s your name?” Jacob said, “I’m Jacob.” 28 “Not anymore,” the man said. “From now on you won’t be called Jacob. You’ll be called Israel, because you’re a fighter. You have fought with God and with people. And you’ve lived to tell about it.” 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” “Why?” the man asked. Before Jacob could answer, the man blessed him.
30 Jacob named the place “Face of God.” He said he gave it that name because “I saw the face of God with my own eyes, yet I was allowed to live.” 31 The sun was rising by the time Jacob left, limping from his injured hip. 32 The story of what happened that night is the reason God’s people of Israel, to this day, don’t eat the hip muscle from any animal.
In what is now the country of Jordan.
There are a lot of unanswered questions in this chapter—more than in most. That leaves Bible experts as well as Bible newcomers guessing. What do you think was going on with the two angels who came to visit Jacob (32:1-2)? ? And why did Jacob name the place “Two Camps”?
We can never really know the motives of others—the reasons why they do what they do. But we can guess. What would you expect might be some of the reasons Jacob sent scouts ahead to take 530 animals from his flocks and herds to give to Esau?
Esau’s reaction to the gift seems odd. Why do you think he makes a move on his brother’s caravan by taking with him a militia of 400 men?
Jacob wakes up at night and takes his caravan across the Jabbok River. A night crossing seems dangerous, especially when it involves women and children. Why do you think he felt such urgency?
The story of Jacob wrestling with a mysterious stranger is one of the oddest stories in the Bible. What do you see as clues in the story that the stranger was either an angel or a physical manifestation of God?
This story is similar to some ancient legends from the area, with talk about gods guarding sandbar fords across rivers and about the gods needing to leave before sunrise. That’s a theme in Roman myths too. The top Roman god, Jupiter, once supposedly said, ‘Why do you hold me? It is time. I want to get out of the city before daybreak’ (Plautus, Amphitryon).” How do you react to this?
How do you think we could make sense of this story of a 97-year-old Jacob wrestling with a mysterious man, as it appears in Genesis? What’s the point of it?
The stranger gives Jacob a new name: Israel. Scholars say that is Hebrew for “God fights” (32:28). Why that name? Is it because of what had just happened, or do you think it refers to something else?
LIFE APPLICATION. Some scholars speculate that this story is about Jacob wrestling with God in a spiritual way, struggling over who will control his life. What do you think are some of the most common struggles that people of faith have with God today?
LIFE APPLICATION. If Jacob wrestled God in this story, he was somehow able to tie up God in a wrestling hold all night long. Do you think we can actually tie up God, spiritually speaking, and at least temporarily keep him from doing the work he wants to do for us? If so what are some techniques for tying God up?