Through the Word: Wrestling with God

Genesis 32

Jacob’s been wrestling ever since he was in the womb with Esau. Leaving Laban his uncle behind him, Jacob must now face Esau, his hostile twin brother. If Satan ever wanted to stop the nation of Israel from being conceived, now’s the time to do it.

But God sent angels to guard Jacob. The angels of God met him and when Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God’s camp.” And he called the name of that place Mahanaim.

Mahanaim, meaning ‘two camps’ in Hebrew, is mentioned a number of times by the Bible and is said to be near Jabbok, beyond the Jordan River.

Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. The messengers returned to Jacob, saying Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men. Jacob was terrified. He divided the people, the flocks and the herds and camels into two companies so if one company got attacked, the other would escape.

Sending a gift of two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milk camels with their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten foals in successive droves, he hoped to placate his brother.

The livestock went on ahead of him and he stayed behind, lodging that night in the camp. That night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and sent them over the brook.

Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.  Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.  And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.”

But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

So He said to him, “What is your name?”

He said, “Jacob.”

And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

Genesis 32:24-28

We don’t know how long Jacob struggled with the mysterious ‘Man’ who did not give him his name. All we know is they wrestled until daybreak. Did Jacob think it was Esau to start with? Or did he think he was going to be prevented from crossing the brook?

The man he struggled with was no ordinary man, as Jacob called the place ‘Peniel,’ saying, “for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”

Why did Jacob hang on to his opponent until he got a blessing? Was it because he never got a blessing for his own name’s sake, but only the blessing that was meant for Esau? Soon, his name would no longer be Jacob meaning deceitful and supplanter, but Israel, meaning to struggle or to rule’, and ‘el’, which means God.

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