Brow Publications, Kingston, Ontario (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) 2004
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GENESIS 32:1-12 (Jacob’s terror when he heard that Esau was coming with 400 men)
32:1-2 After Laban had left to go back to Haran, Jacob moved on south by stages two hundred miles 320 km, in the direction of his family home in Canaan. He was obviously anxious about an inevitable confrontation with Esau (32:6). To encourage him angels sent from God (malakey elohim) came to meet him. So he called that place two camps (mahanaim) which may suggest that a large number of angels had come to be near him in his camp.
This may be similar to the occasion when Elisha was surrounded, and he assured his attendant that an angelic host was protecting them. “Do not be afraid for there are more with us than there are with them.” Elisha then asked God to open the man’s eyes so that he could see the “horses and chariots of fire” all around them (2 Kings 6:14-17). A common expression for the Son of God is the Lord of Hosts (e.g. Psalm 24:10; 46:7, 11; 48:8; 84:1, 8, 12; 89:8). Which reminds us that both in Old Testament times and in our day the LORD always has huge angelic forces to support us when needed.
32:3-5 But Jacob did not just rely on the forces of heaven to help him. He sent his own personal messengers (again the term malakim) to make clear how prosperous he had become, and he would be willing to give his brother whatever generous gifts were needed to appease his anger (see 32:13-15). He now referred to his brother Esau as “my lord” and himself as “your servant Jacob” (the expression is repeated in 32:18). He had lived for 20 years with Laban as an alien in a foreign land, but now he is sending presents to restore the relationship with his brother as he comes home.
32:6-8 The messengers came back with ominous information. They had given Esau the message, but he was now coming to meet his brother with four hundred armed men. Jacob remembered Esau’s hatred and intention to kill him twenty years ago (27:41). The news threw Jacob into a panic, and he divided his own forces and the flocks with them into two groups in the hope that if one was destroyed by Esau, the others might escape.
32:9 Having taken these precautions, Jacob turned to pray to the God of his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac (see 31:53). He reminded the LORD of his instructions to return home, and his promise to protect him and bless him (31:3, 13).
32:10 He then admitted his own unworthiness and yet the LORD had been with him. He came to Haran with nothing, but now had the equivalent of two tribes (32:7). The Hebrew noun khesed is derived from the verb khaasad meaning to be good, kind. But this word khesed was unhelpfully translated “mercies” in the KJV, as if the main meaning was mercy granted to a hell-deserving sinner. The better ranslation is “steadfast love” (NRSV) or faithful love (NJB).
Note: The word khesed was used by Lot to express God’s kindness to him in saving him from the destruction of Sodom (19:19). Then it was used three times by Abraham’s servant when he went to find a bride for Isaac (24:12, 14, 27). Here Jacob uses it in the plural (hakhasdim) meaning the steadfast love of the LORD experienced again and again.
The term khesed occurs once more in the first book of the Bible. When he was in prison “The LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailor” (39:21).
In the song of Miriam the word is used to express the wonder of the Exodus deliverance (Exodus 15:13). It also comes in the second of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 5:10). It defines and declares the LORD’s gracious love. “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6; see Deuteronomy 5:10; 7:8, 13).
There are dozens of references to the khesed steadfast love of God in the Psalms, and one Psalm refers to it in every one of its 36 verses (Psalm 136). Evidently the love of God was not invented by Christians in the New Testament. But it’s implications are set out powerfully by the Apostle John in his first epistle (1 John 3:7-21).
32:11 Jacob’s prayer oscillates (as it does in our own experience) between faith in God’s protection and a desperate cry for deliverance.
32:12 He presses the logic of the original promise he had received on his way north during that awesome night at Bethel. How could his family be wiped out by Esau if the LORD had promised that Jacob’s offspring would be “like the dust of the earth,” and he had also promised his safe return from Haran? (28:13-15). It is this kind of bold assurance based on claiming previous promises that empowers prayer in the desperate situations of our lives.
GENESIS 32:13‑23 (Jacob tries to placate Esau by a succession of presents)
32:13-21 Before settling for the night Jacob arranged for a sequence of succeeding droves of animals to be delivered to Esau as presents (already promised in 32:5) to placate his wrath.
32:22-23 In the middle of the night Jacob sent his wives, maids, and eleven children across the river Jabbok. This wadi flows west from the mountains of Transjordan into the Jordan 40 miles, 64 km, south of the Sea of Chinnereth (later called the Lake of Galilee).
GENESIS 32:24-32 (Jacob’s wrestling with the Son of God)
32:24-26 Then alone he found himself wrestling with an unknown person till daybreak. The other person was able to put Jacob’s hip out of joint. But Jacob would not let him go before he renewed his blessing.
32:27-28 The man changed Jacob’s name (yakob, meaning a supplanter, or he who takes by the heel 25:6) to israel meaning one who strives with God.
32:29-30 Jacob had the boldness to ask the unknown man’s name. He was not given a name, but he knew that he had been blessed. And he knew that he had seen the Son of God “face to face.” We have previously quoted John’s comment, “No one has ever seen God (the Father). It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:18, see notes on 17:1; 18:1, 22; 26:2, 24). This makes clear that the one Jacob had wrestled with was none other but the LORD, the eternal Son of God. This seems to have been a radically transforming experience for Jacob after a confused and complicated life.
32:31-32 As the sun rose, Jacob crossed the Wadi Jabbok, and joined his wives and children who had crossed during the night (32:22-23). Jacob was seen to be limping from the touch of the LORD during the wrestling match (32:25). This event is remembered in the Jewish tradition that the thigh muscle of animals offered in sacrifice is not eaten.
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