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Explain wrestling with God in Genesis 32:22-32

 

 

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(All quotations from the King James Version unless stated otherwise).

Genesis 32:22 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. 23 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. 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. 26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. 27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. 28 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. 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. 30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. 31 And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. 32 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 that shrank.

From Hosea we learn that the ‘man’ who wrestled with Jacob was an angel.

Hosea 12:3... He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God: 4 Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us; 5 Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial.

Jacob had striven with Esau for the birthright and with the help of Rebecca had deceived Isaac to obtain the firstborn’s blessing.

Jacob clearly wanted to inherit the promises made to Abraham and Isaac. Abraham had been content to be a sojourner in the land and prepared to sacrifice Isaac because he believed that the promises would be fulfilled by resurrection from the dead.

Hebrews 11:19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

Esau had no time for promises which hinged upon resurrection from the dead and he sells his priceless birthright for a single meal of pottage.

Genesis 25:32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? 33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.

The New Testament comment:

Hebrews 12:15  Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God...16 Lest there be any... profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

Jacob wrestled for the inheritance with blackmail and deceit, so badly did he desire it. His problem was his lack of trust in his God.

For fear of Esau he left for Padanaram; on the way stopping at Bethel.

Genesis 28:10 And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. 11  And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. 13  And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; 14  And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15  And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

Here God gives him the coveted promises made to Abraham and Isaac, but Jacob as yet lacks the trust in God exhibited by Abraham. Nonetheless he makes a vow by way of a bargain.

Genesis 28:16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. 17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. 18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. 19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. 20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: 22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

At the end of his sojourn with Laban, God tells him to return to the land which he has promised him.

Genesis 31:13 I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.

His biggest problem is the fear that Esau will kill him.

Not even his encounter with the angels of God at Mahanaim could assuage his fear of Esau.

Genesis 32:1 And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.

He concocts an elaborate plan to placate his brother with gifts sent before him and makes his prayer to God.

Genesis 32:9 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: 10 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. 11 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. 12 And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.

He sends the parties in order over the Jabbok ford and remains behind. That night the wrestling incident takes place.

Ordinarily a man would have insufficient strength to wrestle with an angel. In this incident Hosea tells us how he prevailed. "He wept and sought his favour" and would not let go.  It is reasonable to suppose that God gave Jacob the strength necessary to prevail against the angel when he poured out his passionate prayer. What a lesson for us as well as for Jacob who was finally stripped of his self-sufficiency and learned that his only salvation lay in the hands of God.

The angel disables Jacob by putting his thigh out of joint. Jacob still refuses to let the angel go unless he blesses him. Jacob’s blessing comes not from Jacob’s physical strength but by supplication. Jacob is humbled, for the rest of his life he will limp as a reminder. In his humility he is made ‘Israel’ - a ‘Prince with God’.

It is a salutary lesson that we must rely not upon our own strength but upon God and recognise that he is at work in our lives.

Looking back Jacob recognises the truth.

Genesis 48:16 The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.

By believing the gospel and being baptised into Christ we become heirs of the same promise that Jacob struggled for.

Galatians 3:29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Angels minister in our lives as they did in Jacob’s.

Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

Like Jacob we must realise that we cannot prevail with our own strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

1 Peter 5:5... be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

If you want to come to grips with what the Bible really teaches, why not take the free Bible study course on www.thisisyourbible.com? You may take this course either online or by regular mail.

This course will give you a background in the major themes of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. As with everything we offer, there is no cost to you other than your time and effort. You will also have a personal tutor to whom you may pose questions either from the course itself or those questions which come to you as you read the Bible.

I hope you have found this helpful.

May God bless you,
Glenn,
www.thisisyourbible.com
 

 
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