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We are so filled with pride and self-sufficiency that there must come a point when God breaks us and casts us in complete dependence on His grace and resources. God often uses fear and desperate circumstances to bring us to an end of ourselves. Such was the case here in the life of Jacob. Remember that Jacob was a very powerful figure. Some think of him as the wimp in the kitchen while Esau was out hunting. But we have already seen Jacob flex his muscles to impress Rachel as he rolled the heavy stone away from the well-head. He also was quite the schemer and strategist. He was not afraid to match wits with Laban and more than hold his own. But as he anticipates his coming reunion with his brother Esau, he comes face to face with his fears and vulnerability. This was not a situation that he could handle on his own.


A. (:1) Divine Encounter

“Now as Jacob went on his way, the angels of God met him.”

Had just experienced deliverance from the threat of Laban; now he is about to face an even greater threat with much more uncertainty in the person of Esau and his assembled forces; how will he be received back into the Promised Land?

Very important for God to meet him and encourage him as he takes steps of obedience to return to Canaan

Hughes: Twenty years earlier when he had left Canaan on the run, “the angels of God” had met him (cf. 28:12), and now as he returned to Canaan, “the angels of God” (the same designation) again met him. . . a vast throng of angels because elsewhere the phrase describes a large camp (cf. 1 Chronicles 12:22).

Ligon Duncan: God had given him a word of promise the last time he had seen the angelic visitation. And God is calling on Jacob to be remembered of that word and to focus on that word of promise.

B. (:2) Divine Encouragement

“And Jacob said when he saw them, ‘This is God’s camp.’

So he named that place Mahanaim.”

Scott Grant: Jacob camped in this place (Genesis 31:25). The appearance of the angels causes Jacob to conclude that it’s not just his camp. It’s also God’s camp. In Genesis 28, he named the place where angels appeared to him Bethel, which means “House of God.” He names this place Mahanaim, which means “Two Camps.”



A. (:3-5) Preparation — Appeal for Favor in the Process of Seeking Reconciliation

1. (:3) Messengers Sent to Esau

“Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.”

Ligon Duncan: Geographically speaking, friends, there was absolutely no reason for Jacob to go the way he was going. Mount Seir was in the far south. Bethel was in the north. There was no need for him to go through the land of Esau. And so you need to understand that Jacob’s choice to meet his brother, Esau, at this time was a deliberate choice. He knew that their land bordered on one another. Sooner or later there was going to be an encounter with his brother, Esau. And he figured it might as well be sooner. He might as well go ahead and see if he can bury the hatchet with his brother. Jacob feels constrained to encounter his estranged brother now. After all, the meeting is going to come sooner or later.

2. (:4-5) Message Communicated to Esau

“He also commanded them saying, ‘Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; and I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.’”

Parunak: He assumes the subservient position, calling him “lord” and himself “thy servant,” and asking “that I may find grace in thy sight,” the position of an inferior. He was willing to risk all to win the blessing by which he would be made lord over his brethren (27:29, 37), but God has now humbled him to the point that he is willing to subject himself to Esau. He effectively undoes the theft of the blessing that he carried out in ch. 27. Leupold: “Jacob, well aware of his pre-eminence as rooted in God’s blessing, is ready to concede to Esau every outward advantage and honour.” When we rest in God’s provision, we are freed from human strife.

Even when we face our fears head-on, there is no guarantee that we will experience inner peace and be able to confidently rest in the Lord.

Hughes: Jacob’s mention of his oxen, donkeys, flocks, and servants were more than a hint of his willingness to make reparations. Formerly larcenous, Jacob longed to make a generous payback to Esau.

B. (:6) Presumption of Revenge Only Feeds Our Fears

“And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, ‘We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.’”

Need to keep our eyes on the Lord rather than on the perceived threat that seems imminent.

C. (:7-8) Panic — Afraid of the Outcome and Devising Humanistic Escape Plans

“Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies; for he said, ‘If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.’”

Where was Jacob’s confidence in the Word of God and His promised blessing?

Picture of a soul in conflict – “I believe . . . help my unbelief.”

The Lord has to break him of this habit of resorting to his own scheming and humanistic tactics.



A. (:9) I am Following Your Plan

“And Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who didst say to me, Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’”

– We should not be afraid if we are in the center of God’s plan for our life;

– We need to draw strength from remembering God’s faithfulness to our forefathers in the faith;

– We need to put our confidence in the commands and promises of God

B. (:10) I Have Experienced Your Grace

“I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which Thou hast shown to Thy servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies.”

– We need to humbly confess our sinfulness and unworthiness;

– We need to remind ourselves of God’s past demonstration of faithfulness;

– We need to take stock of all of God’s many gracious blessings – “Count Your Blessings”

C. (:11) I Am Desperate for Your Deliverance

“Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me, the mothers with the children.”

– Cry out to God who is your only refuge

– Acknowledge your legitimate fears

– Show concern for others, not just yourself

D. (:12) I Am Counting On Your Promises

“For Thou didst say, ‘I will surely prosper you, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”

Parunak: Jacob no longer takes refuge in his own abilities and cleverness, but rests in the Lord and in his promises.



A. (:13a) Spending the Night Making Preparations

“So he spent the night there.”

Inclusio in this section – vs. 13 and vs. 21

Does not sound like a restful, peaceful night.

Needs to learn what it means to “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.”

B. (:13B-15) Selecting the Gifts

“Then he selected from what he had with him a present for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milking camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys.”

Parunak: This present consists of 580 animals (each nursing camel would have its young with it), divided into five droves by the class of animal: goats, sheep, camels, cows, and asses. This is a princely gift.

C. (:16-20) Sending the Gifts Forward to Esau

1. (:16) Sending The Gifts in Waves

“And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, ‘Pass on before me, and put a space between droves.’”

2. (:17-18) First Wave of Gifts

“And he commanded the one in front, saying, ‘When my brother Esau meets you and asks you, saying, To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and to whom do these animals in front of you belong? Then you shall say, These belong to your servant Jacob; it is a present sent to my lord Esau. And behold, he also is behind us.’”

3. (:19-20) Subsequent Waves of Gifts

“Then he commanded also the second and the third, and all those who followed the droves, saying, ‘After this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; and you shall say, Behold, your servant Jacob also is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.’”

D. (:21) Spending the Night Concerned About the Outcome

“So the present passed on before him, while he himself spent that night in the camp.”


A. (:22-23) No Turning Back

“Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. And he took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had.”

Parunak: Crossing the Jabbok is a major commitment. A river is a major barrier. He might stay north of it and force Esau to cross it in approaching him, thus using it as a defense. By crossing it himself, he makes retreat almost impossible.

B. (:24-30) No Remnant of Self Sufficiency

1. (:24-25) Pivot Point

“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. And when he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.”

Parunak: With a single touch the mysterious adversary lames Jacob. The hip joint is the pivot of a wrestler’s strength. One moment Jacob is holding his own; now he is powerless. The adversary has simply been sparring with him, restraining a far greater power, and now effectively brings the contest to an end. Jacob must now realize that whatever victory he enjoys in this struggle is only by permission of his adversary. For the first time he must confront who it is with whom he wrestles.

Bruce Goettsche: I view this whole experience as somewhat of an object lesson for Jacob and for you and I. Jacob was standing between his past struggle with Laban and the impending struggle with Esau. God comes at this time because he wants Jacob to realize that his real struggle all alone has been with God. . .

2. (:26) Perseverance

“Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’

But he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’”

Parunak: The Lord has brought him to the point of exhaustion in the exercise of the flesh, then humbled him decisively with a touch to the hip. His pride and self-confidence have been destroyed, as he realizes who it is against whom he has been struggling. In an instant he is overwhelmed with a sense of dependency. Now he holds the angel, not with the grip of a self-confident wrestler, but with the imploring embrace of complete surrender.

3. (:27-28) Prevailing

“So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’

And he said, ‘Jacob.’”

“And he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel;

for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’”

Bruce Goettsche: God asked Jacob his name not because He didn’t know it . . . He wanted to know if Jacob knew it. He wanted to know if Jacob was ready to come to grips with who he really was or whether he was going to continue to fight the Lord.

This is the point everyone needs to arrive at. We need to realize that we are the problem and we need someone to change us. It is then, and only then, that we receive our new name. In Jacob’s case he was given the name “Israel” which means “He struggles with God” or “God Prevails”. His new name was a reminder of this encounter and the lesson that we need God.

Parunak: The point is that Jacob, the supplanter, needs to expand his understanding of those whom he engages. He has seen himself locked in struggle with Esau and Laban. In fact, it is God who has been struggling with him, to bring him to the end of himself and into submission to his creator. With this realization, he is to change from “he [Jacob] supplants” to “God fights.” The first name acknowledged his struggle with men, prophetically indicated by grasping his brother’s heel in the womb (25:26); the second recalls this wrestling match with the angel of the Lord.

4. (:29-30) Blessing and Preservation

a. (:29) Blessing

“Then Jacob asked him and said, ‘Please tell me your name.’

But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’

And he blessed him there.”

b. (:30) Preservation

“So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.’”


A. (:31) Personal Reminder of God’s Blessing

“Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel,

and he was limping on his thigh.”

B. (:32) Corporate Reminder of God’s Blessing

“Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.”