Ge 32:1, 2.
Vision of Angels.
1. angels of God met him—It is not said
whether this angelic manifestation was made in a vision by day, or a
dream by night. There is an evident allusion, however, to the
appearance upon the ladder (compare Ge 28:12), and this occurring to Jacob on his
return to Canaan, was an encouraging pledge of the continued presence
and protection of God (Ps 34:7; Heb 1:14).
2. Mahanaim—"two hosts," or "camps." The
place was situated between mount Gilead and the Jabbok, near the banks
of that brook.
Ge 32:3-32. Mission to
3. Jacob sent messengers before him to
Esau—that is, "had sent." It was a prudent precaution to
ascertain the present temper of Esau, as the road, on approaching the
eastern confines of Canaan, lay near the wild district where his
brother was now established.
land of Seir—a highland country on the
east and south of the Dead Sea, inhabited by the Horites, who were
dispossessed by Esau or his posterity (De 11:12). When and in what circumstances he had
emigrated thither, whether the separation arose out of the undutiful
conduct and idolatrous habits of his wives, which had made them
unwelcome in the tent of his parents, or whether his roving disposition
had sought a country from his love of adventure and the chase, he was
living in a state of power and affluence, and this settlement on the
outer borders of Canaan, though made of his own free will, was
overruled by Providence to pave the way for Jacob's return to the
4. Thus shall ye speak unto my lord
Esau—The purport of the message was that, after a residence
of twenty years in Mesopotamia, he was now returning to his native
land, that he did not need any thing, for he had abundance of pastoral
wealth, but that he could not pass without notifying his arrival to his
brother and paying the homage of his respectful obeisance. Acts of
civility tend to disarm opposition and soften hatred (Ec 10:4).
Thy servant Jacob—He had been made
lord over his brethren (compare Ge 27:29). But it is probable he thought this
referred to a spiritual superiority; or if to temporal, that it was to
be realized only to his posterity. At all events, leaving it to God to
fulfil that purpose, he deemed it prudent to assume the most kind and
6. The messengers returned to
Jacob—Their report left Jacob in painful uncertainty as to
what was his brother's views and feelings. Esau's studied reserve gave
him reason to dread the worst. Jacob was naturally timid; but his
conscience told him that there was much ground for apprehension, and
his distress was all the more aggravated that he had to provide for the
safety of a large and helpless family.
9-12. Jacob said, O God of my father
Abraham—In this great emergency, he had recourse to prayer.
This is the first recorded example of prayer in the Bible. It is short,
earnest, and bearing directly on the occasion. The appeal is made to
God, as standing in a covenant relation to his family, just as we ought
to put our hopes of acceptance with God in Christ. It pleads the
special promise made to him of a safe return; and after a most humble
and affecting confession of unworthiness, it breathes an earnest desire
for deliverance from the impending danger. It was the prayer of a kind
husband, an affectionate father, a firm believer in the promises.
13-23. took … a present for
Esau—Jacob combined active exertions with earnest prayer; and
this teaches us that we must not depend upon the aid and interposition
of God in such a way as to supersede the exercise of prudence and
foresight. Superiors are always approached with presents, and the
respect expressed is estimated by the quality and amount of the gift.
The present of Jacob consisted of five hundred fifty head of cattle, of
different kinds, such as would be most prized by Esau. It was a most
magnificent present, skilfully arranged and proportioned. The milch
camels alone were of immense value; for the she camels form the
principal part of Arab wealth; their milk is a chief article of diet;
and in many other respects they are of the greatest use.
16. every drove by themselves—There was
great prudence in this arrangement; for the present would thus have a
more imposing appearance; Esau's passion would have time to cool as he
passed each successive company; and if the first was refused, the
others would hasten back to convey a timely warning.
17. he commanded the foremost—The
messengers were strictly commanded to say the same words [Ge 32:18, 20], that Esau might be more
impressed and that the uniformity of the address might appear more
clearly to have come from Jacob himself.
21. himself lodged—not the whole night,
but only a part of it.
22. ford Jabbok—now the
Zerka—a stream that rises among the mountains of Gilead,
and running from east to west, enters the Jordan, about forty miles
south of the Sea of Tiberias. At the ford it is ten yards wide. It is
sometimes forded with difficulty; but in summer it is very shallow.
he rose up and took—Unable to sleep,
Jacob waded the ford in the night time by himself; and having
ascertained its safety, he returned to the north bank and sent over his
family and attendants, remaining behind, to seek anew, in silent
prayer, the divine blessing on the means he had set in motion.
24, 25. There wrestled a man with
him—This mysterious person is called an angel (Ho 12:4) and God (Ge 32:28, 30; Ho 12:5); and the opinion that is most
supported is that he was "the angel of the covenant," who, in a visible
form, appeared to animate the mind and sympathize with the distress of
his pious servant. It has been a subject of much discussion whether the
incident described was an actual conflict or a visionary scene. Many
think that as the narrative makes no mention in express terms either of
sleep, or dream, or vision, it was a real transaction; while others,
considering the bodily exhaustion of Jacob, his great mental anxiety,
the kind of aid he supplicated, as well as the analogy of former
manifestations with which he was favored—such as the
ladder—have concluded that it was a vision [Calvin, Hessenberg,
Hengstenberg]. The moral design of it
was to revive the sinking spirit of the patriarch and to arm him with
confidence in God, while anticipating the dreaded scenes of the morrow.
To us it is highly instructive; showing that, to encourage us valiantly
to meet the trials to which we are subjected, God allows us to ascribe
to the efficacy of our faith and prayers, the victories which His grace
alone enables us to make.
26. I will not let thee go, except thou bless
me—It is evident that Jacob was aware of the character of Him
with whom he wrestled; and, believing that His power, though by far
superior to human, was yet limited by His promise to do him good, he
determined not to lose the golden opportunity of securing a blessing.
And nothing gives God greater pleasure than to see the hearts of His
people firmly adhering to Him.
28. Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but
Israel—The old name was not to be abandoned; but, referring
as it did to a dishonorable part of the patriarch's history, it was to
be associated with another descriptive of his now sanctified and
eminently devout character.
29. Jacob asked, Tell me … thy
name—The request was denied that he might not be too elated
with his conquest nor suppose that he had obtained such advantage over
the angel as to make him do what he pleased.
31. halted upon his thigh—As Paul had a
thorn in the flesh given to humble him, lest he should be too elevated
by the abundant revelations granted him [2Co 12:7], so Jacob's lameness was to keep him
mindful of this mysterious scene, and that it was in gracious
condescension the victory was yielded to him. In the greatest of these
spiritual victories which, through faith, any of God's people obtain,
there is always something to humble them.
32. the sinew which shrank—the nerve
that fastens the thigh bone in its socket. The practice of the Jews in
abstaining from eating this in the flesh of animals, is not founded on
the law of Moses, but is merely a traditional usage. The sinew is
carefully extracted; and where there are no persons skilled enough for
that operation, they do not make use of the hind legs at all.