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Jacob went on his way and the angels of God met him; 2and when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God’s camp!” So he called that place Mahanaim.

Jacob Sends Presents to Appease Esau

3 Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, 4instructing them, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have lived with Laban as an alien, and stayed until now; 5and I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male and female slaves; and I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.’ ”

6 The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” 7Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies, 8thinking, “If Esau comes to the one company and destroys it, then the company that is left will escape.”

9 And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O L ord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, and I will do you good,’ 10I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies. 11Deliver me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him; he may come and kill us all, the mothers with the children. 12Yet you have said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of their number.’ ”

13 So he spent that night there, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau, 14two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15thirty milch camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16These he delivered into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on ahead of me, and put a space between drove and drove.” 17He instructed the foremost, “When Esau my brother meets you, and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?’ 18then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob; they are a present sent to my lord Esau; and moreover he is behind us.’ ” 19He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, “You shall say the same thing to Esau when you meet him, 20and you shall say, ‘Moreover your servant Jacob is behind us.’ ” For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterwards I shall see his face; perhaps he will accept me.” 21So the present passed on ahead of him; and he himself spent that night in the camp.

Jacob Wrestles at Peniel

22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 29Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.

24. There wrestled a man with him107107     יאבק, yebek, from אבק, dust, because in wrestling the dust is raised. — Gesenius. Although this vision was particularly useful to Jacob himself, to teach him beforehand that many conflicts awaited him, and that he might certainly conclude that he should be the conqueror in them all; there is yet not the least doubt that the Lord exhibited, in his person, a specimen of the temptations — common to all his people — which await them, and must be constantly submitted to, in this transitory life. Wherefore it is right to keep in view this designs of the vision, which is to represent all the servants of God in this world as wrestlers; because the Lord exercises them with various kinds of conflicts. Moreover, it is not said that Satan, or any mortal man, wrestled with Jacob, but God himself: to teach us that our faith is tried by him; and whenever we are tempted, our business is truly with him, not only because we fight under his auspices, but because he, as an antagonist, descends into the arena to try our strength. This, though at first sight it seems absurd, experience and reason teaches us to be true. For as all prosperity flows from his goodness, so adversity is either the rod with which he corrects our sins, or the test of our faith and patience. And since there is no kind of temptations by which God does not try his faithful people, the similitude is very suitable, which represents him as coming, hand to hand, to combat with them. Therefore, what was once exhibited under a visible form to our father Jacob, is daily fulfilled in the individual members of the Church; namely, that, in their temptations, it is necessary for them to wrestle with God. He is said, indeed, to tempt us in a different manner from Satan; but because he alone is the Author of our crosses and afflictions, and he alone creates light and darkness, (as is declared in Isaiah,) he is said to tempt us when he makes a trial of our faith. But the question now occurs, Who is able to stand against an Antagonist, at whose breath alone all flesh perishes and vanishes away, at whose look the mountains melt, at whose word or beck the whole world is shaken to pieces, and therefore to attempt the least contest with him would be insane temerity? But it is easy to untie the knot. For we do not fight against him, except by his own power, and with his own weapons; for he, having challenged us to this contest, at the same time furnishes us with means of resistance, so that he both fights against us and for us. In short, such is his apportioning of it is conflict, that, while he assails us with one hand, he defends us with the other; yea, inasmuch as he supplies us with more strength to resist than he employs in opposing us, we may truly and properly say, that he fights against us with his left hand, and for us with his right hand. For while he lightly opposes us, he supplies invincible strength whereby we overcome. It is true he remains at perfect unity with himself: but the double method in which he deals with us cannot be otherwise expressed, than that in striking us with a human rod, he does not put forth his full strength in the temptation; but that in granting the victory to our faith, he becomes in us stronger than the power by which he opposes us. And although these forms of expression are harsh, yet their harshness will be easily mitigated in practice. For if temptations are contests, (and we know that they are not accidental, but are divinely appointed for us,) it follows hence, that God acts in the character of an antagonist, and on this the rest depends; namely, that in the temptation itself he appears to be weak against us, that he may conquer in us. Some restrict this to one kind of temptation only, where God openly and avowedly manifests himself as our adversary, as if armed for our destruction. And truly, I confess, that this differs from common conflicts, and requires, beyond all others, a rare, and even heroic strength. Yet I include willingly every kind of conflict in which God exercises the faithful: since in all they have God for an antagonist, although he may not openly proclaim himself hostile unto them. That Moses here calls him a man whom a little after he declares to have been God, is a sufficiently usual form of speech. For since God appeared under the form of a man, the name is thence assumed; just as, because of the visible symbol, the Spirit is called a dove; and, in turn, the name of the Spirit is transferred to the dove. That this disclosure was not sooner made to the holy man, I understand to be for this reason, because God had resolved to call him, as a soldier, robust and skillful in war, to more severe contests. For as raw recruits are spared, and young oxen are not immediately yoked to the plough; so the Lord more gently exercises his own people, until, having gathered strength, they become more inured to toil. Jacob, therefore, having been accustomed to bear sufferings, is now led forth to real war. Perhaps also, the Lord had reference to the conflict which was then approaching. But I think Jacob was admonished, at his very entrance on the promised land, that he was not there to expect a tranquil life for himself. For his return to his own country might seem to be a kind of release; and thus Jacob, like a soldier who had kept his term of service, would have given himself up to repose. Wherefore it was highly necessary for him to be taught what his future conditions should be. We, also, are to learn from him, that we must fight during the whole course of our life; lest any one, promising himself rest, should wilfully deceive himself. And this admonition is very needful for us; for we see how prone we are to sloth. Whence it arises, that we shall not only be thinking of a truce in perpetual war; but also of peace in the heat of the conflict, unless the Lord rouse us.

25. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him. Here is described to us the victory of Jacob, which, however, was not gained without a wound. In saying that the wrestling angel, or God, wished to retire from the contest, because he saw he should not prevail, Moses speaks after the manner of men. For we know that God, when he descends from his majesty to us, is wont to transfer the properties of human nature to himself. The Lord knew with certainty the event of the contest, before he came down to engage in it; he had even already determined what he would do: but his knowledge is here put for the experience of the thing itself.

He touched the hollow of his thigh. Though Jacob gains the victory; yet the angel strikes him on the thigh, from which cause he was lame even to the end of his life. And although the vision was by night, yet the Lord designed this mark of it to continue through all his days, that it might thence appear not to have been a vain dream. Moreover, by this sign it is made manifest to all the faithful, that they can come forth conquerors in their temptations, only by being injured and wounded in the conflict. For we know that the strength of God is made perfect in our weakness, in order that our exaltation may be joined with humility; for if our own strength remained entire, and there were no injury or dislocation produced, immediately the flesh would become haughty, and we should forget that we had conquered by the help of God. But the wound received, and the weakness which follows it, compel us to be modest.

26. Let me go. God concedes the praise of victory to his servant, and is ready to depart, as if unequal to him in strength: not because a truce was needed by him, to whom it belongs to grant a truce or peace whenever he pleases; but that Jacob might rejoice over the grace afforded to him. A wonderful method of triumphing; where the Lord, to whose power all praise is entirely due, yet chooses that feeble man shall excel as a conqueror, and thus raises him on high with special eulogy. At the same time he commends the invincible perseverance of Jacob, who, having endured a long and severe conflict, still strenuously maintains his ground. And certainly we adopt a proper mode of contending, when we never grow weary, till the Lord recedes of his own accord. We are, indeed, permitted to ask him to consider our infirmity, and, according to his paternal indulgence, to spare the tender and the weak: we may even groan under our burden, and desire the termination of our contests; nevertheless, in the meantime, we must beware lest our minds should become relaxed or faint; and rather endeavor, with collected mind and strength, to persist unwearied in the conflict. The reason which the angel assigns, namely, that the day breaketh, is to this effect, that Jacob may now that he has been divinely taught by the nocturnal vision.108108     There might be other reasons why the angel should say, “Let me go, for the day breaketh.” The vision was intended for Jacob alone; had the struggle been continued till daylight, others would have witnessed it, and a vain curiosity would have been excited, which God did not design to gratify. The break of day, also, would be the time when Jacob himself must set about the work of conducting his family; and, therefore, on his account, it was important that no farther delay should take place. — Ed.

I will not let thee go, except. Hence it appears, that at length the holy man knew his antagonist; for this prayer, in which he asks to be blessed, is no common prayer. The inferior is blessed by the greater; and therefore it is the property of God alone to bless us. Truly the father of Jacob did not otherwise bless him, than by divine command, as one who represented the person of God. A similar office also was imposed on the priests under the law, that, as ministers and expositors of divine grace, they might bless the people. Jacob knew, then, that the combatant with whom he had wrestled was God; because he desires a blessing from him, which it was not lawful simply to ask from mortal man. So, in my judgment, ought the place in Hosea (Hosea 12:3) to be understood, Jacob prevailed over the angel, and was strengthened; he wept, and made supplication to him. For the Prophet means, that after Jacob had come off conqueror, he was yet a suppliant before God, and prayed with tears. Moreover, this passage teaches us always to expect the blessing of God, although we may have experienced his presence to be harsh and grievous, even to the disjointing of our members. For it is far better for the sons of God to be blessed, though mutilated and half destroyed, than to desire that peace in which they shall fall asleep, or than they should withdraw themselves from the presence of God, so as to turn away from his command, that they may riot with the wicked.

28. Thy name shall be called no more Jacob. Jacob, as we have seen, received his name from his mother’s womb, because he had seized the heel of his brother’s foot, and had attempted to hold him back. God now gives him a new and more honorable name; not that he may entirely abolish the other, which was a token of memorable grace, but that he may testify a still higher progress of his grace. Therefore, of the two names the second is preferred to the former, as being more honorable. The name is derived from שרה(sarah) or שור (sur,) which signifies to rule, as if he were called a Prince of God: for I have said, a little before, that God had transferred the praise of his own strength to Jacob, for the purpose of triumphing in his person. The explanation of the name which is immediately annexed, is thus given literally by Moses, “Because thou hast ruled with, or, towards God and towards man, and shalt prevail.” Yet the sense seems to be faithfully rendered by Jerome:109109     Quoniam si contra Deum fortis fuisti, quanto magis contra homines praevalebis? If thou hast been so strong against God, how much more shalt thou prevail against men? — Vulgate. but if Jacob acted thus heroically with God, much more should he prove superior to men; for certainly it was the purpose of God to send forth his servant to various combats, inspired with the confidence resulting from so great a victory, lest he should afterwards become vacillating. For he does not merely impose a name, as risen are accustomed to do, but with the name he gives the thing itself which the name implies, that the event may correspond with it.

29. Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. This seems opposed to what is declared above; for I have lately said, that when Jacob sought a blessing, it was a token of his submission. Why, therefore, as if he were of doubtful mind, does he now inquire the name of him whom he had before acknowledged to be God? But the solution of the question is easy; for, though Jacob does acknowledge God, yet, not content will an obscure and slight knowledge, he wishes to ascend higher. And it is not to be wondered at, that the holy man, to whom God had manifested himself under so many veils and coverings, that he had not yet obtained any clear knowledge of him, should break forth in this wish; nay, it is certain that all the saints, under the law, were inflamed with this desire. Such a prayer also of Manoah, is read in Judges 13:18, to which the answer from God is added, except that there, the Lord pronounces his name to be wonderful and secret, in order that Manoah may not proceed further. The sum therefore is this, that though Jacob’s wish was pious, the Lord does not grant it, because the time of full revelation was not yet completed: for the fathers, in the beginning, were required to walk in the twilight of morning; and the Lord manifested himself to them, by degrees, until, at length, Christ the Sun of Righteousness arose, in whom perfect brightness shines forth. This is the reason why he rendered himself more conspicuous to Moses, who nevertheless was only permitted to behold his glory from behind: yet because he occupied an intermediate place between patriarchs and apostles, he is said, in comparison with them, to have seen, face to face, the God Who had been hidden from the fathers. But now, since God has approached more nearly unto us, our ingratitude is most impious and detestable, if we do not run to meet with ardent desire to obtain such great grace; as also Peter admonishes us in the first chapter of his first epistle. (1 Peter 1:12,13.) It is to be observed, that although Jacob piously desires to know God more fully, yet, because he is carried beyond the bounds prescribed to the age in which he lived, he suffers a repulse: for the Lord, cutting short his wish, commands him to rest contented with his own blessing. But if that measure of illumination which we have received, was denied to the holy man, how intolerable will be our curiosity, if it breaks forth beyond the contended limit now prescribed by God.

30. And Jacob called the name of the place110110     פניאל, (Peniel,) the face of God. The gratitude of our father Jacob is again commended, because he took diligent care that the memory of God’s grace should never perish. He therefore leaves a monument to posterity, from which they might know that God had appeared there; for this was not a private vision, but had reference to the whole Church. Moreover, Jacob not only declares that he has seen the face of God, but also gives thanks that he has been snatched from death. This language frequently occurs in the Scriptures, and was common among the ancient people; and not without reason; for, if the earth trembles at the presence of God, if the mountains melt, if darkness overspreads the heavens, what must happen to miserable men! Nay, since the immense majesty of God cannot be comprehended even by angels, but rather absorbs them; were his glory to shine on us it would destroy us, and reduce us to nothing, unless he sustained and protected us. So long as we do not perceive God to be present, we proudly please ourselves; and this is the imaginary life which the flesh foolishly arrogates to itself when it inclines towards the earth. But the faithful, when God reveals himself to them, feel themselves to be more evanescent than any smoke. Finally; would we bring down the pride of the flesh, we must draw near to God. So Jacob confesses that, by the special indulgence of God, he had been rescued from destruction when he saw God. It may however be asked, “Why, when he had obtained so slight a taste only of God’s glory, he should boast that he had seen him, face to face?” I answer, it is in no way absurd that Jacob highly celebrates this vision above all others, in which the Lord had not so plainly appeared unto him; and yet, if it be compared with the splendor of the gospel, or even of the law, it will appear like sparks, or obscure rays. The simple meaning then is, that he saw God in an unwonted and extraordinary manner. Now, if Jacob so greatly exults and congratulates himself in that slender measure of knowledge; what ought we to do at this day, to whom Christ, the living image of God, is evidently set before our eyes in the mirror of the gospel! Let us therefore learn to open our eyes, lest we be blind at noonday, as Paul exhorts us in 2 Corinthians 3:1-4:1.

31. And he halted upon his thigh. It is probable, and it may be gathered even from the words of Moses, that this halting was without the sense of pain, in order that the miracle might be the more evident. For God, in the flesh of his servant, has exhibited a spectacle to all ages, from which the faithful may perceive that no one is such a powerful combatant as not to carry away some wound after a spiritual convict, for infirmity ever cleaves to all, that no one may be pleased with himself above measure. Whereas Moses relates that the Jews abstained from the shrunken sinew, or that part of the thigh in which it was placed: this was not done out of superstition.111111     The sinew which shrank; “that sinew or tendon which fastens the hip-bone in its socket, which comprehends the flesh of that muscle which is connected to it. He that ate of this was to be beaten, as the Jewish masters tell us.” — Patrick. See also Ainsworth on this passage. Professor Bush says, “At present the Jews do not know what sinew this was, nor even which thigh it was in; and the effect of this uncertainty is, that they judge it necessary to abstain from both the hind quarters, lest they should inadvertently eat the interdicted sinew. They sell those parts to Christians.” — Ed. For that age, as we know, was the infancy of the Church; wherefore the Lord retained the faithful, who then lived, under the teaching of the schoolmaster. And now, though, since the coming of Christ, our condition is more free; the memory of the fact ought to be retained among us, that God disciplined his people of old by external ceremonies.

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