Bible Study Notes – Genesis 32.

Jacob prepares to meet his brother Esau & has an encounter with The Lord.

  1. Introduction – Highlights of period with Uncle Laban (Genesis 29 – 31).
  • How many years did Jacob spend with his uncle Laban – Genesis 31: 41.
    • 14 years to obtain Rachel & Leah plus 6 years for the flock.
  • Jacob was leaving his uncle as instructed by God, what was The Lords promise to him – Genesis 31: 3 $ 13.
    • Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred and I will be with you” (v3).
    • I am the God of Bethel where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out of this land and return   to the land of your kindred” (v13).
  • In Chapter 28 Jacob had fled his father’s house for fear of his brother Esau having tricked – with his mother Rebekah’s encouragement – his father Isaac to give him the blessing which should have been for his older brother Esau.
  1. Jacob sends messengers to Easu his brother – read Genesis 32:1-8.
  • V1 – Jacob having been instructed by God to leave it must have been encouraging to know he was under the protection & care of the Lords angels.
    • Application – we should remember He will protect us– our side of the bargain is to recognise this & be seeking to do his will. How do we do this?
  • Why would Jacob in his message to his brother (v4&5) refer to all the processions & wealth he now has – could it be to demonstrate to Esau & reassure him that he did not need or want to take anything from him. 
  • Reflect on Jacob’s response (v7&8) to the news the messengers brought back from Esau.
    • Why from his last dealings with Easu would Jacob be concerned about meeting his brother? – he had deceived him, got the blessing & had to flee from Esau’s wrath.
    • Also unlike when he stood up to his uncle Laban and was in the right he knew he was not with Esau.
    • In Genesis 27:45 Rebekah in sending Jacob away had said she would send for him when his brothers anger had subdued. She had not sent for him so Jacob could have assumed Esau was still angry.
  • Application – are there times when we let our past overcome us & not remember that if we have truly confessed our sins God will have forgiven them & support us.
  1. Jacob’s petition to God – read Genesis 32: 9-12.
  • One commentary indicates this was Jacob’s first recorded prayer -other than praying for his wife to have children - since his encounter with God enroute to Laban.
  • Another commentary indicates that Jacob ‘went to the LORD and prayed a good prayer, full of faith, thanksgiving, and God's Word’.
  • How did Jacob refer to God – Genesis 32:9.
    • The God of his father Abraham & of Isaac. He also referred to him as his Lord. When we approach God in prayer we should do so in reverence – remember the opening lines to the Lord’s prayer.
  • V10 – he remembered the Lord’s blessings to him having crossed the Jordan 20 years ago with only his staff & now his processions were such he could form two camps. We should remember what the Lord has done for us & not just materially.
  • V11 – Jacob prayed for deliverance confessing to God his own anxiety at again meeting with his brother. This should also be an example to us – we should be honest with God, even as was the case with Jacob this was caused by his sin – we should acknowledge those sins in coming before him in prayer.
  • Reflect on Jacob’s reminder to The Lord of his promise to him

 – Genesis 32:12.

  • The promise at Bethel (chapter 28:15) to bring him back to his land & to not leave him until he has fulfilled this promise.
  • Application: this should also be an encouragement to us times of anxiety to remember the Lord’s promises & as we heard last Sunday encourage & support each other during these times. It is also good practice to include God’s word in our prayers, as indeed Jesus did.
  1. Jacob makes plans to engage with Esau – read Genesis 32: 13-21.
  • Note the practical steps that Jacob took in preparing to meet with Easu.
    • Prepared a significant present to give to Esau (v14&15) – to appease Esau (v20) – was this a lack of trust in God or an insurance strategy?
    • Positioned 3 layers (droves) between him & the advancing Esau.
    • He sent the presents on ahead & stayed the night in the camp (v21).
  • Do you think that the words Jacob instructed the servants to address Esau with represented a condescending attitude as part of his appeasement strategy – “my lord Easu” (v18) & “your servant Jacob” (v20).
    • Perhaps they were in light of their past conflicts although it is the middle east custom to show respect when addressing others & it also could have been Jacob recognising Esau as his older brother.
  1. God wrestles with Jacob – read Genesis 32: 22-32.
  • Note in v22 that it indicates 11 sons – the 12th Benjamin had not yet been born to Rachel – Genesis 35:18.
  • Jacob sent his wives & sons plus possessions across the ford Jabbok – see map inset – again putting a protective barrier from a potential encounter with Esau (v22&23).
  • Left alone in the camp a man wrestled all night with Jacob (24).
    • Note the emphasis that it was the man wrestling with Jacob & not the other way around (v24)
    • Read also Hosea 12:3&4 – Jacob as he wrestled wept & made supplication.
    • It was not only a physical encounter - Jacob’s hip came out of the socket – but also spiritual as he prepares to meet Esau.
    • Although the man (angel) did not prevail against Jacob he put his hip out to show what he could do. Jacob was showing determination but was this God showing just sufficient intensity to obtain Jacob’s attention – as he does with us – just enough but he will not break us.
    • What was the conclusion of the wrestling encounter – was it God indicating his presence to Jacob & providing Jacob with the assurance that in his providence he had the strength to go forward?
  • Jacob is renamed by God & called Israel – Genesis 32: 28.
    • The man then requests to be allowed to go but Jacob would not until he received a blessing.
  • Jacob knew he was defeated, yet desperately wanted a blessing from this Greater One.
    • Jacob is renamed – from one meaning “heal catcher or deceiver” to one meaning “God’s fighter or he strives with God”.
    • As Pastor David Guzik indicates it was the blessing of the passing of the old (Jacob) life, and the coming of a new (Israel) life. It may also have had to do with the great idea of the blessing of Abraham, and meeting Jacob's immediate needs for security in the midst of fear. Whatever Jacob needed, God's blessing provided at the moment.
    • An amazing recognition of where Jacob had come from – striving with his brother Esau (chapter’s 25-27), with his father (chapter 27), with his father-in-law (chapter’s 29-31), with his wives (chapter 30) & now with God at Penuel (32:28).
    • In today’s language, he “was a survivor’.
  • He calls the name of the place Penuel, “for I have seen God face to face and yet my life has been delivered” – Genesis 32: 30. (see attached map).
  • V31 – Jacob also had a perpetual limp. Jacob would remember his being conquered by God with every step he took for the rest of his life. This was a small price to pay for such a great gift.
  • V32 – “to this day” could indicate up to Moses time as he is thought to have written Genesis. Also, this command to not eat sinew is nowhere again mentioned in the Old Testament. Is this why it is the Hebrew custom among orthodox Jews not to eat the sinew of the hip of animals because this was where God touched Jacob. 

Applications & takeaways from the study.

  • The details of this story summarise how Jacob had changed in both character & wealth over the 20 years from when he left his father & mother.
    • We should take time out to prayerfully reflect how we have developed over the years, particularly since our conversion.
  • Sometimes God uses fear & anxieties – as was the case here with Jacob - to get our attention & bring us to him in prayer.
  • God in renaming Jacob was recognising that he would continue to ‘strive’ with Jacob in order to fulfil his promise. This should also be an encouragement to us & as a fellowship encourage and support each other in this (Galatians 6:2).