Jacob Wrestles With An Angel At Peniel!
It was dangerous to cross the river at night, but Jacob would rather risk the crossing than risk losing his loved ones; so he moved his family to what he hoped was a safe place. Having forgotten about God’s army, he wanted something between his family and his brother’s army. Jacob devised his own “two camps.”
Now Jacob was left alone, and when we’re alone and at the end of our resources, then God can come to us and do something in us and for us. Note the three encounters Jacob experienced that difficult night.
Jacob Met The Lord
Later that same night, Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his 11 children; and he crossed the Jabbok River. He sent them all ahead across the stream along with everything he had; but Jacob stayed behind, left alone in his distress and doubt. In the twilight of his anguish, an unknown man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw he was not winning the battle with Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint as he continued to wrestle with him.
Man: Let me go; the dawn is breaking.
Jacob: I will not let you go unless you bless me.
Genesis 32:22-26 (VOICE)
When facing great difficulties, it really comes down to just us and the Lord. Godly people often seek seclusion in such circumstances. We have to rid ourselves of all distractions and focus totally on the Lord. Look at the results of such action.
Hosea 12:4 says, “Yes, he wrestled with the angel and won. He wept and pleaded for a blessing from him. There at Bethel he met God face to face, and God spoke to him.”
This makes it clear that this was more than just a man. This was, at the least, a created angel, and many believe this was a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus. Hosea 12:4 also makes it clear that the way Jacob wrestled with the angel was with crying and supplications. It wasn’t just a physical struggle but a spiritual one. Remember, Jacob was ninety-nine years old at this time.
British essayist Walter Savage Landor called solitude “the audience-chamber of God,” and he was right. When we’re alone, we can’t escape into other people’s hearts and minds and be distracted; we have to live with ourselves and face ourselves. Twenty years before, Jacob had met the Lord when he was alone at Bethel; and now God graciously came to him again in his hour of need.
God meets us at whatever level He finds us in order to lift us to where He wants us to be. To Abraham the pilgrim, God came as a traveler (Gen. 18); and to Joshua the general, He came as a soldier (Josh. 5:13-15). Jacob had spent most of his adult life wrestling with people—Esau, Isaac, Laban, and even his wives—so God came to him as a wrestler. “To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.“ (Ps. 18:26).
At Bethel, God had promised to bless Jacob; and from a material point of view, the promise was fulfilled, for Jacob was now a very wealthy man. But there’s much more to the blessing of God than flocks, herds, and servants; there’s also the matter of godly character and spiritual influence. During that “dark night of the soul,” Jacob discovered that he’d spent his life fighting God and resisting His will, and that the only way to victory was through surrender. As A.W. Tozer said, ‘The Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.” God conquered Jacob by weakening him.
Jacob Met Himself
Man: What’s your name?
Man: You will no longer go by the name Jacob. From now on, your name will be Israel because you have wrestled with God and humanity, and you have prevailed.
Jacob: Please, tell me your name.
Man: Why do you ask what my name is?
Right then and right there the man blessed Jacob. So Jacob called the place Peniel because as he said, “I have come face to face with God, and yet my life was spared.” The sun began to rise as Jacob passed by Penuel, limping because of his dislocated hip. And to this day, the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached near the hip socket of any animal, since that is where God struck Jacob when He dislocated his hip.
Genesis 32:27-32 (VOICE)
More than anything else, Jacob wanted the blessing of the Lord on his life; and for this holy desire, he’s to be commended. But before we can begin to be like the Lord, we have to face ourselves and admit what we are in ourselves. That’s why the Lord asked him,
“What is your name?”
As far as the Genesis record is concerned, the last time Jacob was asked that question, he told a lie! His father asked,
“Who are you, my son?”
and Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn” (Gen. 27:18-19).
The Lord didn’t ask the question in order to get information, because He certainly knew Jacob’s name and that Jacob had the reputation of being a schemer and a deceiver.
“What is your name?”
“Are you going to continue living up to your name, deceiving yourself and others; or will you admit what you are and let Me change you?”
The new name God gave him was “Israel,” from a Hebrew word that means “to struggle”; but scholars aren’t agreed on what the name signifies. Some translate it “one who wrestles with God” or “God strives” or “let God rule.”
The explanation in Genesis 32:28 is that Jacob had gained power because he prevailed. He lost the battle but won the victory! By seeking God’s blessing and finally being weakened and forced to yield, he had become a “God-empowered prince.” Like Paul, who had his own battle to fight, Jacob became strong only when he became weak (2 Cor. 12:1-10).
G. Campbell Morgan called Jacob’s experience “the crippling that crowns” and interpreted “Israel” to mean “a God-mastered man.” I’m inclined to agree with him. When God rules our lives, then He can trust us with His power; for only those who are under His authority have the right to exercise His authority. While at home, Jacob had served himself and created problems; and for twenty years he served Laban and created further problems, but now he would serve God and become a part of the answer.
Once again Jacob gave a special name to a significant place, this time Peniel [Penuel], which means “the face of God.” He thought that seeing God’s face would bring death, but it actually brought him new life. It was the dawning of a new day for Israel/Jacob:
- He had a new name;
- He had a new walk (he was limping); and
- He had a new relationship with God that would help him face and solve any problem, if only he would exercise faith.
The great test was about to come, for Esau had arrived on the scene. Now Jacob was ready for the third encounter: to meet Esau.
|Be Authentic (Genesis 25-50)
By Warren W. Wiersbe
Life is full of imitations. Which is why today’s culture genuine, transparent people of God; believers who crave real spiritual growth. But what does that look like? The book of Genesis provides the answer, where we find 3 men who experienced an authentic life: Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Be Authentic: Genesis 25-50 shows the vital need shows the vital need for authenticity in an artificial world. Through this commentary you will discover how to pursue authentic relationships with others and God and how to live out your faith in an irresistible, compelling way.