Jacob Returns to Bethel

I. Jacob is met by angels of God (Genesis 32:1-2). 

A. Jacob enters the land of his fathers.

1. Jacob triumphed over Laban at Mizpah and starts for Bethel.

a. Jacob’s mother had told him that she would let him know if and when Esau relented and was at peace with Jacob (Genesis 27:45).
b. There is no record that Rebekah ever sent such word.

2. Jacob now faces an uncertain and potentially dangerous meeting with Esau.

B. Jacob sees the “angels of God” (Genesis 32:1-2).

1. Jacob sees them as a “host” (army).

a. He recognizes them from the earlier vision (Genesis 28:12).
b. He names the place “Mahanaim” = “Two Hosts”.
1) The “Big” army is angelic.
2) The “Other” army is his family.

2. Elisha and his servant saw something similar (2 Kings 6:16-17).

a. These are overwhelming odds from a human perspective.
b. The real battle is spiritual (Ephesians 6:12).

II. Jacob prepares to meet Esau.

A. Jacob decides to send advance messengers (32:3-8).

1. He had learned that the region was called “the country of Edom.”

a. Apparently, Esau had conquered the territory.
b. “Edom” is the nickname for Esau (Genesis 25:30).

2. He instructs the messengers to take a subservient position.

a. Jacob is Esau’s “servant” (32:4).
b. Esau is Jacob’s “lord” (32:5).
c. Jacob has plenty of wealth – no need for more (32:5)
1) No attempt to claim “political” rights
2) No attempt to claim “property” rights
3) Both were Jacob’s by right (birthright & blessing).

B. Jacob divides his caravan in preparation for the unknown meeting.

1. He knows of a large body of men coming his way.

2. He still does not know Esau’s intentions.

3. He does what is prudent under the circumstances.

4. He prays to the LORD to protect and provide (32:9-12).

5. He trusts God to fulfill the Promise in all events.

III. Jacob prepares to meet with Esau (Genesis 32:13-23).

A. He sends multiple presents ahead of his meeting (32:13-20).

1. Jacob sends 440 sheep and goats.

2. Jacob sends 30 camels and their colts.

3. Jacob sends 50 cattle (10 bulls).

4. Jacob sends 20 female asses and their colts.

5. This is a huge fortune in gifts for Esau.

B. He instructs his servants to drive the “gifts” in waves toward Esau.

1. There are at least three (3) waves (32:19).

2. They were instructed to tell Esau “thy servant” is behind us.

IV. Jacob meets “God face to face” (Genesis 32:24-32).

A. This takes place the night before Jacob is to meet Esau (32:24).

1. Jacob had finished all his human preparation.

2. Jacob was now “left alone” with his faith and God’s promises.

B. This “wrestling” match lasted all night (32:24).

1. This is not necessarily a “physical” event.

2. Rachel “wrestled” with her sister (Genesis 30:8).

3. We are warned that we “wrestle” with spiritual powers (Ephesians 6:12).

4. Interpretations of this passage are many and fanciful.

C. The “Man” was attempting to stop Jacob from entering Canaan.

1. God (32:30) certainly could have overcome Jacob.

2. An angel certainly could have defeated Jacob.

D. Whether physical or spiritual, the result is permanent (32:32).

1. Jacob’s faith and determination are now confirmed and sealed.

2. Jacob bears a physical mark (thigh) for the rest of his life.

3. Jacob recognizes the permanent significance by naming the place, “Peniel” – the “Face of God.”

4. The brook “Jabbok” (“wrestler”) is named after the event.

E. Jacob’s name is now changed, by God, to “Israel” (32:28).

1. He is no longer the “Supplanter.”

2. He is to be known as the “Prevailer.”

3. He is to be known as “Israel.”

a. “One Who Fights Victoriously with God”
b. “Prince with God”

F. Jacob asks, but is refused the name of the “Wrestler” (32:27).

1. No name is given.

2. Jacob believes the “Man” to be God in the flesh.

3. This is probably a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ.

The Patriarchs
ch. 32


Living in His Light and His Love

A Life of Loving God's Word in Psalm 119

The Power and Perseverance of Grace

A New You and a New Life

A series of lessons on chapters 1-11 of Genesis

The People and Power of Christ

A series of lessons on the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph

A series on the book of Revelation

Loving God and Loving Others in Exodus 20

Go to top