Jan. 11 Reading: Genesis 32-34 Commentary
“And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.'” (Gen. 32:28)
Genesis 32 – Jacob Prepares for Esau
Have you ever been estranged from a love one? It’s not a great situation when there is family tension. You never know what issues will arise when you see one another again.
That is what faces Jacob in Genesis 32. He knows God told him to return to his homeland. But there was just one problem. His brother Esau awaited him there. And the last time they saw one another, it was not on good terms (see Gen. 27). In fact, it was so bad, Jacob had fled for his life.
Now on his return home, Jacob isn’t sure what to expect. So he sends messengers ahead of his entire company to let Esau know he is coming and how God has blessed him all these years as he dwelt with Laban.
When the messengers returned though, they brought news that unnerved Jacob. Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men!
In Jacob’s mind, this could only mean one thing. Esau was still angry and was coming to attack him.
There was only one thing Jacob could do. Pray (vv. 9 – 12). Now, Jacob has talked with God before. But this is the first time he has turned to God on his own accord. He reminds God of the promises He has made and asks God to deliver him from his brother.
But just in case God can’t protect him, Jacob still wants to be in control of the situation. He sends servants in multiple waves with lavish gifts to Esau in an effort to appease him.
Wrestling with God
The night before he meets Esau, Jacob has an interesting encounter. Verse 24 tells us that “…a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.”
Who was this man? Some believe it was the preincarnate Jesus Christ. Others say an angel. In either case, it was some manifestation of God that Jacob struggled with all night.
This was some wrestling match. The “Man” was not able to prevail against Jacob. So at daybreak,
“He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, ‘Let Me go, for the day breaks.’ But he said, ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’ So He said to him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Jacob.’ And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.’ (vv. 25-28)
Jacob had wrestled with people all his life. First his brother. Then Laban. This encounter with God would change him forever, both physically (he limped from God touching his hip) and spiritually. He’d been given a new name (Israel) and new identity as someone who had “..seen God face to face…” and lived (v. 30).
Genesis 33 – Jacob and Esau Reunite
For all Jacob knew, Esau was coming to destroy him. So when he saw Esau far off in the distance coming with his 400 men, he divided his company in an effort to protect them. He put his favorite wife Rebekah and Joseph last in the procession.
When Esau arrives, something unexpected happens. He ran to meet him. He embraced him. The two of them wept upon one another.
Instead of exacting his revenge, Esau welcomed Jacob home. Instead of remaining bitter, he chose reconciliation. When most would say he had every right to be angry at his brother, he chose forgiveness and love.
It’s a powerful testimony of humility and shows us how broken relationships can be restored.
Genesis 34 – Dinah
Earlier, we were introduced to Dinah, one of Leah’s daughters (Gen. 30:21). Turns out her listing in the children of Jacob was an important inclusion. Usually daughters aren’t mentioned in Biblical genealogies. But a whole chapter is devoted to her story here and it’s not pretty.
What happened? She was “violated” by a man named Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite. What is interesting about this horrific event in her life, is that this man was strongly attracted to her. Even though he had forced himself on her for sex, he wanted to marry her afterwards. Word gets back to Jacob who does nothing.
When his sons find out, they are livid. But Hamor, Shechem’s father, speaks to all of them about his son’s love for Dinah. He wants to strike a deal with Jacob’s family that would allow them to intermarry with one another. When that happens, they could dwell in the land peacefully and trade with one another.
Jacob’s sons agree to this under one condition. For them to intermarry, Hamor, Shechem and all the men of the nearby city would have to be circumcised. This was a condition of their covenant relationship with God (see Gen. 17).
The proposal sounds good to Shechem and to the men of the city when Hamor explains it to them. They actually think they can control Jacob’s family through this agreement (v. 22-23). So all the men of the city get circumcised.
While they are still in pain and healing, two of Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi go into the city and kill all the males. It’s revenge through and through to bring justice to their disgraced sister. Their righteous anger over sin turned into a sinful act.
Jacob is not pleased with his son’s decision. His sons don’t agree (vv. 30-31). It’s one of several rifts we see within Jacob’s family that will play out in the years to come.
Questions to Consider: Jacob and Esau both realized their relationship was more important than who was right. What relationship in your world needs fixing today? Is your pride and “being right” holding you back? How do you keep righteous anger from making things worse and turning into sin?
What other points would you want to know about in our Genesis 32-34 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.