Genesis 32–33. How Jacob Hurt His Hip.

Key Notes: Confronting Esau's posse with fear. God's presence did not reduce fear. Jacob's prayer. Esau's magnanimous gesture. God and Jacob: a unique encounter. God wrestled with Jacob for control, forcing him to surrender. Striving with God is dangerous.

32:1–2 On his way home from Laban's house, Jacob met angels, God's army. Mahaneim means two armies--probably his and God's. Plainly God was announcing His presence and protection to him. Years later, Mahaneim, now the name of a town,would be a haven for David in exile and God's army would once again be active. IISam.17:24-

32:3–6 Jacob sent messengers to seek Esau's favor and they returned with bad news: Esau was coming with a four-hundred-man army.

32:7–8 Jacob was terrified. (Had he not just seen angels, God's army?)  He immediately planned to divide his company so that he would lose only part of his people to Esau.

32:9–12 Then he prayed fervently. He

*repeated God's instruction to return and God's promise to him.
*pled his own lack of merit: "I am not worthy".
*acknowledged the way God had blessed him: he had started out with one stick and returned with twelve sons, four wives and two companies.
*begged God for deliverance from Esau.
*repeated God's promise of blessing and many descendents.

32:13–23 He went to work, preparing five separate droves of live-stock, a donor herd of goats, sheep, camels, cows and donkeys and sent them off toward Esau with careful instruction to the servants to tell him that these were presents for Esau and that Jacob was coming too. Then he sent his family over the ford of the Brook Jabbok, and remained behind, alone.

32:24–32 A Man wrestled with Jacob all night, and lamed him when He could not put him down. Jacob would not let Him go unless he received a blessing. God changed his name from Jacob, one who grabs the heel, to Israel, he who strives with God and prevails. Jacob then asked His name: He already knew the Name. As he said “I have seen God face to face and yet my life is preserved.” The day broke on a different Jacob.

33:1–3 Here came Esau with his four-hundred. So Jacob separated his family by the four wives, putting the concubines and their children first and Rachel last, and he went ahead of them all, bowing to the ground seven times before his brother.

33:4–11 Esau was gracious; he greeted Jacob with open arms and met the wives and their children. He was so much more magnanimous than Jacob that it is embarrassing. Jacob said that looking at Esau was like looking at the face of God-- a bit of hyperbole. Esau asked about the droves of cattle and tried to refuse them, but Jacob insisted and he finally accepted.

33:12–16 Esau suggested that they journey on together, but Jacob begged off, saying that the family was young and the children frail. Jacob may well have worried about the influence this worldly, outdoors-man uncle of theirs--and his 400 men-- might have on his boys. Esau offered some of his men as protection. Again Jacob declined, saying he would get to Seir, Esau's homeland, in due time.

33:17–20 He never did. He went to Succoth (“Booths”) long enough to build barns for his cattle and then moved to Shechem where he bought land from the sons of Hamor. He built an altar there to God, the God of Israel.

In reaction to the threat of death from Esau, Jacob

*split his company to minimize the threat.
*prayed fervently to God for deliverance.
*planned to give sets of live-stock to Esau.
*prayed and wrestled with God for blessing.
*divided his family into groups and met Esau in front of them.

God had made promises but would God protect him against an army of 400 Edomites? The great puzzle of the passage is God's wrestling with Jacob (not the reverse). Why was Jacob alone at night? He could not sleep. He was in mortal danger, sick at the thought of losing his family to his violent brother. (32:11). He may have thought he was wrestling with Esau.

Why would God wrestle with Jacob? It is an outrageous idea that God would stoop to contend with a human being on his level. For some, God is the “Wholly Other” “The Ground of All being”.
Does God struggle with human beings?
What would the contest be about?
Why let Jacob appear to win the fist nine rounds?
Why would God let Jacob fight back at all?
The issue in wrestling and other contests is control: who will dominate and for what purpose.

God strives with humans.
*The Lord made Abraham wrestle verbally with Him for the souls of Lot and his family. Gen.18:22-
*Moses had to wrestle for the lives of the Israelites. Gen.32:31
*Jeremiah burned against the prophecy he had to deliver that made him a joke to his society. Jer.20:7–12
*Christ wrestled Saul of Tarsus to the ground. Acts 9:4
*He flipped Peter on his back. Matt.16:23
*Daniel was informed, incredibly, of a struggle between God and Michael against the Prince of Persia. (Dan.10:13, 20–21). The Prince of Greece and Darius king of the Medes were also involved. (Dan.10:20–2).
So it appears that the contests are not all the same. Sometimes the struggle is for the soul of the person, sometimes for the souls of others, even of nations.

Humans do strive with God, often wrongly:
“God is greater than man." "Why do you (Job) contend against Him, saying 'He will answer none of my words.'” (Job.33:12–13)
“You (Babylon) were found and caught, because you strove against the Lord.” (Jer.50:24)
“These are the waters of Meribah, where the children of Israel contended with the Lord and He showed Himself holy among them.” (Num.20:13)
“These are Dathan and Abiram, chosen from the congregation, who contended against Moses and Aaron in the company of Korah, when they contended against the Lord and the earth opened its mouth....” (Num.26:10)
“Woe to him who strives with his Maker, an earthen vessel with the Potter! Does the clay say to him who fashions it ‘What are you making' or 'your work has no handles?’” (Isa.45:9)

Most references to striving with God are negative, denying His authority or criticizing His hand in our lives. “My spirit will not always strive with man.” (Gen.6:3). But Jacob's wrestling is spoken of favorably. "He strove with the Angel and prevailed, he wept and sought His favor". (Hos.12:4). He is probably commended for the way he ended up, rather than the way he began striving with God.

Yet of all the instances of God wrestling with people for positive outcomes, Jacob’s struggle is the most difficult to understand, partly because it is unique. No other instance in Scripture describes a physical contest between God and man.The wrestling was spiritual, emotional bu definitely physical. Jacob was over sixty years old. And wrestling all night? Most wrestling contests last minutes and leave the athletes exhausted. This wrestling went on all night!

Jacob was not much changed by his encounter even though his name was changed. He promptly lied to Esau about his intentions. (Gen.33:12–14). But the basic issue of wrestling is to determine who will control. And on that assumption, we make our conclusion.

Abraham and Isaac received promises and material blessings from God by grace alone. Unlike Abraham and Isaac, Jacob has been gaining God’s prizes-- birthright, patriarchal blessing, and riches--not by grace, but by works-- sometimes with dubious methods. God would not allow Jacob His prizes on his terms. Jacob must surrender control, and then hang on for blessing which he knows he does not deserve. I thought He had surrendered when he prayed "I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness which Thou has shown to Thy servant," (32:10), but evidently not. He fought all night, refusing to give in to God until he was forced to the ground with a crippling blow.

Why would God hurt Jacob? Pain and weakness have mind- clearing effects. The pain of a dislocated hip is agonizing. Many of us, like Jacob, do not give in to God until we are looking up, flat on our backs.

What was Jacob's strength? He had his eyes on Heaven.
What was Jacob's besetting sin? Getting what God was going to give him by guile and craftiness. He was the heel-grabber. Jacob was not willing to give up control of his life and methods to God. God took him on in the same kind of contest--heel-grabbing--and lamed him so that he could not win on his terms. Jacob then hung on for a blessing and God changed him from heel-grabber to God-wrestler.

God wrestles with us too, for control. We expect Him to agree to our terms.
We must give up. And we must hang on to Him for His blessing.
May our cry be "I will not let You go unless You bless me".