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Genesis: Chapter 32

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1Jacob went on his way and the angels of God met him; 2and when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God's camp!” So he called that place Mahanaim. g Here taken to mean Two camps

3Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, 4instructing them, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have lived with Laban as an alien, and stayed until now; 5and I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male and female slaves; and I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.’ ”

6The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” 7Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies, 8thinking, “If Esau comes to the one company and destroys it, then the company that is left will escape.”

9And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, and I will do you good,’ 10I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies. 11Deliver me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him; he may come and kill us all, the mothers with the children. 12Yet you have said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of their number.’ ”

13So he spent that night there, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau, 14two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15thirty milch camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16These he delivered into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on ahead of me, and put a space between drove and drove.” 17He instructed the foremost, “When Esau my brother meets you, and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?’ 18then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob; they are a present sent to my lord Esau; and moreover he is behind us.’ ” 19He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, “You shall say the same thing to Esau when you meet him, 20and you shall say, ‘Moreover your servant Jacob is behind us.’ ” For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterwards I shall see his face; perhaps he will accept me.” 21So the present passed on ahead of him; and he himself spent that night in the camp.

22The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28Then the man a Heb he said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, b That is The one who strives with God or God strives for you have striven with God and with humans, c Or with divine and human beings and have prevailed.” 29Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel, a That is The face of God saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.


g Here taken to mean Two camps

a Heb he

b That is The one who strives with God or God strives

c Or with divine and human beings

a That is The face of God

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

33.1–17 : Partial reunion with Esau.

10 :

Like seeing the face of God, who at Penuel (or Peniel) also proved to be gracious ( 32.30–31 ).

12–17 :

Esau proposes to stay with Jacob, but Jacob sends him ahead, promising to join with him (v. 14 ). Jacob does not join him, however (v. 17 ), perhaps noting that Esau had always planned to wait to kill him until their father died ( 27.41; cf. 35.29 ).

17 :

Succoth means “booths.” Its precise location is uncertain.

32.1–32 : Journey toward Esau.

1–2 :

The Transjordanian town of Mahanaim was the site of important events (2 Sam 2.8–9; 17.24–29 ) and an administrative center in the time of Solomon (1 Kings 4.14 ). Angels, see 28.12n.

3–21 :

The ever clever Jacob develops multiple strategies to appease his brother: dividing his camp (vv. 6–8 ), praying for divine help (vv. 9–12 ), and then sending several waves of livestock as a gift to Esau (vv. 13–21 ).

22–32 :

Where Abraham unknowingly hosted divine visitors ( 18.1–15 ), Jacob unknowingly fights with God (Ex 4.24–26 ). The narrative includes a complicated word play on the names of Jacob (Heb “ya^aqob”), the river Jabbok (“yabboq”; modern Nahr ez‐Zerqa) and wrestled (“wayye’abeq”; v. 24 ).

25 :

Jacob is so strong ( 29.10 ) that he is winning the contest until his divine opponent pulls Jacob's hip out of joint.

26 :

The divine being had to vanish before sunrise—a mark of the antiquity of the tradition on which this story is based.

28 :

Jacob's new name reflects a new self: no longer was he the “supplanter” ( 25.26; 27.36 ), but Israel ( 35.10 ), which probably originally meant “El rules” (with El being the head of the Northwest Semitic pantheon). Here, however, it is interpreted to mean “the one who strives with God” (cf. Hos 12.3–4 ). And with humans refers to Jacob's strife with Esau and Laban. In this way, the community of Israel, as descendants of this god‐wrestler, is depicted as a group that successfully strives with God and humans.

29 :

The divine being refuses lest Jacob, by possessing the name, gain power over him.

30 :

Jacob had feared to see Esau's face (v. 20 ), but instead saw God face to face and lived (see 16.13n. ).

30–31 :

The story is located at Penuel/Peniel (“face of El”), one of the first capitals of the Northern Kingdom (1 Kings 12.25 ).

32 :

An Israelite prohibition against eating the thigh muscle of an animal is cited as testimony to the truth of the story. This prohibition is reflected nowhere else in the Bible.

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