Genesis 21-35 The beloved son…Isaac, cont’d.
Genesis 25-39 The father of the nation of Israel (Jacob), cont’d.
Genesis 31:1-2-Jacob realized that Laban and his sons were no longer as friendly toward him, as they had been previously. They felt that he had used them in order for him to become wealthy.
Genesis 31:3-18-The LORD tells Jacob that he is to return to his home. Notice that He said, “I will be with you” (:3). Once before God had told him the same thing (28:15)…and when Jacob had been obedient it had proven to be a great blessing. Jacob recognized this (:5). Jacob called his wives out to the field and told them that he was planning for them all to leave and go to Canaan. He tells them that God had plainly blessed him and made their flocks increase…even showing him in a dream which flocks to breed together (:10-12). His wives recognize that they will receive no inheritance from their father…so, they are in agreement with his plan.
Genesis 31:19-While Laban was taking care of his flock…Rachel stole his “household idols” (small female figurines of the gods he worshipped). It has been suggested that the reason she did this was because they were supposed to guarantee fertility; or, because she still worshipped them.
Genesis 31:20-29-When Laban discovers that they have left he takes some of his hired men and pursue them. He catches up with them after seven days. One night, along the way, God speaks to Laban and tells him to be careful what he says to Jacob.
Genesis 31:30-35-He asks Jacob why he stole his gods…and Jacob denies that he did so…and even says that if Laban discovers anything of his among his belongings the one who stole it would die. He was unaware of what Rachel had done. Laban searches everywhere and finds nothing. When he comes to Rachel she does not stand up in his presence…as was customary. She tells her father that it is during her menstrual period and she cannot stand. In reality, she is leaning against a camel saddle that she had hidden the idols under.
Genesis 31:36-42-Finally, Jacob has had enough. He accuses Laban of chasing him across the country and now of rifling through all of his belongings. He tells him that he has faithfully served him for 20 years…even though Laban had changed his wages 10 times. And, if it wasn’t for the fact that Laban feared what God would do to him…he would send him off even now, without a thing.
Genesis 31:43-55-Laban responds angrily that everything that Jacob has came from him. But, since it is his daughters, he cannot really do anything about it. So, Laban proposes that they make a non-aggression agreement with each other. They make a pillar with stones as a lasting sign of what took place here. Laban names the pillar “Jegarsahadutha” (Aramaic), and Jacob names it “Galeed” (Hebrew)…both mean “heap of witness”. It was also called “Mizpah” means “watchtower”. The pillar would be a reminder that God was watching both of them and knew if either was planning to attack the other.
32:1-2-Jacob was camped in the “hill country of Gilead” (on the east side of the Jordan River, 31:23). Imagine, he had left Haran (the land of the past) under the cover of dark…headed for Canaan (the land of the promise). He and his family were on a dead run because they feared for their lives. The further they traveled the safer they felt. One day, two days, three, four, five, six days…only to have Laban and his band catch up with him on the seventh day. Jacob knew that it would be senseless to fight…he was far outnumbered. But what he didn’t know was that God had intervened and told Laban in a dream to not harm him. Now, Jacob faces an even greater threat, his brother Esau. When Rebekah had told him to leave it was because Esau had said that he was going to kill him. She told him that she would send word when Esau’s temper had cooled down and it was safe to return (27:45). He never heard from her…not once. And now, uncertain of how he would be received…he was coming home. Once again he must have felt great fear for his family. What would Esau do? Then suddenly…”the angels of God met him”. That’s all it says. Not how they appeared. Not what they said. Not how many there were. We don’t know the details…but whatever happened it gave Jacob great confidence because he said, “This is God’s camp.” The word “camp” is translated “host” in the KJV. It means “camp”…or, “camp of armed host, army camp”. Jacob looked up and saw the angels of God and said, “This is the army of God!” He named the place “Mahanaim” which means “double camp”…referring to his camp and the camp of the angels. God was giving him a sign of His protection…His angels would be with him. Perhaps for a brief time it gave him courage…but we find out that he soon became afraid, again.
Genesis 32:3-5-Jacob sent word to Esau that he was coming home. He instructs his messengers to tell Esau, “…Thus says your servant Jacob…I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight…my lord Esau” (32:4-5,18). He humbles himself by referring to Esau as “lord”, making himself as a servant…hoping for mercy.
Genesis 32:6-8-The servant returns and the news doesn’t sound good. Esau is coming and he has 400 men with him. Not the greeting party that Jacob had hoped for. He was extremely afraid. So, in order to protect his family…he staggers them out along the road…with the most important at the very back of the caravan.
Genesis 32:9-12-Jacob prays. He reminds God that He was the one who told him to return home. And, that He would prosper him. Jacob says that he is unworthy of all the wonderful things that God has done for him. Then, he asks God to protect him and bases his request on the promise that God had given him that He was going to bless him and make his descendants multiply beyond number.
Genesis 32:13-21-Jacob sends a large gift of animals to Esau…having them staggered out into three groups ahead of his family. As Esau passed each group of animals the man in front was to tell Esau they were a gift to him from Jacob…hoping that the closer he came to Jacob and his family the more receptive he would be.
Genesis 32:22-28-That night, Jacob sent his family to the other side of the Jabbok River (a tributary of the Jordan River located about 24 miles north of the Dead Sea…it’s name is derived from the Hebrew word that means “wrestled”, :24). Jacob was now left alone…or so he thought. That night, “a man wrestled with him until daybreak”. Hosea 12:4 calls this man an “angel”…evidently the preincarnate Christ because Jacob’s wrestling involved agonizing with God in prayer. Jacob was wrestling with God in prayer. As they wrestled…Jacob wrestled with God in prayer for reassurance that He would keep him and his family safe…and God saw that Jacob was not going to quit. God touched his hip and crippled him…proof that this was no mere dream, but that Jacob had had an actual, real encounter with God. God told Jacob to let Him go before the sun rises…so that he would not look upon Him and die (Exodus 33:20)…but Jacob continued to wrestle (he didn’t know that he had won his prayer)…and said he would not stop until God blessed him. To reassure Jacob that his prayer would be answered (that he had wrestled with God and won)…God changed his name to Israel, which means, “he fights or persists with God”. In other words, here is a man who prays until he gets an answer.
Genesis 32:29-32-Jacob then asked the man what His name was…who He was, what was His identity. The man (God) responds by asking Jacob why was it necessary for Him to tell him His name…when He had already done so. When did He do so? When He gave Jacob his new name, Israel. The name “Israel” contains the word “el” which means “god”. He had told him that he had just wrestled with God…and had already identified Who He was…Jacob just had not caught on, until that moment. Jacob names the place “Peniel”…which means “the face of God”.
Prayer: Lord, sometimes, like with Jacob, there seem to be threats coming at me from both behind and ahead. I feel like I am surrounded by danger. I pray that at those times…You will manifest Yourself to me. Please, Lord…help me to know that You are with me…because there is nothing that can overcome You.