A Portrayal of Protection, v. 1-2
Jacob met the angels that he had seen on the ladder in Gen. 28:12-15. He called the place where he met them, “Mahanaim,” which means “two hosts.”
A Portrayal of Precaution, v. 3-6
Jacob sent out messengers to tell Esau that he had great possessions (Lk. 12:15), evidently to convince Esau that he wasn’t planning on stealing anything else from him. He said nothing about God or his wives, which were the reason he supposedly ran, in the first place (Gen. 28:1-2). The messengers were sent to be sure that Jacob wasn’t going to run into trouble with Esau. However, there were some problems with that:
- God had already promised to get Jacob safely home, Gen. 28:15;
- God sent the angels to protect him from harm, Gen. 32:2;
- God stopped Laban from hurting him and would stop Esau, too, Gen. 31:24.
When he found out that Esau was coming with 400 men, he freaked.
A Portrayal of Panic, v. 7-12
If Jacob had just trusted the Lord, the rest of his preparations for their meeting would have been totally unnecessary. But he panicked when he heard that Esau was coming with 400 men. Instead of putting his faith in God’s promises and protection, He reacted in fear (2 Tim 1:7). He divided his family, servants, flocks and herds into two groups, one for each angel. He was willing to give up half of everything he had to spare the other half. Yet, God promised that He would spare the whole bunch. Isn’t it always better to trust God? Then he prayed a prayer of desperation, reminding God of promises that Jacob failed to believe. For Jacob, it was always plan first, pray last.
A Portrayal of Pig-Headedness, v. 13-23
Jacob prepared a present for Esau to appease him. He sent five groups of animals out in front of his family, hoping to soften Esau’s heart before they met. In all, he sent 580 animals:
- 220 Goats
- 220 Sheep
- 60 Camels
- 50 Cows and Bulls
- 30 Asses
A Portrayal of Prayer, v. 24-32
At night, Jacob met a man that he undoubtedly recognized (Gen. 28:13). The man was a preincarnate appearance of Jesus (Hos. 12:3-4). Jacob grabbed him and pleaded for help. They wrestled all night. The Lord eventually had to cripple Jacob to win the match. Jacob would not let go until the Lord blessed him. So, before the blessing the Lord asked him his name. Reminded of his previous lie before his last blessing, he responded truthfully, “Jacob.” God changed his name to Israel, meaning, “a prince of God.”
Jacob asked the Lord what his name was but he simply responded, “Why do you even need to ask?” Jacob didn’t. He knew who he was. That’s why he named the place Peniel, and said, “I have seen God face to face,” (compare Jn. 14:9, 12:45).
Jacob’s limp reminds us that we are, many times, no good to God until we are broken. And oftentimes, the result of our brokenness is a permanent disability (2 Cor. 12:7-9).