Genesis 32:13-32

Jacob stayed where he was for the night. Then he selected these gifts from his possessions to present to his brother, Esau:

14 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams, 15 30 female camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys, and 10 male donkeys. 16 He divided these animals into herds and assigned each to different servants. Then he told his servants, “Go ahead of me with the animals, but keep some distance between the herds.”

17 He gave these instructions to the men leading the first group: “When my brother, Esau, meets you, he will ask, ‘Whose servants are you? Where are you going? Who owns these animals?’ 18 You must reply, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob, but they are a gift for his master Esau. Look, he is coming right behind us.’ ”

19 Jacob gave the same instructions to the second and third herdsmen and to all who followed behind the herds: “You must say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. 20 And be sure to say, ‘Look, your servant Jacob is right behind us.’ ”

Jacob thought, “I will try to appease him by sending gifts ahead of me. When I see him in person, perhaps he will be friendly to me.” 21 So the gifts were sent on ahead, while Jacob himself spent that night in the camp.

Jacob Wrestles with God

22 During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. 23 After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions.

24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 “What is your name?” the man asked.

He replied, “Jacob.”

28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”

29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.

“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.

30 Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. 32 (Even today the people of Israel don’t eat the tendon near the hip socket because of what happened that night when the man strained the tendon of Jacob’s hip.)

To Think About…

After Jacob prays to God to save him, he takes out an insurance plan.  He decides to send a peace offering to his brother Esau of goats, sheep, camels, cows, bulls, and donkeys.  Back in those days, refusing such a gift meant that one was still an enemy, while accepting it would be declaring peace and friendship.

Jacob sends these gifts on ahead, as well as his family, while he himself stays behind.  He is trusting God to save him, yet he is also still doing everything he can to control the outcome of his encounter with Esau.  It seems that Jacob is still up to his old tricks.

That night, alone in his camp, an unknown man comes upon Jacob as an adversary and wrestles with him.  They wrestle all night, but neither can get the upper hand.  As dawn breaks, the man wounds Jacob in a strange way that greatly hurts Jacob but also causes him to realize that this is no normal person.  Even in extreme pain, Jacob refuses to give up, and demands the man blesses him.

The man asks Jacob his name, changes it to “Israel,” then leaves Jacob alone.

So why does this strange encounter happen and what does it mean?

1) All of Jacob’s life, he has pursued God’s blessing in his own strength, rather than trusting God to give it to him.  God has been extremely patient with him, but now He chooses to teach Jacob that it is faith, not self-reliance, that is required.

2) God changes Jacob’s name to Israel.  In the Old Testament, the meaning of a person’s name was seen in their character.  The significance is that God is not just changing Jacob’s name… He’s changing Jacob’s nature.  He is telling Jacob, ”That is who you were, but now this is who you will be.”

3) Jacob means “heel-grabber,” which gives the impression of a person who will do unethical things to get what he wants.  Israel means “God fights,” which gives the impression not only that God would fight Jacob if he had to, but that God was fighting for him.  That God would be the one to bring victory to His people, which implies that we are to look to God with faith and hope.

4) The place where this happens is significant as well.  Jacob is on the threshold of the Promised Land, about to reenter.  But before he can, he must be changed.  God made the covenant with Abraham because Abraham had faith, and it was his faith that made him righteous.  Jacob was the chosen son to inherit that covenant, but he needed to become a man of faith like his grandfather before him.  God was not going to let Jacob come back to the Promised Land until this happened.

5) There is significance in the wound that God gives Jacob.  All his life Jacob had depended on his own strength.  With one touch, God teaches Jacob that it is useless to struggle against God; Jacob’s strength is not sufficient; inheriting the blessing would come through Jacob’s faith, not his strength.

What does this story teach you about God?

What does it teach you about how we are to relate to God or turn to Him?

If God were to change your name, what do you think He would change it to?


In this last part of our story, Jacob and Esau come face to face.  Jacob appears to be humble and sincere.  And Esau forgives him.

Genesis 33:1-12

Then Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming with his 400 men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and his two servant wives. 2 He put the servant wives and their children at the front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. 3 Then Jacob went on ahead. As he approached his brother, he bowed to the ground seven times before him. 4 Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept.

5 Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, “Who are these people with you?”

“These are the children God has graciously given to me, your servant,” Jacob replied. 6 Then the servant wives came forward with their children and bowed before him. 7 Next came Leah with her children, and they bowed before him. Finally, Joseph and Rachel came forward and bowed before him.

8 “And what were all the flocks and herds I met as I came?” Esau asked.

Jacob replied, “They are a gift, my lord, to ensure your friendship.”

9 “My brother, I have plenty,” Esau answered. “Keep what you have for yourself.”

10 But Jacob insisted, “No, if I have found favor with you, please accept this gift from me. And what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God! 11 Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift.

12 “Well,” Esau said, “let’s be going. I will lead the way.”