Jacob Wrestles With YAHUAH
Genesis Chapter 32
As Jacob and Laban parted it says the angels of ELOHIYM met Jacob (32:1) and when he saw them he said, “This is ELO’HIYM’s camp!” and called the place Mahanaim, which means “two camps”.
Jacob sent messengers to Esau telling them of their approach and requesting his favor.
The messengers returned to Jacob and said that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men, and Jacob was afraid and distressed. So he divided his people in two so that if Esau attacked, one will escape. Then Jacob prayed:
And Ya`aqov said, O ELOHAI of my father Avraham, and ELOHAI of my father Yitschaq, YAHUAH which said unto me, Return unto your country, and to your kindred, and I will deal well with you: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which you have showed unto your servant; for with my staff I passed over this Yardan; and now I am become two bands. Deliver me, I pray you, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. And you said, I will surely do you good, and make your seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude. BERE’SHIYTH (GENESIS) 32:9-12
So Jacob stayed there and he took a present for Esau: 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, and 20 rams, 30 milking camels and their calves, 40 cows and 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys and 10 male donkeys (32:13-15). He gave these to his servants to drive with space between each, and give to Esau as a gift. He did this because he wanted to appease Esau so he would be accepted. But then Jacob spent the night in the camp.
Wrestling with YAHUAH
The same night that all this took place Jacob took his wives, two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He sent everything across and he was left alone.
A man then wrestled with him until the breaking of the day, and when he saw that he didn’t prevail against Jacob, the man touched Jacob’s hip socket (32:24-25). Then the man said, “Let me go for the day has broken.” But Jacob said he wouldn’t unless he blessed him (32:26). Then the man renamed Jacob, Yisrael, “for you have striven with ELOHIYM and with men, and have prevailed.” (32:27-28) (Yisrael means “He strives with ELOHIYM” or “ ELOHIYM strives”) The man wouldn’t tell Jacob his name, and he blessed Jacob there, and Jacob called the place Peniel (which means “the face of ELOH”IYM) and said, “For I have seen ELOHIYM face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” (32:30) Then as he passed Penuel the sun rose upon him as he limped because of his hip. This is the reason that the people of Yisrael don’t eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because the man touched the socket of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh.
Reflections on Genesis 32
Jacob has three encounters here, two immediately (the “angels of ELOHIYM” and “a man” with whom he wrestled), and one that is delayed (his brother Esau). Jacob was clearly afraid of Esau, and in order to go back to the land he was promised, Canaan, he had to cross paths with his brother. This struck fear into Jacob’s heart. Jacob sends his family and all his possessions ahead of himself and is left all alone.
As the sun sets it appears that he has no hope, it’s as if the sun is setting on his life. This is a good illustration of how YAHUAH often works in our lives. He strips away everything we hold most dear, the idols of our hearts, and He shows us that He is most worthy of our affection and praise. In the face of fear and imminent danger we are humbled and we have no one to turn to for help, save Messiah alone.
This being said, there’s something more specific going on here. YAHUAH is still creating a chosen nation through whom He will bring The Messiah to save His people from their sins. Jacob had no hope, and he had every reason to believe that Esau would avenge how he had wronged him. Is YAHUAH’s covenant choice of Jacob and his posterity in trouble of being fulfilled?
YAHUAH is driving Jacob to depend upon Him alone, and He does this by wrestling with Jacob throughout the night.
His wrestling with this “man” indicates that he now has a desire for YAHUAH that he didn’t have before, one that is awakened by the trial he faces.
He will not let go of YAHUAH throughout the night until YAHUAH has blessed him.
This awakening is fueled not by his fear though, but by his faith. Jacob has been scheming, fighting, lying, deceiving, and running his entire life. He’s always been struggling, and by all appearances he has struggled against men, but in this wrestling match it becomes evident that his real struggle has been against YAHUAH. This is the climax of Jacob’s lifetime of struggle. He is struggling with YAHUAH.
So who is this “man” that Jacob is wrestling with? Hosea 12:3-4 says:
He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with ELOHIYM: Yea, he had power over the angel, and he prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Beyt-EL, and there he spoke with us; HUSHA (HOSEA) 12:3-4
On one hand this was a “man”, yet it was more than a mere man, but an “angel (Messenger)”, and even more than a mere angel, this was “YAHUAH” himself!
And in the process YAHUAH became not only the ELOHIYM who was covenanting with Jacob, but Jacob began an active pursuit of YAHUAH by the faith of his fathers. Jacob was afraid of the wrong persons his whole life. He should have been fearing YAHUAH, and it’s YAHUAH who approaches Jacob here, and YAHUAH shows His strength by touching Jacob’s hip to give him a limp (proof that this was not merely a dream). How do we know it’s YAHUAH here?
Verse 28 identifies this “man” as YAHUAH. Also, in verse 30 Jacob says, “For I have seen ELOHIYM face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” It doesn’t mean that Jacob actually saw YAHUAH’s face, but it’s Hebrew idiom to say that he has had an encounter with YAHUAH, in person. This does make it clear that this is YAHUAH that he is wrestling with.
Now, as the sun rises (vs. 31), as the day breaks, it appears that Jacob has hope, and that the sun is rising on a new dawn in Jacob’s striving with and for YAHUAH.
No longer is Jacob identified by his given name, but as Yisrael. No longer is he identified by his relationship to man, rather YAHUAH. He persevered in grasping not after men and the things of this world, but by holding tight to his ELOHIYM in the midst of a “dark night of the soul”.
He clung to YAHUAH by faith, and by his actions, and indeed YAHUAH blessed him.
YAHUAH preserved His chosen people through Jacob. He ended up bringing about The Messiah who perfectly clung to YAHUAH in a way that Jacob could only dream of, YAHUSHA HA’MASHIACH.
Now if we cling to YAHUSHA HA’MASHIACH by faith, and by turning from our sins (Torahlessness), we can be blessed with reconciliation to YAHUAH, justification by faith alone, and YAHUAH setting His covenantal love on even us through pouring out His wrath on His Son, YAHUSHA HA’MASHIACH, in our place.
The dark night that our souls face is YAHUAH’s wrath in hell, and we must cling to YAHUSHA HA’MASHIACH by faith, so that the dawn of salvation might shine upon us, even as the sun rises each and every morning. Indeed, YAHUAH’s mercies are new every morning through YAHUSHA HA’MASHIACH alone!
It is of YAHUAH’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness. YAHUAH is my portion, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him. QIYNAH (LAMENTATIONS) 3:22-24