Genesis 32 & 33 – The Pacifier

Having overcome Laban, Jacob prepares for his next obstacle on his way back home, his scorned brother Esau. On his way, the angels of the Lord met him and for some reason, Jacob saw it fit to rename that place Mahanaim, meaning two camps, one for him and one for God and his angels.

This figurative split of the camp in two becomes a reality when Jacob finds out that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men. Jacob quickly split his camp in two groups, this time physically, thinking that if Esau attacked one group, he would have the other as his possession. He even got down on his knees and prayed to the God of his fathers, begging for protection from Esau as it was God who had asked him to come back. His prayer seems like an honest plea from a man desperately looking for help from God.

As usual, Jacob did not want to depend on God but rather tried to take matters in his own hands. He thought he could bribe his brother into forgiveness by giving him the choicest of his herds. He gave the gifts in three installments hoping to pacify Esau by the time he reached his camp. So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead but he himself spent the night in the camp

The same night Jacob got up and took his family to cross the Jabbok river. When he sent them over and all his possessions to the other side, a Man approached him and wrestled with him till daybreak. He could not overpower Jacob and to get out of the hold, wounded him by touching the socket of his hip. Jacob wanted the man to bless him and only then would he let him go. The Man changed Jacob’s name which earlier meant the deceiver to now Israel, which means struggling with God.

Jacob wanted to know his name but the Man would not let him know who he is but stilled blessed Jacob. And Jacob named the place Peniel as his life was spared there even though he saw God face to face.

Finally, when Jacob met Esau, he divided his family, not according to height or age but his preference for them. Seems like a cruel way to divide our loved ones but that is how uncertain Jacob was that God will answer his prayer and that Esau will not kill him.

He bowed seven times before Esau in an exaggerated show of respect and introduced his family to his brother. He even went as far as saying that seeing Esau’s face was like seeing the face of God. He wanted Esau to accept his gifts and forget all his past wrongdoings.

When Esau invited Jacob along with him, Jacob politely declined by giving him an excuse and rather went in the opposite direction to Shechem. It was not a temporary home for him as he purchased land from the natives and decided to stay in Shechem, even building an altar there.

Jacob’s way back home

Questions Discussed in this Podcast

Genesis 32:1 – Why did God send his angels to meet Jacob?

Genesis 32:2 – Why is Jacob dividing his camp in two?

Genesis 32:6 – Why is Esau coming to meet Jacob?

Genesis 32:13 – Does Jacob not trust God as he is busy planning to defuse his brother’s anger?

Genesis 32:24 – Who is Jacob wrestling with and why?

Summary Question
Why is Jacob having difficulty in trusting God?
Why do we not trust God?


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