Preparing to meet Esau (32:1-32)
During the twenty years that Jacob had been in Mesopotamia, Esau had established his household in territory to the south near the Dead Sea. Jacob knew that if he was to live in peace in Canaan, he would first have to put things right with Esau. With much fear and anxiety he sent news to Esau that he was coming to meet him (32:1-8).
Jacob had by now learnt a humility before God that was lacking the previous time he met Esau. He thanked God for his remarkable blessings in the past, and prayed that God’s promises for the future would guarantee protection for him against his brother (9-12). At the same time he thought it wise to send Esau a series of gifts, with the aim of winning his favour (13-21).
Still moving south, Jacob sent his family across the river Jabbok, while he remained behind by himself (22-24a). That night he met God, who appeared to him in the form of a man wrestling with him. As they wrestled, Jacob realized that this ‘man’ had superhuman strength and the power to bless. As in previous conflicts, Jacob was determined to win, but now he had to learn that against God he could never win. His proud self-confidence was at last defeated. Yet in another sense Jacob did win, for he demanded, and received, a special blessing of God’s power that
would ensure victory in the future. Though defeated and humbled, he did not lose his persistence or fighting spirit. The old determination was still there, but Jacob the cheat now became Israel, God’s champion (24b-29). By giving him a permanent limp, God never allowed Jacob to forget that the only way he triumphed was through defeat (30-32).