Growing Spiritually Through Crisis
Explore the Bible Series
March 16, 2008
Background Passage: Genesis 32:1-33:20
Lesson Passage: Genesis 32: 6-12; 24-31
Introduction: Again, we return to the remarkable story-telling of Genesis.† In wonderful, grand, narrative the author relates the story of Jacobís struggle with the angel of the Lord and the patriarchís ďreconciliationĒ with Esau.† After leaving Paddan-aram, Jacob encountered a messenger of the Lord (perhaps a theophany); then he faced the daunting task of meeting his estranged brother.† As before, the text provides little interpretive material; instead, the passage merely relates the story.† Genesis leaves the interpretation to the reader.† Several important lessons seem to emerge from the narrative.
Jacobís Return to
brief sojourn at Mahanaim (vv. 1-2): No one knows for certain the location of
Mahanaim.† Most think Jacobís company
camped on the east side of the
B. Jacobís initial message to Esau (vv. 3-8): Jacobís strategy centered on sending Esau a generous gift of livestock, but Jacobís messengers returned with the warning that Esau had amassed an army of four hundred men to meet his brother.† This news, of course, heightened Jacobís fear that his brother planned to make good on his pledge to kill Jacob.† Anticipating a violent encounter with Esau, Jacob divided his company into two camps.† If Esau attacked one group, the other might manage to escape the bloodshed.
C. Jacobís prayer (vv. 9-12): Jacobís desperation moved him to prayer.† So often, Godís people see prayer as a last resort rather than a first response.† To this point in his life-story, we have little indication that Jacob prayed.† We, of course, should not conclude that Jacob never prayed, but, at this juncture, the poor, despondent man turned to his only recourse, prayer.† His supplication is beautiful.† He acknowledged that he did not deserve Godís blessing and rested his confidence in the Lordís gracious covenant.†
D. Jacobís effort at reconciliation (vv. 13-21): Jacob devised an elaborate plan to placate his brotherís anger.† First, he organized his flocks and herds in generous procession.† The goats, camels, cows, and donkeys would arrive in consecutive waves, each attended by servants with a conciliatory message.† In verse twenty, the text reveals Jacobís intent.† He wanted to ďlift upĒ Esauís face, an expression of appeasement and redemption.† This phrase may indicate that Jacobís heart was right, and, deep down, he wanted a full reconciliation with his brother.
struggle with the angel of the Lord (vv. 22-32): Jacob moved his family across
the river, and remained alone.† A ďmanĒ
appeared to Jacob, and the two wrestled throughout the night.† As morning neared, the messenger of the Lord
injured Jacobís hip, but the injury did not dissuade Jacob from his intent of
gaining the manís blessing.† The heavenly
combatant declared that the patriarch would no longer be called Jacob, but
II. Jacobís Encounter with Esau (33:1-20)
A. The initial greeting (vv. 11): Esau, with his small army of men, came to meet Jacob.† Fearful for his brotherís intensions, Jacob divided his family, and placed Rachel and Joseph on the back side of the company.† He bowed seven times before Esau (some commentators think this was a common manner of greeting royalty) and drew near his kinsman.† Surprisingly, Esau embraced Jacob, and the brothers wept at their reunion.† Jacob introduced his family to Esau, and encouraged his brother, despite Esauís protest, to receive the generous gift of the livestock.
B. The brothers separate (vv. 12-20): After the warm greeting, Esau and Jacob determined to go their separate ways.† Some commentators wonder if Jacob still distrusted his brother and, therefore, did not want to travel with him.† Whatever the case, Esau returned to his home in Seir, and Jacob settled his family near Shechem.† He bought a tract of land and called the place El-Elohe-Israel, ďGod, the God of IsraelĒ.