Summary: Here, God empties Jacob of his NATURAL effort and teaches Jacob to trust Him completely.
What images come to mind when I mention the word wrestling? For some, it is an image of a High school wrestling match. Others happily envision Dad wrestling with his son. And a few of us think of the theater of “professional wrestling” with Iron Rings of death and tag team death matches.
Wrestling is one of the oldest sports known to man. A recent discovery in Egypt bears witness to the ancient sport of wrestling. The discovery was an ancient scrap of papyrus, with Greek writing describing a wrestling match. The manuscript dates back to 200 AD, and is the oldest recorded document concerning the sport of wrestling actually mentioning the Olympic games.
Wrestling is pure exertion.
Every muscle of your body is drained.
It is a uniquely ONE on ONE event with no one but your opponent. It is NOT a team sport.
In Genesis 32, the most significant TURNING POINT in Jacob’s life.
This chapter marks the end of a period in Jacob’s life that began at Bethel in Chapter 28. Jacob is visited by angels in both chapters. The chapters mark the beginning and ending of Jacob’s journey to Padan Aram and his flight from Esau. Now, Jacob is returning to face his greatest fear, and it is here that God speaks to him again, this time with life changing impact.
Here, God empties Jacob of his NATURAL effort and teaches Jacob to trust Him completely.
Matthews writes, “The significance of the passage lies primarily in Jacob’s discovering the freedom and enduring grace of God.” K. A. Mathews, vol. 1B, Genesis 11:27–50:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), 539.
Summarizing this passage, Arthur Pink adds, “To [bring us to an end of ourselves] He lays His hand on us, and makes us conscious of our utter helplessness.” Arthur Walkington Pink, Gleanings in Genesis (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005), 294.
I. Jacob is Face to Face with his Greatest Fear.
After 20 years, JACOB RETURNS to face ESAU.
His journey is ATTENDED by ANGELS. Genesis 31:55–32:2 "Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home. "Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. "When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim."
Mahaniam means “Double Camp.” It may have reference to the fact that Jacob was surrounded by angels. Angels were BEFORE HIM and BEHIND HIM!
BUT HIS FEARS were with him
Esau is coming with 400 men. (Gen. 32:3-6). This report brought great fear to Jacob. 32:7 “In great fear and distress...” (NIV)
The NLT states it simply, “Jacob was terrified at the news.” (NLT)
It is now that Jacob prays. “Save me, I pray from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me.” (Genesis 32:11)
This is ONLY the SECOND recorded prayer in Genesis! The First was by Abraham’s servant in Gen 24:12 (regarding the search for a wife for Isaac).