Genesis – Chapter 32

The Bible – Old Testament



Chapter 32


Early the next morning, Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters goodbye; then he set out on his journey back home,


while Jacob continued on his own way. Then God’s messengers encountered Jacob.


1 When he saw them he said, «This is God’s encampment.» So he named that place Mahanaim.


Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom,


with this message: «Thus shall you say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob speaks as follows: I have been staying with Laban and have been detained there until now.


I own cattle, asses and sheep, as well as male and female servants. I am sending my lord this information in the hope of gaining your favor.'»


When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, «We reached your brother Esau. He is now coming to meet you, accompanied by four hundred men.»


Jacob was very much frightened. In his anxiety, he divided the people who were with him, as well as his flocks, herds and camels, into two camps.


«If Esau should attack and overwhelm one camp,» he reasoned, «the remaining camp may still survive.»


Then he prayed: «O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac! You told me, O LORD, ‘Go back to the land of your birth, and I will be good to you.’


I am unworthy of all the acts of kindness that you have loyally performed for your servant: although I crossed the Jordan here with nothing but my staff, I have now grown into two companies.


Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau! Otherwise I fear that when he comes he will strike me down and slay the mothers and children.


You yourself said, ‘I will be very good to you, and I will make your descendants like the sands of the sea, which are too numerous to count.'»


After passing the night there, Jacob selected from what he had with him the following presents for his brother Esau:


two hundred she-goats and twenty he-goats; two hundred ewes and twenty rams;


thirty milch camels and their young; forty cows and ten bulls; twenty she-asses and ten he-asses.


He put these animals in charge of his servants, in separate droves, and he told the servants, «Go on ahead of me, but keep a space between one drove and the next.»


To the servant in the lead he gave this instruction: «When my brother Esau meets you, he may ask you, ‘Whose man are you? Where are you going? To whom do these animals ahead of you belong?’


Then you shall answer, ‘They belong to your brother Jacob, but they have been sent as a gift to my lord Esau; and Jacob himself is right behind us.'»


He gave similar instructions to the second servant and the third and to all the others who followed behind the droves, namely: «Thus and thus shall you say to Esau, when you reach him;


and be sure to add, ‘Your servant Jacob is right behind us.'» For Jacob reasoned, «If I first appease him with gifts that precede me, then later, when I face him, perhaps he will forgive me.»


So the gifts went on ahead of him, while he stayed that night in the camp.


In the course of that night, however, Jacob arose, took his two wives, with the two maidservants and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.


After he had taken them across the stream and had brought over all his possessions,


2 Jacob was left there alone. Then some man wrestled with him until the break of dawn.


When the man saw that he could not prevail over him, he struck Jacob’s hip at its socket, so that the hip socket was wrenched as they wrestled.


The man then said, «Let me go, for it is daybreak.» But Jacob said, «I will not let you go until you bless me.»


«What is your name?» the man asked. He answered, «Jacob.»


3 Then the man said, «You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob, but as Israel, because you have contended with divine and human beings and have prevailed.»


Jacob then asked him, «Do tell me your name, please.» He answered, «Why should you want to know my name?» With that, he bade him farewell.


4 Jacob named the place Peniel, «Because I have seen God face to face,» he said, «yet my life has been spared.»


At sunrise, as he left Penuel, Jacob limped along because of his hip.


That is why, to this day, the Israelites do not eat the sciatic muscle that is on the hip socket, inasmuch as Jacob’s hip socket was struck at the sciatic muscle.

1 [3] Mahanaim: a town in Gilead (⇒ Joshua 13:26, ⇒ 30; ⇒ 21:38; ⇒ 2 Sam 2:8; etc.). The Hebrew name means «two camps.» There are other allusions to the name in ⇒ Genesis 32:8, ⇒ 11.
2 [25] Some man: a messenger of the Lord in human form, as is clear from ⇒ Genesis 32:29,-31
3 Israel: the first part of the Hebrew name Yisrael is given a popular explanation in the word sarita, «you contended»; the second part is the first syllable of elohim, «divine beings.» The present incident, with a similar allusion to the name Israel, is referred to in ⇒ Hosea 12:5, where the mysterious wrestler is explicitly called an angel.
4 [31] Peniel: a variant of the word Penuel (⇒ Genesis 32:32), the name of a town on the north bank of the Jabbok in Gilead (⇒ Judges 8:8-9, ⇒ 17; ⇒ 1 Kings 12:25). The name is explained as meaning «the face of God,» peni-el. Yet my life has been spared: see note on ⇒ Genesis 16:13.