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32 Jacob went on his way as well. As he went, messengers of God met him along the way. When Jacob saw them, he acknowledged that this was God’s camp, so he named that place Mahanaim, which means “two camps.” 3-4 Jacob knew he had to pass by the territory of Edom where his brother Esau lived in the land of Seir. He sent messengers ahead with a message for Esau.

Jacob (to his messengers): This is what I want you to say to my master Esau: “Your servant Jacob says this: ‘I have lived with Laban as a foreigner and stayed there working for him until now. I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, and male and female slaves. I have sent my messengers to inform you, my master, of all this so that I might regain your trust and favor.’”

The messengers went out to Esau and then returned to Jacob with a troubling report.

Messengers: We went to your brother Esau and gave him your message. He is coming to meet you, but 400 men are with him.

When Jacob heard their report, he was afraid and extremely distressed. He divided up the people who were with him, the flocks, the herds, and the camels into two camps, thinking, “If Esau comes to one camp and crushes it, at least then the other might escape.” Then Jacob prayed.

Jacob: O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Eternal One who said to me, “You must now return to the land of your ancestors and to your own family. I will make good things happen for you.” 10 I know I am not worthy of even a little of all of the loyal love and faithfulness You have shown to me, Your servant. You have already blessed me because I left home and crossed the Jordan with nothing except my staff. Now I have grown into two large camps. 11 Rescue me now, please, from the hand of my brother, from the grip of Esau. I am afraid that he may come and crush us all, the children alongside their mothers. 12 Remember You told me, “I will make good things happen for you and make your descendants as many as the grains of sand on the shores, which are too numerous to count.”

Jacob has come to the end of himself. He has struggled with his brother and the rest of his family for his entire life. He was born a “heel-catcher,” a deceiver, and he lived the part well. But he can’t go on like this any longer. With Esau on his way, by this time tomorrow he could well be dead and his family killed or captured. He desperately needs God’s blessing and protection, so he grieves and agonizes through the night. Through stabbing pain Jacob demands a blessing from his unknown assailant, but he cannot receive it until he confesses his name. Once he does, his name is changed. No longer is he known as Jacob; from now on he is “Israel,” he who wrestles with God. This is the turning point in Jacob’s life. He lays aside his former self and takes up a new name, a new identity. If Jacob is to be the one to carry on God’s covenant and the source of universal blessing, he has to change.

And Jacob prayed on. 13 He spent the night there, and from his possessions he prepared a gift for his brother Esau: 14 200 female goats and 20 male goats, 200 female sheep and 20 rams, 15 30 milk camels and their colts, 40 cows and 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys and 10 male donkeys. 16 When he had rounded them up, he made various servants responsible for driving each herd. He gave them instructions.

Jacob: Travel on ahead of me, and put some distance between each herd.

17 (to the leader) When Esau, my brother, meets you and asks you, “To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose herds are these?” 18 then say, “They belong to your servant, Jacob, and are a gift sent to my master, Esau. Jacob is coming along behind us.”

19 Jacob instructed those responsible for the second and third herds, as well as those who followed behind to help:

Jacob: When you meet Esau, say the same thing these other herdsman have said, 20 and make sure you tell him, “Your servant Jacob is coming along behind us.”

(to himself) I might be able to appease Esau with these gifts. He will see them before he sees me. When I see his face, I’ll know whether he’ll accept and forgive me.

21 So the gifts were driven on ahead, and he stayed the night in the camp, waiting.

22 Later that same night, Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his 11 children; and he crossed the Jabbok River. 23 He sent them all ahead across the stream along with everything he had; 24 but Jacob stayed behind, left alone in his distress and doubt. In the twilight of his anguish, an unknown man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw he was not winning the battle with Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint as he continued to wrestle with him.

Man: 26 Let me go; the dawn is breaking.

Jacob: I will not let you go unless you bless me.

Man: 27 What’s your name?

Jacob: Jacob.

Man: 28 You will no longer go by the name Jacob. From now on, your name will be Israel because you have wrestled with God and humanity, and you have prevailed.

Jacob: 29 Please, tell me your name.

Man: Why do you ask what my name is?

Right then and right there the man blessed Jacob. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel because as he said, “I have come face to face with God, and yet my life was spared.” 31 The sun began to rise as Jacob passed by Penuel, limping because of his dislocated hip. 32 And to this day, the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached near the hip socket of any animal, since that is where God struck Jacob when He dislocated his hip.

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