Genesis Segment 22 (32:24-33:20)

Genesis Segment 22


Genesis 32:24-25 “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. {25} And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.”

Jacob was preparing to meet Esau. Earlier that day, he had sent his servants ahead to take gifts to Esau. He did this to put some insulation between his family and Esau. He then took his family and all his belongings ahead and put them on the other side of the Jabbok River. Afterward, he returned to the camp.

Alone in the camp, Jacob met One who was seemingly a man. We know, of course, that it was God. We know that from the context and we know it from Gen 32:28,30. Jacob wrestled with God. Do not miss the word play here in the Hebrew. Jacob (Hebrew Ya’aqab) sent his family over the Jabbok (Hebrew yabboq) and wrestled (Hebrew ya’abaq) with God. So we have yabboq, ya’abaq, and ya’aqab! Tongue twisting isn’t it? Ya’aqob sent his family over the Yabboq and went back to ya’abaq with God. Why the word play? I believe it is to show that this is a stylized story. I say stylized, but it is also true. It is not a fictional account, but a true one. It is stylized because it is used to bring wisdom. I believe the wrestling was not of a physical nature but of a spiritual one and the wrestling is not fisticuffs but figurative. The writer (Moses) saw irony in a man striving with God in a wrestling match and selected the words specifically for the play on words he derived from them.

There are times when we wrestle with God in our prayers as well. He always wins, but in winning, He blesses us with an answer to our prayer.

Jacob had spent most of his life, especially the twenty years with Laban, struggling to make it. He struggled with his brother Esau, he struggled with his mother, he struggled with his father, he struggled with his wives, he struggled with his father-in-law, and now he must struggle with God.

What does it mean to wrestle or struggle with God? Here is the parable of the widow and the judge:

Luke 18:1-5 “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; {2} Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: {3} And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. {4} And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; {5} Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”

This powerless widow woman continually petitioned the judge who did not believe in God. Because she was persistent and pestered him again and again, he relented and granted her request. Jesus says we should continue pray to God the same prayer until he answers. We should never grow weary in this struggle or wrestling with God.

Jacob wrestled with God until he learned God’s will for his life was. God came to Jacob in a form of a man or an angel that would allow Jacob to wrestle with Him and prevail. This was a theophany, an appearance of God to man. But even though Jacob did prevail in detaining God, He showed Jacob that even though Jacob could wrestle with Him and prevail, God could easily disable Jacob at will. God allowed this to happen.

This was also a type of testing. God tests us to build patience, endurance, and character in us. God tested Abraham by asking him to give up his most prized possession—his son. Abraham passed. Now God is testing Jacob to prepare him for the struggles that lie ahead AND to show Jacob that he could not depend upon himself to overcome those struggles; he could only overcome them with the help of God. And to reinforce this point, God disabled Jacob making him lame. As a lame man he had no choice but to depend upon God.

Genesis 32:26 “And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”

According to Jesus in the parable above, we should continue to pray until God relents and answers. That is just what happened here. Jacob prevailed and detained God until he could secure a blessing. That is what struggling with God is.

Genesis 32:27-28 “And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. {28} And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”

God knew his name, but made Jacob reply for Jacob’s and our edification. It gave the opportunity to record Jacob’s name change in the scriptures. Wrestling is striving, and now that Jacob has struggled or striven with God, he is ready to move forward in God’s plan.

What does it mean to strive with God? The word strive has two major definitions. The first is to expend serious energy or effort to accomplish an end. The second is to oppose with a determined struggle, or to contend. Of course both meanings are in view here. On the surface we see the literal struggle that Jacob had with God. The struggle is described as a protracted one that took all night. The Angel of the LORD could not prevail against Jacob so Jacob asked for a blessing. It is nice to have a literal description of a battle here. But the problem is that if God really wanted to prevail over Jacob, it would be a simple task for Him. That is why I do not believe in interpreting this literally. There is really much more hare than a simple wrestling match.

That is where the primary definition of strive comes in. It describes what Jacob did. He strove with God for the reasons listed above. He learned God’s will for his life learning patience, endurance, and character along the way. Moses described this striving in a stylized way. He met God at the Jabbok and wrestled with Him for a night. Now we know that to learn the things I just enumerated takes much more than just one night. It takes years. What has happened here is that the Holy Spirit has used one night of struggling with God’s will to describe a change that has taken place in Jacob while he was in Laban’s employ. The time spent with Laban, twenty years, was the complete time of his striving with God. He may have struggled with God’s will that night at the camp, but he struggled with God the whole time he worked for Laban. God was testing and teaching him during those years.

I believe that Jacob struggled all those years with Laban to learn patience, endurance, character, and to trust in God. Then at the Jabbok River camp he struggled all night with God trying to come to grips with the will of God in his life. He prevailed in that he learned God’s will. I believe that God touched his leg as a constant reminder that Jacob must depend on God. Remember Paul’s infirmity? He prayed three times for God to remove it and three times God told him “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Paul would always remember the grace of God when he thought of his infirmity. So would Jacob. Jacob was now ready for God’s will in his life.

Israel means two things. It means Prince of God. The word can be broken down into two Hebrew words: sarah and el. Sarah means princess, but it also means to prevail as a prince. El means God. So we have “one who struggles with God and prevails.” His new name, Israel, meant that he was now a great man of God and that he had prevailed by making God the Lord of his life. By having power with God and man, he was a priest. He could go to God and seek His will and he could go to men and speak God’s will to them.

Genesis 32:30 “And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”

It was taught that man could not see God face to face and live: Exodus 33:20 “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” Yet there are many instances of men seeing God and living. The rule is that if you see God you die or are already dead. But the exception is made when it is the will of God. See The Memra for more information.

Jacob saw God face to face and lived. So he made a memorial to that fact by naming the place Peniel or Penuel (next verse). Both words mean the same thing, “The Face Of God” (or “Facing God”). They are two different English renderings for the same Hebrew word פניאל, Peniel, also פּנוּאל, Penuel (Strong’s 6439).

Genesis 32:31 “And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.”

Limping, Jacob departed Penuel as the sun arose. His leg hurt; it was sciatica (next verse).

Genesis 32:32 “Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank.”

According to Poole, Keil & Delitzsch, and the Jewish Encyclopedia, the sinew that shrank is the gid hanasheh or sciatic nerve (nervus ischiadicus). The Vulgate calls it the nervum femoris (medical term: nervus cutaneus femoris lateralis). It is a large nerve that is routed from the spinal column down the leg on the back side. In Hebrew it is the gid ha’nasheh (Strong’s 1517 & 5384), or the displaced sinew. In order not to eat this nerve, it must be completely removed. It is a main nerve and has several branches so it is difficult to remove. Since it is so difficult to remove, the hindquarters of the animal are just not eaten.

In humans, irritation of the sciatic nerve can cause pain in the lower back, hip, thigh, knee, calf, foot, or all of the above at the same time. I have personally struggled with sciatica. It can be very uncomfortable at times. The main remedy is therapy in the form of targeted, repetitive exercises. I prefer to limit the use of pain killers when possible.

Genesis 33:1-2 “And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids. {2} And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost.”

He knew Esau was coming because he had been warned: “And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him.” (Genesis 32:6). Jacob put those most precious to him at the back. He favored Rachel over all his other wives. He did this even after her death for Joseph and Benjamin (who was not yet born) were his favorite children. Of course it was God’s plan that Joseph would become the highest civil servant in the strongest nation in the land, Egypt. Here he was just a child.

Genesis 33:3 “And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.”

Have you ever seen a dog groveling? That is the picture that comes to mind here. We Americans are independent folks and would never stoop in obeisance to another. That would be extremely out of the ordinary and socially taboo here. But in the East it was normal. So Jacob was not acting strangely. But he was trying to ingratiate himself with Esau who had sworn to kill him twenty years before.

Genesis 33:4 “And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.”

God had changed Esau. He had softened his attitude toward Jacob. Jacob had worried for nothing. Peter’s admonishment “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7), would have come in handy. Had Jacob fully trusted God he would not have feared his brother.

Genesis 33:5-7 “And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are those with thee? And he said, The children which God hath graciously given thy servant. {6} Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves. {7} And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves.”

The introductions were made and then business was conducted:

Genesis 33:8-11 “And he said, What meanest thou by all this drove which I met? And he said, These are to find grace in the sight of my lord. {9} And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself. {10} And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me. {11} Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it.”

A drove is a herd of animals, or several herds. A drover is a herder. It was socially correct to refuse a gift just as it is today. But it was also socially correct to accept the gift as it also is today. So Esau protested and then accepted Jacob’s gift.

The phrase in verse nine, “therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God,” is understood by many that Jacob wrestled with Esau’s angel and that is why Jacob said Esau’s face reminded him of the angel he wrestled with. This is a Kabbalistic teaching, taken from the Zohar. I don’t agree because Scripture plainly states that Jacob had seen the God (אלהים, elohim) face to face. (Gen 32:39)

Genesis 33:12-16 “And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee. {13} And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die. {14} Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir. {15} And Esau said, Let me now leave with thee some of the folk that are with me. And he said, What needeth it? let me find grace in the sight of my lord. {16} So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir.”

Esau said, “Let’s go. I’ll lead.” Jacob said “No, my children are too young and my flocks are too weak for such a journey. The flocks will die if driven too hard. You go on ahead and let my family and flocks go with me at a slower pace until I reach Seir.” Esau replied, “At least let me take some of your group with me.” Jacob answered, “It is not necessary. Please be gracious and do not insist.” Esau agreed and went on his way. Jacob still did not trust Esau. We must assume that Esau went on into Seir. It is obvious that Jacob did not go on down into Seir. He may have planned to go there but he went instead to Shechem. It is apparent that they continued to have at least fair relations, for both Jacob and Esau got together to bury Isaac upon his death (Gen 35:29)

Genesis 33:17 “And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.”

He continued toward Shechem. He was still wary of Esau. After all he had treated Esau pretty shabbily.

The Feast of Tabernacles is known to the Israelites and Jews as sukkot, (soo-coat’) or Succoth. The feast is celebrated because the Israelites encamped at Succoth after fleeing Egypt and crossing the Red Sea. It was their first real place of rest after the flight from Egypt. They built shelters or booths or tabernacles there out of what they found in nature. They tabernacled there. Today the Jews commemorate this with Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles. The Succoth here, though is not that Succoth, which was located near the border between ancient Egypt and Asia. The Succoth in this passage was on the road from the camp at the Jabbok River to Shechem. It is modern Tell Deir Άlla near the Jabbok. It was so named because Jacob pitched his tents there.

An interesting thing is that we are told in John that “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) The word translated “dwelt” is eskenwsen, eskinosen, from skenow skenoo (Strong’s 4637), which means to tabernacle. So Jesus came and tabernacled among us. His earthly tabernacle or tent was His flesh body as is our earthly tent. This is a great big clue as to when the actual birth of Jesus was. It is possible that Jesus was born during Sukkot, because sukkot means to pitch a tent or to tabernacle. Sukkot occurs Tishri 15 through Tishri 21. That is in the September to October time frame on our calendar. E.W. Bullinger bears this out in his Appendix 179 to The Companion Bible:

“THE COURSE OF ABIA” (Luke 1:5).

This was the eighth of the priestly courses of ministration in the Temple (1 Chronicles 24:10), and occurred, as did the others, twice in the year.

The Courseswere changed every week, beginning each with a Sabbath. The reckoning commenced on the 22nd day of Tisri or Ethanim. This was the eighth and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles = the Great Day of the Feast (John 7:37), and was a Sabbath (Leviticus 23:39).

The first course fell by lot to Jehoiarib, and the eighth to Abia or Abijah (1 Chronicles 24:10).

Bearing in mind that all the courses served together at the three Great Feasts, the dates for the two yearly ministrations of Abiah will be seen to fall as follows:

The first 9 ministration was from 12-18 Chisleu = December 6-12.

The second ministration was from 12-18 Sivan = June 13-19.

The announcement therefore to Zacharias in the Temple as to the conception of John the Baptist took place between 12-18 SIVAN (June 13-19), in the year 5 B.C. After finishing his ministration, the aged priest departed to his own house (Luke 1:23), which was in a city10 in the hill country of Juda (verse 39).

The day following the end of the Course of Abia being a Sabbath (Sivan 19), he would not be able to leave Jerusalem before the 20th.

The thirty miles journey would probably occupy, for an old man, a couple of days at least. He would therefore arrive at his house on the 21st or 22nd. This leaves ample time for the miraculous conception of Elizabeth to take place on or about 23rd of SIVAN 11 – which would correspond to June 23-24 of that year. The fact of the conception and its date would necessarily be known at the time and afterwards, and hence the 23rd SIVAN would henceforth be associated with the conception of John Baptist as the 1st TEBETH would be with that of our Lord.

But the same influences that speedily obscured and presently obliterated the real dates of our Lord’s Begetting and Birth, were also at work with regard to those of the Forerunner, and with the same results. As soon as the true Birth day of Christ had been shifted from its proper date, videlicet: the 15th of Tisri (September 29), and a Festival Day from the Pagan Calendars substituted for it (videlicet: December 25), then everything else had to be altered too.

Hence Lady Day in association with March 25 (new style) became necessarily connected with the Annunciation. And June 24 made its appearance, as it still is in our Calendar, as the date of the Nativity of John the Baptist, instead of, as it really is, the date of his miraculous conception.

The Four Quarter Days may therefore be set forth thus: first in the chronological order of the events with which they are associated, videlicet:

The conception of John Baptist

on or about 23rd SIVAN = June 24

in the year 5 B.C.

The Gennesis (Begetting) of our Lord

on or about 1st TEBETH = December 25

in the year 5 B.C.

The birth of John Baptist

on or about 4th-7th NISAN = March 25-28

in the year 4 B.C.

The birth of our Lord

on or about 15th TISRI = September 29

in the year 4 B.C.

or, placing the two sets together naturally:-

{The conception of John

23rd SIVAN = June 23-24

in the year 5 B.C.

{The birth of John

7th NISAN = March 28-29

in the year 4 B.C.

{The Miraculous Begetting

1st TEBETH = December 25

in the year 5 B.C.


15th TISRI = September 29


This portion of Appendix 179 is quoted from The Rain, Copyright © 2001. The appendices are public domain, but the typing into the html format is credited to The Rain and is used by permission from

Genesis 33:18 “And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city.”

Jacob’s journey had started in Paddan Aram and he had journeyed to Shechem and then to Shalem, a journey of about 400 miles.

The City of Jerusalem was known as Shalem in Melchizedek’s day. In the Hebrew, shalem and shalom are the same word, שׁלום (Strong’s 8003). It comes from the Hebrew word shalown, peace. It can mean peace or safety. It is possible that it is the same city as Salem, or Jerusalem. It is also possibly another Shalem further north and west of Jerusalem.

Now some of the Midrashim state that Shalem is Jerusalem. It is possible that this Shalem was Jerusalem because the territory of Hamor and Shechem did encompass a large area that could have included Jerusalem. But other commentators say this is Salim where John the Baptist baptized. Salim was located north of Jerusalem and just south of the city of Shechem. That makes it a good possibility.

Genesis 33:19-20 “And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for an hundred pieces of money. {20} And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel.”

He placed his new name on his new property and dedicated it to God, calling it “God the God of Israel.” He worshipped there. It is significant that Abraham and Jacob both purchased land there. This is proof that the Israelites have been there and owned property there for four thousand years. Shechem is near the Golan Heights where disputed settlements are today. That is before the Philistines (Palestinians) arrived. They were originally Cypriots. They still maintain land there in Cyprus too. The Israelites have more title to the land than do the Palestinians.

There are those that say the Philistines were originally from Crete. They base their argument on Amos 9:7: “Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the LORD. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?” In this verse, God is telling the Israelites that he can chose whom He will to help and that their special relationship with Him does not give them license to continually sin against Him. He is telling them how He blessed others, who are just the same as Israel in His eyes. He mentions the Syrians who He brought out of Kir and the Philistines, who He brought out of Caphtor. The Hebrew word Kaphtor (3171) is thought by many to be Crete. Brown-Driver-Briggs says Kaphtor is “the original home of the Philistines, perhaps on the southwest coast of Asia Minor, maybe in Egypt or close by, or more probably on the island of Crete.” The word kaphtor, according to Brown-Driver-Briggs, it means a crown. Strong’s tells us it is a wreath-shaped island, based on the word kaphtor (3170) meaning a circular thing such as a capital, a wreath, crown, or knob on a candelabra.

A look on the map shows that Cyprus is much more circular than Crete. The truth is that the Philistines originated in the Aegean Islands and both Crete and Cyprus would be included in that territory because of their close proximity to the Aegean. Many say they were from Crete, many say from Cyprus. Either one is acceptable. The Philistines were sea peoples form the islands of the Aegean Sea.

The Palestinians claim to be the ancient Philistines, and they have recently had quite a presence in Cyprus. The links between the Palestinians and the Philistines are political. The name Philistia became Palaistina during Roman times. The name, Philistia, was given to the land of Israel as a political insult to the Jews. It was the name of the Israelites’ worst enemy that became the name of the land of Israel under the Romans. That is the link. The people did not necessarily become Palestinians; it was the land itself that was named after the Philistines that became Palestine. If the Palestinians are indeed of the stock of the sea peoples known as the Philistines, as they claim, then they indeed have no claim whatsoever to the land of Israel, which was an established nation long before the Philistines came to Gaza. But their claim is only legitimate in that they were the inhabitants of the land of Palestine after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish state in 70 AD. By living in the land called Palestine (originally Philistia), they became Palestinians. They are not Philistines by virtue of any blood links. They were not there before the Israelites were so the nation of Israel has more claim to the land that do the Palestinians.

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