Today we read that Jacob prepares to meet Esau, he WRESTLES with the “man” and becomes Israel. There is a story of forgiveness between Jacob and Esau, and one of unforgiveness between Dinah’s brothers’ and Shechem’s family. TODAY is ACTION PACKED … better than any reality show or soap opera!!!
Chapter 32 — Jacob is met by two angels. He recognized them right away and said “THIS is the camp of God.” He named the place Manhaniam (meaning “two camps”). Jacob is already fearful of his upcoming meeting with Esau. Wouldn’t you be feeling if the last words your brother, sister, or other relative spoke to you were: “I vow to kill you”? Jacob tells his messengers to go out and greet his “master Esau” with gifts so he could find FAVOR in his eyes. The messengers return and tell Jacob Esau has 400 men with him!!! Now Jacob has GREAT fear (verse 7).
In verse 9 Jacob prayed. Think about this for just a minute. I don’t know about you but often I don’t ask things of the Lord until the situation is DESPERATE!!! Jacob was in a desperate place which takes him deeper with God. He ADMITS he is UNWORTHY of all the kindness and faithfulness God has shown him and asks God to SAVE him from his brother, Esau (yep you remember correctly, Jacob stole Esau’s birthright and his blessing.) Jacob has JUST shifted from seeing God as someone he just prays to and Who answers his prayers TO someone with whom he has a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP. He recounts his past conversations with God. Jacob has just handed the entire situation over to the LORD of HIS LIFE!! He then splits up his people and his herds, takes his family to safety, and spends the night ALONE in Jabbok (means “emptying”). Isn’t that an interesting name for this place and situation (Jacob had begun to empty himself and be filled with God)??
In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that up to this point Jacob referred to God as the Father of Abraham and Isaac and that he did not know the Lord for himself (until now). In the past he has prayed to HIM…asked him for things, even gives God an “If you do this for me…then You will be my Lord” (AND God even honors it… see HOW HIS grace and mercy are PART of GOD’s CHARACTER???!!!) THIS night ALONE is the turning point for Jacob (and isn’t that usually when we have turning points with God…. When we are alone with him??). THIS is where he grows even deeper with HIS Lord. He has just prayed, confessed his sins, asked God to SAVE him …. NOW he will get to TAKE HOLD of GOD and will NEVER walk the same way again.
We have ALL heard of Jacob’s wrestling with the “man”, but can you imagine wrestling with God ALL NIGHT and REFUSING to let go until you “receive a blessing.” The “man” wanted Jacob to let go of him because daybreak was coming but Jacob refused. Jacob was PERSISTENT. He KNEW who he was wrestling with. HE didn’t care if his hip was dislocated. He kept his eye on the blessing. GOD wants each of us to be persistent too. KEEP PRAYING… KEEP ASKING… EVEN IF IT MEANS YOU WILL NEVER WALK THE SAME AGAIN!!
NOW… Jacob’s name is changed to ISRAEL!!! God gave MANY Bible people new names (Abram, Sarai, Peter). God also tells us in Revelation that WE will receive NEW names in the NEW JERUSALEM. (Rev 2:17 “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone WITH A NEW NAME WRITTEN ON IT, known only to the one who receives it.”) The name changes were “symbols of how God had changed their lives. Here we see how Jacob’s character had changed. Jacob, the ambitious deceiver, had now become Israel, the one who struggles with God and OVERCOMES.” (Words in quotes are from the Life Application Bible comments on Genesis 32.)
Did you notice the name Jacob called the place of the wrestling match?? It was Penuel or Peniel which means “facing God” because in verse 30 he says “It is because I saw God face to face and yet my life was spared.”
Chapter 33 — Is there ONE word that comes to you about this chapter? For me.. It is TOTAL FORGIVENESS!!! Esau had totally forgiven Jacob. I don’t know if he started out on his journey to meet Jacob with forgiveness or if it happened on the way as a result of Jacob’s new relationship with God…. But it certainly happened. Life can present us with some very bad situations, and challenges. However, HOW we handle what happens to us boils down to our own CHOICES and BY GOD’S GRACE. Many choices are not easy, but look at how happy Esau and Jacob were to see each other. Esau could have held onto his bitterness and in worldly terms “he would have had a right to do so”. However, in God’s economy …. Worldly terms and expectations mean NOTHING. It is God’s Word that tells us and teaches us God’s ways through HIS own character and the character of the people who LOVE him and make HIM LORD of their lives. Did you also see in verse 10 that Jacob tells Esau “…to see your face is like seeing THE FACE OF GOD…” WHOAAAA BABY….. Jacob has JUST seen the REAL FACE OF GOD and tells ESAU that seeing his face is just like what he saw!!! Tells me a LOT about forgiveness, mercy, grace, love, God… how about you???
If you have a map, circle the area of the city of Shechem. This is where Jacob built an altar that he called (verse 20) “EL ELOHE ISRAEL.” It means “THE MIGHTY GOD OF ISRAEL”. I KNOW, I know, you are SHOCKED that I looked it up. 🙂 This place of worship later becomes the place where the bones of Joseph are buried; it is also very near the very place Jesus walks and talks to the woman at the well in Samaria. Look up cross references Joshua 24:32 and John 4:5. Isn’t that just so good!
Chapter 34…Dinah. Poor Dinah. Dinah was raped. Then the man who did this wanted to MARRY her. The brothers said “ok, as long as ALL of you and the men in your family get circumcised”. Shechem’s men agreed, but SOLELY for reasons of sharing in all of Jacob’s families riches. Then 2 of Jacob’s sons kill every man associated with that family. Good Grief. WHO in the story is WITHOUT fault? Only poor Dinah!
- Shechem may have had a case of “love at first sight”, but regardless of his “feelings” he needed to be able to restrain his passions. His actions were impulsive and evil and impacted TWO families not only two people!! Sexual sin is devastating because its consequences are so far reaching.
- Should Dinah have been allowed to be out “visiting the women of the land” unescorted (verse 1)? Why didn’t her parents make SURE she was escorted (she did have 11 brothers!!) after all, this was a new land to them!! I am sure Dinah was young and beautiful and her parents were possibly way too lenient, placing their ONLY daughter in great jeopardy.
- Jacob did not handle the situation at all. He seemed to be on “snooze” and allowed his very angry sons to step in. The sons, in deceit offered to allow the INTERMARRIAGE between Dinah and Shechem (a pagan) and Jacob says NOTHING!! Jacob apparently did not know they were being deceitful (see verse 30). Ummmmmmmm…. Like… Wasn’t Isaac CLEAR on the matter of marriage? How long had he worked to have Rachel??? WHERE did he work to get Rachel?? I guess Jacob was maybe stuck on “stupid” that day!!
- The Hivites consented to get circumcised because then they would be joined with Jacob’s family who was very wealthy…they had their eye on the prize!
- Simeon and Levi deceived them into a painful circumcision that was out of context with the Covenant just to make them weak (no pain meds for….the area.) They waited three days and made their attack … took their lives, women, and looted ALL their goods! Deception is NEVER a good idea no matter what the reason. God wanted Israel to remain separate from the pagans. However, the brothers wrongly took matters into their own hands, consequences that would forever impact them.
- When Jacob finally reacts, he is upset with his sons for “making him a stench to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land…” (verse 30.) There is NO mention of Dinah!!!
See… I told ya today would not be a dull read!! 🙂
NOTE: Eventually each brother (tribe) is going to get a part of the promise land distributed to them. If you have printed out Jacob’s genealogy with the names of the 12 sons, jot down things they do or don’t do when they should. When God distributes the blessing of the land, their “piece of the land” will be directly reflective of what they have done. (Ouch). So start here with Simeon and Levi.