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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Genesis 32

 

 

Verse 1

Genesis 32:1 And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.

Ver. 1. Angels of God met him.] Sensibly and visibly, as servants meet their masters, as the guard their prince. Oh, the dignity and safety of the saints! who are in five respects, say some, above the angels. (1.) Our nature is more highly advanced in Christ. (2.) The righteousness whereby we come to glory is more excellent than theirs; which, though perfect in its kind, is but the righteousness of mere creatures, such as God may find fault with, [Job 4:18] such as may need mercy; therefore the cherubims are said to stand upon the mercy seat, and to be made of the matter thereof. (3.) The sonship of the saints is founded in a higher right than theirs - viz., in the Sonship of the second Person in Trinity. (4.) They are members of Christ, and so in nearer union than any creature. (5.) They are the spouse, the bride; angels only servants of the Bridegroom, and "ministering spirits, sent out (as here) to minister for them that shall be heirs of salvation". [Hebrews 1:14] They meet us still, as they did Jacob: they minister many blessings to us, yet will not be seen to receive any thanks of us: they stand at our right hands, [Luke 1:11] as ready to relieve us as the devils to mischief us. [Zechariah 3:1] If Satan, for terror, show himself like the great "leviathan"; or, for fraud, like a "crooked" and "piercing serpent"; or, for violence and fury, like "the dragon in the seas"; yet the Lord will smite him by his angels, as with his "great, and sore, and strong sword". [Isaiah 27:1] Angels are in heaven as in their watch tower {whence they are called watchers, Daniel 4:13}, to keep the world, the saints especially, their chief charge, in whose behalf, they "stand ever before the face of God," [Matthew 18:10] waiting and wishing to be sent upon any design or expedition, for the service and safety of the saints. They are like masters or tutors, to whom the great King of heaven commits his children: these they bear in their bosoms, as the nurse doth her babe, or as the servants of the house do their young master, glad to do them any good office; ready to secure them from that roaring lion, that rangeth up and down, seeking to devour them. The philosopher told his friends, when they came into his little and low cottage, Eντευθεν ουκ απεισι θεοι, The gods are here with me. The true Christian may say, though he dwell never so meanly, God and his holy angels are ever with him, &c.


Verse 2

Genesis 32:2 And when Jacob saw them, he said, This [is] God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.

Ver. 2. This is God’s host.] So called, for their number, order, obedience, strength, &c. God hath a complete host of horse and foot. Angels, and heavenly bodies, are his horse, as it were; "horses and chariots of fire"; [2 Kings 6:17] yea, both horse and foot: for there are whole "legions" of them. [Matthew 26:53] Now a legion is judged to be six thousand foot, and seven hundred horse. Daniel tells us, there be millions of angels, [Daniel 7:10] yea, "an innumerable company," saith the author to the Hebrews. [Hebrews 12:22] The Greek poet could say, There were thirty thousands of them here upon earth, keepers of mortal men, and observers of their works: (a) some think they are meant in the parable, by the ninety and nine sheep; as if they were ninety and nine times as many as mankind in number. All these, how many soever, pitch camp round about the godly, [Psalms 34:7] make a lane for them, as they did here for Jacob at Mahanaim (which signifies a double camp), fight in battle array against their enemies, [Daniel 10:20] and convey them at death, as they did Lazarus, through their enemies’ country, the air, into Abraham’s bosom. [Luke 16:22] So that all God’s children may call death, as Jacob did this place, Mahanaim; because there the angels meet them. And as the palsied man, in the gospel, was let down with his bed through the tiling before Jesus, [Luke 5:19] so is every good soul taken up in a heavenly couch (or coach, rather) through the roof of his house, and carried into Christ’s presence, by the blessed angels.


Verse 3

Genesis 32:3 And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.

Ver. 3. And Jacob sent messengers.] Means, he knew, was to be used by him, though well assured of safeguard. God must be trusted, not tempted: means must be used, but not trusted. Jacob was "as one that fled from a lion, and a bear met him". [Amos 5:19] Laban, as a lion, had some shamefacedness, saith a Rabbi: (a) Esau, as a bear, had none. Jacob therefore prays, and sends, and submits, and presents him; and all to pacify him. He that meets with a bear, will not strive with him for the wall, but be glad to escape by him.


Verse 4

Genesis 32:4 And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now:

Ver. 4. Unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob, &c.] This was not baseness of spirit, much less a renouncing of his birthright and blessing; but a necessary submission for a time, such as was that of David to Saul, [1 Samuel 24:7; 1 Samuel 24:9] till the prophecy of his superiority should be fulfilled. That was baseness in the Samaritans, that in writing to Antiochus Epiphanes, that great king of Syria, because he tormented the Jews, to excuse themselves that they were no Jews they styled him, Antiochus the mighty God: (a) the Scripture styles him "a vile person". [Daniel 11:21] So was that also in Teridates, king of the Parthians, who, with bended knee and hands held up, worshipped Nero, and thus bespake that monster of mankind: To thee I come as to my god; and thee I adore as I do the sun: what thou decreest of me, I will be and do; for thou art to me both fate and fortune &c. (b) And what shall we think of those superstitious Sicilians, who, when they were excommunicated by Pope Martin IV, laid themselves prostrate at his feet, and cried; - O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world, grant us thy peace. The Venetians also, being excommunicated by Pope Clemens V, (c) could not be absolved till such time as their ambassador Dandalus had not only fallen at the Pope’s feet, but lain also under his table as a dog with an iron chain about his neck, feeding on such scraps as were cast unto him. (d) Had this dog dealt by the Pope as the Earl of Wiltshire’s spaniel did, he had served him but right. This earl, with Doctor Cranmer, and others, being sent ambassador to Rome about King Henry’s divorce; when he should have kissed the Pope’s foot, his spaniel, as though he had been of purpose appointed thereunto, went and caught the Pope by the great toe, which the spaniel haply mistook for some kind of repast. (e) But this by the way only. What hard servitude kings and emperors were forced to undergo in former times, and how basely to avile (f) themselves to the beast of Rome, is better known than that it need to be here related. Henry II of England, Henry IV of France, and Henry, the fourth Emperor of Germany, for instance. This last came, in the midst of a sore winter, upon his bare feet, to the gates of the Castle of Canusium, and stood there fasting from morning to night for three days together, waiting for the Pope’s judicial sentence, and craving his pardon: which yet he could not obtain by his own or others’ tears, or by the intercession of any saint, save only of a certain harlot, with whom the Pope was then taking his carnal pleasure. (g) The good emperor mistook who thought that the Pope could be pacified by fasting and prayer. This god required another kind of sacrifice than these. And here that of Solomon was fulfilled, "I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth". [Ecclesiastes 10:7]


Verse 5

Genesis 32:5 And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.

Ver. 5. And I have oxen, and asses, &c.] This Jacob mentioneth in his message, that Esau might not think that he sought to him for any need; but only for his favour. And this was something, to a man of Esau’s make; for such like not to hear of, or be haunted with, their poor kindred. [Luke 15:30] "This thy son," saith he, that felt no want: he saith not, This my brother: he would not own him, because in poverty. (a)


Verse 6

Genesis 32:6 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.

Ver. 6. And four hundred men with him.] Four hundred cut-throats, as appears, Genesis 32:8. And here, good Jacob is brought again into the briars. When he was well rid of his father-in-law, he thought all safe; and his joy was completed by the sight of that army of angels. Presently upon this, he is so damped and terrified with this sad message of Esau’s approach and hostile intentions, that he knows not what course to take to. Out of heaven he is thrust suddenly, as it were, into hell, saith Pareus. (a) This is the godly man’s case while here. Fluctus fluclum trudit: one trouble follows in the neck of another. (b) Ripen we apace, and so get to heaven, if we would be out of the gunshot, The ark was transportative, till settled in Solomon’s Temple; so, till we come to heaven, shall we be tossed up and down and turmoiled: "within" will be "fears, without fightings," [2 Corinthians 7:5] while we are in hoc exilio, in hoc ergastulo, in hac peregrinatione, in hac valle lachrymarum , as Bernard hath it; in this exile, in this purgatory, in this pilgrimage, in this vale of tears.


Verse 7

Genesis 32:7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that [was] with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands;

Ver. 7. Then Jacob was greatly afraid.] This was his weakness, and may be ours in like case, as looking to the present peril, and "forgetting the consolation," as the apostle speaketh, Hebrews 12:5, that he might have drawn from the promise of God, and presence of angels. Faith quelleth and killeth distrustful fears: but Satan, in a distress, hides from us that which should support us, and greatens that that may appal us. But what saith the Spanish proverb? The lion is not so fierce as he is painted; nor danger, usually, so great as it is represented. Some hold that Esau was here wronged, by being presumed an enemy, when he was a friend. Pessimus in dubiis augur Timor.


Verse 8

Genesis 32:8 And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.

Ver. 8. If Esau come, &c.] It is a point of prudence, if we cannot keep all, to save what we can.


Verse 9

Genesis 32:9 And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:

Ver 9. The Lord which saidst unto me.] Promises must be prayed over. God loves to be burdened with, and to be importuned in, his own words; to be sued upon his own bond. Prayer is a putting the promises into suit. And it is no arrogancy nor presumption, to burden God, as it were, with his promise; and of duty to claim and challenge his aid, help, and assistance, in all perils, said Robert Glover, martyr, in a letter to his wife. (a) Such prayers will be nigh the Lord day and night, [1 Kings 8:59] he can as little deny them, as deny himself.


Verse 10

Genesis 32:10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.

Ver. 10. I am not worthy of the least, &c.] In prayer, we must avile ourselves before God to the utmost; confessing our extreme both indigency and indignity of better. "I am dust and ashes," saith Abraham. "I am a worm, and no man," saith David. "I am more brutish than any man," saith Agur. "I am a man, a sinner" ( ανηρ αμαρτωλος, Luke 5:8), saith Peter. "I am not worthy to be called thy son," saith the prodigal. Pharisaeus non vulnera, sed munera ostendit. The proud Pharisee sets forth not his wants, but his worth: "God, I thank thee," &c. But if David were so humbled before Saul that he called himself "a flea," [1 Samuel 26:20] what should we do to God? Unworthy we should acknowledge ourselves of the least mercies we enjoy, with Jacob; and yet not rest satisfied with the greatest things in the world, for our portion, as Luther. Valde protestatas sum me nolle sic a Deo satiari: he deeply protested that God should not put him off with these poor things below. (a)

For with my staff I passed over this Jordan.] Paupertatem baculinam commemorat. Jacob, though now grown great, forgets not his former meanness, but cries out with that noble captain, ‘ Eξ οιων, εις οια: From how small, to how great an estate am I raised! (b) So did Agathocles, who, of a potter’s son, became King of Sicily; yet, would ever be served in earthen vessels. And in the year of Christ 1011, one Willigis, bishop of Ments, being son to a wheelwright, caused wheels, and such like things, to be hanged on the walls, up and down his palace, with these words written over them, in capital letters; Willigis, Willigis, recole unde veneris. (c) Excellent was that counsel that Placilla, the Empress, gave her husband Theodosius: Remember, O husbaud, what lately you were, and what now you are: so shall you govern well the empire, and give God his due praise for so great an advancement. (d)


Verse 11

Genesis 32:11 Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, [and] the mother with the children.

Ver. 11. And the mother with the children.] It seems to be a metaphor taken from birds, when fowlers take away the young and the dams together; which God forbade, Deuteronomy 22:6. See the like also of the ewe and the lamb, not to be slain in one day, Leviticus 22:28. But, Homo homini lupus, nay, daemon. The Indians would say that it had been better for them that their country had been given to the devils of hell, than to the Spaniards, such hath been their cruelty towards those poor creatures; and that, if Spaniards went to heaven, they would never come there. Three poor women were burnt at the Isle of Guernsey for religion; together with the infant child falling out of the mother’s womb, and cruelly cast back into the flames. (a) Another sweet child of eight or nine years old, coming to Bonner’s house, to see if he might speak with his father, a prisoner in the Lollard’s Tower, was, for some bold answer that he gave the bishop’s chaplain, so cruelly whipped, that he died within four days after. (b) At Merindol in France, besides other execrable outrages and butcheries there done by Minerius, one of the Pope’s captains, the paps of many women were cut off, which gave suck to their children; which, looking for suck at their mother’s breasts, being dead before, died also for hunger. (c) Was not this, to "kill the mother with the children?" And was not that a barbarous act of Pope Honorius III, in the year of grace 1224, to cause four hundred Scots to be hanged up, and their children castrated! and all for the death of Adam, bishop of Caithness, who was burned in his own kitchen, by his own citizens, for that he had excommunicated some of them for non-payment of tithes. (d)


Verse 12

Genesis 32:12 And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.

Ver. 12. And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good.] So Jacob interprets that promise, "I will be with thee": [Genesis 28:15] which, indeed, hath in it whatsoever heart can wish, or need require. This promise was so sweet to the patriarch, that he repeats and ruminates it, rolling it as sugar in his mouth, and hiding it under his tongue. God "spake it once, he heard it twice"; as David, [Psalms 62:11] in another case. "He sucks, and is satisfied with these breasts of consolation"; he presseth and oppresseth them - such a metaphor there is in that text, [Isaiah 66:11] - as a rich man doth the poor man, till he hath gotten out of him all that he hath. A fly can make little of a flower; but a bee will not off till he hath the sweet thyme out of it. The promises are precious spices, which, being beaten to the smell, by the preaching of the Word, yield a heavenly and supernatural scent in the souls of God’s people. Oh! it is a sweet time with them, when Christ "brings them into his banqueting house" of the Holy Scriptures, and there "stays them with flagons" of divine consolations, and bolsters them up "with apples" of heavenly doctrines. When these, by the Spirit, are applied to the love sick soul, then is Christ’s left hand under their head, and his right hand - which "teacheth him terrible things" - doth [Psalms 14:5] embrace them. All in Christ, is for their support and succour: his love also is displayed over them, as a banner. And this doth so fully satisfy their souls, and transport them with joy, that now they are content to wait God’s leisure for deliverance; and would not have their "Beloved wakened, until he please." See all this, Song of Solomon 2:4-7.


Verse 13

Genesis 32:13 And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother;

Ver. 13. And took of that which came to his hand, &c.] Or, that was in his power. Such as he had, he sent. Silver and gold he had none; cattle he had, and of these he made no spare: for he knew that "a gift" (such a rich gift, especially) "maketh room for a man, and bringeth him before great ones". [Proverbs 18:16] And here Jacob, for our instruction, takes a right course, observes a right method; which is, to pray, and use means; to use means, and pray. Ora et labora, was the Emperor’s symbol; and, Admota manu invocanda est Minerva, the heathen’s proverb. "Why criest thou unto me?" saith God to Moses; [Exodus 14:15] "speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward." There was a fault: Moses craved help, but was not forward in the course whereby to make way for God’s help. So, "get thee up," saith God to praying Joshua; "wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?" Israel hath sinned, and thou must go search, &c. [Joshua 7:10-11] So, he that would have knowledge, must not only beg for it, but "dig for it," saith Solomon, out of his own experience. [Proverbs 2:3-5]


Verse 14

Genesis 32:14 Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams,

Ver. 14. Two hundred she-goats, &c.] A very great present for a private person to send. Five hundred and fifty beasts, of sundry sorts, for store. He spares no cost, that he may buy his peace, and enjoy his birthright. Heaven, he knew (whereof Canaan was a type and pledge), would pay for all. Get but a patriarch’s eye to see heaven afar off, and we shall be soon ready to buy it at any rate. The pearl of price cannot be a dear bargain, though we part with all to purchase it. Moses was forty years old, and therefore no baby, when "he preferred the reproach of Christ," the worst thing about him, "before the treasures of Egypt". [Hebrews 11:26] Egypt was a country rich, fruitful, and learned. Thence Solomon had his chief horses; [2 Chronicles 9:28] thence the harlot had her fine linens. [Proverbs 7:16] Moses might, in likelihood, have been king of Egypt, yea, and of Ethiopia too, as some think: but he had a better prize in his hand, and therefore slights all the world’s flitting and flattering felicities. When Basil was tempted with money and preferment, he answered, pecuniam da quae permaneat, ac continuo daret, gloriam quae semper floreat. This the world cannot do; nay, it cannot keep off diseases, death, &c. Non domus et fundus, &c. When Michael Paleologus, Emperor of Constantinople, sent to Nugas the Scythian prince, for a present, certain royal robes and rich ornaments, he set light by them, asking, Whether they could drive away calamities, sickness, death? (a) No, no: this, nothing can do, but the favour of God and interest in Christ. Wherefore should I die, being so rich? was the foolish question of that rich and wretched cardinal, Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, and Chancellor of England, in the reign of Henry VI. Fie, quoth he, will not death be hired? will money do nothing? (b) No, saith Solomon: "Treasures of wickedness profit nothing; but righteousness delivereth from death". [Proverbs 10:2] Many are loath to die, because they have treasures in the world; as those ten men had in the field. [Jeremiah 41:8] The Irish ask, - What! such men mean to die? But such men must die; nor can their riches reprieve them. Oh! happy is he that, with Jacob, lays hold on the heavenly inheritance, though with the loss of earthly possessions; that cares not to part with his cattle, so he may have his crown; with his swine, so he may have his Saviour. [Matthew 8:34] This is the wise merchant, this is the true tradesman, that traffics for heaven; looking upon the world as a great dunghill, with Paul, σκυβαλα, dog’s dung. [Philippians 3:8]


Verse 16

Genesis 32:16 And he delivered [them] into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said unto his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt drove and drove.

Ver. 16. Every drove by themselves.] That Esau, having occasion of viewing the present, questioning the servants, and hearing Jacob’s submission, might be somewhat mollified, and his anger abated. "Be wise as serpents". [Matthew 10:16]

“Ut fragilis glacies, occidit ira mora.”


Verse 17

Genesis 32:17 And he commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying, Whose [art] thou? and whither goest thou? and whose [are] these before thee?

Ver. 17. Whose art thou? &c.] Short questions, such as great ones used to ask (a) {See Trapp on "Genesis 33:12"}


Verse 18

Genesis 32:18 Then thou shalt say, [They be] thy servant Jacob’s; it [is] a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he [is] behind us.

Ver. 18. They be thy servant Jacob’s.] "A soft answer turneth away wrath": [Proverbs 15:1] (a) "but grievous words stir up anger." And it is easier to stir strife than stint it. Still, rain softens the hard earth: and though nothing be more violent than the winds, Iidem tamen imbribus sopiuntur, saith Pliny.

“Lenis alit flammas, grandior aura necat.”

How daintily did Gideon disarm the angry Ephraimites [ 8:1] by a mild answer!

It is a present sent, &c.] For, "a gift in secret pacifieth anger". [Proverbs 21:14] This proverb, in an abbreviature, after that manner, the Jews wrote upon their alms box. (b)

And, behold, also he is behind us.] He sends not only, but comes after us himself, to salute thee, and offer his service unto thee. Thus, by all means, he seeks to assuage the wrath of that rough man.


Verse 20

Genesis 32:20 And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob [is] behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me.

Ver. 20. Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us.] This he requires them all to insist on, lest Esau should think he meant, meanwhile, to escape some other way.


Verse 21

Genesis 32:21 So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company.

Ver. 21. And himself lodged that night.] But lay upon thorns, and had little rest.

Eις εστι δουλος οικιας, ο δερποτης

The master is the greatest servant in the house, and hath most business. This verse did so please Luther, that he translated it in certain Dutch rhymes. (a)


Verse 22

Genesis 32:22 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok.

Ver. 22. And his eleven sons.] Together with his only daughter Dinah: but females are not so much observed in Scripture.


Verse 23

Genesis 32:23 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had.

Ver. 23. Sent them over the brook.] Which he would not have done had he not been, upon his prayer, well confirmed and settled in his mind concerning the Lord’s protection.


Verse 24

Genesis 32:24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

Ver. 24. And Jacob was left alone.] Purposely, for secret prayer: so the Church gets her into "the clefts of the rocks"; [Song of Solomon 2:14] Isaac, into the fields; Daniel, to the river’s side; Christ, into the mount; Peter, up to the roof, or house top; that they might pour out their prayers and solace themselves with God in secret. This a hypocrite may seem to do, either of custom or vain glory: as the Pharisee went up to the temple to pray solitarily, as well as the publican; the temple being then, in regard of ceremonial holiness, the place as well of private as public prayer. "But will the hypocrite delight in God? will he pray always?". [Job 27:10]

There wrestled a man with him.] In a proper combat, by might and slight; to the raising of dust, and causing of sweat; as the word importeth. This strife was not only corporeal, but spiritual; as well by the force of his faith, as strength of body. "He prevailed," saith the prophet, [Hosea 12:4] by prayers and tears. Our Saviour also prayed himself into "an agony"; [Luke 22:44] and we are bidden to "strive in prayer," even to an agony. [Romans 15:30, συναγωνισασθαι] Nehemiah prayed himself pale. [Nehemiah 2:2] Daniel prayed himself "sick". [Daniel 8:27] Hannah prayed, striving with such an unusual motion of her lips, that old Eli, looking upon her, thought her drunk. [1 Samuel 1:13] Elijah puts his head betwixt his knees, as straining every string of his heart in prayer: [1 Kings 18:42] "he prayed, and prayed," saith St James; and, by his prayer, he had what he would of God. Whereupon also he infers (as a result) that "the effectual prayer of a righteous man avails much," if it be "fervent" [James 5:16-17, ενεργουμενη] or working; if it be such as sets all the faculties awork, and all the graces awork, then it speeds. Every sound is not music; so neither is every uttering petitions to God a prayer. It is not the labour of the lips, but the travail of the heart. Common beggary is the easiest and poorest trade: but this beggary, as it is the richest, so the hardest. A man can with more ease hear two hours together than pray half an hour, if he "pray in the Holy Ghost," as St Jude hath it. [ 1:20] He must strive with his own indevotion, with Satan’s temptations, with the world’s distraction: he must wrestle with God, and wring the blessing out of his hands, as the woman of Canaan did: he must "stir up himself to take hold of God," [Isaiah 64:7] as the Shunamite did of Elisha, [2 Kings 4:30] as the Church did of her spouse, [Song of Solomon 3:4] and "not let him go" till he bless us. This is to wrestle; this is to threaten heaven, as Gorgonia did, thus to be modestly impudent and invincible, as her brother speaks of her; in beseeching God, to besiege him, and get the better of him. as Jacob; whose wrestling was by "weeping," and his "prevailing" by praying.


Verse 25

Genesis 32:25 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.

Ver. 25. And when he saw that he prevailed not.] He, that is, "the angel" (Christ) "that redeemed Jacob from all evil," [Genesis 48:16] and here held him up with the one hand as he strove against him with the other; and yielded himself overcome by the patriarch’s prayers and tears. Deus ipse, qui nullis contra se viribus superari potest, precibus vincitur , saith Jerome.

He touched the hollow of his thigh.] That, if he would needs have the blessing, he might have somewhat with it, (a) that might keep him humble, not ascribing the victory to his own strength. Pride is a weed that will grow out of any ground (like misletoe that will grow upon any tree); but, for most part, from the best. Like air in all bodies, it will have a being in every soul, and creeps into every action, either in the beginning, proceeding, or conclusion. Now therefore it is God’s care to cure his people of this dangerous disease, as he did Jacob here, and afterwards Paul; [2 Corinthians 12:7] who, if he had not been buffeted, "had been exalted," and carried higher in conceit than ever he was in his ecstasy.


Verse 26

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.

Ver. 26. Let me go, &c.] Pugna suum finem, cum rogat hostis, habet. Jacob, though lamed, and hard laid at, will not let Christ go without a blessing: to teach us, as our Saviour did, by the parable of the importunate widow, [Luke 18:1-8] to persevere in prayer, and to devour all discouragements. Jacob holds with his hands, when his joints were out of joint. The woman of Canaan will not be put off, either with silence or sad answers. The importunate widow teacheth us to press God so far, till we put him to the blush, yea, leave a blot in his face (as the word there used signifies, υπωπιαζη, Luke 18:5), unless we be masters of our request. Latimer so plied the throne of grace with his, Once again, once again, restore the gospel to England, that he would have no nay at God’s hands. (a) He many times continued kneeling and knocking so long together, that he was not able to rise without help. His knees were grown hard like camels’ knees, as Eusebius reports of James, the Lord’s brother. Paul "prayed thrice," [2 Corinthians 12:8] that is, often, till he had his desire. Nay, Paulus Aemelius, the Roman general, began to fight against Perses, king of Macedonia, when, as he had sacrificed to his god Hercules and it proved not to his mind, he slew twenty various sacrifices one after another; and would not stop till in the one and twentieth he had descried certain arguments of victory. (b) Surely his superstition shames our indevotion, his importunity our faint heartedness and shortness of spirit. Surely, as painfulness of speaking shows a sick body, so doth irksomeness of praying a sick soul.


Verse 27

Genesis 32:27 And he said unto him, What [is] thy name? And he said, Jacob.

Ver. 27. What is thy name?] As if the angel should say, Thou art such a fellow as I never met withal. Titles of honour are not worthy of thee. Kneel thou down "Jacob," rise up "ISRAEL": Thou art a conqueror, if ever any were. Factus et teipso fortior, et Creatore tuo superior. O quam hic honos non est omnium! (a)


Verse 28

Genesis 32:28 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.

Ver. 28. No more Jacob, but Israel.] That is, not only, or not so much Jacob as Israel. Both these names he had given him, of striving and struggling. All God’s Israel are wrestlers by calling, [Ephesians 6:12] and, "as good soldiers of Jesus Christ," must "suffer hardness". [2 Timothy 2:3] Nothing is to be "seen in the Shulamite, but as the appearance of two armies," [Song of Solomon 6:13] maintaining civil broils within her. (a) The spirit would always get the better of the flesh, were it upon equal terms: but when the flesh shall get the hill, as it were, of temptation, and shall have the wind to drive the smoke upon the eyes of the combatant, and so to blind him, - upon such a disadvantage, he is overcome. For it is "not flesh and blood only" that "we wrestle against," - whether we take the apostle’s meaning, for the weakness of our nature or the corruption of it, - "but against principalities, against powers," &e.; against many, mighty, malicious adversaries; "spiritual wickednesses in high places," that are above us, and hang over our necks. Wherefore, we have more than need to "take unto us the whole armour of God," and to strengthen ourselves with every piece of it: whether those of defence, as "the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace" and patience, "the shield of faith, the helmet of hope"; or those of offence, as, "the sword of the spirit," and the darts of prayer. [Ephesians 6:14] At no place must we lie open; for our enemy is a serpent. If he can but bite the heel, he will transfuse his venom to the heart and head. God’s "Spirit" in us "sets up a standard". [Isaiah 59:19] The apostle sounds the alarm, Arm, arm. [Ephesians 6:10-17] The Holy Scripture is our armoury, like "Solomon’s tower, where hang a thousand shields, and all the weapons of strong men". [Song of Solomon 4:4] God himself is the Aγωνοθεπης, that both ordaineth and ordereth our temptations with his own hand, as he dealt with Jacob. And the Lord Christ stands over us, as he did once over Stephen, [Acts 7:55] with a crown upon his head and another in his hand, with this inscription, Vincenti dabo, "To him that overcometh will I give," &c. [Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:26; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 3:21] Fight but with his arms and with his armour, and we are sure to overcome before we fight; for he hath made all our foes our footstool, and hath "caused us to triumph". [2 Corinthians 2:14] Let therefore the assaults of our already vanquished enemies not weaken, but waken us: let their faint oppositions and spruntings before death encourage us, or rather enrage us, to do them to death: we are sure to be "more than conquerors," [Romans 8:37] and to have Victoriam Halleluiatieam, as the Britons, fighting for their religion, had once against the Saxons and Picts in this kingdom. (b)


Verse 29

Genesis 32:29 And Jacob asked [him], and said, Tell [me], I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore [is] it [that] thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.

Ver. 29. And he blessed him there.] That was a better thing to Jacob than to answer his curious request of knowing the angel’s name. So when the disciples asked our Saviour, [Acts 1:6] "Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" "It is not for you to know the times," saith he, "but ye shall receive the Holy Ghost"; that is better for you, &c. [Acts 1:8] God sometimes doth not only "grant a man’s prayer," but "fulfil his counsel." [Psalms 20:4] This if he do not, because we sometimes ask we know not what, yet some better thing we shall be sure of. "I will strengthen the house of Judah, and they shall be as if I had not cast them off l and I will hear them." [Zechariah 10:6]


Verse 30

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.

Ver. 30. I have seen God face to face.] Christ would not tell Jacob his name, to lift up his mind above what he saw of him, and to insinuate that his name was "Wonderful," his essence incomprehensible. [ 13:17-18] And whereas Jacob said here, he had "seen God face to face": he means only, praesens praesentem, as Moses spake with God "mouth to mouth". [Numbers 12:8] He saw not God’s majesty and essence; for he is a God "that hides himself," [Isaiah 8:17] and "dwells in the light unapproachable". [1 Timothy 6:16] But he saw him more apparently and manifestly than ever he had done before. We can see but his "back parts" [Exodus 33:23] and live; we need see no more, that we may live. God that fills all, saith Nazianzen, though he lighten the mind, yet flies before the beams thereof; still leaving it, as it is able, in sight to follow him; draws it by degrees to higher things; but ever interposeth between it and his incomparable essence, as many vails as were over the tabernacle. Some created shape, some glimpse of glory, Jacob saw; whereby God was pleased, for the present, to testify his more immediate presence; but not himself.


Verse 31

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

Ver. 31. He halted upon his thigh.] Yet had the blessing. So God’s people are promised a hundredfold here, with persecution; that is tied, as a rag, to the profession of Christianity. Christ, our Captain, had a bloody victory of it. Paul "bare in his body the marks," or scars, "of the Lord Jesus"; [Galatians 6:17] and glories in these "infirmities," [2 Corinthians 12:9-10] as he calls them. These are God’s gems and precious ornaments, said Munster to his friends, pointing them to his sores and ulcers, wherewith God decketh his children, that he may draw them to himself. This he said a little before his death. At death, saith Piscator, God wrestles with his people, laying hold on their consciences by the menaces of the law. (a) They again resist this assault by laying hold upon God, by the faith of the gospel, well assured that Christ hath freed them from the curse of the law, by being made a curse for them on the cross. God yields himself overcome by this re-encounter; but yet toucheth their thigh, takes away their life. Howbeit, this hindereth not the sun of life eternal to arise upon them as they pass over Penuel.


Verse 32

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.

Ver. 32. Therefore the children, &c.] This custom, Josephus saith, continued till his time. A ceremony indifferent in itself, and good by institution (in remembrance of that famous conquest), might become evil by abuse, if it turned into superstition.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Genesis 32:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/genesis-32.html. 1865-1868.

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