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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 32

 

 

Verse 1

Genesis 32:1. The angels of God met him — In some visible and glorious forms, as they frequently appeared to the patriarchs. Probably only Jacob saw them. They met him to bid him welcome to Canaan again; a more honourable reception than ever any prince had that was met by the magistrates of a city. They met him to congratulate his arrival, and his escape from Laban. They had invisibly attended him all along, but now they appeared, because he had greater dangers before him. When God designs his people for extraordinary trials, he prepares them by extraordinary comforts.


Verse 2

Genesis 32:2. This is God’s host — Or army; so the angels are justly called, because of their great number, their excellent order, their mighty power, and the service they perform for God and his church, for the protection of which they are sent. A good man may see by faith what Jacob saw with his bodily eyes. To preserve the remembrance of this favour Jacob named the place Mahanaim, two hosts, or two camps. Probably they appeared to him in two hosts, one on either side, or one in the front and the other in the rear, to protect him from Laban behind and Esau before, and be a complete guard: or Jacob’s family made one army, representing the church militant and itinerant on earth, and the angels another army, representing the church triumphant, and at rest in heaven.


Verse 4

Genesis 32:4. Speak unto my lord Esau — He calls Esau his lord, and himself his servant, to intimate that he did not insist on the prerogatives of the birthright and blessing which he had obtained for himself, but left it to God to fulfil his own purpose in his seed. And he gives him a short account of himself and of his property, and where he had sojourned, expressing withal a desire for his favour and friendship.


Verse 5

Genesis 32:5. I have sent to tell my lord — This message of Jacob shows great prudence in him; for had he returned into Canaan without informing his brother, and making him acquainted with the substance he had brought with him from Haran, Esau, who lived at a distance from his father Isaac, probably would have thought, when he came to take possession of Isaac’s property on his death, that Jacob had obtained all his substance from his father, to Esau’s prejudice, which might have created an irreconcilable misunderstanding between them.


Verse 6-7

Genesis 32:6-7. He cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him — He is now weary of waiting for the days of mourning for his father, and before they come resolves to slay thee. Then was Jacob greatly afraid and distressed — He was conscious how deeply he had offended his brother, and remembered the enmity which his brother cherished against him, and hence was not without an apprehension that he might now execute the threatened revenge. We see here how a consciousness of sin tends to weaken faith, and to produce fear and dread. For, notwithstanding the repeated experience Jacob had had of the divine protection; though he had just seen himself surrounded with a host of guardian angels; though he had undertaken his journey in obedience to God’s express command, and had God’s renewed promise to assure him of a safe return, (Genesis 28:15; Genesis 31:13,) yet a consciousness of having injured his brother, and of his brother’s having it in his power, should God permit him, to avenge himself, damps his faith, and fills him with the most painful and distressing apprehensions. A lively sense of danger, however, may very well consist with a degree of confidence in God’s power and goodness.


Verse 9

Genesis 32:9. He has recourse to God in his distress by prayer, the only effectual means of obtaining relief in trouble. And surely a finer model of genuine prayer can hardly be met with or imagined. It was evidently dictated by the feelings of his heart in this trying season. He addressed himself to God as the God of his fathers, not presuming to call him his own God, because of the sense he had of his unworthiness. O God of my father Abraham, and father Isaac — This he could better plead, because the government was entailed upon him. Thou saidst, Return unto thy country — He had not rashly left his place with Laban; but in obedience to God’s command.


Verse 10

Genesis 32:10. I am not worthy — It is a surprising plea. One would think he should have pleaded that what was now in danger was his own against all the world, and that he had earned it dear enough; no, he pleads, Lord, I am not worthy of it. Of the least of all thy mercies — Much less am I worthy of so great a favour as this I am now suing for. For with my staff I passed over this Jordan — Poor and desolate, like a forlorn and despised pilgrim; having no guides, no companions, no attendants. And now I am become two bands — Now I am surrounded with a numerous retinue of children and servants. Those whose latter end doth greatly increase, ought with humility and thankfulness to remember how small their beginning was.


Verse 11-12

Genesis 32:11-12. Deliver me from my brother Esau, for I fear him — The fear that quickens prayer is itself pleadable. It was not a robber, but a murderer that he was afraid of: nor was it his own life only that lay at stake, but the mothers’, and the children’s. Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good — God’s promises, as they are the surest guide of our desires in prayer, and furnish us with the best petitions; so they are the firmest ground of our hopes, and furnish us with the best pleas.


Verses 13-16

Genesis 32:13-16. A present for Esau his brother — As he prays and trusts in God, so he uses the means; and having piously made God his friend by prayer, prudently endeavours to make Esau his friend by a present. Put a space between drove and drove — To mitigate his displeasure by degrees.


Verse 24

Genesis 32:24. Jacob was left alone — In some private place, that he might more freely and ardently pour out his soul in prayer, and again spread his cares and fears before God. There wrestled a man with him — The eternal Word, or Son of God, who often appeared in a human shape, before he assumed the human nature. We are told by Hosea 12:4, how Jacob wrestled with him; He wept and made supplication: prayers and tears were his weapons. It was not only a corporal but a spiritual wrestling, by vigorous faith and holy desire; and this circumstance shows that the person with whom he wrestled was not a created angel, but the angel of the covenant; for surely he would not pray and make supplication to a creature. Indeed, in the passage just referred to, Hosea terms him Jehovah, God of hosts, and says, Jehovah is his memorial.


Verse 25

Genesis 32:25. He prevailed not against him — The angel suffered himself to be conquered, to encourage Jacob’s faith and hope against the approaching danger: nay, he even imparted strength to him to maintain the conflict. For it was not in his own strength that Jacob wrestled, nor by his own strength that he prevailed, but by strength derived from Heaven, by which alone he had power over the angel, Hosea 12:3. Jacob’s thigh was out of joint as he wrestled with him — This was to humble him, and make him sensible of his own weakness, that he might ascribe his victory, not to his own power, but to the grace of God, and might be encouraged to depend on that grace for the deliverance he was so much concerned to obtain. It is probable Jacob felt little or no pain from this hurt, for he did not so much as halt till the struggle was over, Genesis 32:31. If so, it evidenced itself to be a divine touch indeed, wounding and healing at the same time.


Verse 26

Genesis 32:26. Let me go — Thus the angel, by an admirable condescension, speaks to Jacob as God did to Moses, Exodus 32:10, Let me alone, and that to show the prevalency of his prayer with God, and also to encourage him to persist in the conflict. For the day breaketh — Therefore he would not any longer detain Jacob, who had business to do, a family to look after, a journey to take. I will not let thee go except thou bless me — He resolves he will have a blessing, and rather shall all his bones be put out of joint than he will suffer the angel to leave him without a blessing. Those who would be blessed by Christ, and have his salvation, must be in good earnest and importunate for it. Reader, art thou so? Dost thou pray and not faint?


Verse 27-28

Genesis 32:27-28. What is thy name? And he said, Jacob — That is, a supplanter, as the word signifies. He said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob — Or, as the words should rather be rendered, shall not only be called Jacob, but Israel, or Israel rather than Jacob, a man prevailing with God, rather than a supplanter. It is evident he was afterward called Jacob, as well as Israel, but the latter name, in his posterity, nearly swallowed up the former, who were generally termed Israel, and Israelites. The word Israel means a prince with God. He is a prince indeed that is a prince with God, and those are truly honourable that are mighty in prayer. Yet this is not all; having power with God, he shall have power with men too; having prevailed for a blessing from heaven, he shall, no doubt, prevail for Esau’s favour. Accordingly the latter part of the verse, literally translated, is, Because, as a prince, thou hast prevailed with God, with men thou shalt also powerfully prevail, — a translation as perfectly agreeable to the Septuagint as to the Hebrew, οτι ενισχυσας μετα θεου, και μετα ανθρωπων δυνατος εση, and also countenanced by the Chaldee Paraphrase, and the Vulgate. Whatever enemies we have, if we can but make God our friend, we are sufficiently safe and happy: they that, by faith, have power in heaven, have thereby as much power on earth as they have need of.


Verse 29-30

Genesis 32:29-30. Wherefore dost thou ask after my name? — Canst thou be at any loss to know who I am? The discovery of that was reserved for his death-bed, upon which he was taught to call him Shiloh. But instead of telling him his name, he gave him his blessing, which was the thing Jacob wrestled for; he blessed him there — Repeated and ratified the blessing formerly given him. See how wonderfully God condescends to countenance and crown importunate prayer! Those that resolve, though God slay them, yet to trust him, will at length be more than conquerors. Peniel — That is, the face of God. For I have seen God face to face — Not in his divine essence, for no man ever saw God in that respect, John 1:18; but manifested in a more satisfactory, familiar, and friendly manner, than in dreams or visions.


Verse 31

Genesis 32:31. He halted on his thigh — And many think he continued to do so to his dying day. If he did he had no reason to complain, for the honour and comfort he obtained by his struggle were abundantly sufficient to countervail the damage, though he went limping to his grave.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 32:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/genesis-32.html. 1857.

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