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Genesis  ◦   Chapter 32

1As Jacob was on his way home, angels of God met him to encourage him, just like they did when he left home twenty years before. 2When he saw them, he remembered how they visited him when he left home, and he exclaimed, “Behold, again God’s angel army!” So he named that place Mahanaim (which means ’double army’).

3Jacob sent envoys ahead of him, seeking peace with his brother Esau, who was living in the land of Seir, in the region of Edom. 4Jacob instructed them, “I want you to say this to Esau, emphasizing my humility and recognition of his familial lordship: ‘Your brother Jacob says, I am your humble servant and have been living the past twenty years with uncle Laban. 5I have all I need – my own cattle, donkeys, sheep, goats, male and female servants. I am sending this message to let you know that I am coming home and recognize you as lord of our family, and I have no need of anything from the family estate. I hope you will forgive me and there will be peace between us.’”

6 When his envoys returned to Jacob, they told him, “We conveyed your message to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you and is bringing four hundred men with him.”

7Rather than rejoicing at the news that his brother was coming to see him, Jacob’s unresolved guilt over his mistreatment of Esau caused him to react to this news with intense fear and worry. Anticipating the worst, he divided his people, flocks and herds into two separate camps. 8He thought, “If Esau attacks one camp, the other camp may be able to escape.”

9Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my grandfather Abraham, God of my father Isaac, please hear me now. You, O Lord, are the one who told me, ‘Go back to your homeland and to your family, and I will make you flourish.’ 10I am your humble servant and unworthy of the loving kindness and faithfulness you have shown me. When I left home, crossing the Jordan, I had only my staff, and now I am returning with the abundance of two entire camps. 11But I’m afraid – overwhelmed by fear. I’m terrified that my brother Esau is coming to attack me, and not just me, but my children and their mothers as well. Please Lord, intervene and deliver me now, 12for you promised me, ‘I will be good to you, watch over you and multiply your descendants like the sand of the sea; they will be too numerous to count.’”

13Jacob stayed there that night and selected from his possessions the following as a gift to give to his brother Esau: 14two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16He separated them into individual herds and put them in the care of his servants. Then he instructed his servants, “Go ahead of me to meet my brother, and keep some space between the herds.”

17He told the servant leading the first herd, “When you meet my brother Esau and he asks, ‘Whose servant are you, where are you going, and who owns all these animals?’ 18you must say this: ‘They belong to your humble servant Jacob. They are a gift to you, the lord of his family, and he is just behind us.’”

19Jacob gave this instruction to the second, third and all the other servants who followed with the herds: “You must say the exact same thing to Esau when you meet him. 20Be certain to say, ‘Your humble servant Jacob is coming right behind us.’” He thought, “Perhaps these gifts will soften Esau’s heart and make up for the wrong I did to him, and when he sees me, he will forgive and accept me.” 21So Jacob sent his gifts ahead of him, but he spent the night in the camp.

22That night Jacob took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons to the ford of the Jabbok, where they crossed. 23After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24Struggling with guilt and fear as he prepared to meet his brother, Jacob remained by himself in order to pray. While praying, the gentle hand of the Lord touched him, but Jacob misperceived that he was being attacked by a man and wrestled with him until dawn. 25When the Lord saw that Jacob was continuing to fight against God’s healing presence and that his fear and guilt were near remitting, he gave him the nudge he needed to surrender completely – he reached out and touched Jacob’s hip, dislocating the joint. 26Then the Lord said to him, “You can let me go now – a new day has dawned for you.”

But Jacob replied, “I can’t let you go without the assurance of your blessing.”

27The Lord asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob” (which means ‘deceiver'), he answered.
28Then the Lord said, “You are no longer ‘Jacob the fearful self-dependent deceiver,’ but you will be known as Israel – the one who, with God, struggled against human fear and selfishness, and overcame.”

29Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you want to know my name?” Then he blessed Jacob, reassuring him all would be well.

30Jacob was humbled and said, “Despite my guilt, I came face to face with God and my life was saved.” So he called the place Peniel (which means ’face of God’).

31As Jacob left Peniel, the sun rose and shone upon him, and he was limping because of his hip. 32That is why even to this day Israelites do not eat the muscle attached to the hip joint of any animal – because Jacob’s hip was touched near the socket.