Contents Calendar Find Reference
Navigating the Bible
Genesis Chapter 32
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50

Jacob's Journey, Marriage and Children
32:1 Laban got up early the next morning and kissed his grandsons and daughters goodbye. He then blessed them and left to return home.
32:2 Jacob also continued on his way. He encountered angels of God.
32:3 When Jacob saw them, he said, 'This is God's camp.' He named the place Twin Camps (Machanaim).

Jacob Meets Esau
32:4 Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau, to Edom's Field in the Seir area.
32:5 He instructed them to deliver the following message:

'To my lord Esau. Your humble servant Jacob says: I have been staying with Laban, and have delayed my return until now.

32:6 I have acquired cattle, donkeys, sheep, slaves and slave-girls, and am now sending word to tell my lord, to gain favor in your eyes.'
32:7 The messengers returned to Jacob with the report: 'We came to your brother Esau, and he is also heading toward you. He has 400 men with him.'
32:8 Jacob was very frightened and distressed. He divided the people accompanying him into two camps, along with the sheep, cattle and camels.
32:9 He said, 'If Esau comes and attacks one camp, at least the other camp will survive.'
32:10 Jacob prayed: 'O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac. You Yourself told me, 'Return to the land where you were born, and I will make things go well with you.'
32:11 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faith that You have shown me. [When I left home,] I crossed the Jordan with [only] my staff, and now I have enough for two camps.
32:12 Rescue me, I pray, from the hand of my brother - from the hand of Esau. I am afraid of him, for he can come and kill us all - mothers and children alike.
32:13 You once said, 'I will make things go well with you, and make your descendants like the sand grains of the sea, which are too numerous to count.' '
32:14 After spending the night there, he selected a tribute for his brother Esau from what he had with him.
32:15 [The tribute consisted of] 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams,
32:16 30 nursing camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys, and 10 male donkeys.
32:17 These he gave to his servants, each herd by itself. He said to his servants, 'Go on ahead of me. Keep a space between one herd and the next.'
32:18 He gave the first group instructions: 'When my brother Esau encounters you, he will ask, 'To whom do you belong? Where are you going? Who owns all this that is with you?'
32:19 You must reply, 'It belongs to your servant Jacob. It is a tribute to my master Esau. [Jacob] himself is right behind us.' '
32:20 He gave similar instructions to the second group, to the third, and to all who went after the herd. 'You must [all] say the same thing to Esau when you meet him,' he said.
32:21 'You must also say, 'Your servant Jacob is right behind us.' '

[Jacob] said [to himself], 'I will win him over with the gifts that are being sent ahead, and then I will face him. Hopefully, he will forgive me.'

32:22 He sent the gifts ahead of him, and spent the night in the camp.
32:23 In the middle of the night he got up, and took his two wives, his two handmaids, and his eleven sons, and sent them across the Jabbok River shallows.
32:24 After he had taken them and sent them across, he also sent across all his possessions.
32:25 Jacob remained alone. A stranger [appeared and] wrestled with him until just before daybreak.
32:26 When [the stranger] saw that he could not defeat him, he touched the upper joint of [Jacob's] thigh. Jacob's hip joint became dislocated as he wrestled with [the stranger].
32:27 'Let me leave!' said [the stranger]. 'Dawn is breaking.'

'I will not let you leave unless you bless me.'

32:28 'What is your name?'


32:29 'Your name will no longer be said to be Jacob, but Israel (Yisra'el). You have become great (sar) before God and man. You have won.'
32:30 Jacob returned the question. 'If you would,' he said, 'tell me what your name is.'

'Why do you ask my name?' replied [the stranger]. He then blessed [Jacob].

32:31 Jacob named the place Divine Face (Peniel). [He said,] 'I have seen the Divine face to face, and my soul has withstood it.'
32:32 The sun rose and was shining on him as he left Penuel. He was limping because of his thigh.
32:33 The Israelites therefore do not eat the displaced nerve on the hip joint to this very day. This is because [the stranger] touched Jacob's thigh on the displaced nerve.


  According to others, 'divine messengers,' a welcoming committee sent by Rebecca (Sefer HaYashar), p.82).

Twin Camps
  That is, Jacob's camp and the divine camp (Ramban).

  It was a city on the border between Gad and Manasseh, associated with Ramath-Mitzpeh (Joshua 13:26, 13:30). Also see Joshua 21:38, 1 Chronicles 6:65; 2 Samuel 2:8, 2:12, 2:29, 17:24,27. Some identify Machanaim with Khirbath al-Makhna, 2.5 miles north of Aijalon, which would place it 14 miles north of the Jabbok River, and 10 miles east of the Jordan. Jacob was thus apparently headed toward the juncture of the Jordan and the Jabbok. According to others, however, Machanaim was actually on the Jabbok River.

Edom's Field
  See Genesis 25:30. The area was apparently named for Esau.

  See Genesis 14:6. This seems to contradict the statement that Esau did not settle in Seir until after Jacob's arrival (Genesis 36:8). Some say that Esau did not actually live in Seir now, but only visited it regularly (Ramban on Genesis 36:6; Sforno, Chizzkuni). Others say that this was not Mount Seir, and that the area was named for Esau (Josephus 2:2:1; see notes on Genesis 25:25, 26:20). It appears that Esau now lived in the plains near Seir, and later invaded the hill country (see Aggadath Bereshith).

In general, Seir is the area south of the Zered Brook and the Dead Sea. The messengers were therefore sent a distance of 90 miles from Machanaim.

Return to the land...
  See Genesis 31:3, 31:13.

like the sand grains...
  See Genesis 28:14.

Jabbok River
  An eastern tributary of the Jordan, about midway between the Kinnereth and the Dead Sea.

  According to tradition, this was Samael, guardian angel of Esau and the incarnation of Evil (Bereshith Rabbah 77; Rashi; Zohar). See Hosea 12:4,5. Jacob's wrestling with him would symbolize the struggle with evil that he and his descendants would have from this time forth (Bachya; See Handbook of Jewish Thought 4:29). According to others, it was a holy angel, symbolizing Jacob's future struggles with the spiritual (Targum Yonathan; Tanchuma).

  Or 'hip socket,' i.e. where the thigh joins the hip. See note on Genesis 24:3. This denotes that although Jacob was victorious in his struggles, his children would suffer. See Genesis 34:2.

  This was later reaffirmed by God (Genesis 35:10). Also see 1 Kings 18:31, 2 Kings 17:34.

You have become great...
  (Targum). Or, 'You have become a prince (sar) among the angels and man' (Ralbag). Others have, 'You have fought (or struggled) with a divine being and you have won' (Bereshith Rabbah; Josephus 1:2:2; Septuagint; cf. Hosea 4:5). The root of the word sari-tha here is thus sarah, meaning to contend or 'fight to win' (Radak, Sherashim. cf. Hosea 9:6). It is related to the root sarar, to rule; cf. Numbers 16:13, Esther 1:22, Proverbs 8:16. Also see Judges 9:22, Hosea 8:4.

Israel (Yisrael) thus means, 'he who will be great [before] God,' or 'he who will struggle with the divine.'

Why do you ask...
  See Judges 13:18.

I have seen the Divine...
  See Judges 6:22, 13:22, Isaiah 6:5.

  Although Jacob named it Peniel, it was later known as Penuel; see 1 Kings 12:25. It is near Sukkoth; Genesis 33:16, Judges 8:8. It is usually identified with Tulul edh dhahab, on the south bank of the Jabbok, near the bend, about 10 miles east of the Jordan. However, from the context here, it seems that Peniel was on the north bank of the Jabbok, where another ancient mount (tel) is found. It may be that Jacob named the northern area Peniel, and then left the southern area, which was later known as Penuel. This is some 15 miles south of Machanaim (see note on Genesis 32:3).

  Literally, 'children of Israel.' This is the first time that this expression is used.

displaced nerve
  Gid ha-nasheh in Hebrew. This is the sciatic nerve, the large main nerve of the lower extremity, running down the back of the leg. Therefore, before the hindquarter of any animal can be eaten, this nerve, with all its branches, must be carefully removed. Since it is very difficult to do this, hindquarters are usually not eaten by Jews. The nerve touched by the angel is seen as the place where evil has strong influence (Zohar).

Copyright © 2000 World ORT
Notice: This computer program is protected by copyright law and international treaties. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this program, or any portion of it, may result in severe civil and criminal penalties, and will be prosecuted to the maximum extent possible under the law.