Genesis 32:24
And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
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(24) There wrestled.—This verb, abak, occurs only here, and without doubt it was chosen because of its resemblance to the name Jabbok. Its probable derivation is from a word signifying dust, because wrestlers were quickly involved in a cloud of dust, or because, as was the custom in Greece, they rubbed their bodies with it.

A man.—Such he seemed to be to Jacob; but Hosea (Genesis 12:4) calls him an angel; and, in Genesis 32:30, Jacob recognises in him a manifestation of the Deity, as Hagar had done before, when an angel appeared to her (Genesis 16:13). There is no warrant for regarding the angel as an incarnation of Deity, any more than in the case of Manoah (Judges 13:22); but it was a manifestation of God mediately by His messenger, and was one of the many signs indicative of a more complete manifestation by the coming of the Word in the flesh. The opposite idea of many modern commentators, that the narrative is an allegory, is contradicted by the attendant circumstances, especially by the change of Jacob’s name, and his subsequent lameness, to which national testimony was borne by the customs of the Jews.

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.

32:24-32 A great while before day, Jacob being alone, more fully spread his fears before God in prayer. While thus employed, One in the likeness of a man wrestled with him. When the spirit helpeth our infirmities, and our earnest and vast desires can scarcely find words to utter them, and we still mean more than we can express, then prayer is indeed wrestling with God. However tried or discouraged, we shall prevail; and prevailing with Him in prayer, we shall prevail against all enemies that strive with us. Nothing requires more vigour and unceasing exertion than wrestling. It is an emblem of the true spirit of faith and prayer. Jacob kept his ground; though the struggle continued long, this did not shake his faith, nor silence his prayer. He will have a blessing, and had rather have all his bone put out of joint than go away without one. Those who would have the blessing of Christ, must resolve to take no denial. The fervent prayer is the effectual prayer. The Angel puts a lasting mark of honour upon him, by changing his name. Jacob signifies a supplanter. From henceforth he shall be celebrated, not for craft and artful management, but for true valour. Thou shalt be called Israel, a prince with God, a name greater than those of the great men of the earth. He is a prince indeed that is a prince with God; those are truly honourable that are mighty in prayer. Having power with God, he shall have power with men too; he shall prevail, and gain Esau's favour. Jacob gives a new name to the place. He calls it Peniel, the face of God, because there he had seen the appearance of God, and obtained the favour of God. It becomes those whom God honours, to admire his grace towards them. The Angel who wrestled with Jacob was the second Person in the sacred Trinity, who was afterwards God manifest in the flesh, and who, dwelling in human nature, is called Immanuel, Ho 12:4,5. Jacob halted on his thigh. It might serve to keep him from being lifted up with the abundance of the revelations. The sun rose on Jacob: it is sun-rise with that soul, which has had communion with God.Jacob wrestles with a man. "Passed over the ford of Jabbok." The Jabbok rose near Rabbath Ammon, and flowed into the Jordan, separating North Gilead from South, or the kingdom of Og from that of Sihon. "Jacob was left alone," on the north side, after all had passed over. "A man wrestled with him." When God has a new thing of a spiritual nature to bring into the experience of man, he begins with the senses. He takes man on the ground on which he finds him, and leads him through the senses to the higher things of reason, conscience, and communion with God.

Jacob seems to have gone through the principles or foundations of faith in God and repentance toward him, which gave a character to the history of his grandfather and father, and to have entered upon the stage of spontaneous action. He had that inward feeling of spiritual power which prompted the apostle to say, "I can do all things." Hence, we find him dealing with Esau for the birthright, plotting with his mother for the blessing, erecting a pillar and vowing a vow at Bethel, overcoming Laban with his own weapons, and even now taking the most prudent measures for securing a welcome from Esau on his return. He relied indeed on God, as was demonstrated in many of his words and deeds; but the prominent feature of his character was a strong and firm reliance on himself. But this practical self-reliance, though naturally springing up in the new man and highly commendable in itself, was not yet in Jacob duly subordinated to that absolute reliance which ought to be placed in the Author of our being and our salvation. Hence, he had been betrayed into intrusive, dubious, and even sinister courses, which in the retributive providence of God had brought, and were yet to bring him, into many troubles and perplexities. The hazard of his present situation arose chiefly from his former unjustifiable practices toward his brother. He is now to learn the lesson of unreserved reliance on God.

"A man" appeared to him in his loneliness; one having the bodily form and substance of a man. Wrestled with him - encountered him in the very point in which he was strong. He had been a taker by the heel from his very birth, and his subsequent life had been a constant and successful struggle with adversaries. And when he, the stranger, saw that he prevailed not over him. Jacob, true to his character, struggles while life remains, with this new combatant. touched the socket of his thigh, so that it was wrenched out of joint. The thigh is the pillar of a man's strength, and its joint with the hip the seat of physical force for the wrestler. Let the thigh bone be thrown out of joint, and the man is utterly disabled. Jacob now finds that this mysterious wrestler has wrested from him, by one touch, all his might, and he can no longer stand alone. Without any support whatever from himself, he hangs upon the conqueror, and in that condition learns by experience the practice of sole reliance on one mightier than himself. This is the turning-point in this strange drama. Henceforth Jacob now feels himself strong, not in himself, but in the Lord, and in the power of his might. What follows is merely the explication and the consequence of this bodily conflict.

And he, the Mighty Stranger, said, Let me go, for the dawn ariseth. The time for other avocations is come: let me go. He does not shake off the clinging grasp of the now disabled Jacob, but only calls upon him to relax his grasp. "And he, Jacob, said, I will not let thee go except thou bless me". Despairing now of his own strength, he is Jacob still: he declares his determination to cling on until his conqueror bless him. He now knows he is in the hand of a higher power, who can disable and again enable, who can curse and also bless. He knows himself also to be now utterly helpless without the healing, quickening, protecting power of his victor, and, though he die in the effort, he will not let him go without receiving this blessing. Jacob's sense of his total debility and utter defeat is now the secret of his power with his friendly vanquisher. He can overthrow all the prowess of the self-reliant, but he cannot resist the earnest entreaty of the helpless.

24, 25. There wrestled a man with him—This mysterious person is called an angel (Ho 12:4) and God (Ge 32:28, 30; Ho 12:5); and the opinion that is most supported is that he was "the angel of the covenant," who, in a visible form, appeared to animate the mind and sympathize with the distress of his pious servant. It has been a subject of much discussion whether the incident described was an actual conflict or a visionary scene. Many think that as the narrative makes no mention in express terms either of sleep, or dream, or vision, it was a real transaction; while others, considering the bodily exhaustion of Jacob, his great mental anxiety, the kind of aid he supplicated, as well as the analogy of former manifestations with which he was favored—such as the ladder—have concluded that it was a vision [Calvin, Hessenberg, Hengstenberg]. The moral design of it was to revive the sinking spirit of the patriarch and to arm him with confidence in God, while anticipating the dreaded scenes of the morrow. To us it is highly instructive; showing that, to encourage us valiantly to meet the trials to which we are subjected, God allows us to ascribe to the efficacy of our faith and prayers, the victories which His grace alone enables us to make. In some private place, it matters not on which side Jabbok, that he might more freely and ardently pour out his soul unto God.

There wrestled a man with him, an angel, yea, the Angel of the covenant, the Son of God, as it is plain from Genesis 32:28,30 Ho 12:3,4, who did here, as oft elsewhere, assume the shape and body of a man, that he might do this work; for this wrestling was real and corporeal in its nature, though it was also mystical and spiritual in its signfification, as we shall see, and it was accompanied with an inward wrestling by ardent prayers joined with tears, Hosea 12:4.

And Jacob was left alone,.... On the other side of Jabbok, his family and cattle having passed over it; and this solitude he chose, in order to spend some time in prayer to God for the safety of him and his:

and there wrestled a man with him; not a phantasm or spectre, as Josephus (e) calls him; nor was this a mere visionary representation of a man, to the imagination of Jacob; or done in the vision of prophecy, as Maimonides (f); but it was something real, corporeal, and visible: the Targum of Jonathan says, it was an angel in the likeness of a man, and calls him Michael, which is not amiss, since he is expressly called an angel, Hosea 12:4; and if Michael the uncreated angel is meant, it is most true; for not a created angel is designed, but a divine Person, as appears from Jacob's desiring to be blessed by him; and besides, being expressly called God, Genesis 32:28; and was, no doubt, the Son of God in an human form; who frequently appeared in it as a token and pledge of his future incarnation: and "this wrestling" was real and corporeal on the part of both; the man took hold of Jacob, and he took hold of the man, and they strove and struggled together for victory as wrestlers do; and on Jacob's part it was also mental and spiritual, and signified his fervent and importunate striving with God in prayer; or at least it was attended with earnest and importunate supplications; see Hosea 12:4; and this continued

until the breaking of the day: how long this conflict lasted is not certain, perhaps not long; since after Jacob rose in the night he had a great deal of business to do, and did it before this affair happened; as sending his wives, children, servants, and cattle over the brook: however, this may denote, that in the present state or night of darkness, wrestling in prayer with God must be continued until the perfect state commences, when the everlasting day of glory will break.

(e) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 20. sect. 2.((f) Morch Nevochim, par. 2. c. 42. p. 310.

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a {h} man with him until the breaking of the day.

(h) That is, God in the form of a man.

24. And Jacob … alone] It is natural to suppose that Jacob remained behind to think and to pray at this crisis of his life. He was given over to anxious fears; the darkness and loneliness intensified them. The thought that God had left him, or was opposed to him, overwhelmed him.

there wrestled a man] The brevity of the account leaves it unexplained, who the man is, how he appeared, and how the contest began.

The word for “wrestled,” yêâbêk, is very possibly intended to be a play on the name of the river Jabbok as if it meant “twisting.” In Genesis 32:28, and in Hosea 12:4, a different word, “to strive,” is used for the “wrestling” of Jacob. It is this scene of “wrestling” which has become, in the language of spiritual experience, the classical symbol for “agonizing” in prayer.

Verse 24. - And Jacob was left alone (probably on the north bank of the Jabbok; but vide on ver. 23); and there wrestled - thus assaulting in his strong point one who had been a wrestler or heel-catcher from his youth (Murphy). The old word נֶךאבַק, niph. of אָבַק, unused, a dehorn, from חָבַק, dust, because in wrestling the dust is raised (Aben Ezra, Gesenius), or a weakened form of חָבַק, to wind round, to embrace (Furst), obviously contains an allusion to the Jabbok (vide on ver. 22) - a man - called an angel by Hosea (Genesis 12:4), and God by Jacob (ver. 30); but vide infra - with him until the breaking of the day - literally, the ascending of the morning. Genesis 32:24The Wrestling with God. - The same night, he conveyed his family with all his possessions across the ford of the Jabbok. Jabbok is the present Wady es Zerka (i.e., the blue), which flows from the east towards the Jordan, and with its deep rocky valley formed at that time the boundary between the kingdoms of Sihon at Heshbon and Og of Bashan. It now separates the countries of Moerad or Ajlun and Belka. The ford by which Jacob crossed was hardly the one which he took on his outward journey, upon the Syrian caravan-road by Kalaat-Zerka, but one much farther to the west, between Jebel Ajlun and Jebel Jelaad, through which Buckingham, Burckhardt, and Seetzen passed; and where there are still traces of walls and buildings to be seen, and other marks of cultivation.
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