Matthew Poole's Commentary
And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.The angels of God meet Jacob, Genesis 32:1. He calls them God’s host, and the place Mahanaim, Genesis 32:2. Sends messengers to his brother Esau, Genesis 32:3-5. They return, and bring word that Esau comes to meet him with four hundred men, Genesis 32:6. Jacob is afraid; divides his people and cattle into two bands, Genesis 32:7. Gives orders concerning them, Genesis 32:8; prays to God in a very fervent and humble manner, Genesis 32:9-12; sends presents to his brother, with directions; gets his wives and children over the ford by night, Genesis 32:13-23. Jacob wrestles with God, and prevails; is called Israel: God blesseth him; he inquires after God’s name; calls the place Peniel: Jacob halts, Genesis 32:24-31. The Jews’ observation in memorial of it, Genesis 32:32.
In visible, human, and glorious shape, as they frequently appeared to the patriarchs.
And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.God’s host; so the angels are justly called for their great number, Daniel 7:10 Luke 2:13, excellent order, mighty power, and for their use and service to God, and to his church, for whose protection they are sent. See 2 Kings 6:17 Psalm 34:7.
Mahanaim, i.e. two hosts; so called, either because the angels divided themselves into two companies, and placed themselves some before, others behind him, or some on each side of him, for his greater comfort and security; or because the angels made one host, and his family another.
And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.The land of Seir; of which see Genesis 14:6 36:9,20,21; whither Esau had removed his habitation from Canaan, partly out of discontent at his parents; partly as most convenient for his course of life; and principally by direction of Divine Providence, that Canaan might be left free and clear for Jacob and his posterity. The land of Seir, the country of Edom; so that Seir and Edom either are one and the same place; or rather Seir was a part of Edom. Some say both names are put here for distinction. For they make two lands of Edom, the one southward from Canaan, the other eastward, and this latter they understood here, alleging that the other, or southern, was so remote from Mount Gilead, whence Jacob was now descending, that Jacob need not fear Esau at that distance, nor send to him. But as that distinction seems to be without solid ground, so this reason seems to have but little weight in it, both because though this history immediately follows his descent from Mount Gilead, yet it might be done some competent time after it, and because Jacob in his journey to those parts where his father Isaac lived, and whither he was going, was still drawing nearer and nearer to Esau.
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:My lord Esau; which title being but a civil respect commonly given in Scripture to such persons as have no authority nor superiority over them who use it, as Genesis 23:6 24:18, Jacob doth not hereby renounce his right of primogeniture which was devolved upon him, nor return it to Esau. Nor if he did hereby acknowledge Esau his superior for the present, would this have been injurious to that right, because Jacob was not yet in actual possession of it, for it was not to commence till his father’s death; and indeed did more belong to his posterity than to his person; and as to his person, did more respect his spiritual advantages than his worldly greatness. See Genesis 27:29.
I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now, as a stranger and exile, and so a more proper object for thy pity than for thy envy.
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.Yet in my exile God hath blessed me with a competency of worldly goods, and therefore I am not likely to be either a burden to thee, or a disgrace to our family.
And I have sent to tell my lord, to acquaint him with my coming, and with the state of my affairs, that I may obtain pardon for my former errors, and thy favour and friendship for the future.
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.Esau gave them but an imperfect and a doubtful answer, as appears from Jacob’s fear, Genesis 32:7. He brought
four hundred men with him; either as his usual guard, he being then a great man in those parts; or in ostentation of his power and greatness, in spite of all the injury which his father or brother did him; or because at first he designed mischief to Jacob, as may seem by his dismissing of his messengers without any testimony of his favour, though afterwards, upon Jacob’s prayer, God changed his mind.
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;Notwithstanding the renewed promise of God, and the late apparition of angels,
Jacob was greatly afraid; wherein he showed the weakness of his faith, to which God left him for his trial and exercise, and to quicken him to prayer, that so God might have more glory, and he more comfort in the mercy.
And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.Either by flight, or because he supposed Esau’s revenge would be satisfied with the first slaughter.
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:It is observable, that Jacob directs his prayers to God immediately, and not to the angels, though now, if ever, he had reason and obligation to do so, from their visible apparition to him for his succour and comfort.
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.The truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant, in fulfilling thy promises made to me; and much more am I unworthy of those further mercies which I am now about to beg of thee. Having nothing with me but my travelling staff for my support,
I passed over this Jordan; or, that Jordan; either which I now see, as being at this time upon a high hill; or which my mind is set upon, as that river which I am going to repass, that I may go to my father, and to that good land which thou hast given to me and mine for ever;
and now I am become two bands, or two troops, or companies; into which he had now divided his people and cattle, Genesis 32:7.
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.A proverbial speech, noting a total destruction. Compare Deu 22:6 Hosea 10:14.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother;Either that which was in his hand and power; or rather, that which was nearest at hand, and most ready for him, because the approaching night, and his own great fear, gave him not leave to make so scrupulous a choice as otherwise he would have made.
Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams,No text from Poole on this verse.
Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.That his gift might be represented to Esau with most advantage, and his mind might by little and little be sweetened towards him.
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?No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Coming to see thy face, and beg thy favour.
And so commanded he the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, saying, On this manner shall ye speak unto Esau, when ye find him.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.I will appease him; Heb. appease or allay his anger; for the Hebrew word panim signifies both anger, as Psalm 21:9 34:16, and face, as every where, because a man’s anger is most discernible in his face or countenance, Proverbs 21:14.
He will accept of me; Heb. will lift up my face or countenance, which now is dejected with the sense of his displeasure; compare Genesis 4:6; or, will accept of my person, as this phrase is oft used.
So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.His eleven sons, and Dinah, though she be not here mentioned; as the women are oft omitted in Scripture, was being comprehended under the men.
Passed over the ford Jabbok, which is here generally related, but the time and manner of it is particularly described in the following verses. Of this ford Jabbok, see Numbers 21:24 Deu 3:16.
And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.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 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.Not through impotency, but in design, the angel suffered himself to be conquered, to encourage Jacob’s faith and hope against the approaching danger.
The hollow of his thigh, the joint of his hip-bone, or rather the hollow in which that joint was.
The hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, which was done that Jacob might see that it was not his own strength, but only God’s grace, which got him this victory, and could give him the deliverance which he hoped for.
And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.And he said, Let me go: he saith this, partly to show the prevailing power of his prayer with God, and partly to quicken and encourage Jacob to persist in his conflict. Compare Exodus 32:10 Deu 9:14.
The day breaketh, and I am not willing that there should be any spectators or witnesses of these things.
Except thou bless me with the blessings which thou hast promised to Abraham and to me, among which one is protection in this hour of my danger. For Jacob now began to think that it was no man, nor ordinary angel, that was with him, but God himself, as he saith, Genesis 32:30.
And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No more Jacob, not Jacob only. See the like manner of expression 1 Samuel 8:7 Jeremiah 23:7 John 7:16 1 Corinthians 1:17.
Israel signifies a prince or prevailer with God; or, a prince of God, i.e. a great prince and conqueror. Thou hast in some sort conquered both God in this conflict and men, Laban, Esau, &c.,
and hast prevailed; or, and shalt prevail over Esau, of whom thou art afraid.
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.Tell me, I pray thee, thy name, that I may give thee the honour due to it. Art thou a created angel, or art thou the ever-blessed God?
Wherefore dost thou ask after my name? A question which carries in it both a denial of his request, as Judges 13:17,18, and a reproof of his curiosity.
He blessed him there, in an eminent and peculiar manner, which was a real answer to Jacob’s question, and gave him to understand both his name and nature.
And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.I have seen God face to face; not in his essence, for so no man ever saw God, John 1:18, nor yet in a dream or vision, but in a most evident, sensible, familiar, and friendly manifestation of himself.
My life is preserved; I am now well assured of my safety from Esau, whose approach threatened my life. Or he speaks of it with wonder, as others did, that he should see God, and not be struck dead by the glory of his presence. Compare Genesis 16:13 Exodus 20:19 Judges 6:22,23 13:22.
And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Not from any superstitious conceit about it, but only for a memorial of this admirable conflict, the blessed effects whereof even the future generations received.