« PreviousContinue »
GENESIS XXXII. 24.
And Jacob was left alone, and there wrestled
a man with him until the breaking of
We have in these words the brief account of a very extraordinary circumstance which happened to the patriarch Jacob, soon after his arrival in the land of Canaan from Mesopotamia. It is of great importance that we well understand the nature and meaning of it, and then we may apply it to the great spiritual duty in which it is intended to in
We must therefore, in the first place, briefly consider the preceding part of the history by which it is introduced.
As Jacob, proceeding on his journey after parting with Laban, approached the borders
of his native land, he began to be filled with fear of the reception which he might meet with from his brother. He remembered the manner in which he had supplanted him, concluded that Esau remembered it also, and had not. laid aside his resentment, and knew that he was powerful enough to destroy him, although his own family and attendants formed no inconsiderable body of persons ; for Esau was grown yet greater and more numerous than Jacob. The obtaining of the birthright and the blessing had not detracted any thing from his brother's earthly power and substance, who was then living in Mount Seir with many dependants. As he went on his way, full of these fears, we are told in the first verse of this chapter that “the angels of God met him.” When he left the country he had seen in his dream the angels of God ascending and descending between heaven and earth ; and now on his return he is favoured with a visible appearance of a large number of them coming to afford him their protection and aid. As soon as he saw them, he said, “This is God's host.” He knew that this part of the innumerable company of angels was sent for his defence, and probably from the positions which they took up “he called the name of that place Mahanaim," that is two armies, because perhaps they placed themselves behind and before him, to guard him from every assault. The Psalmist assures us that such protection is afforded, though invisibly, to every true servant of God; “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” How strikingly was this shewn to the servant of Elisha the prophet, when the young man, terrified at the sight of an army of Syrians which had been sent to seize his master, and were surrounding the city of Dothar where they were, cried out, “ Alas, my master! how shall we do?" “ Fear not,” said the prophet, “ for they that be with us, are more than they that be with them.” And then in answer to Elisha's prayer, the young man's eyes were opened, and “ he saw, and behold the mountain," on which the city was built, "was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." Faith should perform this office for us, and enable us to say, “ The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Confident of such protection we may say, “ The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do upto me.”
But although he was thus miraculously assured of the divine care, he does not neglect the means necessary for his own preservation. He sends messengers to his brother to inform them of his return, and of the prosperity which he had met with while sojourning with their uncle Laban. He instructs these messengers to address Esau in terms acknowledging his superiority, and intreating his favour, “I have sent to tell my Lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.” They return with the alarming information that Esau is coming to meet him with four hundred men. This was far too large a company to be brought as a mere guard of honour to himself, or a token of respect to his brother, and could only be coming with a hostile intention. And now what does Jacob do? Does he
use no means of safety ; let him come as he will, the angels of God will protect me ? No; he knew that this would be to tempt God, and not to trust in him; and therefore he has recourse to all prudent and necessary
First, he divides all his people with the flocks and herds into two parts, that if Esau should come and smite the one, the other might flee and escape. Next he betakes himself in earnest prayer to God, in words which I shall hereafter consider. And lastly, he prepares a large present of cattle for his brother, which he sends forward in separate droves, and commands the servants under whose care they were respectively placed, to give this account of them when Esau should ask whose they were,
They be thy servant Jacob's; it is a present sent unto my Lord Esau: and behold, also he is behind us.” Having thus by a rich present, and by what was of more importance still, by a very humble acknowledgement of his own inferiority, endeavoured to appease his brother, he sent forward his wives and children and all that he had, over the ford of the brook Jabbok ;