Verses 1 and 2
In sending His angels to meet Jacob, God was protecting Jacob. We recalled God’s promise to do this, which is recorded in verse 15 of Genesis 28 (… behold, I am with thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee…).
Despite God’s protection, Jacob was ‘greatly afraid and distressed’. We decided that Jacob’s fear may reveal a lack faith in God.
Verses 9 and 10
Nevertheless, Jacob had enough faith to turn to God in prayer. He had, perhaps, realised that he should trust God to protect him: ‘I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.’ God had, as promised, brought Jacob into the promised land. However, the whole promise to Jacob had not yet been fulfilled; the time was (and is) yet to come when ‘all the families of the earth [shall] be blessed.’ God had promised, ‘I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.’ , and, therefore, God was still with Jacob.
In verse 9, Jacob addresses God as the ‘God of [his] father Abraham, and God of [his] father Isaac, the LORD…’. We discussed the possibility of Jacob’s having yet to learn bout his own relationship with God. He refers to God as the God of his ancestors, but not as his own God.
As Jacob recognised, he had ‘seen God face to face’, and his life was preserved. We discussed the significance of Jacob’s thigh being touched, and put out of joint, by the angel. Perhaps it represents Jacob’s having been changed by God; from now on, he would walk in God’s ways. Jacob really had no chance against the angel of God, but his life was preserved. Perhaps Jacob’s struggle can be likened to the human race’s (perhaps, foremost, the nation of Israel’s) struggle against the ways of God, which occurs in the night (in Jesus’ absence). However, in his mercy and grace, God has promised to preserve the lives of those who have faith in Him, just as Jacob was preserved.
We talked about how Jacob, through this interaction with God, was brought closer to Him. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel (which means ‘A prince of God’). We agreed that after Jacob’s experience, he had a greater understanding of God’s relationship with Him. It had been proven to Jacob that God would protect him.
We noted that Esau met Jacob with 400 men. Perhaps he was afraid of Jacob, just as Jacob had been afraid of him.
Jacob said to Esau, ‘I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God’. It was suggested that the sight of Esau, who ‘ran to meet [Jacob], and embraced him…’, proved to Jacob that God was protecting him.
Verses 12 and 13
It was pointed out that Jacob seems to have been making excuses not to travel with Esau, as Esau suggested (verse 12). Jacob said to Esau, ‘the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me’ (verse 13), and stated that he would follow Esau at a slower pace. However, Esau also had young animals: Jacob gave him a gift including foals and colts (chapter 32, verse 15). We concluded that Jacob did not want to travel with Esau. Perhaps he feared that there would be disagreements between his and Esau’s companies, as there had been between Abraham’s and Lot’s. Perhaps Jacob wanted to remain in the land which God had promised him (‘Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir’; Seir seems to have been outside of the promised land).
Another reason for Jacob’s reluctance to travel with Esau may have been his desire to build an altar to God. Jacob ‘called it El-elohe-Israel’ (which means ‘God, the God of Israel’). This was the first time that Jacob referred to God as his God.