6 Feb. Genesis 32:1-8,13,22-30

6 Feb. Jacob wrestles with God at Peniel

“When Jacob also went his way, the angels of God met him. When he saw them, he said, ‘This is the camp of God!’ So he named that place Mahanaim [meaning ‘two camps’].”

“Jacob’s brother Esau was living in the area called Seir in the country of Edom. Jacob sent messengers to Esau, telling them, ‘Give this message to my master Esau: “This is what Jacob, your servant, says: I have lived with Laban and have remained there until now. I have cattle, donkeys, flocks and male and female servants. I send this message to you and ask you to accept us.'"

“The messengers returned to Jacob and said, ‘We went to your brother Esau. He is coming to meet you and has 400 men with him.’ Then Jacob was very afraid and worried. He divided the people who were with him and all the flocks, herds and camels into two camps. Jacob thought, ‘Esau might come and destroy one camp, but the other camp can run away and be saved…’”

“Jacob stayed there for the night and prepared a gift for Esau from what he had with him… Jacob thought, ‘If I send these gifts ahead of me, maybe Esau will forgive me… So Jacob sent the gifts to Esau, but he himself stayed that night in the camp.”

“During the night Jacob rose and crossed the Jabbok River at the crossing, taking with him his two wives, his two slave girls and his eleven sons. He sent his family and everything he had across the river.”

“So Jacob was alone, and a man came and wrestled with him until the sun came up. When the man saw he could not defeat Jacob, he struck Jacob’s hip and put it out of joint. Then he said to Jacob, ‘Let me go. The sun is coming up.’”

“But Jacob said, ‘I will let you go if you will bless me.’ The man said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he answered, ‘Jacob’. Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob. Your name will now be Israel [meaning ‘he wrestles with God’], because you have wrestled with God and with people, and you have won.’”

“Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But the man said, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ Then he blessed Jacob there. So Jacob named that place Peniel [meaning ‘the face of God’], saying, ‘I have seen God face to face, but my life was saved.’

          (Genesis 32:1-8, 13 & 22-30)



Jacob set off from Mizpah in the hill country of Gilead and was met by angels (messengers) sent by God. Jacob exclaimed, “This is the camp of God” and called the place Mahanaim or ‘two camps’ – referring to his own camp and the camp of the heavenly hosts.

Jacob remembered that, when he left Canaan twenty years earlier, his brother Esau had threatened to kill him. So he sent messengers to Esau in the land of Seir (Edom), and prepared a gift of goats, sheep and camels to pacify him.

Jacob then crossed the ford of the River Jabbok (the modern River Zarqa) at Mahanaim under cover of darkness.

Jacob’s momentous encounter with God at the ford marked a turning point in Jacob’s life. Having been forced to flee the land that God had promised him at Bethel some twenty years earlier (see Genesis 28:10-19), God confirmed that Jacob would indeed become the father of a great nation in the land of Canaan.

After this momentous struggle, God gave Jacob the name ‘Israel’ (which sounds like the Hebrew for ‘He struggles with God’). Jacob called the place Peniel (or Penuel) (meaning ‘the face of God’) because he said “I have seen God face to face, but my life was saved” (Genesis 32:30).

From this time onwards, the twelve sons of Jacob were called the sons of Israel, and their descendants would be known as the ‘Twelve tribes of Israel’.

The photo (by Jim Greenhill) shows the valley of the River Jabbok (the Zarqa River) near Mahanaim.

You can read more about Jacob’s encounter with Esau @ The Bible Journey | Jacob returns to Canaan and meets Esau

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