So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
In this story Jacob is returning home to his fathers house. Since he ran away he now has built for himself a family and legacy of his own. He has wives and children, cattle and wealth, and a past that he thinks about every day that has passed since he stole his brothers birth right. Jacob knows that when he gets home he will have to face Esau. The last time Jacob encountered Esau, Esau vowed to kill Jacob for what he had done. As Jacob makes his way closer to home he decides to separate his caravan into two groups. The first group he filled with all his flocks, herds, and camels, and the other group with his family. Jacob thought that if Esau attacked the first group, the second might escape.
Jacob prays to God for protection against Esau. He acknowledges that when he first ran away he had only a staff in his hand and now he has been made into two camps. Surely God would not have given all of this to him only to have it all striped away at his brothers hands. Jacob decides to send a gift for his brother Esau to travel ahead of the caravan in hopes to pacify Esau and gain his favor. The day comes to an end and he makes camp for the night after sending his family across the stream.
While he was alone we read that he wrestled with a man till daybreak. Later in the story we learn that the man he wrestled with was God. Now, this could be literal because it’s God and He can do whatever He wants, or this could be metaphorical because if any man wrestled with God I seriously doubt he would survive. Either way, Jacob struggles with God and we read that it lasted the entire night. Jacob tells God that he will not let go until God blesses him. Earlier in the story we read that Jacob is praying for protection from Esau, so it makes sense that he would be seeking God’s blessing in the form of protection as he wrestles with God. Eventually God blesses Jacob saying:
“Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God
and with humans and have overcome.”
- Genesis 32:28
The next morning Jacob eventually comes face to face with Esau. Esau runs out toward Jacob and Jacob falls to his face and bows before Esau as he approaches. When the two brothers finally meet, Esau wraps his arms around Jacob and greets him with love and acceptance. Jacob is shocked and humbled by this greeting. Esau pours out mercy instead of wrath. Jacob deserved to be punished and held accountable for what he had done, but Esau instead laid aside what Jacob deserved. I believe this moment must have always stuck out to Jacob and his family. Jacob’s wives and children must have heard all about uncle Esau. They must have known that there was animosity between their father and his brother. We later see how this act of mercy molded Jacobs children to be more merciful through Joseph’s story.