Jacob's Name is Changed to Israel
Genesis Thirty Two


          Twenty years before this time Jacob had left the land Canaan with Esau so angry that he was planning to kill him. God told Jacob to return to Canaan. Jacob knew he would have to face Esau. His heart was still full of fear. When Jacob heard that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men he was greatly afraid and distressed. He thought that Esau was coming to kill him. Jacob divided his family and possessions into two companies. He thought that if Esau smote one company then the other company might escape. He also prayed a fervent prayer to God. In his prayer he expressed respect for God’s greatness and acknowledged his own unworthiness. He acknowledged that God had told him to return and that He had given him all that he had. He said he went over Jordan with his staff and returned with two bands. In his prayer he said, “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. 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.” (Genesis 32:11-12) Jacob prepared many gifts and sent them to Esau by his servants. After Jacob sent everyone else on he stayed behind alone. He may have realized that he needed more time alone with God. A man of God initiated a struggle or wrestling with Jacob. God wanted Jacob to realize that his struggle was not with Laban or with Esau but with Him. Jacob continued to wrestle throughout the night because he wanted to receive God’s blessing. He was hurt badly in the struggle and could not walk well after it was over. Jacob was given a new name. He was called Israel, “for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” “Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”


          Jacob prepared to meet Esau -- Genesis 32:1-8: When Jacob was leaving Canaan he saw the ladder going up to heaven and God’s angels going up and down on it. Now as he returned home God’s angels were there to protect him. The Bible says, “The angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.” In Haran God had told Jacob to return and He promised to be with him. Jacob had no reason to be so fearful because God promised to be with him and He was with him.  Jacob sent messengers to Esau to let him know that he was on his way. Esau lived in that land of Seir, the country of Edom. The name Esau had to do with him being a hairy man. Edom meant red and that name was given when he sold his birthright. “And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.” (Genesis 25:30) Jacob sent word to Esau that he had stayed with Laban and that he was bringing family news. He wanted him to know that during this 20 years God had blessed him with many possessions. When the messengers returned to Jacob that brought news that was alarming to him. They told him that Esau was coming to meet him and that he had 400 men with him. Esau was bringing the men to help Jacob but he feared that he might be coming to harm him. God had promised to be with Jacob. However, Jacob was frightened and he wanted to use every possible means to protect himself. He divided the people and possessions into two bands. His reasoning was that if Esau attacked one band the other might be able to escape.


          Jacob prayed about meeting Esau -- Genesis 32:9-12: In this account Jacob provides us with a wonderful life lesson. When troubles come pray; do what you can do and then pray more. Jacob remembered that Jehovah was the God worshipped by Abraham and Isaac. He had kept his promises to them and now He has promised to be with Jacob. Even when our faith in God has been strong the Devil is always there to say, “Doubt God.” Jacob, like all of us, realized that he did not deserve God’s blessings. He said, “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.” (Genesis 32:10) Jacob asked God to deliver him from Esau. He feared for his own life and for the life of his children. Jacob reminds me of Gideon who wanted reassurance even after God had promised. (Judges 6:36-40) God gently dealt with Jacob as his faith grew. He said, “I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.” (Genesis 32:12)


          Jacob arranged gifts for Esau -- Genesis 32:13-21: Jacob’s next act was to prepare many gifts for Esau. He wanted to do all that he could to please Esau. It seemed that Jacob wanted to make restitution to Esau. In separate droves he sent, “two hundred female goats and twenty males, two hundred female sheep and twenty males, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten folds.” There was a space between each drove. Jacob thought this might slow Esau down and soften his heart. The servants had been instructed to tell Esau that these animals belonged to Jacob and that he was sending them as a gift for his “master,” Esau. He also wanted Esau to be informed that he was right behind the animals. Jacob is both showing respect to Esau and submitting himself to him. Later the descendants of Esau would be subject to the descendants of Jacob. God’s host was surrounding Jacob, but he sent this caravan of animals as a means of protection. Jacob and his family were in the rear of all these gifts. Jacob wanted Esau to know that his desire was to make up for his past wrong deeds and to make things right if possible. The men moved ahead with the gifts, but Jacob stayed behind with the women and children. 


          Jacob’s name is changed to Israel -- Genesis 32:22-32: Jacob rose up in the night and took his wives, his children and everything he had over the ford Jabbok. This was an act that he hoped might help provide safety for his family and his possessions. Jacob had both God’s promise of protection and he was surrounded by God’s angels, yet he was still afraid. He was trying God’s patience. After they were all across the Jabbok Jacob went back and spent the rest of the night alone. A man came and wrestled with Jacob until daybreak. Some of our best information about that night is found in Hosea 12:2-5. “The LORD hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him. He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God: Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us; Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial.” Even though Jacob was in a place where he stood between Laban and Esau his struggle was not with them, but his struggle was with God. Bethel is the place where Jacob had the vision of the ladder and the angels ascending and descending upon it into heaven. The man “touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.” Jacob so much wanted to be blessed by God. He would not stop fighting until he received that blessing. This is the type of man that God can depend on. Finally, Jacob stopped hiding behind the women and children and stood up to be a man for God. The man asked Jacob, “What is your name?”


          He answered “Jacob.” “The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel.” "Israel" means "The prince that prevailed with God." Jacob said to the man he was wrestling with “Now tell me your name.” God said that Jacob should already know His name. He did not tell Jacob His name but He did bless him. Jacob called the name of the place Peniel. He said “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” After coming face to face with God, Jacob or Israel was a changed man. The muscle on Israel’s hip joint had been injured by the touch of God. “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.” (Genesis 32:32) Even though his hip was hurt Israel became strong in the Lord.


          Let us arise and fight our battles against sin and self. The only forgiveness of sins is through Jesus Christ. To be forgiven of sins you must hear the gospel (Romans 10:17), believe in Jesus as the Christ (Mark 16:16), repent of all sins (Acts 17:30), confess Christ as Lord (Matthew 10:32) and be baptized for remission of sins. (Acts 2:38) After baptism remain faithful to God. (Revelation 2:10) There are great blessings that come when we are forgiven and faithful!