Today Jacob wrestles with his faith, spiritually and physically. As he gets closer to Esau, Jacob prays for the Lord’s protection. However, Jacob still tries to manipulate the situation by sending gifts to Esau to win his favor before they meet face to face saying, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face, perhaps he will accept me.”
“Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.” But Jacob refuses to let go of the Lord, and the Lord blesses Jacob and gives him a new name – “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel.”
When Jacob (Israel) encounters Esau, Esau “ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” After the reconciliation they part ways, and “Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan.” But here the story takes a dark turn.
Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, is raped by Shechem, the son of a Hivite prince. And her brothers, Simeon and Levi, take revenge on the whole town by killing all the males including Shechem and his father. So the Lord tells Jacob to “Arise, go to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.” But before they leave, Jacob has to tell his household to put away the foreign gods so he can go and worship the Lord “who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.”
Throughout the story we will see more and more how God’s chosen people struggle with sin and idolatry, but God is patient and faithful to his messy, broken people. Nothing will stop the Lord from providing a way for our salvation! So Jacob moves to Bethel and builds an altar to the Lord. Then the Lord confirms all the previous promises He made to Jacob by telling him that nations and kings will come from him and that He will give him the land of Canaan.
We end the reading with the death of Rachel while birthing her second son, Benjamin. Jacob has a special place in his heart for Rachel’s two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Will this favoritism cause family problems? Keep reading to find out. (Genesis 32:1-35:27)