Genesis 32


וַיַּשְׁכֵּם לָבָן בַּבֹּקֶר וַיְנַשֵּׁק לְבָנָיו וְלִבְנוֹתָיו וַיְבָרֶךְ אֶתְהֶם וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיָּשָׁב לָבָן לִמְקֹמוֹ  32:1

Gene. 32:1  And Laban arose in the morning and kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them and left, and Laban returned to his place.

Note that the phrase his sons is better translated as his grandsons, and the phrase his daughters includes also his granddaughter, Dinah.

וְיַעֲקֹב הָלַךְ לְדַרְכּוֹ וַיִּפְגְּעוּ בוֹ מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹהִים 32:2

Gene. 32:2  And Jacob went on his way, and angels of God met up with him.

וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב כַּאֲשֶׁר רָאָם מַחֲנֵה אֱלֹהִים זֶה וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא מַחֲנָיִם 32:3

Gene. 32:3  And when he saw them, Jacob said , “This is a camp of God.”  And he called the name of that place Mahanaim.

Mahanaim means camps, or in this instance, two camps, presumably referring to Jacob’s camp and that of God and the angels.  However, v. 32:8 below implies that the naming is prophetic rather than descriptive.  Jacob appears to have strange implied powers that are simply taken for granted by the scriptural writer.  Consider that Jacob recognized the angels as Abraham was able to do.

וַיִּשְׁלַח יַעֲקֹב מַלְאָכִים לְפָנָיו אֶל עֵשָׂו אָחִיו אַרְצָה שֵׂעִיר שְׂדֵה אֱדוֹם 32:4

Gene. 32:4  And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau, his brother, to the land of Seir, the field of Edom.

An interesting, if unorthodox, observation can be made here.  Angel and messenger are the same word in Hebrew.  Is the implication here that Jacob had a measure of authority over the angels?  Did he send angels of God rather than earthly messengers to Esau?

וַיְצַו אֹתָם לֵאמֹר כֹּה תֹאמְרוּן לַאדֹנִי לְעֵשָׂו כֹּה אָמַר עַבְדְּךָ יַעֲקֹב עִם לָבָן גַּרְתִּי וָאֵחַר עַד 32:5


Gene. 32:5  And he commanded them, saying, “Thus shall you say to my lord, to Esau:  ‘Thus says your servant, Jacob:  ‘With Laban have I sojourned and could have stayed until now.”

וַיְהִי לִי שׁוֹר וַחֲמוֹר צֹאן וְעֶבֶד וְשִׁפְחָה וָאֶשְׁלְחָה לְהַגִּיד לַאדֹנִי לִמְצֹא חֵן בְּעֵינֶיך 32:6

Gene. 32:6  “And I have ox and ass, flock, and manservant and maidservant that I will send to acknowledge my lord, to find favor in your eyes.’”

I don’t believe this verse has ever been translated exactly like I have.  The word for that I will send contains a non-inverting vav prefix; the verb is first-person imperfect.  The vav is normally translated as inverting and the word is almost universally translated as and I have sent.  However, so far, Jacob is sending only messengers, making the past tense translation inappropriate.  He is apparently promising Esau some of his riches to find favor in his eyes, to appease him.  Does that sound like it could reflect the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians?

וַיָּשֻׁבוּ הַמַּלְאָכִים אֶל יַעֲקֹב לֵאמֹר בָּאנוּ אֶל אָחִיךָ אֶל עֵשָׂו וְגַם הֹלֵךְ לִקְרָאתְךָ וְאַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת 32:7

אִישׁ עִמּוֹ

Gene. 32:7  And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother, to Esau, but he is also coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”

וַיִּירָא יַעֲקֹב מְאֹד וַיֵּצֶר לוֹ וַיַּחַץ אֶת הָעָם אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ וְאֶת הַצֹּאן וְאֶת הַבָּקָר וְהַגְּמַלִּים לִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת 32:8

Gene. 32:8  And Jacob was greatly frightened and he was distressed, and he divided the people that were his, and the flock and the herd and the camels, into two camps.

וַיֹּאמֶר, אִם יָבוֹא עֵשָׂו אֶל הַמַּחֲנֶה הָאַחַת וְהִכָּהוּ וְהָיָה הַמַּחֲנֶה הַנִּשְׁאָר, לִפְלֵיטָה 32:9

Gene. 32:9  And he said, “If Esau will come to the one camp and strike it, then the remaining camp will be able to escape.”

וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב אֱלֹהֵי אָבִי אַבְרָהָם וֵאלֹהֵי אָבִי יִצְחָק יְהוָה הָאֹמֵר אֵלַי שׁוּב לְאַרְצְך 32:10

וּלְמוֹלַדְתְּךָ וְאֵיטִיבָה עִמָּךְ

Gene. 32:10   And Jacob said, “God of my father, Abraham and God of my father, Isaac, the Lord Who said to me, ‘Return to your land and to your kindred and I will do good for you,’

The verb translated as and I will do good contains a non-inverting vav prefix, as the verb is first-person imperfect.

קָטֹנְתִּי מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים וּמִכָּל הָאֱמֶת אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ אֶת עַבְדֶּךָ כִּי בְמַקְלִי עָבַרְתִּי אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה 32:11

וְעַתָּה הָיִיתִי לִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת

Gene. 32:11   I am not worthy of all the kindnesses, and of all the truth that you show your servant, but with my staff I have crossed this Jordan and now I have become two camps.”

הַצִּילֵנִי נָא מִיַּד אָחִי מִיַּד עֵשָׂו כִּי יָרֵא אָנֹכִי אֹתוֹ פֶּן יָבוֹא וְהִכַּנִי אֵם עַל בָּנִים 32:12

Gene. 32:12   “Deliver me please from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, lest he should come and smite me, mother together with children.”

וְאַתָּה אָמַרְתָּ הֵיטֵב אֵיטִיב עִמָּךְ וְשַׂמְתִּי אֶת זַרְעֲךָ כְּחוֹל הַיָּם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִסָּפֵר מֵרֹב 32:13

Gene. 32:13   “As You said, ‘I will surely do good with you and I will make your seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted for multitude.’”                                  [Return to 1Kin. 4:20]

וַיָּלֶן שָׁם בַּלַּיְלָה הַהוּא וַיִּקַּח מִן הַבָּא בְיָדוֹ מִנְחָה לְעֵשָׂו אָחִיו 32:14

Gene. 32:14   And he stopped there in that night, and he took some of what he had gained by his hand for a gift to Esau, his brother,

עִזִּים מָאתַיִם וּתְיָשִׁים עֶשְׂרִים רְחֵלִים מָאתַיִם וְאֵילִים עֶשְׂרִים 32:15

Gene. 32:15   two hundred she-goats, and twenty he-goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams,

גְּמַלִּים מֵינִיקוֹת וּבְנֵיהֶם, שְׁלֹשִׁים פָּרוֹת אַרְבָּעִים, וּפָרִים עֲשָׂרָה, אֲתֹנֹת עֶשְׂרִים, וַעְיָרִם עֲשָׂרָה 32:16

Gene. 32:16   thirty suckling camels and their calves, forty cows, and ten bulls, twenty she-asses, and ten foals,

Forgive me for an abrupt but momentary digression whose significance will not be revealed for a while.  Note that the term suckling (perhaps nursing would be a better translation for this particular verse) applies here to the camels, not to their calves.  The Hebrew word can apply to either a mother or a baby.  I’ll come back to this at a future time (Exodus Chapter 23).

וַיִּתֵּן בְּיַד עֲבָדָיו עֵדֶר עֵדֶר לְבַדּוֹ וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל עֲבָדָיו עִבְרוּ לְפָנַי וְרֶוַח תָּשִׂימוּ בֵּין עֵדֶר וּבֵין עֵדֶר 32:17

Gene. 32:17   that he delivered into the hand of his servants, each drove by itself; and he said to his servants, “Pass before me and put a space between drove and drove.”

וַיְצַו אֶת הָרִאשׁוֹן לֵאמֹר כִּי יִפְגָשְׁךָ עֵשָׂו אָחִי וּשְׁאֵלְךָ לֵאמֹר לְמִי אַתָּה וְאָנָה תֵלֵךְ וּלְמִי אֵלֶּה 32:18


Gene. 32:18   And he commanded the first, saying, “When Esau, my brother, will meet you, and ask you, saying, ‘Whose are you?  And where do you go?  And whose are these before you,’

וְאָמַרְתָּ לְעַבְדְּךָ לְיַעֲקֹ במִנְחָה הִוא שְׁלוּחָה לַאדֹנִי לְעֵשָׂו וְהִנֵּה גַם הוּא אַחֲרֵינוּ 32:19

Gene. 32:19   then you shall say, ‘They are your servant, Jacob's; they are a gift, sent to my lord, to Esau, and, behold, he is also behind us.’”

וַיְצַו גַּם אֶת הַשֵּׁנִי גַּם אֶת הַשְּׁלִישִׁי גַּם אֶת כָּל הַהֹלְכִים אַחֲרֵי הָעֲדָרִים לֵאמֹר כַּדָּבָר הַזֶּה  32:20

תְּדַבְּרוּן אֶל עֵשָׂו בְּמֹצַאֲכֶם אֹתוֹ

Gene. 32:20   And he commanded also the second, also the third, also all that were departing behind the droves, saying, “In this manner shall you speak to Esau on your finding him,

וַאֲמַרְתֶּם גַּם הִנֵּה עַבְדְּךָ יַעֲקֹב אַחֲרֵינוּ כִּי אָמַר אֲכַפְּרָה פָנָיו בַּמִּנְחָה הַהֹלֶכֶת לְפָנָי וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן   32:21

אֶרְאֶה פָנָיו אוּלַי יִשָּׂא פָנָי

Gene. 32:21   and you shall say, ‘Moreover, behold, your servant, Jacob, is behind us.’”  For he said, “I will appease his face with the gift that went before me and afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will forgive my face.”

וַתַּעֲבֹר הַמִּנְחָה עַל פָּנָיו וְהוּא לָן בַּלַּיְלָה הַהוּא בַּמַּחֲנֶה 32:22

Gene. 32:22   And the gift passed by his face and he himself stopped for that night in the camp.

וַיָּקָם בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא וַיִּקַּח אֶת שְׁתֵּי נָשָׁיו וְאֶת שְׁתֵּי שִׁפְחֹתָיו וְאֶת אַחַד עָשָׂר יְלָדָיו וַיַּעֲבֹר אֵת 32:23

מַעֲבַר יַבֹּק

Gene. 32:23   And he arose in that night and took his two wives and his two handmaids and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.

וַיִּקָּחֵם וַיַּעֲבִרֵם אֶת הַנָּחַל וַיַּעֲבֵר אֶת אֲשֶׁר לוֹ  32:24

Gene. 32:24   And he took them and put them across the stream and he sent across whatever was his.

וַיִּוָּתֵר יַעֲקֹב לְבַדּוֹ וַיֵּאָבֵק אִישׁ עִמּוֹ עַד עֲלוֹת הַשָּׁחַר 32:25

Gene. 32:25   And Jacob remained by himself.  And a man wrestled with him until the break of day.

וַיַּרְא כִּי לֹא יָכֹל לוֹ וַיִּגַּע בְּכַף יְרֵכוֹ וַתֵּקַע כַּף יֶרֶךְ יַעֲקֹב בְּהֵאָבְקוֹ עִמּו 32:26

Gene. 32:26   When he saw that he did not overcome him, then he touched the hollow of his thigh during his wrestling with him and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was dislocated.

וַיֹּאמֶר שַׁלְּחֵנִי כִּי עָלָה הַשָּׁחַר וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא אֲשַׁלֵּחֲךָ כִּי אִם בֵּרַכְתָּנִי 32:27

Gene. 32:27   And he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.”  And he said, “I will not release you except if you bless me.”

וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו מַה שְּׁמֶךָ וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב 32:28

Gene. 32:28   And he said to him, “What is your name?”  And he said, “Jacob.”

וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא יַעֲקֹב יֵאָמֵר עוֹד שִׁמְךָ כִּי אִם יִשְׂרָאֵל כִּי שָׂרִיתָ עִם אֱלֹהִים וְעִם ‘אֲנָשִׁים וַתּוּכָל 32:29

Gene. 32:29   And he said, “Your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and you have prevailed.”

The name Israel can mean “God shall rule [or contend]” or “Let God rule [or contend].”  In this context, this new name is incongruous; it implies nothing about Jacob prevailing, but is about God.  To me, this suggests that the name may be a reminder to Jacob and to all the generations following him that, although a person may win a struggle with God, God always rules.  However, it may also mean that God prevails because of Israel.

If, as I suspect, Jacob represents the Jewish people in our time, the new name also implies that despite our (the Jews’) difficulties, God will prevail, thereby protecting and delivering us as a people.  While our struggle with others continues (throughout the night), it will end with God’s (and our) victory.

One more note is in order.  The name Jacob comes from a word meaning supplanting, deceiving, or cheating, as well as grasping the heel.  All of these have been appropriate descriptions of Jacob.  Now his new name, Israel, comes from a word meaning superior, master, or noble, among other similar meanings.  Is this name change prophetic?                                                                                                        [Return v. 35:10]

וַיִּשְׁאַל יַעֲקֹב וַיֹּאמֶר הַגִּידָה נָּא שְׁמֶךָ וַיֹּאמֶר לָמָּה זֶּה תִּשְׁאַל לִשְׁמִי וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתוֹ שָׁם 32:30

Gene. 32:30   And Jacob asked and said, “Make known, please, your name.”  And he said, “Why is it you would ask for my name?”  And he blessed him there.

As I see it, the man has no name.  He represents the rest of the world apart from Israel.  This seems to me to be additional evidence that Jacob represents the Jewish people, because they are to bless the nations of the world.

וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב שֵׁם הַמָּקוֹם פְּנִיאֵל כִּי רָאִיתִי אֱלֹהִים פָּנִים אֶל פָּנִים וַתִּנָּצֵל נַפְשִׁי 32:31

32:31   And Jacob called the name of the place P’niel,  for “I saw God face to face and my life was preserved.”

Now, did Jacob wrestle with God or with a man?  We are told that it was a man in v. 32:25.  I believe that it was a man.  I believe that this event was an eye opener for Jacob, a watershed.  In it he saw the power of God and had a vision of the future – hence his new name.  Until this point, his faith in the power and faithfulness of God can be called questionable.  Until now he had used God almost unconsciously.  Now he was awakened to the truth.  Here was his epiphany.  God is absolute, faithful, all powerful, and eternal.

By the way, the name P’niel means “face of God.”

וַיִּזְרַח לוֹ הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ כַּאֲשֶׁר עָבַר אֶת פְּנוּאֵל וְהוּא צֹלֵעַ עַל יְרֵכוֹ  32:32

Gene. 32:32   And the sun rose over him as he crossed Peniel, and he limped on his thigh.

עַל כֵּן לֹא יֹאכְלוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת גִּיד הַנָּשֶׁה אֲשֶׁר עַל כַּף הַיָּרֵךְ עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה כִּי נָגַע בְּכַף יֶרֶךְ  32:33

יַעֲקֹב בְּגִיד הַנָּשֶׁה

Gene. 32:33   Therefore the children of Israel do not eat the sciatic nerve which is on the hollow of the thigh until this day, because he reached into the hollow of the thigh of Jacob, on the sciatic nerve.

We are reminded here once more that this chapter (at least) was written well after the life of Jacob, more than likely after the Israelites settled in Israel.

The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest single nerve in the human body.  It extends from the small of the back (the base of the spine) through the pelvis and buttocks down along the thigh and leg to the foot.  If pinched by a herniated disc or other condition, it can be a source of continual harsh pain.  Is this another allusion to the fate of the Jewish people?

The custom of not eating the sciatic nerve is not derived from a Torah command.  Its source is “rabbinic,” that is, a decision of the ruling dignitaries of the time.

Now in my humble opinion,  the fact that avoiding eating the hollow of the thigh is not the result of a Torah commandment, I assume it is a custom or tradition that was inspired by v. 32:32 and mentioned by the scribe after the fact.  Therefore, I do not count it among the Torah commandments.


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