Genesis 32:22-32

 |  April 9, 2018

Gen. 32:22-32

  1. Locate the passage

After sending his family ahead, Jacob spent the night alone. During the night, he encounters a “Man” who changes his name, his posture, and his life. The event parallels the nation of “Israel” who would bear his name as well as his “struggle” with God. The nation honored this event by refusing to eat that part of Jacob that God touched.

  1. Genre

The passage is narrative. It records the conversation between Jacob and the “Man.”

  1. Determine the structure of the passage

32:22-23 – Jacob is completely alone

32:24-25 – Wrestling with God

32:26-29 – Desiring a greater blessing

32:30-32 – Walking with a limp

  1. Exegete the passage

This text chronicles the story of when Jacob became Israel.

This is the second Divine presence Jacob encountered on this journey – the angels at the “camp” and the Lord by the ford (32:22).

The text records that Jacob was alone and afraid. Nevertheless, he wrestled with the “Man” all night.

Much of Jacob’s life to this point has been about wrestling. He wrestled with his brother for a birthright and a blessing; he wrestled with Laban for his family and wealth; and here, he wrestled with God for a blessing much greater than the blessing he had stolen from Esau.

32:22-23 – As this pericope begins, Jacob has with him only what he had when he first left home (no family; no flocks; no servants).

32:24 – Wrestling with God alone at night

32:24 – A “Man” wrestled with Jacob

32:25 – This verse does not suggest weakness of the Lord or a “discovery” of something that He did not know. It, rather, suggests the resilience of Jacob not to let go.

32:26 – Jacob is still seeking a blessing. It is not clear if he was yet aware of the identity of his opponent (he asks, “What is your name?”)

32:28 – In a tradition that is rich in both Testaments of changing names to reflect a new life’s purpose (i.e. Abraham, Peter), God changed Jacob’s name to Israel.

32:29 – Jacob’s request to learn God’s “name” mirrors the request of the “Man” for Jacob’s name. The request to know the “name” of the “Man” is Jacob’s attempt to learn the identity of the “Man.”

32:30 – Jacob (and the reader) is finally clear on the identity of his assailant.

32:31– The rising of the sun marks a new clarity (light) in Jacob’s life. He’s still   limping, but walking more straight.

32:32 – The Hebrew people recognized the significance of Jacob’s divine encounter and commemorated it by not eating the part of Jacob’s body that the Lord touched.

  1. Let the structure of the text drive the sermon

Exp. Like, the appearance of the angels in 33:1-2, one might ask what is the purpose of  Jacob’s Divine encounter at the ford. Here, the purpose seems two-fold: first, it is another reminder of God’s faithfulness to His promise of Divine presence with Jacob (even when he is alone); second, it is a clarification that the blessing that Jacob ultimately needs won’t come from Isaac, but from the Lord. And, that is the blessing worth fighting for!

Learning alone with God in the Struggle

After encountering God, Jacob walked straighter with a limp than he walked before God touched him.

Category: Sermon Structure
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