I just get the feeling that Jacob is a bit of a coward after reading this chapter. He is commanded by God to go back to his home country, but the problem is that his brother, Esau, the one whom he cheated out of his father’s inheritance, is in his home country. Jacob is extraordinarily wealthy and yet he knows that his wealth is not going to protect him. He knows that if his brother wants to take him out he can. So when he hears that his brother is coming with 400 men he doesn’t round up his troops to get ready for battle. Instead, he rounds up a portion of his property in order to send it ahead of him as a present for his brother so that it would appease his anger.
He also sends his family, his wives and children, ahead of him so that Esau would meet them first before he would see the brother who might be the object of his wrath. I don’t know, it just feels like Jacob is a bit of a coward and this is the person who then becomes Israel and carries out the promises of God to allow a progeny to be issued from him. So once we have established that Jacob is getting ready for his encounter with Esau, we then see his encounter with God.
There are two places in this chapter where Jacob experiences and encounters God. The first is one that is never lifted up, but it is a great find. Look at vs. 1-2 where we see that Jacob sees the angels of God and they meet him so he calls that place God’s camp. This is an encounter with God which is welcomed. The next one, not so much. We can start at vs.24 and we see that a “man” wrestled with Jacob, and we don’t know why, but we do know that even if Jacob is a coward he is an excellent wrestler. He wrestles with this man and doesn’t let him go, even when the man “cheats” and throws his hips out of place. But this is the place where Jacob has his name changed to Israel. This word Israel means the one who strives with God. Remember that the next time you hear this word. The one who strives with God, or God strives. Jacob limps out of that camp no longer Jacob, changed completely to Israel.