“And a Man wrestled with him till daybreak” (Genesis 32:24)
From the womb Jacob was one who was a grasper. His name means “supplanter” that is “one who wrongfully or illegally seizes and holds the place of another.” His name also means “the heel catcher.” When he and his twin brother Esau were still in the womb of their mother Rebekah they jostled with each other, a struggle between the two siblings that was to continue through Jacob’s long and somewhat troubled life. When the babies came out of the womb Jacob was grasping the heel of Esau. Esau was the firstborn and the one who was to receive the birthright.
Now Esau was the father of the Edomites that lived in Edom which today sweeps down from Southern Jordan into Saudi Arabia. In Ezekiel 25:12-14 we are told that Edom includes Teman and Dedan which on ancient maps of the Middle-East were located in Saudi Arabia, the heart of the Muslim world today.
The conflict we see between the descendants of Jacob and Esau continues with the conflict between the Nation of Israel with the Arab nations to this very day.
Now God had been at work in Jacob’s life even though Jacob was by nature a grasper and one who even stole his brother’s birthright which had been organised by Jacob’s mother. When Jacob was fleeing for his very life God had appeared to him in a dream and made the same promise to him that He had made to Abraham and Isaac concerning the land of Israel, at that time called the Land of Canaan. As a result, Jacob responded by faith which God accepted (Genesis 28:10-22). God always remembers His covenants!
Jacob’s stubborn character traits would also be seen in Israel as a nation down through their long and troubled history. Finally, after a life of many troubles and trials God brought Jacob to a place where his very life was threatened by Esau. Jacob was facing a situation of life or death that he could not handle by his own cunning. If God did not intervene supernaturally Jacob would have been killed by his brother who had vowed many years before to kill Jacob because he had deprived Esau of his birthright as the first born son (Genesis 27:41).
Even though Jacob obtained the birthright by deceptive means he valued the birthright whereas Esau despised it. Jacob had the seed of faith in his heart whereas Esau did not have that same kind of faith his brother had. We are also told in God’s Word that Esau was godless and did not care for God and traded it for a single bowl of food to satiate his fleshly appetite and that when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected. He could find no ground for repentance, though he sought the blessing with tears (Hebrews 12:16-17). Esau wanted the blessing but did not want to be godly in character. He sought the blessing but not the God who brings the blessing. The character trait of Cain who killed his brother Abel was also in Esau.
The Spirit of God had been at work in the life of Jacob for many years and even though his character flaws were many he was the clay in the hands of the Divine Potter who was actively working out His covenant purposes and plans for Jacob and for the future nation of Israel.
The real turning point in Jacob’s life came the night before he was to meet Esau after many years of animosity from his brother. Jacob was alone at night and we are told a man wrestled with Jacob through the long night until the break of day when Jacob came into a place of spiritual victory over his fleshly and stubborn nature, and even had his name changed by God Himself.
Jacob’s life-changing encounter and struggle with the Pre-incarnate Messiah, before he was clothed in a flesh and blood body, was prophetic in that what happened to Jacob on that long dark night when he wrestled with the Messiah mirrors what will happen to Israel as a nation in the last days. Let’s now look at this prophetically from Genesis Chapter 32:24-32.
(24) “So Jacob was left alone, and a Man wrestled with him till daybreak.”
Jacob was left alone. There was no human support at all, nothing or no one to rely upon except God alone. So it will be with the nation of Israel at the very end of this present age. They will stand alone with implacable enemies on all sides hell-bent on their destruction. Jacob’s wrestling match with the Messiah prefigures Israel’s wrestling match with the Messiah which we see prophesied in scripture to occur during the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. The nation would be back in the Land of Israel when this time of Jacob’s trouble will descend upon Israel.
This period of trouble will last for 1,260 days or three and a half years and will be a terrifying time for Israel when their own prowess and capability and military power will not be able to match the impending destruction which will threaten them. Cries of fear will be heard in the land, cries of terror, not peace. Strong men will be grasping their stomachs in fear as a woman does in labour and every face in Israel turned deathly pale especially at Jerusalem.
It will be an awful day unlike anything that has ever occurred in the past and will ever occur again in the future, however God will supernaturally intervene when He sends Messiah Jesus back to rescue Israel out of it. The yoke of their implacable enemies will be broken from around their necks and their bonds of oppression torn off by Messiah Jesus who will reign over His people Israel, and whom they will serve (Jeremiah 30:3-10) (Daniel 12:1-4) (Matthew 24:21-22).
Just as Jacob wrestled through the night with the Messiah so Israel will wrestle with the Messiah for three and a half years and at the end of it experience a reunion with their long lost Messiah and redeemer and brother in the flesh, Jesus. What happened with Joseph when he was reunited and reconciled with his brothers also mirrors what will happen at the end of the long night of Jacob’s Trouble between Israel and the Messiah our Lord Jesus (Genesis 50:15-21) (Zechariah 12:10-14).
Notice also that the wrestling match continued until daybreak when the light finally dawned heralding a new day and a new beginning for Jacob. At the very end of this Time of Trouble for Jacob (Israel) the surviving remnant of Jews will encounter the Messiah! It will be life from the dead for the whole nation! (Romans 11:15). Now let’s continue…
(Vs.25) “When the Man saw that He could not overpower him, He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the Man.”
Jacob was a stubborn man by nature and used to controlling and even manipulating situations, people and circumstances by the cleverness of his own mind. However, God had to break this attitude of self-dependence and the only way to do this was to arrange a situation which Jacob could not avoid. This stubbornness of heart and cleverness and prowess in their own ability is a mark of the people of Israel today by and large, especially when it comes to Messiah Jesus whom they reject as a nation, especially the religious Orthodox Jews, and even those within Knesset who oppose the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
God is seeking to reach them all with the gospel, but the partial hardness of heart and veil over their spiritual sensors remains, both of which God is going to remove when the time of the Big Trouble for Jacob comes upon the nation.
Now Jacob wasn’t only wrestling with the Messiah but also wrestling with himself as his fleshly stubborn nature was hard to break and it was a very hard struggle for God to win. It was a clash of wills! So God touched the socket of Jacob’s hip wrenching his hip during this wrestling match.
Likewise, when Messiah Jesus starts to really apply the pressure to Israel they will at first resist and seek to trust and rely upon their own prowess and ability to overcome every obstacle, so God will have to touch them bringing them to that place where they will desperately need Him recognizing their own inability to save themselves from their impending doom as a nation.
God will break that stubbornness and hardness of heart, not to destroy them, but to bring them back to Him through their recognition that this reunion is only possible through a revelation of the Messiah resulting in a spiritual restoration and reunion with Him whom they have pierced with their sins. God was seeking to teach Jacob a total reliance upon Him for life and godliness. God was changing Jacob’s character, not patching up the old nature, but releasing within that man the new divine nature that was from God Himself! Now let’s read on…
(Vs.26) “Then the Man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
God wanted to see how badly Jacob wanted the blessing so He started to pull back as Jacob held on for dear life recognizing that he wanted the blessing of God more than anything else in the whole world. It was daybreak, the victory was dawning. God tried to push Jacob away, although God had no intention of letting Jacob go, He knew that the frame of man is dust and that without Him Jacob would not make it out alive if left to his own devices.
Now why Jacob was stubborn by nature as are all Jews by and large, that stubbornness in the hands of God was in fact a blessing in disguise as Jacob in his desperation would not let go of the Messiah until He blessed him, which was his faith in action, and God was well pleased with this kind of faith and would reward it (Hebrews 11:6). God is even now arranging things for Israel to break their stubbornness and self-reliance upon their own wherewithal and dependence upon other nations for their security which at the end will all turn against them anyway.
When the Messiah reveals Himself to his wayward brethren in the flesh they will fall down before Him and worship Him and praise Him for bringing to the whole nation so great a salvation and total redemption from their sins and deliverance from their enemies and from the hands of all who hate them.
God will intervene and punish those nations that have dared to touch the Apple of His eye! It does not pay to mess with Israel! While God has always brought foreign armies of the nations against Israel to bring His people back to Himself, once these armies have served His purposes, He gets rid of them big time!
God will bring Israel to that point where they will not let Messiah Jesus go until the blessing has been procured! Their stubbornness of faith, moved this time by the Spirit of God, will bring them the victory. For Israel it will not only be the daybreak and the dawning of a new day, but the beginning of a new age where as a completely restored nation they will be the head and not the tail, co-reigning with ‘David’ (Jesus) their Messiah as the king of the Jews! Now let’s continue…
(Vs.27) “The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered.
When God asked Jacob His name He was emphasizing to Jacob that his name represented his character which had been flawed, and that he needed a name that would represent his decedents which would bring honour to God and declare to the whole world that this family of Jacob was royalty as far as God was concerned.
(Vs.28) “Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”
Because of Jacob’s persistent faith, despite his recognition and revelation of his own shortcomings, God changed his name from Jacob to Israel meaning; “one who prevails with God” or “let’s God prevail.” Jacob had wrestled with his own fallen human fleshly nature and with his enemies mainly being Esau, but had also at the same time wrestled with God with a determination to get the Covenant blessing promised to Abraham and Isaac. This pictures the final outcome for Israel at the end of this age!
Jacob had prevailed with God, and had prevailed over himself, and had inherited the promised blessing and the guarantee that his decedents would have the Land of Israel to be for them an everlasting possession! (Genesis 17:7-8). Let’s be clear on this one fact that the nation has always been called Israel, not Palestine! Those who argue this fact and dispute it argue and dispute with God Himself! Let’s continue…
(Vs.29) “Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. (Vs.30) “So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
In such a situation Jacob wanted to know the name of the person he had been wrestling with. It was clear to Jacob that he had not been wrestling with an ordinary man but with a divine person. The name Peniel itself means “the Face of God” and in naming that place Peniel Jacob knew that he had been wrestling with God Himself and had lived to tell about it.
Now we know from both Testaments that no one can look upon the face of God and live! (Exodus 33:20) The apostle John tells us that “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is at the Father’s side, has made Him known” (John 1:18).
Before the eternal Son of God became a flesh and blood man and tabernacled among us, being in nature the very image of God and the exact representation of His being, how could anyone in the Old testament see God’s face and live to tell about it? There were others in the Old Testament, who, after speaking with a man in human form, declared that they had seen God face to face and not died. This was none other than the pre-existent Messiah, the mediator between God and man (1Timothy 2:5). Job also recognised this mediator and says so and the text is very clear (Job 16:19-21). This is how men and women in the Old Testament could see the face of God and live. And so we read…
(Vs.31) “The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.”
The sunshine of God’s covenant love and the revelation of it arose over Jacob and his life was changed forever. In having a name change he had a character change and his limp would be a constant reminder for the rest of his life that he could not walk in his own strength but need to constantly walk in the strength of God!
Israel as a nation is to pass through the darkest hour in the history of the nation but because of the blood covenant God cut with Abraham He will bring the nation through this time of the Great Trouble into a place of victory, having wrestled with the Messiah and prevailed! It will be a remnant who at the end of the dark night of wrestling with the Messiah will call on His name and He will answer them. He will say to them that they are His people and they will say to Him the Lord is our God! (Zechariah 13:8-9).
After his encounter with God, Jacob was reconciled to his brother Esau. Prophetically, at the end of this age, God is going to judge the Muslim Arab world because of its hostility and violence towards Israel (Ezekiel 25:12-14). Having said this, the Arabs who survive will be reunited with their Jewish brothers under the rule and reign of Messiah Jesus in the Millennial Messianic age to come. Finally, after a few thousand years of hostility ‘Jacob’ will be reconciled with his brother ‘Esau’ and ‘the struggle in the womb’ will be over! (Genesis 33:4).