New Defender's Study Bible Notes
32:1 angels of God. This is Jacob’s second encounter with angels; the first, twenty years earlier, was as he left the promised land. He encounters them again as he returns. In both cases, whether facing the external dangers of the material world (typified by Laban) or the internal dangers of the religious world (typified by Esau), Jacob could rely on the help of God’s invisible army of ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14); the same is true for faithful men of God today.
32:2 Mahanaim. “Mahanaim” means “two hosts,” referring to the small visible company of faithful followers and the vastly superior invisible host of mighty angels.
32:6 to meet thee. Esau was probably as fearful as Jacob, since he had not heard from him in twenty years and well remembered God’s prophecy of Jacob’s ruling.
32:9 Jacob said, O God. This prayer of Jacob’s (Genesis 32:9-12) is a beautiful model of effectual praying after sincerely following God’s will and having done all he humanly could with his own resources and opportunities. Acknowledging that all of God’s blessings were only by His grace, Jacob then simply asks God to fulfill His Word, even though the outward circumstances seemed almost hopeless. No prayer can be truly efficacious unless it is in full harmony with God’s revealed Word.
32:18 a present. Esau feared that Jacob was coming to claim the promised sovereignty over him and to take his possessions from him. By his language, Jacob allayed the first fear, and by his generous gifts, the second. Jacob was more concerned with God’s sovereignty and God’s provision.
32:24 wrestled a man. This “man” was actually an angel (Hosea 12:4)–in fact, the angel, the preincarnate Christ, for Jacob recognized that he had seen God face to face (Genesis 32:30), and this is impossible except through Christ (John 1:18). The intensity of Jacob’s prayer, as he “wrestled” in his intercession (the word Jabbok means “wrestler,” the river being named for the unique event that occurred there), was such that God actually deigned to appear to him in human form as an antagonist over whom he must prevail for the blessing. As he had held on to Esau’s heel at birth, so he now held on to God, so earnest was his desire for God’s purpose to be accomplished in and through him.
32:28 Israel. “Israel” can mean either “one who fights victoriously with God” or “a prevailing prince with God.” This constitutes God’s permanent testimony to Jacob’s character, an opinion quite different from that of many modern Bible teachers. The “Supplanter” is now the “Prevailer.” God delights in the faith of those who cling tenaciously to His promises and who claim them in prevailing prayer (see Luke 18:1,7).
32:32 the sinew which shrank. This sentence is apparently an editorial insertion by Moses in Jacob’s toledoth, noting a custom by the Israelites commemorating the great experience of their founder. In order that Jacob should know forever that it was God who had actually allowed him to prevail, and not his own strength, a muscle in the ball-and-socket joint in the thigh, probably containing the sciatic nerve, shrunk, resulting in a permanent limp and perpetual reminder of the experience.