Genesis 32-33: Jacob Wrestles with God
The patriarch Jacob has a checkered history in the Old Testament. For much of his life he lived up to his name, which means supplanter, schemer or trickster in Hebrew. Yet, he was chosen by God to become the father of the nation of Israel. The story of his transformation is found in Genesis 32-33. Because this is a long passage, we suggest that you take more than one day for this devotional. As you begin each day, read the entire passage to gain a deeper understanding of the text.
In order to be an effective leader in the church, in fact, in order to become mature in one’s faith, each of us needs to contend with God in some form and be transformed by him. As you read and reflect consider: How have you have seen God face to face in your own life? How have those encounters with God transformed you? How do they compare to Jacob’s story?
Read Genesis 32 and 33. As you read, take note of Jacob’s behavior. What things stand out to you as you read through the story?
Read Genesis 32:1-22. What is the motivation behind Jacob’s actions? How does his fear drive his actions? Note the details and order of his preparations. How does Jacob’s behavior reveal his nature (supplanter, schemer, trickster)?
Read Jacob’s prayer in Genesis 32:9-12. How does he address God? What is the purpose of his prayer? How does he plead with God? Where does this prayer fit into his plans? How does he address his fears?
Read Genesis 32:24-32 several times. Highlight the words that stand out to you. Journal your questions and thoughts as you consider the following:
- What makes this passage so unusual?
- What questions does it raise for you?
- What is the meaning of Jacob’s name change?
- What does ‘overcome’ mean in verse 28?
- What is the significance of Jacob refusing to let the man go?
- Peniel means “face of God” in Hebrew. When do you think Jacob realized that he was face to face with God?
Read Genesis 33 again. Write your impressions and thoughts.
In verse 20, the name of the altar, El Elohe Israel, means “El (God) is the God of Israel.” Compare this to how Jacob addresses God in Genesis 32:9. What has changed?
As you complete this study, return to the questions from the beginning:
- How have you have seen God face to face in your own life?
- How have those encounters with God transformed you?
- How do they compare to Jacob’s story?
What insights have you gained that relate to your own faith journey? How might this help you in your role as leader?