The Peniel problem solved

Jacob calls the place where he wrestled a man, Peniel, because he says that I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved (spared). Who is this man and why is Jacob referring to him as God?

The man who wrestled with Jacob refers to himself as God (Genesis 32:28) and Jacob affirms that he has seen God face to face (Genesis 32:30). The prophet Hosea refers to this mysterious man as an angel and reveals to us that he is the Lord of heaven’s armies and the Lord is his name (Hosea 2:4-5). The man who wrestled with Jacob was the Angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Christ (Theophany to Jacob) who had also appeared as the angel of the Lord to Hagar (Genesis 16:7-13).

So though Jacob is correct in his expression that he has seen God face to face and his life was spared to give us this account,  this may seem to contradict other portions of the scripture for the Bible teaches us that one cannot see God’s face, for anyone who does will not live (Exodus 33:20). Additionally the book of John asserts that no one has ever seen God except the Lord Jesus (John 1:18). This is the Peniel problem and how is this solved?

The answer is the book of Exodus where it is recorded that the LORD spoke with Moses, face to face, as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11). The latter part of this verse “as a man speaks with his friend” is crucial. God appeared to Jacob as a man, for Jacob wrestled a man (Genesis 32:24). Therefore, Jacob and Moses’ seeing of God face to face is to state that they saw him as a man sees another – in close relationship – as a friend would commune with another.

Points to ponder:
For fallen man to see the one and only Holy God in his fullness and glory, would consume man, for God is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29), but man has seen God veiled in the flesh – in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14). The fullness of God is in Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:9), and Jesus affirms that he and the Father (God) are one (John 10:30) and whoever has seen him have seen God the father (John 14:9). The full glory of God is in the face of the man Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5; 2 Corinthians 4:6).

The Bible teaches us that “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). It also asserts that there is no one righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10), and the eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him (2 Chronicles 16:9). A fully committed heart is a heart that loves God over everyone and everything else and one that loves others. The heart has to be purified of all of the evil things that come from it, which defile a man (Matthew 15:19-20). Only by believing in Jesus Christ, can the heart be purified for believing in Jesus Christ imputes the righteousness of God in us (Romans 4:19-25). As David prayed, let us also pray “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right Spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10).

In Jesus Christ alone, is the Peniel problem solved.

Points to ponder:

Jesus is the face of God. He who has seen me has seen God.

Genesis 32:30-32 (KJV)
30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
31 And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.
32 Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank.

What is your Name? Who are you?

When Jacob wrestled with God (Genesis 32:30, 32, Hosea 12:4-5), he clung on to God and would not let go of him unless he was blessed. To this, God responds and asks for his name. God asked “What is thy name?” Jacob answered the question and said that his name was “Jacob” which means supplanter or deceiver. To this God replied and rechristens Jacob saying that “you will no longer be called Jacob, but instead you shall be called Israel, for as a prince you have power with (not over) God and with man and have prevailed”. To this Jacob asks God, what is your name. I pray that you tell me your name. Instead of answering that questions as God did, by saying that he is the “I AM”, when Moses asked the same question, God counter-questions him asking “Why do you ask for my name?” and then proceeds to bless Israel there.

From this account, we can learn a few things.
God wants us to acknowledge who we are. The omniscience of God would not have required him to ask for Jacob’s name, yet he did. Until then, Jacob, the deceiver had fooled his father by telling him that he was Esau, to rob Esau of his blessings. Now, he was in a predicament where he could not lie to God, the Father of all (Ephesians 4:6), and he acknowledges and accepts who he is (a deceiver), that he is Jacob. So the first thing God does is not remind Jacob of who he is, but instead rechristens him and gives him a new name, likening him to be a prince. Other scriptures substantiate the rechristening act of God. Abram was rechristened Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Saul was rechristened as Paul and when Simon recognized that Jesus was indeed the son of God he was rechristened as Peter (“Rock”). Additionally, we learn that right after God rechristened Jacob to be Israel, he blesses him. In other words, blessings succeeds rebirth/rechristening.

Points to ponder:
When we accept our sinful state before God, the Father, and confess of our unworthiness of his mercy as Jacob did (Genesis 32:10), he gives us another name (Isaiah 65:15), a new name (Rev 2:17), one better than that of sons and daughters (of men) that is everlasting (Isaiah 56:5), as children of God (1 John 3:1), one that is designated by God himself (Isaiah 62:2), As children of God, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, we are prince and princesses. God’s  name (Rev 3:12). God’s name is I AM (Exodus 3:14) and Jesus said before Abraham was, I AM (John 8:58). Jesus is God and the Lord is his name (Hosea 12:4-5).

Before man had sinned, blessings preceded naming (Genesis 5:1-2). Now in the fallen state of man, because of man’s sin and disobedience, blessings follows rebirth, that happen when one acknowledges their sinful state and accepts the Lord Jesus (),

So the question that demands an answer now is Are you rechristened by God? What is your name? Who are you?

Genesis 32:27-29 (KJV)
27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.

Clinging on to God; Will not let go

After Jacob had sent presents ahead of him with his servants, with the hope of appeasing his brother, he himself stayed the night in the camp. However, he could not sleep and so rose up that night and took his two wives, his womenservants and his eleven sons and sent them over the Jabook ford. And when he was left alone, a man wrestled him until the break of dawn. When the man saw the Jacob was strong and dominating, the man touched his thigh’s socket and got it out of joint as he wrestled with Jacob. But Jacob clung on and would not let go of the man. When the day was about to break, the man said “Let me go” to which Jacob responded “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” (Genesis 32:21-26)

Points to ponder:
Like Jacob, when we are unable to rest (sleep), lonely, in dark times (before the break of day), we must cling on to Jesus Christ, and seek his blessings and never let go. Are you clinging on to God?

Genesis 32:21-26 (KJV)
21 So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company.
22 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok.
23 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had.
24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.

Appeasing Present

After praying a prayer for deliverance, Jacob personally selected 200 female and 20 male goats, 200 ewes and 20 rams, 30 milk camels with their young colt, 40 cows and 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys and 10 male donkeys. In that time and culture, this would have not only been a sign of significant wealth, but of affluence and power. He divided them into herds and gave them to 3 groups of his servants and sent them one group after another, ahead of him, instructing them to keep a distance between each group. Then he commanded each group to respond to Esau, his brother, with the same message. When Esau asks them, “To whom do these herds, before you, belong?” and “Where are you going?”. They were to respond “These are your servant Jacob’s; but they are a present to his master Esau and he is right behind us.” He told them “Be sure to say, that your servant Jacob is right behind us.” for he thought that by sending the present ahead of him, Esau would be appeased when he would meet Jacob in person and perhaps accept him. Jacob sent the present ahead of him but he himself stayed the night in the camp.

From this account one can learnt that one can take prudent and proactive actions in their attempt to reconcile with those whom they have wronged, for a gift can open doors (Proverbs 18:16) and pacifies anger (Proverbs 21:14) appeasing the receiver of the gift.

Points to ponder:
God took the proactive action of offering himself to man for he loved them, despite their rebellion and disobedience (John 3:16). God the Father’s wrath was appeased when his only begotten Son, Jesus, offered himself as the present in mankind’s stead (Hebrews 10:12). Jesus, the gift of God, opened the door to God, as the veil that separated the Holy of holies was torn at Jesus’ death (Matthew 21:17) and he pacified the anger of God. Jesus is the only appeasing present to God.

And now it is our turn … to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God (Romans 12:1). And when we believe in Jesus Christ, as our Savior and Lord, we are accepted in the beloved (in Christ) by God (Ephesians 1:6). Is your life an appeasing present? Are you an appeasing present to God?

Genesis 32:13-20 (KJV)
13 And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother;
14 Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams,
15 Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals.
16 And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said unto his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt drove and drove.
17 And he commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying, Whose art thou? and whither goest thou? and whose are these before thee?
18 Then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob’s; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he is behind us.
19 And so commanded he the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, saying, On this manner shall ye speak unto Esau, when ye find him.
20 And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me.
21 So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company.

Hebrews 10:11-12 (KJV)
11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
12 But this man (Jesus), after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

“Deliver me” prayer

In great fear and distress, thinking that his brother Esau was coming with four hundred men to avenge himself, for the wrong that Jacob had done against Esau, Jacob had no where to turn, but to God. He prays to God, making this the first recorded example of prayer in the Bible.

By addressing God as God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac – he personalized his relationship to God and was affirming the covenant relationship that his grandfather and father had with God. Jacob then recounts the promise of God that guaranteed his safe return and then recognizes that he was unworthy of the least of God’s mercies that he had been shown. He then makes a plea of deliverance, by praying “Deliver me” from impending danger and possibly death, in the hands of his brother, Esau. who’s blessings he had taken by deception. (Genesis 32:9-12)

Points to ponder:
From this first recorded prayer of Jacob, we see a model of prayer that everyone in the world ought to pray. First, one must recognize that God is a personal God. Second, God is a promise keeping God. Third, we are unworthy of God’s mercies and yet God shows us his mercies. And most importantly, we must each pray the prayer of deliverance, asking God to deliver us – to deliver us from sin, and the sting of death. This prayer of deliverance is in essence the prayer of confession – confessing that we are unworthy sinners in need of a Savior. And those who pray (cry) the prayer for deliverance, can be assured that God would deliver us (Psalm 34:6). Deliverance from fear and death is only possible by believing in Jesus, the Great Deliverer, through whom we have victory (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

Have you prayed the prayer of deliverance? Have you confessed you need for Jesus, The Savior?

Genesis 32:9-12 (KJV)
9 And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:
10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.
11 Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.
12 And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.

Psalm 34:6-7 (KJV)
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (KJV)
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

When we fear (men)

The Bible informs us that when Jacob found out from his messengers that his brother Esau, whom he had wronged, was coming to meet him along with four hundred men, he became greatly afraid and distressed. Uncertain of how his brother felt about him, and fearing that his brother would be coming with his men to avenge himself, Jacob divided his people, and the cattle (flocks, herds, and camels) into two bands, thinking that if Esau was to come and attack one band, then the other could escape (Genesis 32:6-8).

Interesting, isn’t it, that not too long ago, Jacob had witnessed two camps of God’s angelic army, and now all of his people and property had been divided into two bands. Did God in his omniscience know that Jacob would divide his people and property into two bands and so sent two hosts of angels in advance to protect him? I would like to think so, but the Bible does not affirm that and so we should leave speculation to be speculation.

Jacob acts of deception had given him a genuine reason to fear his brother, but God’s promise of being with him should have allayed that fear. In other words, if Jacob had faith – faith to trust God at his word, he would not have had to fear his brother – a mere man.

Points to ponder:
We fear when we fail to take God at his word and trust him, by placing our complete faith in him. The opposite of fear for a follower of Jesus Christ is not courage, but instead faith. When the disciples were afraid in the boat that was caught in a storm, Jesus did not ask them “Why they did not have courage?”, but instead asked them “How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:35-41)

When we have no faith in Jesus, we have everything to fear. When we have all our faith in Jesus, we have nothing or no one to fear! When the storms of life buffet you and threaten to drown you, there is nothing to fear, if Jesus Christ is with you. Even first death is no longer something to be afraid off for it has no power over those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Are you afraid and distressed?

Genesis 32:6-8 (KJV)
And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him.
Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands;
And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.

Mark 4:35-41 (KJV)
35 And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.
36 And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.
37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Lord, Servant and Grace

As Jacob is on his way to the land of his birth, following the command of God, he comes to the land of Seir, in the country of Edom, where his brother Esau, whom he had wronged, lived. In an attempt to reconcile with his brother, Jacob sends messengers with gifts of cattle (oxen, asses, flocks) and people (men and women servants) to Esau (Genesis 32:4-6).

He had subtly tricked Esau into selling his birthday and deceived their father, Isaac, to rob Esau’s blessings (Genesis 27:36) making him lord (master) and Esau his servant (Genesis 27:37). Now notice that in his attempt to reconcile, he recognized his place and refers to Esau as lord (or master) and himself as Esau’s servant (Genesis 32:4) and requested that he finds grace in Esau’s sight.

Points to ponder:
From this account, first, we can learn a lesson on seeking forgiveness from other men and women whom we have wronged. We ought to recognize our position and place and seek to find grace in their sight. And second, the key words used in this situation are lord, servant and grace. In order to be reconciled with God, we need to accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ and accept and allow him to be our Master for he is Lord and Master (John 13:14) and just as he came to serve, we ought to serve (Matthew 28:20). Before accepting Jesus as Lord and Master, sin reigns over all people unto death (Romans 5:21), but when sin abounded the grace (of God) became more abundant (Romans 5:20) so grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:21).

Have you accepted Jesus to be your Lord?
Have you allowed him to be your Master?
Jesus’ grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:9)!

Genesis 32:3-5 (KJV)
And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.
And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now:
And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.

Romans 5:19-21 (KJV)
19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Deceiver deceived

Genesis 29:21-30 records the narrative of two marriages in two weeks – the marriages of Jacob to Laban’s daughters, first to Leah the firstborn and then to Rachel the secondborn. Jacob had agreed to work for Laban for a period of seven years to wed Rachel, but after the seven years of labor was over, Jacob was deceived by Laban. Laban gave to Jacob, Leah instead of Rachel as it was allegedly customary to have the firstborn wed before the secondborn. Laban then agreed to allow Jacob marry Rachel after one week of being wedded to Leah, provided he gave Laban another seven years of service.

Jacob felt that he was beguiled and questioned Laban of the deception (Genesis 29:25), failing to realize that just as he was deceived by having had one sister switched for another, he himself had switched places with his brother, Esau, deceiving his father and robbing Esau of his firstborn blessings. In retrospect, one would find that the deceiver himself was deceived by his relatives.

Points to ponder:
This account is very well illustrative of the scripture “You sow what you reap; for God cannot be mocked – let us not be deceived” (Galatians 6:7). Jacob deceived Esau his brother and was deceived. He sowed deception and reaped deception. Additionally, deception by whom we call our own and love (our relatives) while hurtful is relatively lesser when compared to the deception one suffers when they deceive themselves (our own self). When we who believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are adopted into God’s family (John 1:12). When we do not do what Jesus (our brother in God’s family) wants us to do but merely hear him, we are deceived for we deceive ourselves (James 1:22). Let us be doers of God’s word and not mere listeners. Let us not be deceived deceivers.

Genesis 29:21-30 (KJV)
21 And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.
22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.
23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.
24 And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid.
25 And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?
26 And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.
27 Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.
28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.
29 And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid.
30 And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.

Rebekah’s Curse

When Rebekah told Jacob to listen to her and go to his father Isaac, as if he was his brother Esau, so that he could be blessed, he was concerned and told his mother, that just in case, his father detects their deception, then he would be cursed by his father, instead of being blessed. To this, Rebekah, responds to Jacob that may the curse be upon her. (Genesis 27:13). From the recorded account, we learn that heeding to his mother’s voice, Jacob deceives his father and brother. This angers his brother Esau, who intends to kill Jacob. Fearing for the loss of her younger son, Rebekah, now tells Jacob to flee to her brother Laban for a few days. Little did she realize then that the few days would turn into years (about two decades) and she would never ever again see her son on earth, for she passes away before Jacob returns from her brother’s place.

Points to ponder:
Rebekah’s sin (deception) had consequences. In this case, for Rebekah, it was the curse of being separated from the one she loved.

Our sin has consequences too. Since the wages of sin is death, we will be eternally separated from God if we choose to sin and deceive ourselves (James 1:22). Rebekah’s curse would be our curse, but praise be to God, that Jesus was made a curse for you and me and when we believe in him, we do not have to be separated from God. Are you cursed and being separated from God?

Genesis 27:41-45 (KJV)
41 And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.
42 And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee.
43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran;
44 And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother’s fury turn away;
45 Until thy brother’s anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?

Deception brings with it death

While Esau was deprived of his blessing from his father Isaac, for his younger brother Jacob had deceived him and taken the blessing, he starts to hate his brother, with so much hate that he sought to kill (slay) his brother after his father’s death. The deception of Jacob brought with it hate from his brother which in turn brought the threat of death. As you can see hate in the heart turns brother against brother.

Points to ponder:
Deception brings with it death. The deception to disobey God, by the ancient deceiver, the devil (Revelation 12:9), brings with it the threat of death, for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), but the gift of God is eternal life to all who chose to obey God and keep his commandments to love God above all and love mankind as themselves (Matthew 22:36-40).

When love trumps hate, deception and death have no place. If a man says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? (1 John 4:20).

Even when it is hard to love someone, we are asked to do so, just as God did, and not hate in our hearts. It comes down to loving God, loving man, lest we be deceived. Be ye not deceived.

Genesis 27:41 (KJV)
41 And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.