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.

Seeing God in life’s situations, for God sees you


Genesis 31:4-13 gives account of what Jacob told his wives, Rachel and Leah, after God asked him to leave his uncle and father-in-law, Laban’s house and return to the land of his family to his relatives.

He called Rachel and Leah to the field where he was looking after the flock and told them, “I have noticed that your father’s attitude toward me has changed, but the God of my father has been with me.”

He then told them, how hard he had worked for their father, and yet Laban had cheated him by changing his wages, not once but ten times, but God had not allowed Laban to do him any harm. He said, that God had taken what was their fathers and had given it to Jacob, because whatever was agreed upon between Jacob and Laban is what God made to happen, in Jacob’s favor. If the speckled animals of Laban was to be Jacob’s wages, then the whole flock began to produce speckled young and if Laban changed his mind and said, the striped animals will be your wages, the the whole flock produce striped young.

This he said was revealed to Jacob, in a dream, by the angel of God, who called to Jacob and when Jacob responded, “Yes, here I am.”, the angel of God told him to “Look up, and see that the male goats were mating with only the females that were streaked, speckled and spotted”, the produce of which were streaked, speckled or spotted, hence belonging to Jacob and not Laban. Why?, because God had seen how Laban had unfairly treated Jacob.

The angel of God is a theophany of the pre-incarnate Christ, for the angel of God identifies himself as the God who appeared to Jacob in Bethel (meaning House of God), the place where Jacob anointed the pillar of stone and made a vow to him. Jacob then told his wives, that God had told him to get ready right away and leave the country that they were in and return to the land of his birth. 

Lessons we can learn from Jacob’s conversation with Rachel and Leah are:
1. God was with him.
2. God did not allow any harm to come to him.
3. God took what was justly his and gave it to him by divinely intervening.
4. God saw his mistreatment.
5. God called him by name and waited for him to respond.
6. God asked him to “Look up and see”

Points to ponder:
God is with his people and will not allow any harm to come to them. God is Just and will restore unto those who have been unfairly treated, for God watches over the affairs of man. God calls his people by name and wants us to respond to him. God wants us to “Look up” and focus on his miracles and provisions, even when life situations may make us downcast. When God calls you, will you respond as Jacob did – “Yes, Here am I.”?

Genesis 31:4-13 (KJV)
And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock,
And said unto them, I see your father’s countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me.
And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.
And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.
If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The ringstraked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstraked.
Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.
10 And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the rams which leaped upon the cattle were ringstraked, speckled, and grisled.
11 And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I.
12 And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstraked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee.
13 I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.