Angelic Visitation

Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 32-33[1]

After Jacob and Uncle Laban concluded their meeting amicably, Angels brought a message to Jacob. Jacob desired to provide for his own family, and God wanted to fulfill that desire, but there is sin in Jacob’s life.

“When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for he takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands?”[2]

God sent the angels to minister to Jacob.[3] Jacob had good intentions, but the desire to do the right thing is not strong enough to conquer the evil that lives within us. The Apostle Paul described the battle in Romans, Chapter 7.

“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”[4]

Jacob knew keeping his vow was the right thing to do, but he could not find the strength, nor did he desire to pay the cost of keeping his end of the deal with God. While he waited for Esau’s arrival to verify if he could return home without his brother killing him, he arose in the middle of the night and sent his family to safety while he pondered his life.

The Bible says “a man wrestled with him till daybreak.” The heading of this passage in my NIV Bible says Jacob wrestled with God. The heading in my Chronological Bible says he wrestled with an Angel. Christians accept both interpretations, but I don’t believe he wrestled with God or an Angel.

The Hebrew word translated “man” in Genesis 32:24 means “a man”, not a divine being.[5] Jacob wrestled with himself. The New Testament tells us to put off the “old man”.[6] He was up all night trying to put off the “old man”, which is corrupted by our deceitful lusts.[7]

When the Angel saw Jacob could not prevail against the old man, he pointed to the problem. The Angel touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh, knocking it out of joint. Vows establish covenants, and were made by placing a hand upon the thigh. Jacob cannot overcome the sinful old man, because his thoughts are out of joint regarding the covenant God made with Jacob’s ancestors and the covenant Jacob made with God at Bethel.

The unpaid vow left God little choice but to “destroy the work” of Jacob’s hands. God knew disaster would overtake Jacob. Jacob must do two things to avoid the disaster. Renew his mind regarding the covenant God made with Abraham, and fulfill the unnecessary vow he made at Bethel.

Esau arrived, overjoyed to see his brother again. God had kept his end of the deal to bring Jacob home in peace. He could have returned to his father’s house as God commanded him. Instead, he limped his way to Shechem and bought land.[8] He had no intention of returning home or keeping the vow he made at Bethel. He built another altar and continued to offer insincere worship to God.

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Ecclesiastes 5:4-6, NASB

[3] Hebrews 1:14

[4] Romans 7:15-17

[5] H376, אישׁ, ‘ı̂ysh, eesh, Contracted for H582 (or perhaps rather from an unused root meaning to be extant); a man as an individual or a male person; often used as an adjunct to a more definite term (and in such cases frequently not expressed in translation.) : – also, another, any (man), a certain, + champion, consent, each, every (one), fellow, [foot-, husband-] man, (good-, great, mighty) man, he, high (degree), him (that is), husband, man [-kind], + none, one, people, person, + steward, what (man) soever, whoso (-ever), worthy. Compare H802.

[6] Romans 6:6

[7] Ephesians 4:22

[8] Genesis 33:18-19

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