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Sunday, November 11 2012
A Biography Of Jacob: When Jacob Became Israel
After twenty years of very prosperous refuge with his uncle Laban in Syria (see The Jacobites Of Syria and Speckled And Spotted), Jacob fled from Laban (see The Flight To Canaan) as suddenly as he had run away from his brother Esau back in the land of Canaan (see The Second Twin, The Birthright, The Blessing and Stairway To Heaven). After a final confrontation with Laban, after Laban caught up with Jacob's slow-moving flocks and herds, the two men agreed to never see each other again; either one who crossed their marker would be committing an act of war between them.
"31:51 And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee; 31:52 This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm. 31:53 The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us.
Jacob then continued south-westward toward the southernmost part of the land of Canaan, where Jacob's grandfather Abraham had settled after his arrival from Iraq (see A Biography Of Abraham: From Ur To Canaan) and where Jacob's father Isaac had lived his entire life (see A Biography Of Abraham: Isaac). While on the way, "the angels of God met him," just as they had done when he had left twenty years before (see A Biography Of Jacob: Stairway To Heaven).
"32:1 And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 32:2 And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim." (Genesis 32:1-2 KJV)
Jacob had not seen his brother Esau for twenty years. The last time that they had been together was when Esau was seeking to kill Jacob over being bested for Esau's birthright and blessing. Jacob's plan seemed to be to appease Esau by paying him more than he had lost. Jacob seemed to be suggesting that he would give it all to Esau, just so that Esau wouldn't kill him: "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." Jacob was offering a ransom for his life.
"32:3 And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 32:4 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: 32:5 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." (Genesis 32:3-5 KJV)
When the messengers returned, they told Jacob that Esau was coming to him, with four hundred men. Esau too had prospered.
"32:6 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." (Genesis 32:6 KJV)
Unlike his grandfather, righteous Abraham (see A Biography Of Abraham: The Battles Of Sodom), Jacob was a runner, not a defender of his family or himself. Jacob merely divided and hid his family, in the hope that Esau wouldn't find and kill them all. He nevertheless did a right thing by praying to the LORD to save him: "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."
"32:7 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; 32:8 And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.
Jacob then sent his property ahead as a ransom to Esau, beginning with "Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams, Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals."
"32:13 And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother; 32:14 Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams, 32:15 Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals. 32:16 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.
With his property given away (he "sent over that he had") and his family scattered defenseless in the woods (the area of the Jabbok River where the encounter happened is shown in the photograph above), Jacob waited, alone, for morning.
"32:21 So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company.
That night, "there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day." Jacob had spent his entire life "wrestling" with men, first his brother Esau, then his uncle Jacob, hence the meaning of the name that the LORD gave to Jacob that night: "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."
"32:24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
Who was the "man" that wrestled with Jacob, and who gave Jacob the new name, Israel? "Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God [see Who Is The LORD?] face to face."
"32:30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. 32:31 And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. 32:32 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." (Genesis 32:30-32 KJV)
Jacob continued to also be known as Jacob, but "Israel" grew in meaning when Jacob became settled in the land. The first recorded incident when Jacob used "Israel" for himself was after his encounter with Esau (the subject of the next study in this series), when he had arrived back in the land of Canaan: "he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel" - which means the LORD is the Mighty One of Israel.
"33:18 And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city. 33:19 And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money. 33:20 And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel." (Genesis 33:18-20 KJV)
Fact Finder: What is Israel's family connection to "Arabs"? What else does the Holy Bible tell us about Arabs, in history and prophecy?
This Day In History, November 11
308: In an attempt to restore order to the unraveling Roman Empire, Emperor Diocletian met with Galerius, Augustus of the East, and Maximianus, the recently returned former Augustus of the West (see A History Of Jerusalem: Pompey And The Caesars).
1417: Unity of the Church of Rome's papacy was recovered with the election of Martin V. The Great Western Schism, beginning in 1378, resulted in a pope in Rome, another in Avignon, France and a third established by the Council of Pisa (see The Struggle For The Papacy).
1500: Louis XII of France and Ferdinand of Aragon signed the secret Treaty of Granada for the conquest and partition of Naples.
1572: Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe observed a bright "new star" in Cassiopeia, shining as brightly as Venus. He continued to observe the super nova (a star which has exploded after all of its fuel has been used up) for 18 months as it slowly faded.
1606: A peace treaty was signed at Zeita-Torok between the Turks and Austrians.
1620: The Mayflower Compact was signed by the English pioneers who became known as the "Pilgrims."
1673: Poland's King John Sobieski defeated the Turks at Korzim, Poland.
1805: The Battle of Durenstein during the Napoleonic Wars (named after Napoleon Bonaparte). 8,000 French troops attempted to slow the retreat of a much larger Russian and Austrian force.
1813: During the War of 1812 (1812-1814), 800 British troops, Canadian militia and natives repelled 4,000 U.S. invaders at the Battle of Chrysler's Farm near Cornwall, Ontario. Along with other defeats and stalemates during the previous months, it forced the U.S. to abandon their campaign of obliterating Canada as a nation and annexing Canadian territory into the U.S. (two actually-stated goals by U.S. President James Madison when he declared the start of the war in 1812).
1918: The armistice was signed to end The First World War in which over 10 million people were killed (listen to our Sermon The European World Wars).
1953: The polio virus was identified and photographed for the first time.
1971: The U.S. ratified a treaty to return the island of Okinawa to Japan (although the U.S. maintains large military bases in Japan to this day).
1972: The U.S. turned over its large base at Long Binh to the South Vietnamese, symbolizing the end of direct U.S. participation in the Vietnam Civil War.
1973: A cease-fire agreement was signed between Israel and Egypt (see also A History Of Jerusalem: War And Peace).
1975: The African nation of Angola became independent from Portugal.
1982: Polish "Solidarity" union leader Lech Walesa was released from 11 months of detention in a state-owned hunting lodge.
1992: The Church of England voted to allow women to be ordained as priests. Women were already allowed to become priests in 11 branches of the Anglican Church, including Canada and the U.S. (the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the British Monarch, is also at the present time a woman, Queen Elizabeth II).