2.24 Jacob's Return
Just as God revealed Himself at the outset of Jacob's journey to Haran, He did so on the return trip as well.
"The angels of God met him" (Gen 32:1).
There was no message from God, but this experience encouraged him. He had just survived Laban, now he had to face Esau. He made his preparations with great care: notifying Esau, sending envoys, creating an impressive parade of presents for him. These were the actions of a reconciler, a peacemaker, but Jacob feared that he was 20 years too late at making amends. He also prayed fervently, reminding God of His original promise of numerous descendants.
"Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children" (Gen 32:11).
It is in this uncertainty, facing the possibility of annihilation, that Jacob had his defining revelation of God (Gen 32:22-32). The man he wrestled was a representative of God, appearing as an angel (Hos 12:4). All night they wrestled, with neither gaining an advantage. In this protracted struggle, the angel was limiting himself to Jacob's capacity. He was taking the measure of Jacob's determination. Jacob would not yield.
When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip (Gen 32:25).
Even then, Jacob persisted:
"I will not let you go unless you bless me" (Gen 32:26).
Then God blessed him, not with the inherited blessing of Abraham, but in his own right.
"Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome" (Gen 32:28).
God established Israel as a victor in both realms, spiritual and earthly. The blessing he received was not descendants or property, but a new name, which is to say, a new identity. On his outward journey, he was a passive recipient of the first revelation of God. He saw the angels in a dream as he slept. But on the return trip, he fought with God with his body, he travailed as if in labor. And the outcome of this conflict was the "birth" of Israel, "he who strives with God." God inserted his own name (El) into Jacob's new name, showing the closeness of their union. As the day broke, he limped away, and said in amazement,
"I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared" (Gen 32:30).