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Esau, and done all in his power to appease him; with this view he sent the messengers to Seir, to acquaint Esau with his approach, and with the means whereby he had acquired the riches which he brought with him. The report of these messengers (as we find) rather increased than lessened Jacob's fears! for he knew that his brother was to Rve by his sword s and should it be lifted up against him and his family, he could make no defence. For this reason we may suppose Jacob thought it prudent to approach as an humble suppliant for Esau's favour. ... .
The precaution which Jacob used in dividing his people, &c. into two bands, was a very wise one; but after all, he could not be certain that his well-concerted measures would succeed, yet nothing else could his own heart devise; he had therefore recourse to God. The manner of Jacob's address to the Deity was perfectly consistent with that faith which was reckoned to the Patriarchs for righteousness. It was expressive of the utmost humility; Jacob pleaded no merits; all his hope and expectation of favour were founded upon the Divine promises, and the mercies which God of his ownfree grace had already granted him.
Jacob did not, however, presumptuously throw himself upon Providence s he still used human means; trusting for a happy event in the goodness of the Lord, who, by a secret influence on his mind, calmed his fears, so that he ventured to send his family on before him. , We have already remarked *, that there is something delightful in the expectation of finding in Heaven a set of benevolent friends, ready to welcome us to those blessed abodes. It is .an- additional comfort to think, that angels are frequently the invisible com
* See Section xxili.
panions panions of men on earth. Their intercourse with us is of a nature which we cannot understand, because it is spiritual, and therefore it would be to no purpose to endeavour to discover it. But the Scripture teaches us, that they are God's ministers, sent forth to guard all who are heirs of the promises, from their spiritual energies * ; and the idea that such pure intelligences are spectators of our conduct, ought to be an additional motive to circumspection.
In Jacob's distress at the thoughts of meeting Esau, we see the power of conscience; even a Divine promise could not silence hrs apprehensions, when he reflected on the offences he had committed: How cautious then should every person be to avoid unworthy actions, since they have a natural tendency to abate our confidence in God! But should we, unfortunately for ourselves, thus wound our peace of mind; the only remedy that can be sought with success, is, the mercy of God. The Lord alone can supply us with the balm of consolation. And what human being has not at one time or other experienced the want of it? Who that has supplicated like Jacob, has been denied this heavenly boon i Let us then on such unhappy occasions earnestly implore our God and Saviour to deliver us, in his infinite goodness, from the consequences of our own misconduct; using at the same time every means in our power for conciliating the favour of those we have offended.
An D Jacob was left alone: and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
* Heb. i. 14. -'
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.
And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh: and he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name t and he said, Jacob. i- •
And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob but Israel; for as a prince hast thou power with Go D and with men, and hast prevailed.
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.
And Jacob called the name of the place, Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. .•
And as he passed over Penuel, the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.
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.
ANNOTATIONS And REFLECTIONS.
The passage of Scripture contained in this Section is very obscure, and cannot be fully explained. It may be conjectured, that Jacob having conducted his family in safety over the brook Jabbok,. returned to the place where he had beheld the angelic host, in order to pass a little time in private devotion at that sacred spot, and entreat the Lob D to grant him some evident blessing to support his mind under the conflicts which disturbed it. It is most likely that the wrestling was a
visionary visionary scene ; but it is clear from Jacob's own word* that the Lord manifested His Divine presence to him at this time in an extraordinary manner, and, at his earnest importunity, granted him a blessing, by giving him, in addition to the name he already was known by, that of Israel, (or a prince of God) which was designed as a token, that the Lord would favour him and his posterity, for his own sake, as well as for the sake of Abraham and Isaac. Jacob was now made a prince, which intimated, that on his return to Canaan he should not live in a subordinate capacity. The sudden lameness which seized him, was perhaps inflicted at first to convince, and afterwards to remind him of his own natural weakness. That he had power with God, was, owing to the Divine indulgence alone, as Jacob was well convinced; for he expressed his astonishment that, he had beheld the face (or Image) of God, and was yet alive*.—A very improper use is sometimes made of this portion of Scripture by Enthusiasts, who talk much of wrestling with God in prayer; but, as in this passage, there is no general instruction pointed out by the Sacred Historian, or obvious to human reason, it is best to consider it as a matter relating to Jacob only, as the head of a nation, who, without doubts understood its import. It is not necessary that Christians should so fully comprehend what seems to have a particular reference to the Jewish ceconomy.
Jacob's Reconciliation With His Brothisr Bsa».
From Genesis, Chap, xxxiii. '. And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men.
* The word Penicl signifies.ths face of Go&. - - . '•
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Arid he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two hand-maids.
And fte put the hand-maids and their children foremost, and Leah and' her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hhrdermost.
And' he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brotfter.
And Esau ran to mest him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him ; and they wept.
And he lift up his eyes, and saw the women, and the children, and said, Who are those with thee? And he said, The children which God hath graciously given thy servant.
THen the hand-maidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves. And Leah also .with her children came near, and bowed themselves; and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves.
And Esau said, what meanest thou by all this drove which I met ? And he said, these are to find grace in the sight of my lord.
Aad Esau said, I have enough; my brother, keep. that thon hast unto thyself.
And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive. my present at my hand; for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of Gob, and thou wast pleased with me.
Talte, I pray thee, my blessitg that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough; and he urged him, and he took it.
And Esau said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee.