All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

A Night of Terror
Based on Genesis 32 and 33

Jacob follows God’s command to return to Canaan, but is in great fear of being killed by his twin brother Esau, whom he cheated out of a birthright many years before. However, God sends two bands of angels who appear and reassure him of divine protection. Jacob names the place Mahanaim, meaning “two camps” (of angels)—one before him, and one behind.

Encouraged by their presence, he sends messengers to Esau, ordering them to call him, “My lord,” and say that his servant Jacob is coming with many animals and servants, seeking his favor. However, his hopes are dashed when the messengers return saying “Esau is coming with 400 men!”

Despite his great fear, Jacob still displays sound judgment by dividing his family, servants, and flocks into two companies. If one group is attacked, the other might escape, he reasons.


Camped for the night along the banks of the brook Jabbok, Jacob devises a plan to appease his brother. Taking at least 550 animals, he divides them into multiple droves and sends them, one group at a time, to Esau as presents.

As the night wears on, Jacob’s fear increases. Gathering his wives, their servants, and his sons, he sends them across the brook, remaining behind to pray.

Jacob is 97 years old, and while he prays, he’s approached by a Man whom he assumes is a mortal enemy. All night they wrestle, until his assailant dislocates his hip with one touch!

“Let Me go, for the day breaks,” the stranger demands, but Jacob has recognized who He is. Gripping Him tighter, he cries, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

“What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he responds (meaning “deceiver”).

“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed,” the Man answers. Then He blesses him.

Ellen White wrote these beautiful words about Jacob’s struggle: “Through humiliation, repentance, and self-surrender, this sinful, erring mortal prevailed with the Majesty of heaven. He had fastened his trembling grasp upon the promises of God, and the heart of Infinite Love could not turn away the sinner’s plea. As an evidence of his triumph and an encouragement to others to imitate his example, his name was changed from one which was a reminder of his sin, to one that commemorated his victory. And the fact that Jacob had prevailed with God was an assurance that he would prevail with men. He no longer feared to encounter his brother’s anger, for the Lord was his defense.” (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 617.)

The Encounter

As the sun rises, Jacob limps forward to meet Esau and his men. Behind him come the maidservants and their sons, Leah and her sons, and finally Rachel with Joseph. Jacob bows before his brother seven times, but Esau runs to meet and kiss him. Years of fear and hatred vanish as the twins weep and embrace. Esau now meets Jacob’s wives and children as they each bow successively seven times before him. Then he asks his brother why he sent all those animals. “They are gifts,” Jacob explains, and Esau protests, but ultimately accepts them. In reality, Jacob is returning the birthright blessing he stole years before.

God has fulfilled the promise He made at Bethel to protect Jacob, prosper him, and bring him back to Canaan. The old Jacob is gone. The new Israel has arrived home!

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Was I spinning? It must have worked.

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