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Limping into the sunrise

Whatever conclusions you draw about Jacob’s character (or the lack of it), you have to grant that he had some help getting there.  His grandfather and father struggled with telling the truth at times (Genesis 12:11ff, 20:1ff, 26:7ff), while his mother, Rebekah, instigated and served as accomplice in the deception of his father, Isaac (27:5ff).  And both Isaac and Rebekah were guilty of playing favorites in their parenting (25:27-28).  Jacob’s family had issues and it’s not surprising that he became one of them!

His behavior in stealing his brother’s birthright is deplorable though Esau bears some responsibility (Hebrews 12:16-17).  However, his deception of his infirmed father is cold-hearted.  Nonetheless, there he is headed off to Haran to find a wife with the birthright and blessing secured and thinking for all of the world that he must be the shrewdest man on earth.

Perhaps in Canaan he could lay claim to the title, but not in the land of Haran for that’s where Laban resides. He is an older, more experienced version of Jacob.  He tutors Jacob in what it’s like to be on the receiving end of exploitation and manipulation (I.e., Leah and Rachel).  After twenty years of dealing with him, Jacob’s had enough and is desperate to return to Canaan.  But it’s not that easy.  Returning home means confronting the brother he mistreated.  That has him worried, but it appears that Jacob is tired of running and is ready to face his past. 

He is met by angels on his journey and perhaps inspired by their visit, he sends a deferential message to Esau.  A response comes back that Esau is on his way with four hundred men.  Now Jacob is really worried and he prays like he never has before (v. 9-12).

He sends a procession of livestock (550 animals), ahead as a gift to Esau. He sends his entire family and all of his remaining possessions across the Jabbock into Canaan while he remains on the other side to spend the night and watch for Esau and his men.

He doesn’t have to wait long.

Someone attacks him and the two men begin fighting.  Jacob refuses to be defeated even though his hip is “wrenched” (temporarily dislocated?).  They fight through the night and as dawn breaks his assailant is ready to quit but Jacob refuses to relinquish his hold until the man he now seems to recognize is an angel “blesses” him (assures him he will no longer seek his life).  The angel asks for his name and the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham confesses who he is:  “Jacob” (deceiver --- see the footnote on 25:26). 

Now he is ready to return to Canaan.  He has faced the truth about the way he has lived and treated others as well as acknowledging that he is unworthy of all he has (v. 10).  He is truly ready for a new name (v. 28) and a blessing (v. 29).  He doesn’t ride off into the sunset --- he limps into the sunrise --- forever changed. 
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