Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Angels. Guardians of Chanaan and Mesopotamia. (Jarchi.) — The latter escorted him as far as the torrent Jaboc. That angels guard different provinces, is well attested, Daniel xii. 1, and Acts xvi. 9. (Calmet) — Michael protected Chanaan and the people of God. (Diodorus of Tarsus.) (Menochius)
Ver. 2. Mahanaim, “two camps.” A town was afterwards built here.
Ver. 3. Edom; comprising the countries east, west, and south of the Dead sea. (Calmet) — Providentially, Esau had now left his father’s house open to his brother; who, on this occasion, addresses him with the utmost civility, and speaks of the riches which he had obtained; in order that Esau might neither be ashamed of him, nor suspect that he would impoverish his father. (Menochius)
Ver. 6. Men. Jonathan has Polemarchoi; officers or warriors, either to punish Jacob, (Wisdom x. 12.) as the latter feared, ver. 11; or to do him honour, as Esau protested, chap. xxxiii. 15. (Calmet)
Ver. 9. God of…Isaac. It is not true, therefore, that God never has the title of the God of any man, while living, as some assert, chap. xxxi. 42. Jacob addresses him by those very titles which he had assumed at Bethel, chap. xxviii. 13. (Haydock)
Ver. 10. Not worthy. Chaldean, “my merits are beneath all thy kindnesses.” St. Augustine reads, with St. Cyril, idoneus es, &c., “thou art sufficient for me.”
Ver. 11. The children; sparing neither sex nor age, but destroying all. (Calmet) — Jacob insists on the promises of God; yet fears lest he should, by some offence, have deserved to forfeit his protection; particularly, as he had been living 20 years among idolaters. He acts with all prudence. (Worthington)
Ver. 15. Camels. The milk of these animals is most exquisite, being mixed with three parts water. Pliny, Natural History xi. 41, who says, “They give milk till they be with young again.” The Arabs feed chiefly on their milk and flesh. (St. Jerome, contra Jor. ii.) The value of all these presents, may give us some idea of the prodigious wealth which God had heaped upon Jacob in the space of six years! (Haydock)
Ver. 20. He said, &c. These words were not to be related to Esau; they are the words of the sacred historian. There were probably five droves of goats, sheep, camels, kine and asses; by the successive presenting of which, Esau might be appeased.
Ver. 22. Sons, with Dina his daughter, and all his household.
Ver. 23. All things. Grotius thinks this has been lost in the Hebrew copies; as it occurs in the Samaritan, Septuagint, and Syriac.
Ver. 24. A man, &c. This was an angel in human shape, as we learn from Osee xii. 4. He is called God, ver. 28 and 30, because he represented the person of the Son of God. This wrestling, in which Jacob, assisted by God, was a match for an angel, was so ordered, (Ver. 28.) that he might learn by this experiment of the divine assistance, that neither Esau, nor any other man, should have power to hurt him. It was also spiritual, as appeareth by his earnest prayer, urging, and at last obtaining the angel’s blessing. (Challoner) — The father will not refuse a good gift to those who ask him with fervour and humility. Jacob had before set us an excellent pattern how to pray, placing his confidence in God, and distrusting himself, ver. 9, &c. (Haydock) — It is not certain, whether Jacob remained alone on the northern or on the southern banks of Jaboc. (Calmet)
Ver. 25. Sinew, near the coxendix, or huckel-bone. (Du Hamel) — This was to convince Jacob, how easily he could have gained the victory over him; and to make him remember, that it was not simply a vision, but a real wrestling. (Tirinus)
Ver. 28. Israel. This name was more honourable, and that by which his posterity were afterwards known; being called Israelites, and not Jacobites. God ratifies the title, chap. xxxv. 10. It means a prince of God, (St. Jerome, q. Heb.; Calmet) or one standing upright, and contending victoriously with God, rectus Dei, yisrael. (Haydock) — Many have expounded it, a man seeing God; aiss-rae-al. (Philo, &c.)
Ver. 29. Why, &c. He represses Jacob’s curiosity, (Haydock) perhaps because God did not as yet choose to reveal his name, Exodus vi. 3. Some Greek and Latin copies add, which is wonderful, taken from Judges xiii. 6, 18. (Calmet)
Ver. 30. Phanuel. This word signifies the face of God, or the sight, or seeing of God. (Challoner) — Hebrew reads here Peni-el, though it has Phanuel in the next verse. Jacob thus returns thanks to God for the preservation of his life, after having seen God or his angel in a corporeal form, and not in a dream only. (Calmet)
Ver. 31. Halted, or was lame. Alulensis thinks the angel healed him very soon. (Menochius)
Ver. 32. The sinew in beasts of any kind, corresponding with that part of Jacob’s thigh. (Haydock) — Some refrain from the whole quarter, others extract the sinew. This they do, without any command, in memory of this transaction. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Jacob’s vision of angels: his message and presents to Esau: his wrestling with an angel.
1 Jacob* also went on the journey he had begun: and the angels of God met him.**
2 And when he saw them, he said: These are the camps of God, and he called the name of that place Mahanaim, that is, Camps.
3 And he sent messengers before him to Esau, his brother, to the land of Seir, to the country of Edom:
4 And he commanded them, saying: Thus shall ye speak to my lord Esau: Thus saith thy brother Jacob: I have sojourned with Laban, and have been with him until this day:
5 I have oxen, and asses, and sheep, and men-servants, and women-servants: and now I send a message to my lord, that I may find favor in thy sight.
6 And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying: We came to Esau, thy brother, and behold he cometh with speed to meet thee with four hundred men.
7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid; and in his fear divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and the sheep, and the oxen, and the camels, into two companies,
8 Saying: If Esau come to one company, and destroy it, the other company that is left, shall escape.
9 And Jacob said: O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac: O Lord who saidst to me, Return to thy land, and to the place of thy birth, and I will do well for thee,
10 I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies, and of thy truth which thou hast fulfilled to thy servant. With my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I return with two companies.
11 Deliver me from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am greatly afraid of him; lest perhaps he come, and kill the mother with the children.
12 Thou didst say, that thou wouldst do well by me, and multiply my seed like the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.
13 And when he had slept there that night, he set apart, of the things which he had, presents for his brother Esau,
14 Two hundred she-goats, twenty he-goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams,
15 Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and twenty bulls, twenty she-asses, and ten of their foals.
16 And he sent them by the hands of his servants, every drove by itself, and he said to his servants: Go before me, and let there be a space between drove and drove.
17 And he commanded the first, saying: If thou meet my brother Esau, and he ask thee: Whose art thou? or whither goest thou? or whose are these before thee?
18 Thou shalt answer: Thy servant Jacob’s: he hath sent them as a present to my lord Esau; and he cometh after us.
19 In like manner he commanded the second, and the third, and all that followed with the droves, saying: Speak ye the same words to Esau, when ye find him.
20 And ye shall add: Thy servant Jacob himself also followeth after us; for he said: I will appease him with the presents that go before, and afterwards I will see him, perhaps he will be gracious to me.
21 So the presents went before him, but himself lodged that night in the camp.
22 And rising early, he took his two wives and his two handmaids, with his eleven sons, and passed over the ford of Jaboc.
23 And when all things were brought over that belonged to him,
24 He remained alone; and behold, a man wrestled with him till morning.
25 And when he saw that he could not overcome him, he touched the sinew of his thigh, and forthwith it shrank.
26 And he said to him: Let me go, for it is break of day. He answered: I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
27 And he said: What is thy name? He answered: Jacob.
28 But he said: Thy name shall not be called Jacob, but Israel; for if thou hast been strong against God, how much more shalt thou prevail against men?
29 Jacob asked him: Tell me by what name art thou called? He answered: Why dost thou ask my name? And he blessed him in the same place.
30 And Jacob called the name of the place Phanuel, saying: I have seen God face to face, and my soul has been saved.
31 And immediately the sun rose upon him, after he was past Phanuel; but he halted on his foot.
32 Therefore the children of Israel, unto this day, eat not the sinew, that shrank in Jacob’s thigh: because he touched the sinew of his thigh and it shrank.
1: Genesis xlviii. 16. — ** Year of the World 2265.