Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for April 14

Here’s the Explore the Bible Sunday School lesson commentary for April 14, written by Ben Stubblefield, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile.

Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for April 14

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By Dr. Ben Stubblefield
Visiting assistant professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile


Genesis 32:22–32

Alone (22–24)

My guess is that very few readers of this paper have a personal, mortal enemy. By that I mean someone who you’re convinced would kill you if they got the chance. But imagine you did. And they knew where you would be in 24 hours. You can’t avoid them and it’s too late to change course.

A life or death conflict is inevitable with someone who hates you with all the fibers of their being. Well, that’s precisely what Jacob is going through in Genesis 32.

Esau knows Jacob is coming home and Esau had previously promised to kill Jacob (Gen. 27:41). Quite naturally, then, Jacob is “greatly afraid” (Gen. 32:7).

He plans some gifts that he hopes will take the edge off Esau’s anger, and in the evening he brings his family and the remainder of his possessions across the Jabbok river.

While alone, he wrestles with “a man,” whom he later understands to be a divine agent, if not an encounter with the living God Himself (32:24, 30), in order to prevail upon him for a blessing (32:26).

What a scene! A scared patriarch, after fording a river at night, is set upon by a stranger. They grapple.

To Jacob, this is a struggle to the death. But as the dawn breaks, he realizes the identity of his opponent, and this match becomes more than just a physical struggle. It is a metaphor for his entire life.

He has struggled with his brother in the womb (25:22), his father (ch. 27), his father-in-law (chapters 29–31), and now with God.

And while he may have tricked his way to prevail upon them, he now realizes he cannot prevail any more upon God.

He knows he cannot win. Yet alone, he knows he cannot let go of God. It’s a familiar place for all believers.

We believe we are alone, without options, and God comes to visit us when we need Him, and when He’s wanted.

New Name (25–29)

For all Jacob’s problems, he’s clearly becoming a changed man.

“I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown your servant” (32:10). That’s the confession of a humbled man.

And, wrestling with the Lord through the night, he confesses his name is Jacob (27). “Jacob” means trickster, deceiver. It’s as though he acknowledges the past trajectory of his life — a confession of his guilt, fraud, shame, weakness.

But the divine being isn’t content to leave Jacob in his brokenness, and He changes his name. Jacob will no longer be the deceiver, but one who would strive with God.

It’s hard for us to relate to the significance of naming in the ancient world. We can change our names with a visit to the social security office, and I doubt any of us think a name change will permanently alter our future.

But here, Jacob receives a moniker that is a promise and a blessing. God will fight for him, as one who strives with God.

All believers, similarly, when we encounter the Lord, receive a new identity. Our experience of God doesn’t ever leave any of us unchanged. Rather, we get reborn and renewed, as Jacob was at Jabbok, into the family of God.

New Walk (30–32)

Jacob would be forever reminded of this moment of grace, because he would walk it every step. Every moment of progress would be a moment of weakness. Every morning, that hip would hurt, and he’d recall his experience at Peniel.

He’s not going to claim any more of God’s promise by stealth, strength or power.

Each day will be a day of God’s power in his weakness, God’s promise through his pain.

God’s blessings don’t always come to us by pleasant circumstances, but isn’t it encouraging that, like Jacob, we can rest assured that for His people, they always come. He is faithful.