Click here to read Genesis 32:1-35:29

This passage (specifically chapters 32 & 33) is a turning point for Jacob as he comes to the point where he must turn to God and not rely on his own resources.  When Jacob finally reaches this point before reuniting with Esau, God wrestles with him. After the long wrestling match, God blesses Jacob and gives him a new name (Israel), which indicates that their relationship has changed (remember Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah?).  Jacob recognizes this and also recognizes God, but that doesn’t mean he has completely changed.  Old habits die hard as he still tries to protect himself when meeting Esau.  But God is faithful to His promise and He protects Jacob—allowing the brothers to reconcile.  Jacob later acknowledges the role that God has played in everything that has happened to him when he refers to God as the God who “answers me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.”  This does a nice job of summarizing the relationship that Jacob has with God so far.

This passage also provides a clearer picture of God’s chosen people and their neighbors in Canaan.  Their neighbors are shown to be immoral and violent—coming to a climax with Shechem’s rape of Dinah and his later profession of love.  This also offers a good idea as to why they weren’t to intermarry with them. (Another reason was their desire to assimilate the family—God’s chosen line—into their family). However, God’s people are shown to be blameless in the matter.  Through Jacob’s passive behavior and his sons’ violent revenge they are shown to be sinful as well.

Fortunately, in the face of all these misdeeds, God calls on Jacob to return to Bethel and fulfill his earlier vow.  Jacob responds appropriately by cleansing himself (and his people) of idols, objects of fake worship, and of the blood that had been shed at Shechem.  At Bethel God reconfirms His covenant with Jacob.  And, just like in previous reconfirmations, God reveals more details of His promise.  God again promises the land and many descendants, and this time He reveals that kings will come from Jacob’s bloodline—a magnificent revelation!

After highlighting God’s promises and Jacob’s vow, the end of this passage is a transitional section.  The deaths of Deborah, Rachel, and Isaac all indicate the end of this era.  And even though Reuben’s actions show that there will still be sin and problems in the future, the birth of Benjamin reminds Jacob (and us) that God will keep blessing Jacob and his family in Canaan.

Names Places

God – God (also the man who wrestled with Jacob)

Jacob – second son of Isaac and Rebekah

Esau – Jacob’s brother

Hamor – (Hivite) father of Shechem. His sons sold land to Jacob

Dinah – Jacob’s daughter. Raped by Shechem

Shechem – son of Hamor.  Raped Dinah.

Simeon – son of Jacob and Leah. Destroyed Shechem (city)

Levi – son of Jacob and Leah. Destroyed Shechem (city)


Mahanaim – “two camps” – where Jacob met angels of God

Peniel – “face of God” – where Jacob wrestled with God

Bethel (previously Luz) – “house of God” –
where Jacob has his dream

Shechem – city that Simeon and Levi destroyed because their sister was assaulted

El Bethel – “God of Bethel” – altar that Jacob built in Bethel

Mamre – near Kiriath Arba – where Isaac lived and died


Laban – Rebekah’s brother, Isaac’s uncle

Abram/Abraham – son of Terah, descendant of Shem

Isaac – son promised to Abraham and Sarah

angels of God – angels of God at Mahanaim

Rachel – Laban’s younger daughter, Jacob’s wife

Leah – Laban’s older daughter, Jacob’s wife

Zilpah – Leah’s maidservant

Bilhah – Rachel’s maidservant

Reuben – son of Jacob and Leah who slept with Bilhah

Joseph – son of Jacob and Rachel

Sons of Jacob – Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Joseph and Benjamin.


Jordan river – river Jacob crossed on his trip to Paddan Aram

Jabbok – river that Jacob crossed before meeting Esau

Paddan Aram – where Jacob just left, home of Laban.

Seir – where Jacob was supposed to meet up with Esau

Succoth – “Shelters” where Jacob stopped on his way to Seir

Allon Bacuth – “oak of weeping” – where Deborah is buried

Ephrath (Bethlehem) – where Jacob was headed when Rachel die

Migdal Eder – where Reuben slept with Bilhah

Red = Jacob, Green = Esau

Jacob's journey (map from Logos Bible Software) Click to Enlarge

Red arrows represent Jacob’s travels, green represent Esau’s