Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for April 14

Here’s the Explore the Bible Sunday School lesson commentary for April 14, written by Mark Rathel, professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida.

Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for April 14


Genesis 32:22–32

The Bible affirms that God does not change. As humans, we constantly need to change. As I approach retirement, I am reflecting on both the times of blessing as well as the challenging times. On occasion, my challenging times came because I was fighting against God’s will.

Jacob, a man whose name means “heel” or “cheater,” wrestled with God, which resulted in a new name, new blessings and a new character. The restoration of Jacob’s character led to a restoration of a relationship with his brother.

Alone (22–24)

After tricking his brother, Esau, for their father’s blessing, Jacob sought to placate his brother by sending emissaries and gifts.

Esau was approaching with an army of 400 men. First, Jacob sent his family away in order to protect them from his brother’s possible wrath. Second, Jacob sought to appease Esau by offering lavish gifts. Was it possible that mere gifts could heal the broken family relationship?

In “Creation and Blessing,” author Allen Ross points out that during Jacob’s time of unsettled conflict with his brother, Jacob received three great revelations from God. First, Jacob had a dream of a stairway to heaven (28:12), and he named the location “Bethel,” meaning “the house of God” (28:18–19). Second, he took his family and possessions to a safe area. Third, Jacob was alone as he wrestled all night with a mysterious person. Jacob continued his wrestling match against God or His angel.

Jacob’s wrestling encounter occurred at the threshold of the Promised Land. Each of us must do business alone with God. As a result of his wrestling, Jacob experienced an injury from which he suffered the rest of his life.

New name (25–29)

God was working in Jacob’s life prior to his receiving a new name. The one with whom Jacob wrestled asked to end the struggle. Jacob realized his weakness against the one he wrestled. Jacob’s wrestling resulted in a dislocated hip, but through it Jacob came to realize the importance of the blessings of God upon his life. Jacob refused to let his opponent go until he blessed him with divine favor.

In the Bible, an individual often receives a new name when the individual has a new experience with God. The stranger said that “Jacob” would no longer be his name. This name meaning “cheater” was both his name and a description of his character as evidenced by his tricking his brother.

He deprived Esau of his birthright as well as the blessings. But God gave the cheater a new name. He would be named “Israel” — “one who strives with God.”

New walk (30–32)

Not only did Jacob receive a new name, but he also gave a new name to the location of the wrestling match. To memorialize this life-changing event, Jacob renamed the location “Peniel.” “Peniel” means “face of God.” His life was changed forever.

As a result, the descendants of Jacob practice a dietary restriction. Hebrews would no longer eat the thigh muscle at the hip socket of an animal. Jacob’s walk reminded him for the rest of his life of his powerlessness and the necessity of dependence upon God.

By Mark Rathel
Professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida

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