Yesterday I wrote of Jacob’s encounter with God at Penuel. Jacob proceeded from there to the home of his uncle Laban. Laban and Jacob ended up in a game deception in which Jacob prevailed. After one last deception Jacob fled in anticipation of Laban’s anger. Laban pursued Jacob but no harm came as the two made a covenant.
At this point Jacob could no longer return to Laban and his hostile brother Esau was ahead of him. Jacob learned he had reason to be alarmed because Esau was indeed coming out to meet him with a large party. At the Jabbok River, during the night, Jacob decided to send gifts ahead, send family ahead, and then he would follow behind. But he also prayed the following:
Gen 32:9-12 NRSV
9 And Jacob said, "O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, 'Return to your country and to your kindred, and I will do you good,' 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies. 11 Deliver me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him; he may come and kill us all, the mothers with the children. 12 Yet you have said, 'I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of their number.'"
Jacob invoked God. He acknowledged his own failing. He asked for God’s intervention based on the promise God had given him. Finally, he expressed his confidence and hope in God. Jacob transcended what seemed from a human perspective to be a hopeless situation. He chose to believe God.
This was the first and only prayer of real substance recorded in the Genesis and it symbolizes the growing awareness by Jacob that he has a relationship with God. But the night had just begun for Jacob.