And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he halted on his thigh.…
Jacob is to me the most difficult character in the Bible history. He looks so worldly, shrewd, and even unscrupulous, that it is hard to reconcile ourselves to him. I feel the justice of the sneers about him, and sometimes it seems humbling that this should be one of the patriarchs, even in that rude time. But if all were on one side, it would be easy, however painful, to judge of him. It is his singular contradictions, with his visions of angels, &c., that make it hard. He cheats his brother; and behold him just afterward with his consecration, his awful sense of God's presence, and hear his simple vow! Behold Jacob so shrewd to Laban, so calculating and successful! Behold him returning; see the shrinking of his guilty and timid heart; and then at night see this scene of wrestling! We are all of us mixtures of earth and heaven, but I know of none like this. On the one hand I see Jacob sometimes so merely a Jew that he seems the father of Jewish guile, fear, unscrupulousness, and thrift. On the other I see him sometimes not only as the deeply faithful lover in his youth, the most tender father, but as an elevated, majestic man of faith, who believed in high things, who valued them, and who left on record such words of lowliness and penitence for his faults, in such genuine tones, that the purest and most repentant hearts take them up from age to age and repeat them as their own: "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast showed unto Thy servant"; "Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been," &c. Nay, I see him sometimes as so purely an inspired Hebrew, that he seems the father of the visions of Hebrew prophets, the father of the Psalms, and the father of the deepest spiritual insights of the Bible. How wonderful! The shame and sorrow and shock of such contradictions is a common tale. Alas, that we, who are linked in some qualities, at some moments, with the highest, purest, in the fellowship of Christ, should so blaspheme ourselves, should descend from angels' food to prey on garbage — that heavenly-fashioned hearts should go into business and society and do mean things, and be worldly Jacobs, and forget, and live our low lives, while we have in solemn moments our visions and wrestlings! This is not merely for reproach, but for hope. Awful contradiction as man is, Christ believed in the power of the better part.
(A. G. Mercer, D. D.).
Parallel VersesKJV: And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.