Jacob and the Face of God - A First Person Narrative

My ancestral grandfather Noah was chosen by God to continue the human race after the deluge. Many generations later, my grandfather Abraham, who was Abram from birth, was chosen by Yawveh to begin a covenant. Grandfather had two sons; Ishmael and Isaac. Isaac is my father.

My descendants reached the Promised Land, and so did I. I am in the spiritual Promised Land telling you this story thousands of years after the event on earth. The Lord has permitted me to see what has happened to my children from generation to generation, and see human history unfold over the centuries. I know what is going on there and I know about the modern Bible.

In the Tanakh, which is the Old Testament in the modern Christian Bible, there is recorded an event in which it says I said, "I saw the face of God and lived."

I am going to show you some English language translations of the verse then explain what happened. Ok? The first three are from popular versions: New American Standard, King James, and New International. Oh yes. We have copies of all the Bibles ever printed on earth here. The fourth is from the Interlinear Scripture Analyzer. It shows the English Authorized Version, then the Hebrew glyphs, then the Hebrew words, and lastly, in green, the transliteral from Hebrew to English.

Genesis 32:30 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved."

Genesis 32:30 King James Version (KJV)
And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

Genesis 32:30 New International Version (NIV)
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."

Before I tell you why this happened I want to caution you in this way. The ancient Hebrew in the time of Moses was not the same as the Hebrew in use when God incarnated in Jesus. What the Jews were using for scriptures were copies of copies using their best estimate of what the original words were.

Does this invalidate scripture? Not at all. The messages of scripture are what the Holy Spirit intended. Reading the modern English word by word literally however, instead of insightfully under the guidance of the Spirit of God, can easily lead believers into erroneous conclusions.

This is what happened.

I had been away from home for many years. If you want all the sordid details you can read seven chapters of them in Mose1 of the Tanakh or Genesis in the Bible, chapters 26 through 33. God told me to go; that He would be with me. Going meant I had to face my elder twin brother Esau who I knew had every right to hate me and want to kill me on sight.

Esau was born to Isaac and Rebekah moments ahead of me. He beat me into the birth canal and became the firstborn with all the rights that go with that. He was a brawny outdoorsman ... what you might in your time call a "man's man" ... very macho. He was big on hunting. I on the other hand was a homebody. Father admired and favored Esau. Mom favored me.

I suckered Esau out of his birthright with, get this, a bowl of lentil stew I made. Later, Mom persuaded me to deceive Dad, who was near blind in old age, and pretend to be Esau. Dad bought it and gave me the blessing that belongs to the firstborn.

Custom being what it was he could not give Esau an equal blessing. But he did send me away to get a wife from among our relatives. I went to my uncle Laban, my mother's brother; fell headlong into love with my cousin RAchel and asked to marry her. Laban agreed that after I tended his flocks for seven years, seven years, I could marry Rachel. On my wedding night, in the darkness of our tent, he sneaked his older daughter Leah into my bed. Consummation followed.

I awoke and saw I had been duped. I confronted him. He basically said, "tough". You want Rachel, give another seven years. I agreed and took RAchel for my second wife. Over the seven years of labor to earn her the Lord blessed me greatly by multiplying my flocks while diminishing LAban's. He was glad to see me go when I left.

Meanwhile, Leah gave me her maid for a concubine and Rachel gave me hers. From these women I produced twelve sons and a daughter. Then I headed home to face the music.

I came near to home and camped. I sent servants with many gifts for my brother and gave them instructions. I camped there for the night, in fear of what would happen when I met Esau. I sent my wives, children and possessions across the stream while I remained alone in my tent. But I was not alone. There was someone there with me. I wrestled with him the same way you would with an intruder in your bed chamber. All night long we wrestled. Near daybreak he said I must let him go. I knew he was not human, that he was from the Lord. He also touched my thigh and caused a permanent dislocation. I demanded a blessing. He changed my name from Jacob to Israel because I had wrestled with men nd God and prevailed. (You need to read between the lines of the account. No one can overpower God).

I am quoted as saying, "I have seen God face to face."

Notice that God did not say this ... I did. I exclaimed in awe what I believed was so.

If you have studied scripture you know Moses later had a personal encounter with the Lord in which God told him no one could look on God's face and live. [Exodus 33:20]. The apostle John said no one has ever seen God except the Son. [John 1:18].

Again, if you have studied scripture, you know that Moses saw a manifestation of God but not His face. God has appeared many times on earth manifested usually as 'an angel of the Lord' and at times in human form, but these appearances are expressions of God. The Father Himself has not appeared to humans since Adam's sin. The appearances of God are through His Holy Spirit. The burning bush seen by Moses was the work of the Holy Spirit. The impregnation of Mary the virgin and incarnation of God in Jesus the Messiah was by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lucky you. In your time the Holy Spirit is abroad in the land, ready and able to indwell you and guide you into life eternal. When you appeal to God, asking Christ to redeem you and be your Savior, He gives you the Holy Spirit.

As to rest of my story, the next day I crossed over the stream and learned my brother Esau was on his way to meet me. Esau was not alone. He came with four hundred men at arms. I didn't know what to expect and was terrified even though God had told me to do this.

My brother fell upon me and kissed me and welcomes me and my family. Take it from me. Nothing is beyond the power of the Lord.

Written by © Wayne Hepburn, August 2012
Image adapted from Eugène Delacroix (1861) at wikimedia commons, Copyright Free.

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