From Refugee To A Ruler


“In the Bible account of Jacob’s life, as perhaps in that of no other Old Testament saint, we have revealed the power of God to change and transform character. Before God met Jacob at Bethel there was little to love and admire in his weak, vacillating character.

His name, Jacob, means supplanter, or deceiver, and such was his character. By deception be obtained his brother Esau’s birthright, and he then started away to a strange land to escape his brother’s wrath. But God, who foreknows all things, knew that Jacob rather than Esau was prepared to abandon the life of selfishness and sin, and to become a chosen vessel in His service (Romans 9:11).


One night as he lay asleep on the lonely mountains north of Jerusalem, then called Jebus, (2) (3) with the stones for his pillow, the Lord began to reveal Himself to him. In a dream the Holy Spirit revealed to him a little of the glories of heaven. He saw a ladder reaching toward heaven, and the angels of God ascending and descending on it; and the Lord promised him great blessings (Genesis 28). His experience is described in the well known words,

“Though like a wanderer, the sun gone down, Darkness be over me, my rest a stone, Yet in my dreams I would be, Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.”


Jacob called the name of the place Bethel, which means house of God, and said, “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:17): But it was only the “gate,” or beginning, of Jacob’s spiritual experience. It was not at Bethel, but at Peniel, that his life was completely transformed.

After he had served Laban many years, and Laban became envious of him, Jacob started for his old home. Laban pursued him with an army, and he also heard that his brother Esau was coming with another army to meet him. Hemmed in between the two armies, he seemed to be completely at their mercy, and was at the end of his own resources. But “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity,” and the darkest hour is often before day.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Such was the case with Jacob. He knew that God only could deliver him from the extremity in which he had placed himself by his evil deeds.


So he spent the night alone with God, crying for deliverance. Doubtless it was at night of bitter repentance and tears. He wrestled with the angel of the Lord until the breaking of the day, and said to him, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me ” (Genesis 32:26). Having touched his thigh and made him a cripple, to punish him for his sins and to keep him humble before God, the angel pronounced upon him one of the greatest blessings that man has ever experienced.

He said, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince thou hast power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” Israel means prince of God, and from that night at Peniel until his dying day, Jacob was truly a spiritual prince, and had power with God and with men. In one night God transformed him from a weak, vacillating deceiver, into a prince with God and men; from Jacob (deceiver) to Israel (prince of God); and from a refugee to a ruler.

This wonderful change was wrought in answer to prayer, and because Jacob said, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”—Deeper Experiences Of Famous Christians; Evangelist J.G. Lawson; 1911.


“He calls it Peniel, the face of God, because there he had seen the appearance of God, and obtained the favour of God. It becomes those whom God honours, to admire his grace towards them. The Angel who wrestled with Jacob was the second Person in the sacred Trinity, who was afterwards God manifest in the flesh, and who, dwelling in human nature, is called Immanuel”; Ho 12:4,5.—Matthew Henry

“He is expressly called an angel, Hosea 12:4; and if Michael the uncreated angel is meant, it is most true; for not a created angel is designed, but a divine Person, as appears from Jacob’s desiring to be blessed by him; and besides, being expressly called God, Genesis 32:28; and was, no doubt, the Son of God in human form.”—John Gill

“And there wrestled a man with him – This was doubtless the Lord Jesus Christ, who, among the patriarchs, assumed that human form, which in the fullness of time he really took of a woman, and in which he dwelt thirty-three years among men.”—Adam Clarke

More Information: Jacob’s name changed by God. [-] Jacob states he has seen God, “face to face” (2)

The United States Social Security Administration lists “Jacob” as the most popular name for boys—for years 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000—actually, the SSA’s top 100 list indicates  “Jacob” as the 35th most popular name for boys—(in the last 100 years). See 2018 stats here.