3. He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God:
3. In utero apprehendit plantam fratri suo; et in fortitudine sua dominatus est cum Deo (quanquam nomen 'lhym, Aleim, transfertur etiam saepe ad Angelos.)
4 Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us;
4 Et dominatus est cum Angelo (vel, adversus Angelum; vel, luctatus est, si quis malit, quanquam ad verbum ita habetur; sed quia sequitur yvkl, iucal, praevaluit, ideo libenter admitto luctandi verbum, non quod proprie conveniat, sed rem potius respicio quam verba) et praevaluit; flevit et rogavit eum: in Bethel invenit eum, et illic locutus est cum eo;
5 Even the Lord God of hosts; the Lord is his memorial.
5 Et Jehova Deus exercituum; Jehova memoria ejus.
In all this discourse the Prophet condemns the ingratitude of the people; and then he shows how shamefully they had departed from the example of their father, in whose name they yet took pride. This is the substance. Their ingratitude is showed in this, that they did not acknowledge that they had been anticipated, in the person of their father Jacob, by the gratuitous mercy of God. The first history is indeed referred to for this end, that the posterity of Jacob might understand that they had been elected by God before they were born. For Jacob did not, by choice or design, lay hold on the heel of his brother in his mother's womb; but it was an extraordinary thing. It was then God who guided the hand of the infant, and by this sign testified his adoption to be gratuitous. In short, by saying that Jacob held the foot of his brother in his mother's womb, the same thing is intended, as if God had reminded the Israelites, that they did not excel other people by their own virtue or that of their parents; but that God of his own good pleasure had chosen them. The same is alleged against them by Malachi,
Were not Jacob and Esau brethren? Yet Jacob I loved, and Esau I regarded with hatred,' (Malachi 1:2,3.)
For we know wish what haughtiness this nation has ever exalted itself. |But whence have ye arisen? Look back to your origin: ye are indeed the children of Abraham and Isaac. In what then do ye differ from the Idumeans? They have certainly been begotten by Esau; and Esau was the son of Isaac and the brother of Jacob, and indeed the first-born. Ye then do not excel as to any dignity that may exist in you. Own then your origin, and know that whatever excellency may be in you proceeds from the mere favour of God, and this ought to bind you more and more to him. Whence then is this pride?|
Even thus does our Prophet now speak, Jacob held the foot of his brother in his mother's womb; that is, |You have a near relationship with Esau and his posterity; but they are detested by you. Whence is this? Is it for some merit of your own? Boast when you can show that any thing has proceeded from you which could gain favour before God. Nay, your father Jacob, a most holy man indeed, while yet in his mother's womb, laid hold on the foot of his brother Esau; that is, when he became superior to his brother and gained primogeniture, he was not grown up, and could do nothing by his own choice or power, for he was then inclosed in his mother's womb, and had no worthiness, no merit. Your ingratitude is now then the more base, for God had put you under obligations to him before ye were born; in the person of the holy patriarch he chose you for his possession. But now, having forsaken him, and relinquished the worship which he has taught in his law, ye abandon yourselves to idols and impious superstitions. Bring now your pretences by which ye cover your impiety! Is not your baseness so gross and palpable, that you ought to be ashamed of it?| We now then understand the end for which the Prophet said that Esau's foot was laid hold on by Jacob in his mother's womb
Moreover, this passage clearly shows that men do not gain the favour of God by their free-will, but are chosen by his goodness alone before they are born, and chosen, not on account of works, as the Papists imagine, who concede some election to God, but think that it depends on future works. But if it be so, the charge of the Prophet was frigid and jejune. Now since God through his good pleasure alone anticipates men, and adopts those whom he pleases, not on account of works, but through his own mercy, it hence follows that those who have been chosen are more bound to him, and that they are less excusable when they reject the favour offered to them.
But here someone may object and say, that it is strange that the posterity of Jacob should be said to have been elected in his person, and yet they had in the meantime departed from God; for the election of God in this case would not be sure and permanent; and we know that whom God elects he also justifies, and their salvation is so secured, that none of them can perish; all the elect are also delivered to Christ as their preserver, that he may keep them by his divine power, which is invincible, as John teaches in chapter 10. What then does this mean? Now we know, and it has been before stated, that the election of God as to that people was twofold; for the one was general, and the other special. The election of holy Jacob was special, for he was really one of the children of God; special also was the election of those who are called by Paul the children of the promise, (Romans 9:8.) There was another, a general election; for he received his whole seed into his faith, and offered to all his covenant. At the same time, they were not all regenerated, they were not all gifted with the Spirit of adoption. This general election was not then efficacious in all. Solved now is the matter in debate, that no one of the elect shall perish; for the whole people were not elected in a special manner; but God knew whom he had chosen out of that people; and them he endued, as we have said, with the Spirit of adoption, and supplied with his own grace, that they might never fall away. Others were indeed chosen in a certain way, that is, God offered to them the covenant of salvation; but yet through their ingratitude they caused God to reject them, and to disown them as children.
But the Prophet subjoins, that Jacob by his strength had power with God, and had prevailed also with the angel He reproaches here the Israelites for making a false claim to the name of Jacob, since they had nothing in common with him, but had shamefully departed from his example. He had then power with the angel and with God himself; and he prevailed over the angel. But what sort of persons were they? As the heathen Poets called the Romans, when they became degenerated and effeminate, Romulidians, and said that they had sprung from those remarkable and illustrious heroes, whose prowesses were then well known, and for the same reason called them Scipiadians; so also the Prophet says, |Come now, ye children of Jacob, what sort of men are ye? He was endued with a heroic, yea, with an angelic power, and even more than angelic; for he wrestled with God and gained the victory: but ye are the slaves of idols; the devil retains you devoted to himself; ye are, as it were, in a bawdy house; for what else is your temple but a brothel? And then ye are like adulterers, and daily commit adultery with your idols. Your abominations, what are they but filthy chains, and which grove that there is no knowledge and no heart in you? For you must have been fascinated, when ye forsook God and adopted new and profane modes of worship.| This difference between the holy patriarch Jacob and his posterity must be marked, otherwise we shall not understand the object of the Prophet; and it will avail but little to collect various opinions, except first we know what the Prophet meant, and what was the purport of this upbraiding, and of this narrative, that Jacob had power with God and the angel.
But it must be noticed, that God and angel are here mentioned in the same sense; we may, indeed, render it angel in both places; for 'lhym, Aleim, as well as ml'k, melac, signifies an angel. But, however, every doubt is removed by the Prophet, when he at last adds, Jehovah, God of hosts, Jehovah is his name, for here the Prophet expressly mentions the essential name of God, by which he testifies, that the same was the eternal and the only true God, who yet was at the same time an angel. But it may be asked, How was he the eternal God, and at the same time an angel? It occurs, indeed, so frequently in Scripture, that it must be well known to us, that when the Lord appeared by his angel, the name of Jehovah was given to them, not indeed to all the angels indiscriminately but to the chief angel, by whom God manifested himself. This, as I have said, must be well known to us. It then follows that this angel was truly and essentially God. But this would not strictly apply to God, except there be some distinction of persons. There must then be some person in the Deity, to which this name and title of an angel can apply; for if we take the name, God, without difference or distinction, and regard it as denoting his essence, it would certainly be inconsistent to say, that he is God and an angel too; but when we distinguish persons in the Deity, there is no inconsistency. How so? Because Christ, the eternal Wisdom of God, did put on the character of a Mediator, before he put on our flesh. He was therefore then a Mediator, and in that capacity he was also an angel. He was at the same time Jehovah, who is now God manifested in the flesh.
But we must, on the other hand, refute the delirium, or the diabolical madness of that caviller, Servetus, who imagined that Christ was from the beginning an angel, as if he was a phantom, and a distinct person, having an essence apart from the Father; for he says, that he was formed from three untreated elements. This diabolical conceit ought to be wholly discarded by us. But Christ, though he was God, was also a Mediator; and as a Mediator, he is rightly and fitly called the angel or the messenger of God, for he has of his own accord placed himself between the Father and men.