Jacob Wrestles with God

Genesis 32:22–32

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Recite the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.         Jacob, grandson of Abraham and son of Isaac, has his entire world turned upside down. His brother Esau and he are struggling in their relationship and Jacob is hard pressed as to what to do.

2.         Jacob and company are camped near a river named Jabbok, that flows into the Jordan River 24 miles north of the Dead Sea. Jacob sends his company across this river and is thus alone in the desert.

3.         All alone, Jacob “wrestled” with a man. The identity of this man is a mystery. Some of the possibilities are: Jacob’s guardian angel; another angel; Jacob wrestled with himself; Maimonides says it was a dream only; some a demon; Calvin says–the pre-incarnate Christ, and more. It is a mystery! Perhaps it is that Jacob wrestled with God in a way we do not understand.

4.         Jacob, while winning the match, is touched on his hip socket by the “man” and thus is disabled. The “man” is yet losing the match and begs to be let go of. Jacob will not do so until the “man” blesses him.

5.         The man asks Jacob what his name is and to the response the man says that he will no longer be called Jacob but Israel. The reason is that Jacob had won the wrestling match. Israel means “God rules” or “One who wrestles against God.”

6.         Jacob names the location of the match “Peniel,” which means “the face of God.” And Jacob’s great surprise is that though he fought against God he did not lose his life.

7.         The meaning of this story for followers of Jesus today is varied, it may refer to the fact that in our battle against God, despite our sin and rebelliousness, God will yet win us to Himself.

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