Friday, February 4, 2011

Genesis 32:22-32 Wrestling Match

"That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.  After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.  So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak." (Genesis 32:22-24 NIV)

I can understand Jacob sending his family and possessions across the stream and needing some time alone, to reflect upon how he had once crossed this place with only his staff, and how the Lord had blessed him since that time with a large family and great possessions.  What's up with the wrestling, though?!  That seems like a bizarre addition to the night's symbolism as Jacob prepares to return home.  Let's read the rest of this account:

"When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, 'Let me go, for it is daybreak.'
  But Jacob replied, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'
  The man asked him, 'What is your name?'
  'Jacob,' he answered.
Then the man said, 'Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.'
Jacob said, 'Please tell me your name.'
But he replied, 'Why do you ask my name?'  Then he blessed him there.
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, 'It is because I saw God face to face and yet my life was spared.'
  (Genesis 32:25-30 NIV)

The book of the prophet Hosea also gives some further details of this event:

"In the womb he grasped his brother's heel; as a man he struggled with God.
  He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favor." (Hosea 12:3-4 NIV)

Note the strange combination of success and failure as Jacob wrestled with this individual, who is referred to as a man, an angel and God.  Jacob is said to overcome him, yet Jacob is also immediately incapacitated when the man touches his hip socket.  Jacob himself believes that he has seen God.  He even names the place Peniel [face of God] to commemorate the fact that he has seen God and yet his life had been spared.  Jacob's name had been changed to Israel [he struggles with God], which is another evidence that the wrestler was God.

I believe that this was another appearance of the One who is known as the angel of the Lord, a preincarnate appearance of the Messiah, Jesus.  I know that this is a bit of a leap for my readers to swallow at this moment, and I do not blame you, for it is a rather complex concept.  I think a post of its own is in order, although I am a bit nervous about whether I have enough of a grasp of this concept to make it clear to others.  I will do my best to assemble the passages where this mysterious individual appears, and to show why I have drawn the conclusion that this is indeed Jesus the promised Messiah.  I will try to write this post soon, although it may take me some time to study it out a bit more before I do so.  For the time being, the reader can at least admit that Jacob believes that the wrestler is God Himself.  As to Jacob's initial success in overcoming the wrestler, I get the distinct impression that his 'success' is entirely due to the will and patience of this same Wrestler, who acknowledges Jacob's struggles, yet makes perfectly clear Who has been in charge all along.

"The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.
Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip,
because the socket of Jacob's hip was touched near the tendon."  (Genesis 32:31-32 NIV)

With the dawning of the day comes a whole new chapter in Jacob's life.  He is not perfect, and will continue to make wrong choices and sometimes live up to his old name rather than his new one, but it is clear that the One who he used to refer to as 'the Fear of his father Isaac' has manifested Himself to Jacob in a whole new way and is his God as well.

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