Summary: An exposition of the story of Jacob’s wrestling of the Angel/God that reveals the importance of prevailing faith through the suffering and temptation in our lives.

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Genesis 32:22-32


Now as you may or may not know, Jacob was the grandson of Abraham and the younger son of Isaac. Now the name Jacob, as Genesis 25:26 confirms, comes from the Hebrew word “heel” and was understood to mean “heel-grabber” or, translated idiomatically “cheater” or “swindler”. If Isaac and Rebekah were alive today they might have named Jacob “used car salesman”.

And we see too that up to this point in Jacob’s life he had manifested a character that lived up to his name. He had cheated and swindled his older brother Esau out of his inheritance rights as the first born and had stolen his father’s blessing (chs. 25-27). Then, in order to escape his brother’s retribution, Jacob moved into his father-in-law’s home (who incidently was an extrordinary swindler himself) and the two took turns cheating each other. Finally, Jacob decides to move back into the promised land and face the possibility of his brother’s wrath.

Now what follows next is a story of a great wrestling match with a mysterious opponent who ambushes Jacob in the middle of the night. It is intended to capure our attention by summarizing the whole of his life to that point. Jacob wrestled and struggled against everyone and everything. He wrestled against his circumstance as the younger child, against his father’s favoritism, against Esau, and against his father-in-law. And even though he resorted, at times, to unethical and sinful tactics, we are meant to see that the root of his wrestling was a tenacious desire for the blessing of God.


Lets note some important features in this story. . .

22 Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had. 24 Then Jacob was left alone,

A. The writers of the Old Testament never added unimportant words when they recorded the stories of Holy Scripture, so everything that is recorded here is important. Our author first takes great care in the beginning sentences of this passage to assure us that Jacob is alone and without any resources. His wives, maidservants, children, and all his posessions were sent to the other side of the Jabbok.

B. Verse 24 tells us that a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he [the man] had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.

Now we should ask here the question that the text itself does not immediately answer: Who is this mysterious man? If we are meant to understand that it is indeed a man the best guess would be that it was his brother Esau. Hosea 12:4, the only other reference to this story in the Old Testament identifies the attacker as an angel. Finally, judging from Jacob’s reaction at the end of the match it seems to be that the mysterious adversary is God himself.

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