22 October 2007

Genesis 32:22-31

"Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, 'Let me go, for the day is breaking'. But Jacob said, 'I will not let you go, unless you bless me'". (v.24-26)


Jacob had been keeping out of the way of his brother Esau - he'd conned their father into giving him the blessing that Esau should have had as the elder son. Now, Jacob is about to meet Esau and has sent gifts to prepare the way. This is his final night before that meeting. We can only guess what might have been going through his mind as he tried to sleep.

Who is the man Jacob wrestles with? Perhaps Jacob is dreaming about his meeting with his brother. Maybe it's a demon? The later part of the story suggests that the stranger is God.

Jacob has seen God and lived. This would have been surprising to the people who told this story. God is so holy that to look at God was more than sinful human beings could bear.

Israel means one who strives with God, or God strives. Penielmeans the face of God. Jacob has wrestled with God, looked on the face of the holy one.

Jacob has been changed by this overnight wrestling with a stranger. He has a new name. Now he is ready to face his brother - another encounter which may change him.

To Ponder

Have you wrestled or struggled with God over something. What happened?

"I will not let you go, unless you bless me." What do you want to ask God for? For yourself? For someone you care about?

Bible notes author

Revd Helen White

Helen White is a Methodist minister, currently serving in the Wantage and Abingdon circuit in south Oxfordshire. She has particular responsibility for Blewbury, Didcot, Milton and Upton Methodist churches, as well as sharing in the work of other churches across the circuit.