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EXEGESIS > Old Testament > Pentateuch > Genesis > Gen. 32:22-32


Wrestling with God
Gen. 32:22-32

Introduction

Jacob had been in Haran for twenty years and was returning home; vs. 1-21 inform us of the preparation he made for meeting Esau; the rest of the chapter records the struggle Jacob had with the Lord during the night.

The passage describes a struggle; various interpretations have suggested that the incident was a nightmare, a dream, an allegory (meaning conveyed symbolically), or a legend (non-historical story); but it was a real struggle, not an imaginary struggle; it was a struggle that resulted in Jacob limping the next morning (v. 31).

The passage is as real and historical as God’s visits with Adam and Eve in the Garden in the cool of the day, as God’s appearance to Moses on Mt. Sinai, as the voice that spoke with Paul on the road to Damascus, as the angel that appeared to Zacharias, and as the one that appeared to Mary.

The struggle was with the Lord; Moses calls the person Jacob wrestled with “a Man” (v. 24); Hosea calls the person “the Angel” (12:4; the Angel of the Lord); the One Jacob wrestled with told him: “you have struggled with God and with man, and have prevailed” (v. 28); and Jacob spoke of the one who wrestled with him as God, for he said: “I have seen God face to face” (v. 30).

Jacob’s physical struggle with the Lord was indication of a larger spiritual struggle; the physical struggle led to the spiritual submission, and to the spiritual blessing; consider two dimensions: God toward Jacob; and Jacob toward God.

God toward Jacob (vs. 24-25) - Conquering

Jacob did not confront God, rather, God confronted Jacob; the initiative was with God; the initiative is always with God; without His initiative man is doomed to isolation and ignorance; Jacob felt a presence, a hand, and then a struggle.

The Text informs us that Jacob was “alone” (v. 24); all struggle with God is alone; no one can enter into your struggle; there may be a supporting, empathic, and encouraging fellow believer, but the struggle itself belongs to the single individual; you must struggle with God yourself; the more the individual asserts himself the longer and more intense the struggle will be.

The struggle was real; “a Man wrestled with him” and it lasted “until the breaking of day” (v. 24); it lasted all night.

Incomprehensibly the Text informs that the Man wrestling with Jacob “did not prevail” (v. 25); perhaps this indicates the stubbornness, rebellion, and strength of Jacob selfish assertion; in the struggle the Man had condescended to confront Jacob on his own level.

The Lord “touched the socket of his hip, and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint” (v. 25); God revealed to Jacob how helpless he really was; God will put a life out of joint in order to bring about His will and way in a person’s life; it is best to be afflicted by God in order to know grace than it is to be left alone and never know grace.

Jacob toward God (vs. 26-29) - Clinging

When God conquers a man then the man clings; at the breaking of day Jacob said: “I will not let You go unless you bless me” (v. 26); Jacob has been broken and desires to receive only what God can give; he is now hungering and thirsting; in his determination to have God he is manifesting total submission and hope.

Candlish wrote: “Helpless, lame, and ready to fall, he can but cling with desperate tenacity to the very Being who has so sorely smitten him.”

Hosea records that “he struggled with God” and that “he wept, and sought favor from Him” (12:3-4); man’s only hope is to surrender in the struggle by crying-out for favor.

The Scriptures record: “And He blessed him there” (v. 29); the place of struggle and defeat became the very place of blessing and favor from God.

As the sun rose the next day and Jacob crossed the brook “he limped on his hip” (v. 31); he was a new man but a broken man; his testimony was: “I have seen God face to face” (v. 30).

Paul’s testimony is the same: “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in wickedness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”


See:  Gen. 49:8-12 - Until Shiloh Comes

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