ONE OF THE STRANGEST STORIES IN THE BIBLE is about Jacob wrestling someone he seems to think is God.
Jacob is standing by a stream in the middle of the night and a “man” shows up. They start wrestling.
What’s not normal about that?
Jacob is the Jewish patriarch whose dozen sons will produce the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
But for the moment, he’s terrified. He thinks his entire family is about to get massacred by his twin brother, Esau.
That’s because Jacob is headed home to Esau after a 20-year, self-imposed exile in what is now Turkey. That’s where Jacob got married, raised a family, and became a rich herder.
As Jacob approaches what is now Israel, he has gotten word that Esau is rushing toward him with an army of 400 men. What does Jacob do?
Well, he sure doesn’t sleep.
“Jacob got up in the middle of the night and took his wives, his eleven children, and everything he owned across to the other side of the Jabbok River” (Genesis 32:22).
Then he walks back to the north side of the river and stands there by himself. Suddenly, still in the middle of the night, a “man” appears. Jacob will later ID him as God: “I have seen God face to face” (Genesis 32:30).
Someone starts a fight.
My money’s on Jacob.
It’s hard to imagine God as a bully: “Hey! Your grandma married her brother!”
For whatever reason, they get into a wrestling fight. Jacob manages to tie up the “man” with something I’m inclined to call a Blessing Hold.
- Man: “Let go of me! It’s almost daylight.”
- Jacob: “You can’t go until you bless me” (Genesis 32:26).
The “man” not only blesses him, but changes his name. Jacob becomes Israel – the name his descendants will later adopt as the name of their nation.
Scholars say the wrestling match – whether in a real fight or in a dream – marked a turning point in Jacob’s life. His character changed for the better. And so did his destiny.
All because Jacob grabbed hold of God and wouldn’t let go.
I wonder what that might say to us.