Last week, we learned about Abraham and Isaac. Now we’ll skip a generation, to Isaac’s son Jacob. This puts him right in the succession plan for God’s promise to Abraham. He said he’d bless the world through Abraham’s many descendants, and Jacob is third in that line.
Here’s the story of a significant event in his life:
The same night [Jacob] arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his 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 has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.
Now, there’s a whole story to how he ended up with two wives, and a whole bunch we could study about the place of polygamy was in the OT versus today. Don’t want that to distract us – lots to study, and I’m happy to explore that with you, just get in touch.
There’s enough weird stuff in this story alone. He’s travelling in the wilderness alone, when someone mysteriously wrestles with Jacob all night long. That is weird.
Jacob’s a fighter, he never gives up. We see this in other stories in the Old Testament about Jacob, as he steals his brother’s status as firstborn son, fights for the woman he wants to marry, and more. He’s smart, driven, but not always for the right reasons.
As he fights this mysterious person, it’s a tie, because he won’t give up. The fight all night, and when the sun is about to rise, the mysterious wrestler uses his secret weapon – and pops Jacob’s hip out of its socket!
After all that, Jacob finally loses. It turns out his opponent was holding back until morning. So Jacob, who normally never gives up, cries uncle and asks to go home but only with his opponent’s blessing. Clearly he’s someone special if he can fight like that, so it’s worth asking for his blessing…and maybe this would feel like a reversal of the blessing he stole from his brother.
What he gets from the encounter is a blessing, a new name, and a limp.
Question: Who do you think this mysterious opponent is? What clues did you use?