Bible study 32 – Genesis 32

As Jacob is on his way to Esau’s land Edom (south of the Dead Sea, probably in the Negeb), the servants that he sent before him report that Esau is waiting for him with 400 men. “Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed” that his brother is planning on assaulting his family for having been cheated out of his inheritance, so he divides his company into two, hoping that at least one of the groups will survive the brotherly encounter. He also prays to God, and sends a bunch of goats and other animals to Esau as a gift.

Then out of nowhere, Jacob is suddenly having an all-night wrestling match with some guy. This happens very suddenly in the text; Jacob crosses a stream, and then without opening a new paragraph: “Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” It turns out his opponent is God; but luckily for Jacob, God is a vampire or something, because he has to leave when the sun comes up. Seeing that he can’t defeat Jacob in a fair wrestling match, God pulls his hip out of joint, and solemnly exclaims that since Jacob prevailed against him in wrestling, he will call him “Israel”, or “The one who struggles with God”. (This etymology is new to me, and absolutely hilarious. I wish I understood Hebrew so I could properly enjoy it.) God disappears, and Jacob limps on his way.

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