This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled
with him until the dawn began to break (v.24).
My boys love to wrestle me. They create names
like Captain Thunder and Tiger Ninja.
Adrenaline peaking, they attack me with
yells, a flurry of boy-energy and with hopes that this
time—this time—they will take me down. I toss them for a
while, even feigning desperation so as not to crush their
dream prematurely. However, I eventually lock them in a
stranglehold until they cry for mercy.
Jacob, returning home after years of hiding out from
his brother Esau, had always been able to scheme
his way in or out of any situation. Jacob’s name
meant “supplanter,” and he had earned a reputation
for his deceptive ways. He swindled Esau out of his
birthright and tricked his blind father Isaac into giving
him the firstborn blessing (Genesis 25, 27). He even
manipulated to gain control of his father-in-law’s cattle
and wealth (31:1). Whatever Jacob wanted, he got.
But then Jacob finally ran into a situation he couldn’t
escape. His servants brought the startling news that
Esau was rushing their way with 400 warriors. And
“Jacob was terrified at the news” (32:7). After years of
scheming, Jacob’s skill and manipulation would do him
no good. Wanting to be alone, he walked into the night.
And “a man” (later we discover he was a manifestation
of God—perhaps even Jesus Himself) leaped out of the
darkness, tackling Jacob (v.24).
And the two fought throughout the night. Near the end, the being “touched
Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket” (v.25). All Jacob could do was
hang on, a desperate man in need of mercy. And God gave him mercy.
Before Jacob returned home to the extraordinary life God had called him to, he
first needed to be broken. Then, empty of himself, he could be strong in God.
Look back over the passage. Why do you think Jacob kept asking
for the angel’s name? Why do you think he refuses? What connection
does this have with the new name Jacob received?