Genesis 32:22-32, Jacob Wrestles with God
Even in today’s imagination, to know a name is to claim power over the name’s owner. From Grimm’s fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin to modern demon tales like The Rite and The Conjuring 2, the fate of the heroes and heroines rely upon their ability to discover the name of the antagonist. It seems there is something about a name that holds mystery for us, even today.
In Jacob’s time, it was no different. Jacob had lived a sketchy life, on the one hand faithful to God and desiring God’s blessing through the hands of a blind Isaac; on the other hand, cheating his brother out of his inheritance and blessing, and cheating Laban by breeding stronger flocks for himself (Genesis 30). As he returned to his home, knowing he would be facing Esau soon, he found himself wrestling with an angel of the Lord. When it appeared Jacob would not be beaten, the angel relented, blessing Jacob and giving him a new name, “Israel,” which has remained a name of power thousands of years later. This new name gave him a new identity, a claim that he had wrestled with God and had prevailed. An identity as one who would face up to his past and become a man of honor.
What does your name mean to you? Have you ever changed your name or claimed a nickname? Consider why, and what did it mean to you? How does your name reflect the kind of life you want to live? Do something this week to honor your name, and then do something to honor God’s name.
The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.
Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the 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 is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, 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. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.