by Leon Bonnat. 1876
It happened in a spot located on the north bank of the Jabbok close to the Jordan River. God and Jacob grappled. Um, what?
This has to be one of the most fascinating stories in the Bible. It’s just 9 verses long. Click this to read it quickly, in a cute, new window.
(And, no, I don’t think the angel/incarnation of God had wings like we see depicted in this illustration. And I have to believe he had a much nicer hairdo, too.)
SO! After that all-night bout, Jacob names the place Peniel, which means “facing God”. Once you go head-to-head with God Almighty, in the flesh, in an epic OT (Old Testament) Smackdown, you just have to name the place something cool, or memorable. You have to do it…so you don’t convince yourself that you were just dreaming, like before. Later, you’ll say, “Yes, kids, I wrestled God all night right here. I had a pretty mean grip on him, and my hip has been killing me ever since.”
The incarnation of God dislocates Jacob’s hip, with just a touch. But, you know what? Jacob still hung on tightly and relentlessly until the angel granted him a blessing. Thus, Jacob carried a permanent reminder of struggling with God.
The hip joint is very strong. Hip injuries like this are not too common, but they do occur sometimes in rough and tumble sports. Here is a little research I gathered, so we can better understand the marathon of a match, and the (possible) physical consequences.
From Chicago Sports Medicine
This injury is more common in such sports as football, rugby, hurling, and soccer, the individual is hit in the front of the thigh, forcing the thigh/hip complex backward, resulting in hip dislocations. This tears the ligamentum teres and the posterior capsule.
(In folk style/scholastic wrestling, there is a technique/move called “Jacob’s hook”. Yes, it can be dangerous, cause a hip dislocation, and lasting pain.)
Sciatic nerve and the hip joint. Ouchy.
The vascular supply to the femoral head is stretched and torn as the posterior displacement increases. Generally (in athletics), the participant is not allowed to return to athletics for a minimum of three months. Long-term consequences of posterior hip dislocations can include sciatic nerve injury, avascular necrosis of the femoral head (hip joint damage due to decreased blood supply), and significant arthritis and cartilage damage.
A joint dislocation significantly disrupts all the structures that support the joint. The athlete will be out of commission for a minimum of three months if he/she does traditional sports medicine treatments. Even after all of that time, there is no guarantee that one will be left with a strong hip joint.
The children of Israel remember the event by never eating this part of an animal. The sciatic nerve is known in Hebrew as the gid hanasheh. The process of removing the sciatic nerve (as well as certain large blood vessels and forbidden fats) from the surrounding meat is known as nikkur, or “deveining.” Since this is a difficult and delicate process, cuts from an animal’s hindquarters (including the Filet mignon) are generally not sold as kosher. (from wiki)
Part of the blessing Jacob receives involves his name change ushering in a new identity for this youngest and far sneakier of the twins boys of Isaac. He is given the name Israel.
Yes, Jacob hangs on all night. Yes, the passage makes it seem like the angel had to keep an early morning appointment elsewhere, with all that “Let me go for it is daybreak” business, as if he’s Edward (the vampire) in the Twilight series. He seems to give in to Jacob’s iron grip. But…
Israel means “God prevails”.
The ending of the name Israel, “el” is most often translated from Hebrew as God, or god.
The first part of the word (isra, or some approximation) is translated – as contended, or striven, or wrestled.
Sometimes this story is interpreted that it is Jacob who does the prevailing or overcoming; but it is God who heals Jacob by revealing himself to him, man-to-man. He “breaks” him to begin to heal him, in every way. God perpetuates a grappling stalemate. Although he could, God chooses not to defeat Jacob in a straight-forward victory by a submission hold, or pin, etc. Jacob’s tenacity is rewarded. Eye of the tiger, baby!
God welcomes our struggling with him, when we patiently and boldly holdout for the blessings that only can come from him.
Have you ever realized that God wants you close, even if you are struggling against him? He wants us to know him in that up close way, face-to-face in all our messiness. He seems to route for us, and hope we hang on all the way to the end of the dark night for the blessing.
Have you ever wrestled God?