Monday, October 11, 2010

Pentecost 21c - Genesis 32:22-33

Genesis 32:22-33
It is the story of a younger brother who stole from his older brother and then ran away. After a long time he comes home and anticipating the worst puts off meeting with his brother one more day. All night long he wrestles with a man he cannot overcome and in the morning blessed by the struggle he crosses the river to do what must be done. It may be that the story is literally true and a cage match with God was necessary for Jacob to be Israel, but I think on another level we’ve all camped by that river and wrestled with that man until finally sick and tired of losing sleep we did what needed to be done.


  1. Jacob had to deal with his theft with his betrayed brother and with God. There can be no hope for reconciliation until Jacob accepts responsibility for what he has done. Jacob obviously resented that he was born second his entire life, as did his mother, and felt Esau's curse long before it's pronouncement. In a sense, he had lived under this curse his whole life. For me it's a story of reconciliation, as in "I will not let you go until you forgive me." In that forgiveness, that blessing, the curse was removed and Jacob could look at himself as never before. He had at last come to grips with his resentment and jealousy. Perhaps it was a battle with himself. Maybe it is that our battles with God start as battles with ourselves, our anger and desires and fears and guilt. What we discover when we bring God into it is grace, forgiveness, reconciliation. "I have seen God face to face and my life has been saved."

  2. Well said, Greg. I like the idea of not letting God go until forgiven although I think we're the ones who need to be convinced that God said uncle a long time ago.

  3. Good thoughts. I've always liked this story. The significance of names and name changes in Scripture always fascinated me. Who would want for his whole life to be known as "heel grabber"? I read recently that Isaiah named one of his sons "quicken, booty, hasten, plunder" and the other "a remnant will return." In contemporary Western society there is no parallel. But, the bottom line here is that through this struggle Jacob's name was changed. I read somewhere that Martin Buber wrote that the new name may actually mean "God fights" or God rules", and that would certainly fit with Israel's concept of itself.
    Remember this song? "I will change your name. You shall no longer be called wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid." That's the hope in this reconciliation, that no matter what might have happened before, like Jacob we may emerge with new names.