Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 32:26-28

26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.

27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.

28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

Even after his thigh was dislocated Jacob did not give up the fight! We don’t know at what point of night this wrestling match began, but it seems to have continued for a very long while. Now the sun is rising, heralding the day in which Jacob must stand before his brother Esau, and he will not quit the fight until he receives some assurance that all will be well.

The messenger asks Jacob his name, and Jacob delivers the only one he has ever had, the one given of his father. Now, like his grandfather Abram, Jacob receives another from God. The name Israel is comprised of two parts, “isra” which means to fight or strive, and “el” which means God. Together they mean “God strives” or “God shall fight.” Jacob had prevailed with God, and now God would fight for Jacob’s cause.

The angel does not make any promises about the meeting with Esau, though. Jacob is going to have to face what follows, he won’t be let off the hook there, but he is being assured that God will prevail with him through whatever that meeting entails.

Interestingly, Jacob still continues to be referred to as “Jacob” throughout the rest of his biblical record and not “Israel.” This is different from Abram and Sarai, who are exclusively referred to as Abraham and Sarah after their new names are given. Some have pointed out that the bible seems to treat Jacob as the man, but Israel as his legacy, almost as though the persona that he exuded past mortality is the identity which is to be referred to as Israel. Or maybe it signifies that Jacob had trouble embracing the new identity God had called him to. Or maybe it’s just a clerical error. Or maybe it’s something else entirely, I don’t believe we have any definitive answer.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 32:21-25

21 So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company. 

22 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok.

23 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had.

24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.

The night before Jacob met with his brother he sent all the company over a brook, but he remained behind to wrestle with his feelings in solitude. And what a wrestle it became, going far beyond struggling in prayer, for a physical man appeared and literally strove with Jacob! Honestly, I think it might have done Jacob good to have a sparring partner that he could get out all his frustration and fear with. Fear and trauma do not only lodge themselves in the heart and in the mind, but also in the body, and sometimes physical exertion can be the best therapy for processing those deep emotions.

I also see in this story a clear representation of Jesus atoning for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane. There, too, he poured his heart out to his father, and also he began to strive in the flesh, bleeding from every pore, and also an angel appeared, though this one was to strengthen him in the struggle. And in both Jacob and Jesus’s case the result was triumph and salvation. In Jacob’s case for himself and his family, in Jesus’s case for all mankind.

Leading to Water- Genesis 32:9, 11, 24, 28

And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:
Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.
And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

COMMENTARY

And Jacob said, O God, Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children
Over the past two days I have shared how Jacob entered into a covenant with the Lord in his moment of want and began a partnership with him. From that foundation he gradually accumulated the family, the wealth, and position that would define him. Together with God, Jacob had found himself.
But then, after he had gained so much, he came to a moment where he might lose it all again. Esau, his brother, had previously sworn to kill Jacob, and was now approaching with a battalion of men.
Jacob was in danger of losing everything that he had gained, and not only that, but even of losing the little he had always had, even his own life. In this moment of desperation he once again turned to God and petitioned for help.

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
And he said, Thy name shall be called Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God.

On the eve of meeting his brother and receiving his judgment Jacob was left in total solitude. He was alone with his fears, and here he had another miraculous encounter with God. This one was a bit different more active than the vision he received in his sleep, though! This time he physically wrestled with the Lord, just as he had been wrestling with his fears.
And while I do not know the exact state of Jacob’s mind, I can personally see how in the moment of great duress I would benefit from a moment of exertion and struggle, a time to get out my fearful energy before the calming reassurance was given.
Ultimately Jacob prevailed and his request for preservation was granted. Not only this, but he grew even more fully into his true identity. He proved worthy of a new name, one that would define both him and the nation that issued forth from him.